Tag Archives: health

Betrayed by Sacred Sex?

This post is a response to the article “My Tantric ‘Awakening’ Turned me Off Sex” by Janet Hardy. link here

Although this is a response to an article written over two years ago, I feel that it highlights some of the timeless misconceptions and pitfalls around what we term “sacred sex,” “sex magic,” or “sexual energy work.”

First, I want to thank Janet Hardy for writing this article and her book “The Ethical Slut.” It was very influential in expanding my perspective on relationships and sexuality.

I’d like to start with several quotes from Janet’s article to frame my response:

“In the spirit of research, we added tantra and other quasi-religious practices into the mix and took classes in those, too.”

“Of the little that has been written about kundalini-awakening-or-whatever, the vast majority has been written by people I frankly think are kind of weird.”

“Maybe it’s also because she does not share my aversion to the language of, well, woo-woo.”

“ . . . they frame their knowledge in a faux-Eastern haze of abstraction and mysticism that makes absolutely no sense to me and does not fit in with the way my world works.”

It’s with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight and 20 years of stumbling my way through various systems of sexual energy work that these quotes make me think, “uh, oh.” While I admire Janet’s pioneering spirit, it seems that she began her Tantric exploration with very conflicted feelings.

I, too, have a major problem trusting the language around spiritual practices and the mind-sets of a lot of people leading the charge. Just as, in my own work, I advise people to steer clear of health care practitioners whose models of health and language do not make sense to them, it is even more so the case with the models found in transformational work such as Tantric, Taoist, or Kundalini Yoga. Otherwise, there is little common ground for communication and frustration may arise when assistance is needed.

It’s easy to forget that practices that are intended to bring about personal transformation can result in, well, transformation, and that these effects cannot be predicted, as they are the result of opening up to forces over which we have no control. That’s supposed to be part of the fun, by the way.

It is one thing to study an esoteric discipline from the perspective of an uninvolved researcher, and quite another to engage in the practice and lay oneself bare emotionally, physically, and psychologically. I can only imagine that the contrast of being vulnerable in this way and trying to maintain the critical viewpoint of a sex researcher created a tension in which something had to give. And, if the vulnerability is deep enough, it is the mind’s conditioning around sexuality that crumbles.

Vulnerability has the potential to undermine the mind’s agenda and take us to a place that we could never have foreseen that is entirely based on feeling. If you don’t follow sensations and feelings to take you more deeply into the unknown, then all you’re left with is what you think you know about life, yourself, and sex.

Like a lot of people, I was drawn to sexual energy practices in search of more intense orgasms and a deeper level of intimacy. Without a doubt, the techniques found in these disciplines can have numerous profound, practical benefits such as increased sex drive, ejaculation control, deeper intimacy, and an expanded range for sensual pleasure, just to name a few.

Over time, though, it became obvious that I was courting a presence in my life that was digging its own channels and rewiring my fuse-box. Although it’s a phenomenon virtually unknown to the Western mind, the raw energy underlying sexual desire, romantic relationships, procreation, fantasy, and fetishes can be liberated from these customary contexts and experienced as an independent force.

In other words, the impulse underlying sexuality can be teased from the clutches of the conscious mind and allowed a broader expression in aspects of one’s life seemingly unrelated to sex. This untethered impulse has its own intelligence and does not give a hoot about whether we want to live a quiet life in the country or a rowdy city life as a dominatrix. This experience of sexuality as a non-contextual form of energy can provide a perspective on how sexuality has been mercilessly crammed into societal agendas, stunted by cultural and religious shame, and hemmed into a corner where it is beaten back into submission if it acts out too much.

Transformational work involves the real possibility of sacrificing everything we own, have worked for, and think we know about anything. When this really sinks in, then it’s like “Um, can I change my order, please?,” but by then it’s too late to stuff the genie back in the bottle. If you don’t want to risk the chance for something different and unexpected to barge in on your life, then it’s best not to take that first step toward dismantling yourself.

Whether Janet was conscious of it or not at the time, something beyond her researcher’s mind was asking for acknowledgement. If you keep knockin’ on that door, someone you’ve never met before may eventually answer it. And, if you don’t learn how to dance with that stranger, they can make your life hell.

