“We are responsible for everything in our lives, including how the chemistry in our bodies works or doesn’t work.” Wayne Dyer’s words hit me like a bolt of lightening as I listened to his taped book, You’ll See It When You Believe It.
Throughout the years, I had suffered tremendously with bouts of allergies and asthma; it wasn’t until that moment that I had a confirmation I could eliminate my allergy problems. The asthma attacks had been under control since leaving the mid west where I was born and raised. This move eliminated contact with cattle hair and grain dust and other pollens indigenous to the area, which I had extreme allergic reactions with.
I often spoke, to anyone who would listen, about how the mind heals the body or allows the body to become ill. This knowledge was based on my thoughts, reading and research. As I spoke about my ‘belief/knowledge’ my bouts with allergies hung heavy in my mind. In all of my reading, nothing clicked as a solution until that moment in September 1989. I was 47 years old. As I had learned while studying transactional analysis, Dr. Dyer, also, held the premise: “We are responsible for everything in our lives.” “OK, Wayne,” I said, “I agree. Now what? How can I take responsibility for the chemistry in my body when my immune system is damaged? My immune system contains chemicals,” I reminded myself. “I am responsible for those chemicals doing their job. What am I doing or not doing that is responsible for the chemicals not doing their job?” I asked myself fervently.
A few days later I began, in earnest, to be a detective. I revisited myself as an infant in the crib. With much satisfaction and pride, my father has told the story that he knew how to quiet a howling infant. With his hand, big and muscular from working as a cattle rancher, he ‘patted my back with three or four hard, quick pats, ‘You,’ he proudly announced, ‘stopped howling. You seemed to like it,’ he concluded, ‘because you always stopped howling.’
My father was physically abused as a child, and he carried the legacy into his parenting. He did not consider the ‘hard quick pats’ on my tiny back as abusive, nor would anyone necessarily consider either of us as abused at the time of our upbringings; some people would not consider it abuse today. In the days of my father’s childhood, and those of my own, this type of behavior with a child was viewed as stringent discipline for a child obviously needing corrective action. However, with certainty, my abuse began when I was an infant in the bassinet. As I revisited my infancy and childhood, no new memories came forth. This was frustrating. I had not found any new clues. “Chemicals. I am responsible for my chemicals. How can I take responsibility for those chemicals?” The answer seemed elusive, but I was determined. “Chemicals? What mechanism triggers the release of my chemicals?”
“Ye gads! The brain. The brain sends messages to all systems in the body. The portion of the brain that controls the chemicals is often called ‘the old brain’: it is the ‘fight-flight’ mechanism that instantaneously (no need for conscious command) sends chemicals so the system can ‘fight or flee.’
“So what has that got to do with allergies?” I asked myself. “Allergies, allergies, allergy attack, allergy attack–am I getting somewhere? I am being attacked by pollen–so? What is the link between allergy attacks and being an abused child? Allergy attack–allergy attack.” Days and weeks passed. I repeatedly mulled the thought, “Allergy attack, child abuse, allergy attack, child abuse: there is a link. I know there is a link. What is the link?”
When the human system is attacked by something, the immune system instantaneously sends chemicals to fight the invasion. “My system is damaged since being frightened as an infant,” I lamented. “What can I do now? I am responsible for the chemicals in my body,” I reminded myself. “How do I make a system work that has been damaged? If my brain controls the chemicals and my thoughts control my brain, I can control those chemicals. Nevertheless,
how can I control the chemicals? The link-where is the link?”
I began thinking about the incidents of physical abuse. I saw my father’s menacing figure coming at me–his face red, hand raised, swearing and shouting. Whack, his large hand hit the side of my head. ATTACK! My father attached me verbally and physically. There is the link! Allergy attack’s verbal/physical attack–the two had emerged in my psyche as the same.
To understand the physiological and psychological construct, one needs to accept the reality that the physical body and psyche are intertwined. One is not separate from the other. To understand the emergence of allergy attacks with verbal or physical attacks in my psyche, we need to discern my experience as an infant in the bassinet. The five senses: hearing, sight, smell, taste, and touch are an infant’s only means of understanding their world and communicating. Three of the five senses are activated by the technique such as my father’s to quiet a howling infant: The infant hears the father’s footsteps and, in the first instance, assumes that someone is coming to comfort her. The father says, ‘Be quiet [shut up];’ in a loud voice; simultaneously the impact of a hard, quick pat is registered (touch). The shock of the loud voice (hearing) and hard pat (touch) is reacted to by a restriction in crying (breathing)–breathing and smell are synonymous.
The shock of the loud voice and physical impact has knocked the breath from the infant. When the infant’s autonomic system reactivates breathing, the infant breathes in the smell of cattle hair and grain odor, which permeates the father’s clothes. In many instances, the mother responds to the crying infant; however, the infant is unable to distinguish when the mother or father will respond. Therefore, the infant soon recognizes the footsteps of the father, but has no way to escape. Her fight and flight mechanism is triggered, and chemicals surge through her body requiring additional oxygen as her heart rate and breathing increase. As she attempts to bring in oxygen, she simultaneously constricts her crying; the two conflict with each other. This causes swelling in the bronchial system, which is how asthma is manifested–restricted bronchial passage.
