Fatigue and the Soul

The physical causes and aspects of chronic fatigue are absolutely real and must be resolved in order to recover. One of the most painful parts of the condition is the unbelief from friends, family and even therapists. Most of us have been called depressed, crazy, lazy, attention seekers and worse, often by those closest to us. Many of us hide our condition even from our families because of the harsh judgments that are so common. And yet, we are a whole: body, mind and spirit. We may speak of them as separate things but they are a unity that is always unbroken. Fatigue is affecting every aspect of the self and every aspect of the self plays a part in the fatigued state.

Fatigue and the Soul

The constant lack of adequate energy has many sources. Physically, we simply do not make normal amounts. The energy pathways of the cells are blocked and that must be restored. But there are other energy blocks that must be addressed mentally and spiritually. In addition, there are energy losses and leaks on every level. Physically, many have over-worked, over-exercised, used drugs or other stimulants to drive ourselves beyond our natural (or at least current) limits. But mentally we can also be consuming or losing large amounts of energy due to sub-conscious or unexamined mental habits and beliefs. When the body and mind are exhausted and blocked, this cannot help but affect the spirit. This is where the soul cries out and the suffering is deepest. This is where the agony is truly felt.

The Guardians

Everyone has defenses that operate automatically and constantly to protect us in every way and on every level of our being. The immune system protects the body and we have a mental immune system that is just as powerful and active. Just as the immune system can become disturbed or weakened, the guardians of the mind can become a block to life and healing. I call them the Guardians because this is always their intention even if it appears to be an attack.

Each of us has a circle of safety that the Guardians seek to maintain. For many, it is a large circle that includes all kinds of life experiences, skills, knowledge, powers, relationships and so on. But for those of us with chronic illness, the circle of safety is quite small. Years of pain and struggle whether in childhood or later on can create a pattern of defenses in which a great deal of life is outside the circle. The circle is very clearly deleniated and putting a toe over the line will trigger your defense system however inappropriate it may seem.

Working physically with diet, a supplement protocol, herbal therapy, bodywork and other modalities has the advantage of getting under these defenses at least for a while. It is subtle and mostly unfelt in the beginning so it can even widen the circle of safety a bit by improving physical energy enough to reassure the Guardians in some areas. But significant expansion of the self through real healing will usually start to trigger the defenses as you begin to step out into a larger self and life. Once the Guardians are activated, your special blend of defenses will come up.

Defense Mechanisms: Demons and Dragons

The minions of the Guardians are the Demons and Dragons. I call them this because the biggest tool of the Guardians is fear. Fear of pain or even just fear itself. Once your defenses are triggered by going beyond the circle of safety in any way such as entertaining new plans or goals, attempting creative actitivities, standing up for yourself, healing significantly or otherwise asserting your own power, life and creativity, the Demons and Dragons are released.

For me, many of them were and continue to be physical symptoms that are particularly unpleasant. Pain, nausea, digestive disturbances of all kinds, over-whelming fatigue and actual illness like colds and flu can be a part of this defense system. It is designed to stop you, to make you retreat into the circle of safety. Of course, there will be mental images and emotions that are just as uncomfortable or frightening. All your doubts and fears will be unleashed. Every horrible thing anyone ever said to you will come back in living color. Deeply shaming images and beliefs are especially effective. All your worst case scenarios will be brought out for display.

Much or all of this may be completely unconscious. For no apparent reason, you just go down physically and mentally. Or you may actually know why this happened but it doesn't really help because you have no way of over-coming these powerfully over-whelming reactions. At least some of these defenses will be so automatic that you have no awareness at all that they are even operating. Suddenly, you have a headache, become nauseous, are hit with a wave of fatigue or experience depression or anxiety for no apparent reason. It could be a purely physical symptom, and when you have chronic fatigue, it will be much of the time. But if you begin to examine when these things happen, you may track down one of your Guardians at work.

It can be a purely internal process that guards you from certain types of awarenesses that are or will be quite painful. We have layers and layers of defenses that keep us from old pain. As children we are quite vulnerable and have few if any resources to deal with the pain of life. The more painful the childhood, the more defenses we will have in place and the more intense will be those Demons and Dragons. This over-active and very powerful defense system is very common in people with chronic fatigue and chronic illness. It is extremely limiting and blocks energy on every level. For some, it is so strong that any effective therapy will trigger it. This makes it extremely difficult to recover.

Making the Guardians Conscious

The key to expanding the circle of safety and resetting the defenses is to make their operations conscious. As long as they continue to be triggered unconsciously, you will have no control over them at all. Looking for them is a very good beginning. Simply having no idea that this could be happening is a big part of why they are so invisible. Especially when symptoms or mental states occur suddenly and for no apparent reason, it is likely that something has triggered the Guardians. So the questions is: What was happening right before this? What was I thinking, feeling, about to do, worrying about, remembering or what happened around me?

