According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, fibromyalgia is a “disharmony of the spirit.” Let’s look at that thought in relation to this description of two “typical” fibromyalgia sufferers:
*Eight years ago, Tammy worked as an office manager and had three young children. Then her husband died, and her children began to have problems adjusting at school. A single working mother with a stressful job, Tammy would lie awake nights worrying about her situation. “My sleep went off first. I never had trouble falling asleep before, but I would lie awake night after night, thinking about my kids and my job, and it seemed that I never had a deep, sound sleep, even if I dozed off. After a while I would wake up in the morning feeling stiff all over and extremely tired. When I went to see my doctor he gave me an anti-depressant, but it didn’t work, plus I gained weight.” Gradually, Tammy’s condition worsened.
*Sheila is an elementary school teacher. Six years ago, her twenty-four year marriage ended in a very bitter divorce. Four years ago, she was diagnosed with fibromyalgia. She had multiple complaints: fatigue, depression, muscle aches, insomnia, irritable bowel syndrome, and poor memory. She always woke up between 1:00 a.m. and 3:00 a.m., feeling restless and remembering a lot of dreams. She drives herself to excel in her work, but she is finding it very stressful these days, and often thinks that she can’t handle it any more.
Both of these women were in pain, neither slept well. Tammy was mostly worried, and Sheila’s emotional tone was more angry. Both had responded to the life conditions that befell them by tightening up inside. Eventually this inner tightness led to their developing the symptoms of fibromyalgia.
At the deepest level, however, both Tammy and Sheila were experiencing a disharmony of spirit, a constriction of their deep self expression, the natural free flow of energy in their body, mind and spirit.
How medicine, psychology and spirituality describe fibromyalgia
• Fibromyalgia is a syndrome diagnosis (many different recurring symptoms under one umbrella).
• Fibromyalgia is a complex nervous system pain disorder (shows up in many ways in the nervous system).
• Abnormal brain activity starts with a trigger, but does not return to normal.
• The trigger may be repeated over time.
• This brain response may be adaptive for protection.
• The sensitive temperament is able to regulate physical and emotional response only when there is very low stimulation in the person’s environment.
• Chronic emotional and physical pain is obstructed spiritual energy, a constriction of the heart, reflected as pain in the body.
• Some of the essential qualities of spirit are love, expansiveness, generosity, creativity, imagination, possibility, openness, growth, flow and purpose.
• A sensitive person feels unable to fully express his/her true self in what feels like a harsh, critical, wounding world.
• As a result of traumas, a sensitive person may eventually respond by constricting their whole being around a thought: “I can’t express what I really feel, I can’t be who I really am, I am not good enough. In order to matter or have significance, in order to have inner peace, and in order to justify taking care of myself, I must be ill.”
ENERGY PSYCHOLOGY Perspective
• In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the Heart is called the ‘King’ of the organs.
• The Heart houses the Spirit, and controls the emotions. Sadness and anger weaken the Spirit; the body can become ill.
• Fibromyalgia is an interruption in a particularly sensitive person’s electrical system resulting from emotional trauma.
• Repeated experiences of stress or trauma can disrupt the energy system and restrict the flow of life, limiting access to our capacity to think and act and make choices.
• If we repress the emotions (sadness, anger, fear) that arise in response to our traumatic experiences, the electrical system disruption will eventually show up as pain and dis-ease in the body.
• Clearing the disruption with energy techniques can clear the pain, change thought, change behavior, and open the Heart, resulting in healing.
I think that these three ways of describing fibromyalgia are just using different words for an obstruction or a tightening—the “not-free-flow”— that is happening throughout the mind-body-spirit system.
The “pain of the spirit” means to me that the person is restricting the free flow of their life expression, in this case, Tammy with worry and fear, and Sheila with anger. Holding worry, fear and anger inside for a long time eventually shows up as pain in the physical body.
As tappers, our underlying premise is that the flow and balance of the body’s electromagnetic, subtle energies are important for physical, spiritual, and emotional health, and for fostering well-being. EFT works within the ancient Chinese meridian system to balance the whole energy system.
If we start tapping for fibromyalgia by saying “Even though I have FM, I deeply and completely accept myself,” all kinds of inner objections may instantly pop into our minds. That phrase might be a starting point, but only useful at the beginning to uncover all the beliefs and feelings that lie under it.
So really, tapping for fibromyalgia means reaching to the deepest levels of how we think about ourselves and what is possible for us in the world. We are not “treating” fibromyalgia in the western medical sense, or as a Traditional Chinese Medicine doctor would. We are tapping for the pattern of energetic constriction in our bio-electric field that is showing up as our physical discomfort, our feelings, our beliefs, and our self talk. Each person with FM is different, unique.