This isn’t a topic that is discussed very often in sexual energy work, because it kind of takes the shine off the peak experience aspect and it’s difficult to describe why it’s desirable. However, if one is sincere about transforming one’s life through sexual expression, it can manifest an agent of sabotage not chosen by the rational mind to break us out of rigid ways of thinking, believing, and behaving. It can catalyze the surfacing of repressed character traits, strip away illusion, and retrieve a depth of feeling that is long lost to most adults. It can become the teacher that so many of us look for Out There.

We often forget that a sacrifice is required in order to acquire certain knowledge or experience. When it comes to sexual energy work, the heart will demand its sacrifice and unfortunately, when the sacrifice occurs on its own without our conscious participation, then it’s often viewed as a punishment or a source of regret that requires healing or repairing. In Janet’s case, she didn’t like the form of the knowledge or the sacrifice: the earth-shattering orgasm or the disappearance of her sexual desire.

If the sacrifice is a loss of desire for sex, then other areas need to be examined to see where your sexual energy has been funneled, and know that it will return one day, albeit fundamentally altered. What else is being intensely inspired within you? Where is there renewed momentum and passion? Is there a pursuit or activity for which you’ve previously had intractable resistance that now presents little or no inhibition? Although the scientist who proposed the law of conservation of energy probably wasn’t thinking about bangin’ the missus at the time, it nevertheless applies perfectly to sexual energy: It isn’t lost, it is simply transformed.

I also have gone through periods of disinterest in “normal” sexual activity as the result of cultivating and channeling sexual energy. As always, the first thoughts are of a worst-case scenario (“Omigod, it’s gone and it’s never coming back!”), because the mind hates anything that deviates from the standard script. During those periods, though, I’ve written two books and made numerous recordings of my own music, two things I’d never been able to accomplish before.

I had the benefit of years of watching sexual energy work create other dramatic changes in my life, so I eventually knew that a loss of desire was just another turn in the road. It was reassuring to me that I did not feel depleted on any levels and that this was solely a change in the outward expression of an impulse. It was critical for me to realize that this was something I’d asked for, whether I liked the presentation or not. And, it really helps to have an understanding partner, of course.

If this phenomenon is misinterpreted as sexual dysfunction and attempts are made to resolve it through medication or hormone supplementation, this will short-circuit the change that is trying to occur in that person’s chemistry and may create health problems where none previously existed.

When one’s attention is exclusively devoted to getting help for something that isn’t a problem in the first place, then it exhausts all the vitality that has been liberated and could have energized another area of one’s life. Identifying it as a problem only serves to separate oneself from the experience and massage the egos of the so-called experts who want to “help.” There is no intervention required here, because the intervention has already occurred in the form of the unknown. Janet literally changed her internal circuitry and that is where the power of vulnerability lies. What is it that Janet needs to recover from–an encounter with herself?

Honestly, most of us are not prepared to let go of the notion that we have control over our sexual impulses and expression until it becomes painfully evident that we are not in control. As long as the sexual impulse remains embedded in the habitual context of sexual activity then the mind can sustain the illusion of being in the driver’s seat. Our vain attempts over millennia to twist the irrepressible drive behind sexuality into something acceptable, predictable, and manageable is truly astounding, and a testament to its incredible potency.

This is one reason that, for centuries, only emperors and high priests were privy to sexual energy practices. We wouldn’t want Joe or Jane Six-Pack discovering a source of vitality that made him or her equal to the boss man, would we?

Yes, I can sit here alone at the computer and create what I call an “energy orgasm” out of nowhere: no sexual fantasies, pornography, or tactile stimulation. Nothing but a simple mental focus on my body that creates a powerful movement of energy. I could make it last for quite a while and even cause some involuntary shaking and flailing about. Most people would not remotely consider this a sexual experience, but that’s precisely the impulse that is being channeled.

And your response may be, “So what’s your point?” And you’d be right. There is no point. This is just how I prefer to live my life. I feel that unless I actively beckon forces into my life that may humble me when I least expect it, I will never know what it’s like to get off the hamster wheel.

Systems, models, and techniques are not ends in themselves, especially when it comes to transformational pursuits. They provide a context within which the mind just might trick itself into recognizing that it really knows nothing. The mind thinks it knows what S&M or Kundalini is and then it becomes an expert on the subject, and vulnerability goes out the window in order to preserve one’s status as an expert.

Aspiring to be a Tantric master, for example, is a delusional goal that misses the point. No one can master sexual energy. A person might, however, be able to get his mind out of the way sufficiently to experience sexual energy in its naked ferocity, and in the process recognize that she is being used by something and not the other way around.

