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.

E-Books versus Book Books


Thursday, 19 June 2014

If you are a reader of those longform things called books, do you have a preference for either e-books or paper books?

I love both.  And while e-books are sooo good, what they can't do is give you a lovely tactile experience.  Well, they can, if you have, say, a fur-lined reader cover, but it's not quite the same thing.

I recently read a book that I loved, and I also enjoyed the look of it just as much as the content of its innards.  When that happens, it gives an extra dimension of richness that an e-book can't provide.

I love the colours of this cover.  The earthy browny-purple made me hungry.

That colour continued on into the edges of each page.  They looked quite beautiful.

My cousin and I used to read a lot of books together when we were young - one page each, reading out loud, often in bed at night.  It was a delightful combination of sharing something while also getting lost in the lovely solitude of another world.

Apparently I used to do this thing while I was reading with the hand that wasn't holding the book, running it along the pages and flicking them and stuff while I was reading.

I think I maybe was doing some of that a bit more than usual here.

Of course, the cliche stands firm that it's what inside that really counts.

But it doesn't hurt to have a little beauty on the outside as well, as beautiful women floating through doors closed to the rest of us could well testify.  But if you ain't got anything but fluff on the inside, where's that gonna leave you when your outside beauty has gone?

So how about you?  What are your reading habits - e-book, paper books, a combo of the two, or a sadly dwindling reading of bookery now the interwebs is on the scene?  I love getting away from the computer, and its snippets of stuff here and there and the relentless urge to click on the next thing without having fully digested what I've just been reading.  To sit or lie down with a book, in whatever form, which is the same thing over and over, is harder to do since the advent of the net ... and also better.

Book Review - Our Tragic Universe by Scarlett Thomas

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Wednesday, 18 June 2014

The deep thinking and deep discussion going on in this book is my version of chick lit.  If you love exploring ideas, then a read of Our Tragic Universe by Scarlett Thomas might just tickle your fancy like it did mine.  It ponders its way through the complexity of relationships, roaming through explorations into science, pseudoscience and philosophy, pondering what's able to be known and what isn't, what's real and what isn't, and how we all get sucked into our own narratives.

Meg is a thirtysomething writer who's stuck within her own novel, the one she's kept rewriting and rewriting and deleting until it's where it is now, back at a measly 43 pages.  She's also stuck in a relationship that's sinking fast, is contemplating entering another, and she's broke.

She also has rather interesting friends who have wonderful intellectual discussions.  If this is the sort of dinner table conversation you like, then perhaps we should have dinner:

"Aquinas wondered what would happen if God wanted to achieve universal resurrection.  In other words, bringing everybody who had ever lived back to life at the same time.  What would happen to cannibals, and the people they ate?  You couldn't bring them all back at the same time, because the cannibals are made of the people they have eaten.  You could have one but not the other.  Ha."  I looked at Rowan.  "That's a good example of a paradox."

... "This is aninteresting conundrum," Conrad said eventually.  Aquinas focuses this problem on the cannibal, but in reality everything is made of everything else.  Every boat I build used to be a tree, several trees in fact, and perhaps meteorites, iron ore, plants and so on.  You can't eat your cake and have it too.  I think this is where the paradox comes from."
Depending on whether you think this sort of thing is pointless intellectual masturbation or it stimulates your imagination will determine whether you find this book a pain in the bum or a rollicking good ride.

