Is Pyroluria Trauma?

Monday, 30 June 2014

Last year I saw a psychotherapist.  It was very cool because it wasn't just simply sitting in front of someone talking, talking, talking.  It involved also using my body.  Sometimes I would draw what I was experiencing in my body and then we would use different techniques like emotional freedom technique (EFT) and eye movement integration, etc, as part of working through them and understanding them.  It was a little strange and discomfiting, but it also kinda rocked because it fit into paradigms I am entirely comfortable with (namely, that we go way deeper than we are consciously aware of).

Once, near the beginning of our sessions, I wrote down on index cards the different effects I could expect in my life once I had successfully resolved the troubling, traumatic, long-standing and deep-seated situation I was seeing her about.  When I had written something on each card and drawn an accompanying representational picture, I then put them down on the ground to form a path, and walked through the middle of that path.  It was a literalisation of the process we were undertaking.  It felt good.  It felt stupid.

I first had experience of therapy that incorporated something greater than just talk when I began doing art therapy about six years ago.  That was such a profoundly awesome experience for me.  To be surprised by something you make, or a picture you draw or paint, to have it reveal things to you about you, slowly and meaningfully, so that you can see something you couldn't before, as if you have externalised something of yourself that is now giving itself back to you ~ it's hard work and it's awesome.  I have forever been ruined for straight talk therapy that doesn't involve using your body and/or your creativity.

If you're overly logical and a little weak on imagination, then maybe doing stuff like this mightn't work.  It requires laying down of the security that a logical way of approaching life offers and looking through a rather different lens.  It's an entirely different kind of practice; it's subjective.  It's also real, powerful, potentially massively meaning-making, something which can garner great internal change - surprising yourself about yourself and healing things that are broken.  Those spaces have always been dangerous thresholds to cross.  They continue to be so.

Doing this kind of stuff, though challenging, is powerful if it's your bag.  I suppose some of the techniques we used would be classed as neurolinguistic programming.  That is a compartment with a big pseudoscience label stuck on its outside.  Now, just because it's a cultural belief that anything pseudoscience is therefore false and wrong and stupid doesn't mean that's not a simplistic distinction.  Sure, some of what's called pseudoscience is peddled by shysters and snake oil salespeople, and we do not wish to be taken advantage of.  However, it is simply not possible for everything to be effectively funnelled into a scientific tube, into something externally measurable and quantifiable.  If something sits outside science as pseudoscience, then what that means is determined by what it is.  It can be bunk ... or not.  It depends.

One week I talked to my psychotherapist about pyroluria.  It was the latest thing I was working on and I was hopeful that it would help me with symptoms I was experiencing, namely massive fatigue and anxiety.  The next week, she came back and said that she'd read up on it a bit, and that while she did not wish to minimise in any way my diagnosis, that those symptoms sounded very much to her just like trauma.

I recognised the resistance in myself as soon as she said it.  Straightaway, it felt like she was dissing a new, possibly large, jigsaw puzzle piece that would help further explain what was wrong with my body.  The same body that had been causing me grief for the previous 15 years.  In 1999 I contracted glandular fever, and since then things have never been the same for me.  Chronic fatigue syndrome, adrenal fatigue, all wrapped up a bundle that has caused at best medium and at times severe limitations.  To have felt that I had come upon something that might give a physical explanation, and then to have someone suggest that it was maybe, like, emotional ~ no, I didn't want that.  I wanted it to be entirely physical, because that way it was simpler and cleaner.  If pyroluria turned out to be the physical manifestation of trauma, where would that leave me?

It would leave me feeling weak.  There's the rub, and here's the split:  a purely physical explanation would get me off the hook.  It would be mechanical.  Or it would somehow be my ancestors' fault.  It wouldn't be mine.  Whereas if pyroluria was trauma, then somehow it would automatically all be my fault.

Funny, isn't it, how we make those distinctions.

In practice, the body is not a dead piece of machinery with a big long stick coming out of it with a mind or a brain attached.  It is all one thing, and it is a joy to experience that.  And you can't understand it from a study (though we do know there is a type of brain function that occurs in the gut, and also in the heart).  You have to experience it yourself.  So is pyroluria trauma?  Maybe.  Maybe what we see with pyroluria is the long-term effects of trauma on a body, on the blood, ending up with a greater need for B6 and zinc, amongst other things.  Maybe we see the spiritual, emotional and mental effects playing out on the physical plane, like wind on water.

There is often just as much power in the immeasurable relationship between the things as in the things themselves.  It does seem as a culture we are finding it easier to recognise the spaces between things and how everything is affected by everything else in ways that are not always easy to forecast (especially in terms of globalisation and climate change). I tend to think that though Descartes' thoughts that translated out into the mind-body split still run like water down through the middle of our culture, causing division only in our perception, that we are beginning to close that particular gap.  In one way you could say that that is the defining argument of the age, one that surely must be felt in the area of science most keenly and confusingly.


  1. "There is often just as much power in the immeasurable relationship between the things as in the things themselves." Nicely put. Like the silence between words.

    1. Yes. That space, it's so powerful! It makes the things so much better ... and in their rightful place!

      (PS: Your latest post is so full of exploration-worthy links that it will take me some time to work through them. Fun!!!).

  2. It's a bit of a chicken and egg thing I think. We do have genetic disposition to Pyroluria, therefore we are also more easily open to, and less able to cope with, trauma, and so were our parent/s who had it, and their parent/s, and so on, so it is nature and nurture and physiological and mental and round it goes.

    Descartes sucked as a human. I wish his theories had never been taken up by anyone.


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