James Rolwing, DC, is the author of the e-books “Multiple Orgasms for Men Made Simple” and “Activate Your Inner Physician.” Available at http://www.amazon.com.

Why Is It So Hard to Find Urgency? Part 2


This is an excerpt from my upcoming book, “The Art of Getting Out of the Way.”

3. Until we’re willing to experience the nature and extent of the pain we’re in, we have a limited perspective on our situation and how to find a way out of it. Urgency springs from a transfer of energy that occurs when we allow ourselves to be vulnerable to the pain underlying an habitual behavior or emotional state. The energy that was applied to suppressing the pain becomes available when we stop the suppression. It is a shift from a mental effort—suppression—to an effortless act—being vulnerable to our feelings.

That available energy is what we draw from to stay grounded and make a conscious decision to change an undesirable situation. Without that available energy, having a choice in the situation is in name only, because we will reflexively choose our conditioned, default behavior time and time again.

By the time we’re young adults, we’ve portioned out all almost all of our life force toward propping up a persona that we can live with and display to the public. Unfortunately, the script written for that persona is based on childhood adaptive strategies, traumas (real and perceived), borrowed beliefs, misinterpretations, fantasies, and false information. Besides making it very difficult to have a direct experience of what is right in front of us, it is our unwillingness to disassemble this web of misperceptions that stands between us and urgency.

In addition, episodes of illness and injury are woven into the story of our life and become associated with repressed emotions, such that a complete healing of the physical ailment requires revisiting the unresolved emotional component. We often fear what may lie on the other side of healing, because it will likely include the exposure of our hidden agendas around maintaining a certain degree of pain in our lives, and those agendas have to be sacrificed in order to achieve real healing.

In my 15 years in health care, I’ve watched clients (and myself) repeatedly choose chronic pain and illness—even death– over honest self-examination. We permit a depth of healing that corresponds to, but does not exceed, the degree of self-exposure that our ego can comfortably handle. In other words, the depth of our healing is directly proportional to how badly we want to know who we are and what motivates our behavior.

4. The mind leverages small discomforts to exert maximum control over our access to urgency. There is a whole universe of sensations and feelings that informs us about our emotional, psychological, and physical state at any given moment, but our mind dutifully chooses which ones to recognize and which ones to ignore and suppress based on the version of reality we’ve painstakingly assembled.

On cue, our mind-body produces mild, context-specific discomforts that signal the very tip of the pain we will have to confront in order to create change in our lives. However, these physical annoyances are not consciously acknowledged as heralding fear, rage, shame or whatever taboo emotion threatens us so profoundly. The more undefined the danger, the more the mind can keep us under its thumb. These discomforts and annoyances surface in that slippery interface between our everyday awareness and the unconscious, and may take many forms: jaw clenching, chest tightness, holding one’s breath, drowsiness, sour stomach, dizziness, and neck pain, to name just a few.

The discomfort’s message is a subtle, but powerful implication that whatever repressed emotions are uncovered will result in a worst-case scenario: death, destruction, public humiliation, or total loss of control. Until the repressed emotion is actually allowed expression, it is only indicated by this sensation-based signature of the repressed emotion.

Here’s an example. A man desperately wants to tell his father he loves him, but every time the thought occurs to him it is accompanied by a tightening of his throat. This has occurred so many times over the years that he no longer notices the discomfort, although without fail it has the effect of squelching the simple words, “Dad, I love you.” The throat tightening delivers the message that if he were to tell his father this simple fact, something bad will happen. It also masks the real reason he cannot say these words: a deep resentment for something that happened in childhood for which he’s never forgiven his father.

Not telling his father he loves him is the son’s way of withholding love in payment for that episode that happened so long ago. The underlying statement is, “I won’t tell you I love you until you admit that you were wrong.” The throat constriction is tied to the son’s inability to relinquish being right about the incident, and the trade-off is the loss of emotional connection to his father.

Since the son will not consciously admit to himself that he cannot let go of a petty grudge against the person who raised him, all that remains is the throat tightening to control his behavior. The end result is the son’s rationalization, “It just wasn’t the right time. I’ll tell him the next time I see him.” And urgency is successfully sidestepped yet again.

This is one of the mind’s primary methods of keeping us in our prison, both at the individual and collective levels. In this way, our past is always informing our present experience, and spontaneity, hence urgency, is kept at bay.