Personally, I love books where the protagonist spends time pondering the reality of perception of her dog, Bess:
B gave me a look that I anthropomorphised into 'What on earth are we doing now?', so I explained to her that we were going to go and rescue Josh and then drive home to Dartmouth, and we might see some squirrels on the Lanes and when we got back it would definitely be time for her dinner.  She cocked her head sharply each times he recognised a word: Josh, home, squirrels, dinner.  I wondered if I could communicate with B more efficiently by using only nouns and then stringing them in the rough order that they were going to happen.  Was that what the world was to B?  Was it all just nouns on a timeline?  There had to be a bit more to it than that: she was visibly thrilled at the idea of squirrels, even though, as I'd said to Libby, she didn't chase them any more.  She did look a bit baffled, however, that the squirrels could come between home and dinner, so I changed the order to Josh, squirrels, home, dinner.  This time she whimpered slightly as I said each word.  I reckoned I could probably write a book on dog psychology myself after all these years of study.
Others have commented that Scarlett Thomas is too smart for her own good, that she draws attention to herself with "Look at me, look how smart I am" intellectual cartwheel-turning.  Of course, on one level that's exactly what she's doing, considering this novel plays with metafiction and the idea (strange to modern Wasterners) of the storyless story.  However, I found the exploration of ideas to be so satisfying that for me this all panned out as playful fun rather than egotistical masturbation.  Perhaps that says something about me, I'm not sure.  
"One of the paradoxes of writing is that when you write non-fiction everyone tries to prove that it's wrong, and when you publish fiction, everyone tries to see the truth in it."  I bit my lip.  "Of all the theories of the universe I've come across, [yours] is probably the best one.  Honestly.  But I can't accept theories of the universe.  I think it's too big to theorise."

"But isn't the point of being alive to try to answer the big questions?"

I shook my head.  "For me it's about trying to work out what the questions are."
Questions and answers.  The wonderful thing about loving both questions and answers is that when you get tired of the lack of answers, you can retreat backwards into living loving the questions.  Which, paradoxically, is a much bigger and more exhilarating space in which to live, leaving entire empty rooms for mystery, and for playfulness.

The ideas played around with in this novel mean that nothing is resolved in the traditional fashion, with ends all neatly tied up.  And while that annoys the hell out of me, it also makes me smile a little because, well, it's always a little fun to be fucked with ... before you go on to the next book that will probably have some neat resolutions and a bow on top.  I find it interesting that while I'm quite happy with open-endedness, I did notice a vague sense of dissatisfaction on finishing this book that I couldn't put my finger on until I considered it here.

Perhaps I want bows more than I realise.

eBay Stories - Pirates & Wenches


Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Do you happen to be after a secondhand-but-new-looking pair of women's size 10 black synthetic pirate boots?

Do you like reading short stories?

Then by golly and by jingo you are so in luck.  Because I have a two-for one deal, just for you.

My latest eBay Story.

(You can find listing and story number one here).



Friday, 6 June 2014

Thinking today about the space between here and here.

Imagine living in a culture that had your back.

There's a lot of different kinds of poverty.

Poverty of money

Poverty of spirit

Poverty of vision

Poverty of generosity

That whitey, he sure do some damage.

These Fragile Things

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Thursday, 5 June 2014

Sometimes it feels like time has run out anywhere other than via Facebook graphics for public discussions about the importance of nurturing things that are fragile, like beauty and hope and imagination and meaning-making.

These fragile things, they are things that scarily feel culturally strange and pointless. They are for hippies, scientific illiterates.  We are ambivalent - we crave those fragile things while at the same time they can make us feel a little ill, somehow, in some indefinable dark way that we don't even begin to understand.  They can make us feel prickled in our sides, pushed in our buttons.  They are things that do not feel allowable in this time. Look at how scarce money is, we say. It doesn’t stretch to encompass frivolity. Those things are frivolous fancy, we are busy and frazzled, and there is not enough money to go around for them, we say, through gurgling stomachs.

But beauty and imagination and hope and creativity are the other side of the bigger picture. We know this, when we’re not stressed and distracted off our dials. We go on holiday for these things. They are what makes life meaningful. They cannot easily be commodified, broken down into a spreadsheet, extrapolated out into data analysis. And, as truly important as left-brain analysis is, it is only one side of the story.

The bigger picture reminds us that money is a construct that we invented, as a means of energy exchange, as an easier alternative to bartering, but fast forward hundreds of years and it has been flat-packed down into a ridiculously complicated means of restriction, of gain at others' expense. On this other side of the picture, we can change how we “do” money so that it is retrieved from greed, fear and competition and restored once again to its rightful position. As will we be. And from there, beauty, imagination and hope aren’t optional extras for a people who are more than consumers, but are the beginning of something new.