Often we are so unconscious of our inner conflicts or hidden pain, the first step is just noticing that whenever a certain subject or memory occurs there is a reaction. Once you have noticed a pattern of this sort, the next step is to try to see it more clearly. The initial view is often very hazy. Whenever the symptom associated with this issue occurs, it is an opportunity to see it. You have to track it down. It may be a memory or it may be a current situation you have been avoiding. This will not be new. These are always old, established patterns. Looking directly and with clarity at this will activate the Guardians.

Communicating with your Guardians and thanking them for their desire to protect you will often turn down or off the reactions. Remind them that you are an adult and have resources you didn't have when this first happened. You can face it and finish that unfinished business and approach this situation differently and more effectively now. But just holding your ground when the Demons and Dragons appear will do the same thing. The reaction has a time limit. It may seem very long but it can be surprisingly short; from minutes to a few hours. If you refuse to back down and stay conscious in spite of the attacks, they will stop. Repeating this a few times will often eliminate that trigger for good.

Step by Step, Day by Day

It is important to do this in baby steps. Just put that toe over the line. Respect the Guardians by moving at a rate that is truly managable. If you go too far, the reactions will simply be too strong to deal with. So where ever the trigger is, work into it gradually. At first just admitting it exists may be all you can do. Just staying with that for a while until you are more comfortable with it is a huge change. Allowing awareness to expand is very significant growth. Then you may be ready for some small action to change it. One step at a time. You will very easily see how big those steps can be by the kind of reaction that happens. If it is too much, back off and slow down.

Once you have done this with one or two triggers, it becomes easier to do because you know the Guardians now. You recognize them. You see they have been triggered and start looking for why they are active right away. So the reactions are milder, less frightening and less painful. You may even come to see them as a good sign since it means you have stepped over the line and are widening your circle of safety. Just as detox symptoms can be valued as a sign of healing, this is a mental detox in many ways.

Becoming More Conscious: Morning Pages

Human nature is fundamentally creative and creative blocks are another serious source of energy blocks and loss. It is a powerful driver of chronic fatigue for many people. These blocks usually begin in childhood and youth and like all other blocks they are part of your defense system. The Guardians guard these blocks and make sure they do their job. That job is to stop you from leaving the circle of safety. Creation is always risky and for many of us our creativity has been deeply shamed at various times and places. This means any creative activities or efforts can trigger the Guardians. Even thinking about doing it can cause severe reactions.

It is really surprising how much of our own mind is unconscious. A huge amount of our thinking and beliefs are not consciously known or experienced day to day. I really learned this about myself when I began a journalling process called Morning Pages. This is one of the primary tools taught in Julia Cameron's famous book, “The Artist's Way.” As she points out, we are all creative. Art is only one aspect of creativity. We are all creating our lives each and every day. So “A Course in Discovering and Recovering Your Creative Self” is something that just about everyone would benefit from. But I have seen that it is a very important aspect of chronic fatigue.

The Morning Pages are three pages of long-hand writing done each morning upon awakening. It is strictly stream of consciousness. Whatever is on your mind in the morning is what goes on the page. Another name for this is Brain Drain. Whatever you are obsessing about, worrying about, planning, or remembering is all grist for the mill. Make your shopping list, wonder whether you paid that bill, worry about money, whatever is going on, put it down. Just keep your hand moving until three pages are full. Turn them over, you may never look at them again. It is all about the process. It is a kind of meditation and it does things meditation won't do in my experience. So I do them both every morning.

Get To Know Yourself

What starts to happen is that you are seeing what is on your mind in a whole new way. Over time, you may see that you are still writing about something that is bothering you after two months and you finally think: "Wow, this is really bothering me!" It is amazing how out of touch I used to be with things like that. I had learned that I shouldn't let anything bother me.

Get over it. What's your problem? You are so sensitive, can't you take a joke? This is the way abusers talk and I had heard a great deal of it in my time. I was very shut down in every way because this was how I learned to protect myself. But once I had freed myself from these awful situations, these defenses were still operating and blocking my ability to live any kind of fulfilling life.

The Morning Pages changed that more than anything else I have done besides physical healing. You've got to have the real living energy, but then it needs to go somewhere and that is when the Guardians become active. The Morning Pages are an excellent tool for that baby step of even noticing these things. Then you can write about that for a while and some sort of action may present itself. " Wow, I could have done this a long time ago! I hadn't even realized the effect this has been having on my life, health and happiness."