Not withstanding, humans have evolved with immunities to the elements that are common to the environment. With rare exceptions, the human immune system, as a chemically functioning system, is adequate to protect the organism. In an experience such as mine, the infant’s psyche is being imprinted through three of the five senses. This leaves a powerful impact. As in my case, cattle hair and grain odors are associated with fear and not being able to breathe. Thus, my asthma/allergies became a physical reaction to fear, distress and the sensation associated with any strong smells. I remember experiencing asthma attacks when I was anticipating a stressful situation involving my father or if he verbally attacked me.
Through listening to my past feelings and watching my reactions, I accepted the reality that my immune system had been damaged. The doctors also told me my immune system was ineffective, but they blamed it on a fact of genetics fluke, something I had to accept. I dutifully accepted my fate; after all, doctors know the human body and are healers-they know best. The next step, I began observing my physical reactions whenever I started having allergic reactions. “What did I tell myself-what did I tell my brain?
My brain has the power to send chemicals to my immune system. Why weren’t my chemicals there when I needed them?” I observed and observed. One day I noticed a very subtle body sensation, so subtle that I hardly noticed its presence. The body sensation was so faint and so far away. I barely captured it. “What was the origin of this faint sensation? Listen carefully, listen, observe, listen. Yes, yes, there it is: Shut down, shutdown, do not move, do not think, do not feel, do not react, you cannot do anything, shutdown.'” My heartbeat seemed so still. It was very faint. I took my pulse and had a hard time finding it. “How is that connected to my chemicals? How is that connected to my immune chemicals not being sent?” I continued to listen and observe my body’s reaction to smells.
Ye gads! The thought came into my mind. My fight-flight command was not being activated. Instead, I was telling my fight-flight system to shut down. WHAT? The fight-flight mechanism is fundamental to the survival of the system. I was telling mine to shut down. My mind then wandered back to the incident when my father attempted to chase me with the horse. I realized that was the time I shut my fight-flight system down more than it had ever been shut down. “Do not move, do not move, do not think, do not feel, do not react, you cannot do anything, shut down.” My heart stood still as the horse jolted to a stop in front of me, his hot breath blowing in my face. From that point on, I remember not feeling the pain when my father hit me. I was completely shut down.
As the days passed, I continued to listen to and observe my breathing. As I observed, I became aware that I became passive when a sneeze was an allergic sneeze. The thought was, “There is nothing you can do, the pollen attacks and you are in a lot of pain and feel sick and can hardly function, but it only lasts a short time. Withstand the pain–keep going–it will pass.” As a child, I could not fight or flee. Emotionally, to survive the verbal and physical attacks, I became passive by telling myself, “The best course of action is to do nothing.” This thought process subconsciously blocked the transference of survival chemicals to protect my system from danger. When the chemicals were sent, I could feel the bone-chilling pain before and after the assault. I did not like this chilling pain and, therefore, instructed myself to shut down.
Eureka, the final link! I had trained my brain to stop sending the fundamental fight-flight chemicals used to protect the system. No wonder the doctor gave me adrenaline shots when my natural chemicals did not work. Adrenaline is the major chemical the immune system sends to fight or flee. The next step was to monitor the messages I gave myself when I sneezed. The pattern was consistent-I became very passive, I could feel my senses shut down. All my muscles relaxed, no outward emotion. Nothing! I listened, observed and listened. After many years of telling my brain to shut down, learning to fight back was not easy. It was so natural to shut down. Nevertheless, I listened and every time I felt myself shut down, I gave a command to fight back. I visualized the chemicals rushing into the blood stream and throughout my body. I practiced and practiced. Gradually, I noticed a difference in the severity and the duration of allergy attacks. Spring 1990 arrived (a usually difficult season, as I was allergic to tree and grass pollens): no sneezing, no watery eyes, no coughing. Eureka! I did it. I did it! This was and remains a physical and psychological victory with extensive implications. I wanted to shout from the rooftops. I wanted to tell everyone–Metaphysical healing works!!
With each passing pollen season, I have been increasingly allergy-free. For three years, it was necessary that I consciously made the effort to ‘remind’ myself to fight back. I do not need to have total concentration anymore. In addition, if I have allergic reactions to manufactured elements, I do not hold myself responsible for generating the immune system to fight back. This is due to the fact that the immune system protects the system from natural elements; if I held myself responsible for eliminating all allergic reactions, I could set up unrealistic demands and constitute an unrealistic psychological failure as well.
A note of caution for anyone who may think I have described this process as simple and easy: it was very difficult and required concentration, commitment and dedication. During the beginning stage of recovery, any distractions resulted in reduction in concentration as well as reduction in effectiveness. This was discouraging at times and I heard myself saying, “See you cannot really change this damage, you are not as good as you think you are.” This was an example of all the negating and demoralizing things my father said to me. It occurred to me, I was allowing other people’s words to control what I could or could not accomplish today, and I became even more determined.