5. The mind may create a constant crisis state to avoid real urgency. This is a very successful strategy as evidenced by people who use rehab like a vacation home, make a hobby of attending multiple support groups, use permanent disability as a gravy train, or spend all their time putting out other people’s fires. If a person’s baseline state is to be in a crisis situation, how will he possibly be able to discern when he actually is in a crisis?

Hitting bottom for these people will be elusive, since bottom has become the norm. This phenomenon also attests to the extremely subjective nature of pain. Someone may, for instance, be willing to subject himself to the physical pain of heroin withdrawal, but not have the courage to confront the shame that fuels the addiction.

For someone to escape from this horrible trap, they have to recover a baseline experience of well-being, or at least neutrality. For someone who has lived her entire life in a crisis mode, this can be extremely threatening because feeling good has become such an alien experience and is not easily trusted.

If healing completely is too much of a threat to a victim identity, then the mind knows precisely where to draw the line to feel just well enough to keep the identity operational.

Wellness Briefs–“Medication Toxicity”

All of the conditions described in these posts are effectively treated with Pattern Release Energetics (PRE).


Do you ever wonder why pharmaceuticals have endless lists of possible serious side effects? One reason is because after our bodies have made maximum use of the medication and excreted as much of the excess as possible, whatever traces of it remain can get stored in a variety of tissues, including muscle, nerve, brain, and organ tissues. Residual medication can settle in these tissues indefinitely and create a toxic environment that can persist long after the medication has been discontinued. This toxicity can produce symptoms such as chronic muscle and joint pain, nerve pain (neuropathy), organ system dysfunction, allergies, headaches, and insomnia.

Chemotherapy meds, antibiotics, antidepressants, interferon, blood pressure medication, and blood thinners are just a few of the medications I’ve encountered stored in clients’ tissues and causing the previously mentioned symptoms. The mere fact that a person must be weaned off a medication already suggests that his or her system has become unnaturally accustomed to having the substance in its tissues, since it is considered risky to simply stop altogether. As with infections, stimulation of the lymph system with PRE encourages the body to release medication toxicity in a safe and efficient manner.

Unfortunately, medication is often used as a long-term treatment strategy which makes the body dependent, lazy, and unresponsive. Over time, this can result in the medication causing the very same symptoms that it was intended to eradicate. If you have symptoms whose origins no one has been able to trace, and you’ve been on a prolonged course of a medication at some point in your life, then medication toxicity should be considered as a possible source.

Wellness Briefs–“Infection Medley”

All of the conditions described in these posts are effectively treated with Pattern Release Energetics (PRE).


For both people and pets, multiple types of infections often occur concurrently. For example, an infection constellation composed of bacterial, viral, yeast, and fungal sources, or any combination of these, is common. If only the bacterial component is diagnosed and treated with antibiotics, it can obscure, and perpetuate, the other infectious elements. In fact, antibiotics can actually create the environment for these other infections to enter the scene in the first place.

The non-bacterial infections may mimic the symptoms of a bacterial infection, so it’s essential to know what exactly is present from the start, before the picture is muddied with any external stimuli. The dangers of indiscriminate use of antibiotics have been known for decades now, but it is still surprisingly rampant.

A grouping of different infections needs to be released layer by layer, in a specific sequence dictated by your mind-body. Otherwise, the healing is incomplete and encourages what is referred to as a “chronic, low-grade infection” or some such wording. Very often, there are emotional patterns that are being repressed in association with a particular infection layer, and these also need to be identified along with the infection type. Infections of any kind can be quickly cleared through activation of the lymph system with PRE, and people can easily be taught how to do this for themselves, as well.

I Don’t Need Help, But I Could Sure Use a Witness

This is an excerpt from the e-book, “Activate Your Inner Physician,” available on amazon.com.

Have you ever been fortunate enough to be in distress in the company of someone who did nothing except be with you? They didn’t try to help, console, or advise you. They didn’t hug you and say, “Everything’s going to be OK.” They simply stayed with you and what you were feeling. Do you recall how rare and liberating that felt? Just experiencing that objective presence can be a healing experience.

In essence, all the person did was stand in for you and give you permission to feel. When you combine witnessing with not interfering with expression, you get humanity. It’s a demonstration of the seeming contradiction that compassion is best expressed from a neutral place.