A good place to start is to tap for the pain specifically. A good follow-up to that is to ask ourselves, “If this pain or discomfort or these tears had a voice, what would it be saying?” When we really listen to what our symptoms are saying, they want us to change our lives, and change how we think about and talk about ourselves. Inner balance and harmony follows our thoughts. Tapping can open the door for harmony at all of our energetic levels. But—it requires that we allow our lives to change deeply too. For many people, that is the hard part.
You probably know already that each energy meridian is part of a network that is related to a body organ or function, and each embodies a way of thinking, a story about what is happening inside us, physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually—our way of responding to life.
As an example, insomnia, very common to people who suffer from FM, is a message about inner energetic imbalance of the fundamental substances (called by acupuncturists Chi, blood, Yin, Yang, Jing, Shen), or of the major organ systems (Lungs, Heart, Spleen, Liver, Kidneys). Many Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioners believe that when a person suffers from insomnia, the two organs that are most often out of balance are the Heart and the Liver. Each of these two organs houses an aspect of the spirit. If these organs are in disharmony, they will not be able to house the spirit properly, and the spirit will “wander.”
Sustaining the Spirit: The energetic pattern of the spleen
In energy terms, another key in fibromyalgia is the spleen meridian. One of the Spleen’s jobs is to partner with the Heart. In Chinese Medicine the Heart is considered to be the home of the Spirit. We tap on the end of the spleen meridian when we tap under the arm.
The spleen’s job is to transform what we eat into the energy and the blood that nourishes and sustains our body’s health. The spleen meridian can become constricted when we fall into chronic worry, and the over-concentration of trying to be perfect. You could be asking yourself, “Am I burdening myself with toxic materials or thoughts?” “How am I at breaking down problems into digestible parts?” “Do I have enough sweetness in my life?”
The Spleen’s positive psycho-emotional attributes are trust, honesty, openness, acceptance, equanimity, balance, and impartiality.
A person with fibromyalgia probably grew up in a family that fostered lots of need for approval, and a powerful expectation of success. When we feel like we must be extremely successful, and we need to find our approval outside of ourselves, we tighten up inside. Try it out…
Thinking these worried, anxious thoughts repeatedly can cause constriction that deprives the body of essential energy (chi) and blood and oxygen. Over time this constriction can lead toward the symptoms of FM.
Tap for old beliefs like:
I had to be perfect, or else…
I am all alone, I have to do it myself.
I have to tough it out and soldier on.
I just forge ahead as if nothing was hurting me.
I have to pretend everything is okay when I am really feeling lonely or sad.
I am sensitive to criticism and I am hard on myself.
I worry that I am not doing enough, I’m not good enough.
I am really conscientious.
When I must compete or be observed while performing a task, I become so nervous and shaky that I do much worse than I would otherwise.
I am always trying to figure out what everyone else wants instead of I want.
I have to get it right the first time.
The Heart is the Home of the Spirit—balancing emotional unrest, insomnia, and “I Can’t Speak Up for Myself”
Constriction in the spleen meridian means that it cannot generate enough substance to nourish the Heart, and then the Heart Chi (energy) does not have enough power to house the spirit properly. Fibromyalgia symptoms such as anxiety and insomnia may appear, and eventually may show up in the body as symptoms like fatigue, muscle stiffness, and pain.
Constriction in the heart, in Chinese Medicine terms, usually suggests emotional unrest and insomnia. These two deficiencies then feed into each other: insomnia causes muscle pain and stiffness, and muscle pain makes sleep more difficult.
The Heart meridian begins at the end of the little fingers, and flows up the inside of the arm on both sides (all meridians are mirrored on both sides of the body). The two points on the heart meridian that we would most likely contact when we tap are the inside of the little finger nail, and the little finger edge of the inside of the wrist.
Often when I ask someone my favorite question, “Where do you feel that emotion in your body?” they will say something like “a tightness in my chest,” “my heart hurts,” “my heart feels heavy.”
Tap for beliefs that are reflected in a troubled, constricted heart:
I take everything to heart.
I don’t know how to connect with others without ‘drowning’.
I take on everyone else’s feelings.
I want to please.
Discounting the significance of ME in making my own personal choices.
I so often leave myself last, if I do anything for myself at all.
I seem to have trouble saying what I want, especially if I think my preference will hurt someone I care about.
I end up keeping quiet and the same pattern continues – I keep it in, I feel sad, I feel resentful, I feel depressed and stuck.
My issue is standing/speaking up for myself.
Connection is more important to me than anything. I will sell my soul to stay connected.
When it is unbalanced the heart leads to being careless, forgetful, distracted, restless, maybe unrealistically idealistic.
A balanced Heart energy is joyful, radiant, out going, loving, generous, optimistic, and giving in a grounded way (not in a a selfless giving-myself-away way).
Bring Harmony to Anger—move it on out and let your liver live!
Sheila, the teacher above who experienced the bitter divorce, has a common energy pattern of fibromyalgia that is called “Liver Chi Stagnation” by acupuncturists.