These ideas seem pie in the sky, do they not?  Hopelessly naive. It’s easy to fall into black despair that maybe we are a species watching ourselves see ourselves out. But maybe the biggest part of the problem is not that it’s not possible to change, but that we think it’s not. And maybe another part of the problem is that we're trying to use the wrong kind of thinking to get there – supposing that we can estimate change, predict our future only by how economically viable it is, while considerations of how we wish to live and how that could be meaninful remain on the sidelines, slightly embarrassing and irrational. How different really are we from ages past that relied on scriptures to guide their living?  We like to rely on externals as well, like economic forecasts, missing entirely the fact that these are all just a different type of prognostication, and one that keeps us as small and sidelined as the Old Testament texts that painted God as a ravaging, nasty monster, coldly inconsiderate of the shape and size and weft of those who he'd formed.

Too much left-hemisphere thinking (unlike too much left wing politics) seems to make us smaller, less humane, and I don’t like it – not just simply because I float in dreamland and have crappy time-management skills, but because it will be to our literal destruction if we can’t rebalance.

But also because it makes us miserable.

Note I didn't say no left-hemisphere thinking but too much.  Imbalance can create havoc and I do believe that we can see the evidence of that in the destruction of the world around us.

“The [brain's] left hemisphere tells us that the quest for meaning is meaningless, because it is not equipped to deal in meaning or understanding, but manipulating and processing,” says Ian McGilchrist. Meaning, he says, “emerges from engagement with the world, not from abstract contemplation of it.” The left hemisphere of our brains is biased towards seeing the parts; the right towards seeing the whole picture. It is that greater expansion of the view which we need more than anything right now.

A drawing better illustrates this example.  A person who has suffered a right-hemisphere stroke and who therefore is more dependent upon the left hemisphere of the brain sees and draws only the right-hand side of things – half a cat, half a house, half a tree. A person entirely dependent on the left hemisphere of the brain to make their way through the world fails to see the left-hand side of things. They have disappeared from their view as emphatically as if they weren’t there at all.

The Tao views the proper handling of life as a balanced understanding of yin and yang, of action and inaction. The inaction is hard for us and seems useless.  According to the Tao, action can be disastrous; sometimes it’s better to retreat to an inaction – which is not passive but an active inaction, a space that is empty but full at the same time. It is a silence that is full. It is a rest that we pant for but can miss realising we need. It is so hard to be balanced in such a topsy turvy place as this.

We could think of a family that may or may not have lived next door to us. When we remember them, we feel equal amounts of attraction and repulsion. They were imperfect like us, but there was a collectiveness about them. They all smelled the same, like warmth, but looked different, like themselves. They did things together that were playful. They seemed, from our baleful longing, to be somewhat naive. They did things that were a little uncool, things that were pointless and playful, and it seemed to make them happy. It made us sad, those things – some of us thought they were dumb but some felt our hackles rise and we had no idea why.  We did not understand the language of games, rituals, rites, dance.  It all looked like a cult.  How could we evaluate what these things actually were and what their point was without reference back to hard squares and boxes? Those games were like a different language and those people stupid and naive. They made us feel contemptuous and at the same time inferior, scared even. They made us feel like we were stoppered, that big wads of ourselves we didn’t even know existed were off flying in the atmosphere when they should have been here with us. They make us remember what we’ve forgotten we forgot.

So this is the time we are in – in a culture which has had a right-hemisphere stroke and it is up to us, as individual cells, to restore the balance. That probably begins with doing the things that we secretly yearn for, the things that feel too luxurious, that we don’t have time for. This breeds more of that thinking that Einstein talked about, the sort that’s different from the kind that got us into this environmental pickle in the first place.

The times call for people who have come alive, and who aren’t afraid to express and to do what’s right. No matter how naive that might seem, even to ourselves.