After all, when we try to console someone, we often do so out of selfishness. Either we don’t want to be in the presence of someone who’s having a rough time because it makes us uncomfortable, or we want to be the hero who makes him or her feel better. In either case, it’s more about us than them. We’re also passively denying their feelings by telling them it’s all going to be okay. In that moment, everything is not okay with that person and they need to acknowledge it.

We are constantly involved in short-circuiting each other’s feelings with the rationalization, “that’s just what friends do for each other.” Um, . . no. Friends allow each other to vent whatever nasty-ass feelings are surfacing while doing their best not to take it personally. If you have even one person in your life with whom you can do this, you know what a treasure you have there. Of course, a friend is also someone who’ll tell you when you’re being manipulative around your emotions.

Thankfully, we don’t need another person to experience the power of witnessing. We can simply sit our asses down and witness whatever surfaces as a result being vulnerable to hearing what our mind is telling us and what we’re truly feeling. This also includes witnessing physical sensations without immediately attending to their suppression. This may sound simple, but for many of us our whole lives are designed to avoid anything but a very superficial examination of our internal state.

Witnessing is a state of suspension whose qualities can range from exquisite calm to utter terror, depending on the mind’s judgment of what’s being witnessed. The more you’re able to witness the conscious mind, the more you realize that it’s constantly judging. And herein lies a sobering recognition: as long as we’re alive we will have judgments.

Throughout this book I use the term “neutral” instead of “non-judgmental,” for a very good reason. American culture promotes a naive innocence by encouraging us to be non-judgmental, because we’re programmed to believe that it’s a quality of a “good person.” This results in widespread shame and guilt around our non-stop habit of judging (“I feel guilty about thinking that homeless people are just lazy.”) If a person doesn’t feel that it’s possible to do the right thing in the face of his prejudices, then he has no choice but to suppress his judgments (“That’s not really me. I know that it’s not right to judge homeless people.”). Now he thinks he’s being non-judgmental and he’s wreaking more havoc than before. Any act of kindness toward a homeless person is now borne of guilt and a denial of his prejudice.

By “neutral,” I’m referring to straddling the line where you can hear your judgments but not judge yourself for having them, which allows for something amazing to occur. You can smile and give that same homeless person a dollar even as your mind is saying, “Take a bath, you worthless piece of crap.” Because guess what? The compassionate person and the elitist snob are equally part of who you are. It’s neutral witnessing that allows both of these to exist in the same moment without either one being “right.” The conscious mind abhors sitting in this contradiction because it needs to be right. That’s why learning how to maintain a neutral witness state with one’s own judgments is invaluable, because it siphons off some of the energy that goes into maintaining a rigid, polarized position.

I’ve never met anyone who was not judgmental to some extent, and I’ve known some extraordinary people. I have known people, however, who knew that their judgments were nonsense even as they were voicing them.

Separation in Health

The following is an excerpt from my e-book “Activate Your Inner Physician,” available at http://www.amazon.com.

Separation: The conscious mind’s attempt to maintain order by imposing artificial boundaries around aspects of mind and body. As a result we have the physical self, the emotional self, the psychological self, the spiritual self, etc. It is the opposite of movement and hence the opposite of healing. Pain and suffering are by-products of separation.

Our health care system is based on two falsehoods: that we will never die and that we’re entitled to a pain-free existence. When you create a model that denies two of the most fundamental truths of human existence, how can that not create separation of the highest order? And, if separation is what causes pain to be necessary in the first place, it follows that our accepted model of health actually sets the stage for pain and suffering.

We get funneled into various specialists who will treat the physical problem and one who will counsel you on the emotional and psychological issues, once again reinforcing in our minds that these are two unrelated problems. The linking of physical and emotional-psychological symptoms is often left up to the individual because very few practitioners will tell you that liver inflammation and repressed grief need to be treated as one event.

The multitude of diagnostic tests and procedures that grows daily is another reflection of this fractured perspective. A lab tech at the hospital is evaluating your blood glucose level while another tech across town at a private lab is testing the pH level of your urine. Talk about separation—your bodily fluids aren’t even in the same building!

One of the original Old English meanings of health is “whole.” The deep desire of the body-mind is to return to wholeness, and pain is the price for recognizing that we’re not whole. If health is meant to describe a whole experience, why can’t we talk about it without classifying it as “good” health or “poor” health, or applying a diagnosis to a feeling or a mental state?