Some days it is just blah, blah blah, I am sick of my own mind, it is always the same junk over and over again. But as you stick with it, you will break through. You will get under it. Why is it always the same junk over and over again? This is a clue for your detective. The one who is searching for your real self. Tracking you down.

Coming to the page each morning over and over for 17 years now has taught me the power of this method. I am so completely different in so many ways now it is hard to remember what my life was like then.  I do know it was very hard.  And there is no doubt that developing this degree of consciousness was essential to my full recovery from chronic fatigue.

Healing the Whole Self

The full twelve week course of The Artist's Way is extremely therapeutic in my experience. I did the entire course three times, once per year, and each time got more and more out of it as I went deeper into the sources of my creative blocks and worked with the tools of the course. It was a real turning point for me. As important as clearing all of my excess copper toxicity was. Healing must occur throughout the whole person and it will occur on every level. Action taken on any level, changes every level.

So when we seem to be not progressing, it may be that we have gone as far as we can go with a purely physical approach as fundamental as that is. Any positive effort in our life, including getting organized, clearing up our relationship with money, dealing with addictions, following our dreams and engaging in pleasurable creative activities -- creates and supports the healing process.

I have had to do all of those things in my over 30 years of following a healing path. Healing is a hero's journey, a quest. We are seeking the Holy Grail.  It is a path of spirit. True healing will take us deeper and deeper into the source of our own life and of all life. Nutritional Balancing is a powerful initiator and supporter of that process as are the Chinese tonic herbs. They both nuture the roots of life in different ways.

But we must face our Demons and Dragons on every part of that path. The Guardians are always there at every new stage of growth and change. Once we connect with them, and develop a relationship with them, they can become our allies.  Eventually, we will see them as the sign that we are entering a new world. We must negotiate with them and enlarge the circle of safety consciously in order to proceed.  The path of healing never really ends, there is always more progress and life ahead.


Fatigue and the Soul Continues:

Wrestling With The Angels


The Artist's Way, by Julia Cameron

There is no wrong way to do morning pages. These daily morning meanderings are not meant to be art. Or even writing. I stress that point to reassure the nonwriters working with this book. Writing is simply one of the tools. Pages are meant to be, simply, the act of moving the hand across the page and writing down whatever comes to mind. Nothing is too petty, too silly, too stupid, or too weird to be included.

The morning pages are not supposed to sound smart – although sometimes they might. Most times they won't, and nobody will ever know except you. Nobody is allowed to read your morning pages except you. And you shouldn't even read them yourself for the first eight weeks or so. Just write three pages, and stick them into an envelope. Or write three pages in a spiral notebook and don't leaf back through. Just write three pages...and write three more pages the next day.

...Although occasionally colorful, the morning pages are often negative, frequently fragmented, often self-pitying, repetitive, stilted or babyish, angry or bland – even silly sounding. Good!

...All that angry, whiny, petty stuff that you write down in the morning stands between you and your creativity. Worrying about the job, the laundry, the funny knock in the car, the weird look in your lover's eye – this stuff eddies through our sub-conscious and muddies our days. Get it on the page.

The morning pages are the primary tool of creative recovery. As blocked artists [people], we tend to criticize ourselves mercilessly. Even if we look like functioning artists [people] to the world, we feel we never do enough and what we do isn't right. We are victims of our own internalized perfectionist, a nasty internal and eternal critic, the Censor, who resides in our left brain and keeps up a constant stream of subversive remarks that are often disguised as the truth. The Censor says wonderful things like: “You call that writing? What a joke. You can't even punctuate. If you haven't done it by now, you never will. You can't even spell. What makes you think you can be creative?” And on and on.

Make this a rule: always remember that your Censor's negative opinions are not the truth. This takes practice. By spilling out of bed and straight onto the page every morning, we learn to evade the Censor. Because there is no wrong way to write morning pages, the Censor's opinion doesn't count. Let your Censor rattle on. (And it will.) Just keep your hand moving across the page. Write down the Censor's thoughts if you want to. Note how it loves to aim for your creative jugular. Make no mistake: the Censor is out to get you. It's a cunning foe. Every time you get smarter, so does it. So you wrote one good play? The Censor tells you that's all there is. So you drew your first sketch? The Censor says, “It's not Picasso.”

...More than one student has tacked up an unflattering picture of the parent responsible for the Censor's installation in his or her psyche and called that his or her Censor. The point is to stop taking the Censor as the voice of reason and learn to hear it for the blocking device that it is. Morning pages will help you do this.

Morning pages are nonnegotiable. Never skip or skimp on morning pages. Your mood doesn't matter. The rotten thing your Censor says doesn't matter. We have this idea that we need to be in the mood to write. We don't. Morning pages will teach you that your mood doesn't really matter.”