I am always captured by the name of this organ—our Liver. The part of us that is in charge of our living, the organ-izer of our living fully. We don’t want our Liver to be stagnant!
One of the major responsibilities of the Liver is to ensure the smooth flow of Chi (the body’s vital energy), blood, and emotions. Extreme or unexpressed anger can really compromise its functioning, rendering it “stagnant.”
You have probably experienced how anger and fear can interfere with your digestion. I often hear people describe their stomach or their gut as “tied up in knots” when they are upset. If fear or worry or anger was often present in their lives, but it wasn’t appropriate or safe for them to express what they felt, they had to swallow what they were feeling. Now, all that emotion still sits there in the belly with no place to go.
Chinese medicine says that this is the Liver “invading” the Spleen or Stomach. Many people with fibromyalgia, perhaps 40-70% according to one estimate, have symptoms that are called irritable bowel syndrome. No wonder the bowel area gets bad-tempered, irascible, tetchy, testy, touchy, grumpy, grouchy, moody, crotchety, cantankerous, bilious, curmudgeonly, ill-tempered, annoyed, cross, ill-humored, peevish, fractious, pettish, crabby, bitchy, waspish, prickly, cranky, ornery, on a short fuse, and sore-headed, with a life-time of anger stored there! (with thanks to the thesaurus for that descriptive list)
Think of what the bowel is meant to do—let go of what we no longer need. Often as I am tapping with someone whose belly is in a knot of turmoil, I will offer this thought as we tap:
Now…your body knows how to take in, digest, utilize and release what it no longer needs…. So just let it know that you trust it to process everything that you thought you had to swallow and hang on to….all that anger and fear… You know instinctively, down deep inside, how to let yourself be nourished by the insights and the knowledge that you have gained from those awful experiences….they have taught you what you don’t want, and given you a sense of what you do want instead….so now you are free to move this on through, move it on through now….and let go of what you no longer need. Your body and your energy system know how to do this….just let that anger and fear go….
The Liver meridian runs from the second toe up the inside of the leg, along the stomach side of the ribs. The end point is right under the breast, directly below the nipple, one rib down from the bottom of the breast in both men and women. EFT tappers don’t usually use this point any more, but it is a powerful balancing and harmonizing point for our whole being, and worth including in your tapping round.
Bring Harmony to Stress, Brain Fog, Conflicts—help your small intestine make good choices
A person with fibromyalgia is under a lot of stress in her or his life, and has been for a long time. When we are under long term stress, the Heart is disturbed and our thinking becomes confused. We become exhausted, breathless and anxious.
The small intestine meridian is paired with the Heart. As we know, the Heart holds the Spirit, the totality of the person’s life force as it expresses through the personality. So the function of the Heart energy network is to propel the blood, enfold the Spirit, and maintain awareness.
The small intestine energy meridian is on the side of the hand, the Karate Chop point in EFT. We also stimulate this meridian when we tap the top of our wrists on the little finger side.
The small intestine meridian’s essential purpose is to support our choices about what information to incorporate when we are feeling divided, or pulled in more than one direction. This makes sense when we think of what the small intestine does physiologically. Its job in digestion is to separate what is most useful in the food from what will become waste.
When our system’s energy is flowing freely, our small intestine protects our Heart by filtering out negative input, both from food waste and effects of damaging energies like shocking surprise, deep sorrow, or even overwhelming joy.
So think about what we are doing when we tap on the side of the hand in EFT. In thought and action, in intention and in energy, we are saying to ourselves inside:
Even though I have this stressful problem that is upsetting me, I love and accept myself and how I feel anyway. Even though I am having these stressful experiences, and am telling myself negative things about my self worth, I understand and appreciate myself anyway, and I am doing the best I can. There is hope! I value my Spirit. I love that my spirit is at home in my heart.
Tapping for Fibromyalgia to Bring Harmony to the Spirit
• Begin with pain in the body
• Use imagination and metaphor
• Tap for painful experiences
• Tap for beliefs that were formed from them, understand and reframe
• Tap for emotions that arise from the constricting beliefs
• Tap for self blame, high expectations. Invite allowing, trusting
• Honor sensitivity:
“…and I honor myself for how hard this has been for me.”
“…and I deserve to take good care of myself”
• Incorporate the person’s sense of spirituality to build a sense of personal sovereignty:
This is Where I Stand: I am bringing harmony to my spirit
It is very possible to heal from fibromyalgia. You don’t really need to know anything about fibro’s energy structure to be helpful to yourself or others with tapping, but the language of balancing a person’s energy structure is a useful frame to hold the story and the healing process in.
Bringing harmony to this energetic pattern that we call fibromyalgia asks us to work with the deepest level of identity. Not everyone is ready for this, but it is a truly worthy road to walk.
With my love and blessings to you –
PS—Watch this space for a new package of information, DVDs, transcripts and ebooks that will help you to understand and work with fibromyalgia, yours or someone else’s!