Our conditioning to regard our minds and bodies as separate entities sets us up to become fodder for the health care machine. For example, our body has little opportunity to show us that it can heal an infection on its own, because we cannot hear the word infection without hearing the word “antibiotics” in the same breath. The mind will hold the infection in place until the actual physical proof of the antibiotic is presented to it in the form of a pill or an injection.

A good example of how separation permeates our language around health is how we regard a cancer diagnosis. The person is described as “battling cancer.” By definition, there has to be a winner and a loser in a battle. If the patient adopts this perspective, she has already compromised herself with this declaration of war, which is the equivalent to stating, “I am not my body and my body is the enemy.” How is she supposed to have compassion for an enemy that’s trying to kill her? Then she chooses a practitioner (her general in the battle against her disease), draws her line in the sand and goes to war against herself to eradicate the clues to her humanity.

If the patient survives and wins the battle, who or what exactly lost the battle? The standard answer would be, “Well, the cancer lost, of course!” On the contrary, the loser was more likely a deeper part of that person seeking attention–such as unexpressed regret or grief–and the only way to make itself known was through something as extreme as a life-threatening disease. It had otherwise run out of options. Since the mind will never equate cancer with our humanity this connection often goes unexamined. So, we congratulate the victor on avoiding yet another close call with self-recognition.

A woman’s breast cancer doesn’t heal because thousands of people are doing a 5K walk, which is just a gussied-up version of going to war. Who else marches but an army? Again, it’s an expression of separation. The only enemy to confront is in the mirror. Her healing, if it occurs, is a very private and unique event that cannot be marketed or branded, and if we want to help then we stay as neutral as possible about the disease.

Have You Been Saddled with a Garbage Can Diagnosis?

Have You Been Saddled With a Garbage Can Diagnosis? Part I

As a chiropractor I was often the last resort for someone whose experience with previous health care practitioners was less than satisfying. Kinda goes with the territory when working in a fringe profession. So, neither one of us had anything to lose. I would either be the latest source of that person’s dashed hopes or I’d be able to bring a fresh set of eyes and find something the doctors missed.

One of the shortcomings of the medical model is its reliance on diagnosis. A doctor often lives or dies with it, and so will the patient. This jump to identify and label can actually impede a healing process because it can severely restrict the condition’s freedom to reveal itself. Instead of witnessing what’s going on in front of us, we impose a diagnosis that is generated by the intellect and its relentless obsession to categorize, explain, and rationalize.

The establishment of a diagnosis is treated as a victory of sorts, as if to say, “now we know what we’re dealing with.” When our intellect feels like it has reached a resolution of sorts, then it will often abort all further investigation and fall into the default protocol associated with that particular diagnosis. All it does is relieve our poor assaulted psyches of the anxiety of uncertainty. Well, certainty is often our worst enemy.

Also, the next step after diagnosis is to suppress whatever has just been named. So, say goodbye to finding root causes if the goal is simply to push everything back below the surface and turn off the body’s distress signals. In the rush to identify and suppress, the clues to the condition’s source are trampled.

This is especially true of a so-called “garbage can diagnosis.” It’s a label that is slapped onto a symptom or group of symptoms because the practitioner doesn’t feel that the principle of do no harm extends to a willingness to say “I don’t know.” As health care practitioners, we sometimes trick ourselves into thinking that we have someone’s best interests in mind when all we’re doing is covering our ass as a professional.

GCD’s are superficial umbrella terms used to classify symptoms that can have a wide variety of possible origins. A GCD is a prime example of using language to obscure rather than clarify, something American culture has elevated to an art form in more arenas than we can count. For example, the diagnosis of sciatica might be applied to a condition whose root cause might be any of the following: muscle spasm, lumbar disk bulge or herniation, infection, fibula misalignment, or repressed grief.

GCD’s also worm their way into everyday language, which accentuates their superficial nature. The words “TMJ,” “impingement syndrome,” “chronic fatigue syndrome,” “fibromyalgia,” “tendonitis,” and “bursitis,” glibly trip off our tongue like we’re talking about the latest hijinks of some Hollywood beefcake.

A good indication that you’ve been slipped a GCD is that you don’t significantly improve with the treatment protocol that accompanies the diagnosis. The condition ends up being managed rather than resolved because the diagnosis is a cop-out in the first place, and thus can leave a person in health care purgatory for years. It can cause even more pain and stress for the patient just because someone thought they needed to give a name to something.

I’m only going to cover some of the most common ones I’ve encountered, and I’ll be making generalizations that are based on my own experience.

Fibromyalgia: This is the mother of all GCD’s. There was surely dancing in the streets in the medical community when this diagnosis finally hit the streets. No longer did GP’s have to wince at seeing these folks in the waiting room, and have the joy of telling them after a 30-minute phantom evaluation that “it’s all in your head.”

Conditions like these of global pain or chronic fatigue often remain mysteries because their origin is precisely in that area that most practitioners and patients don’t want to go–repressed emotions. This doesn’t mean that the physical pain is not real; it most certainly is as real as the pain from an acute ankle sprain. The difference, though, is that the pain is being generated by the body to inform the person that unless these emotions get some expression, the pain will persist.

One of the dangers of this diagnosis is that if the person is resolved to remain in the dark about their repressed emotions, now they’re free to use the diagnosis as official confirmation that there’s something wrong with them. So, the diagnosis becomes ammunition for behaviors and beliefs that further alienate the person from her/his true feelings. This is a GCD that can perpetuate a particularly brutal cycle of suppression, particularly if extended use of antidepressants is also part of the treatment protocol.

Pneumonitis, costochondritis, angina, thoracic outlet syndrome, dyspnea: I’ve lumped these together because I’ve seen them all applied to what turned out to be rib misalignments, which are quite common. This is sad, because rib misalignments are one of the simplest corrections to make, and generally provide a quick resolution to the problem. When ribs aren’t properly aligned, it can cause intense, knife-like pain, particularly with deep breaths and particular movements, such as twisting of the upper body. Other possible symptoms are numbness and tingling in the arm and hand, or poor circulation to the arm.

Ribs can be misaligned both in the front where they join the sternum, producing a pain which can mimic heart-related symptoms, or in the back where they join the spine. The cause is generally an acute injury, such as a fall or car accident, repetitive stress, or a period of intense coughing and/or sneezing.

Stay tuned! Part II of this blog post will include old favorites like TMJ, carpal tunnel syndrome, leg length inequality, plantar fasciitis, scoliosis, tension headaches, and chronic low back pain.


Who Says It’s a Symptom?

by James Rolwing, DC

Here’s what I found in an online dictionary as the definition of the word “symptom”:  that which falls together with something, any phenomenon or circumstance accompanying something and serving as evidence of it.

Wow, nothing about health, sickness, or disease! Sometimes looking up a word in the dictionary is a profound revelation. The original meaning can be so right on, and so different from its common usage and understanding.

Let’s break down our typical response to a “symptom” in slow motion.
1) First, a sensation or feeling arises in our awareness. This is instantaneously followed by our mind’s judgment of the sensation as pleasant, uncomfortable, painful, or neutral.

2) Based on our judgment of the sensation, a plan of action or a reaction ensues. If it’s judged as pleasant, the plan might be, “Hell, let’s do this some more!” If it’s labelled as uncomfortable we’ll look for the nearest exit. And if we decide that it’s painful, our response may be anything from, “I want this to go away, now!” to “Oh shit, I’m gonna die!” Finally, a sensation judged as neutral will be ignored entirely.

3) Next, if the pain is physical, all that remains is finding a way to suppress it. If the pain is perceived as emotional, the mind will look for a target or a justification (“I’m angry at X,” I’m sad about X”), and then look for a way to suppress it or express it in a way that’s hurtful to oneself or some unsuspecting poor slob.

4) If we’re unable to manage sufficient suppression of the pain on our own, then, by golly, let’s enlist someone’s assistance in this search for the Holy Grail of suppressive agents. Now we’re greasing the slippery slope to a diagnosis, or at least a professional-sounding description of the symptoms.

I’m stopping way short of the extended version of this chain of events because whatever happens thereafter is just a further reflection of what occurred in step 1: an immediate separation from ourselves. The initial sensation or feeling is quickly replaced by the intellectualization of it. The feeling or sensation continues, but it’s been judged so profoundly by the conscious mind that even as we’re aware of it we hold ourselves separate from it. It’s like looking at our face in a mirror while we repeatedly say, “That’s not me, that’s not me.”

All of this occurs in a split-second, and it’s the most critical moment in our opportunity to heal that we trample over again and again. We cannot stop the mind’s judgment of the sensation; we can only shift our attention to watching our mind’s judgments while we also allow ourselves to feel the sensation.

If we can feel the sensation as well as acknowledge the label we’ve given it, give equal time to feeling and thinking, then we can ride that in-between state where the sensation is allowed to do whatever it’s going to do, and allow healing and movement to occur. If we react to the label we give it then movement stops, we’re no longer grounded, and being with the sensation is replaced by a strategy of the rational, fixing mind.

Our conditioning encourages us to regard any and all phenomena relating to our body with the utmost suspicion and fear. It’s a mental trap we’re taught early in life, to erroneously regard a symptom as a noxious outside influence trying to harm us, rather than an invitation to widen our capacity for feeling and functionality.

Self-Mutilation or Preventive Health Care?

Sometimes the clearest demonstrations of human nature are played out in seemingly throwaway, tabloid-type stories. Like it or not, this is where America often hides its gold. Recently, Angelina Jolie revealed that she’d undergone a double mastectomy because she possessed a gene that has been identified as a carrier of breast cancer and wanted to give herself the best chance possible to beat the odds.

We make choices every day about our health and well-being with little or no effect on public perception. However, if I’m a well-respected, high-profile celebrity who elects to go public about my choices it pushes the discussion into a larger forum. Jolie is currently portrayed in the media as a compassionate humanitarian and consummate mom. Essentially, she is beyond reproach in an entertainment culture that usually eats celebrities for breakfast.

This perception of Jolie is important because it lends tacit legitimacy to her decisions and actions. Can you imagine what the public response would’ve been if the subject had been Pamela Anderson or Nikki Minaj, for instance? So, if I’m a teenage girl who idolizes Jolie, I could easily get the message that it’s okay to hate my body and totally disregard what it has to tell me about myself. Once again, we’re unable to view disease as anything but the enemy and not as a part of us that’s attempting to make itself heard. We don’t heal by making ourselves less whole, we heal by becoming more whole.

Whatever intelligence is driving a hereditary health pattern will find a way to express itself, even if in our arrogance we attempt to avoid its expression by divesting ourselves of a body part that hasn’t even shown any evidence of disease. We’re simply not in control here, folks.

Thankfully, Melissa Etheridge had the stones to publicly question whether this was a decision that Jolie made out of fear rather than courage. Considering the present atmosphere in this country, this statement couldn’t have come from a man. There have been so many instances of male conservative politicians making asinine, ignorant statements about women lately that the backlash would’ve been too intense to examine whether he actually had anything legitimate to say. The rush to Jolie’s defense would’ve been immediate, as the issue would’ve been polarized into a male vs. female context, and the subtler implications of the story would’ve been lost.

Rather, it took a woman like Etheridge who has healed from her own breast cancer and is not shy about discussing how it taught her a lot about herself to offer an alternative perspective. What about the courage it takes to actually communicate and participate with one’s body? How about the courage required to trust a process that our culture and health care system judges as a betrayal by the body? Etheridge’s story of recovery is the kind of experience that actually informs us about our humanity rather than reinforces an illusion of immortality and invincibility.

If you know you may have a predisposition toward a particular disease, then you’re in a unique and empowered position to watch whether your mind will manifest the disease or not, because in the end it’s our beliefs that determine our health. We blithely talk about “living in the present,” but this is one instance that genuinely requires it. But it is regarded as a curse and not a gift. And, by the way, all of us have a predisposition toward a terminal condition, and it’s called death.

A person cannot simply come out and say, “I’m going to have my breasts surgically removed because I’m afraid to die.” No, it has to be framed as a noble choice that requires “courage.” This story is all about our collective fear of death, but we shape the narrative in any other way possible, because any real discussion of death is too taboo. We’re trained early on in life to both fear death and to feel ashamed of acknowledging that fear. This leaves us no recourse but to talk around death in some manner that makes a pretense of confronting our mortality, but in reality goes only so far as to skirt any uncomfortable feelings. We all instinctively know where those boundaries lie. It’s a careful tightrope act that we perform around death and it goes largely unnoticed.

How much evidence do we need that one of the prices of inhabiting a physical body is witnessing its dissolution? Does this thrill me? Of course not, because I’ve been taught to fear death just as much as the next person. But it is a simple fact of life that presents itself on a daily basis. And, if we could begin to acknowledge the inevitability and practical reality of death on a culture-wide basis, it would profoundly transform our idea of health and our health care system.

James Rolwing, DC