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Move With Deb the Podcast


Sep 3, 2021

Hello to my lovely super somaticizers of stress. 
I love you.
I am you.

So this episode I talk about my getting a rule out for throat cancer, because I've been dealing with this annoying, scary neck pain for over a year. It comes and goes. It's definitely linked to stress. And there was always a fear in the back of my mind that it was something more. Because I had gotten rid of all my other mindbody pain through these techniques but this one has hung around. 

So I talk about the importance of a "rule out". And also I share an article about the power of perception - https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/eight_reasons_to_distrust_your_own_perceptions

Please feel free to reach out to me via instagram @movewithdeb or book a curiosity call at https://calendly.com/paincoachdeb

My website is www.debmalkin.com

Transcript

[00:00:00] Welcome to Move With Deb. I'm Deb your friendly neuroplastician. And this is a podcast that explores the relationship between the body and the mind from a health at every size, judgment, free perspective. I teach you how developing a new internal conversation based on curiosity, self friendship and simple neuro-plasticity techniques can rewire your bodymind out of pain and emotional overwhelm to help you build the rich full life that you want to live. Disclaimer, this is not a replacement for medical care.

[00:00:50] Hello, and welcome to move with Deb. This is episode number 29. I'm so glad that you're here with me today because I have some amazing mind, body news for myself. I got my final rule out, I'm calling it my final rule out. Because I finally went to an ear nose and throat specialist. I've been having throat pain. Pressure, couldn't figure it out, it's been really annoying for the last year. There are elements of it that are mind, body pain, that I can watch it, change sensation, move around, get more intense when I'm stressed, get more intense when I'm focusing on it. And also unlike other pain in my body. I have not been able to "make it go away." 

[00:01:46] And that experience has been frustrating. And also, I believe in going and getting things checked out by the doctor. So. I, got a referral from a friend that I trust and read a bunch of Yelp reviews. And I was like, okay, this is going to be a doctor that I can trust, who likes to help solve problems. I didn't want to be dismissed as crazy. Because the kinds of sensations I was describing, like, I even had a hard time describing the sensations. That part doesn't make me feel confident as a patient. Or as a person, even in my own body, if I can't even articulate what is happening. 

[00:02:30] But I was also witnessing my experience of my relationship to the pain and the sensations that I was having, I was feeling a lot of insecurity about it. And that there were two things going on in my mind. One thing going on in my mind was I actually firmly believe that this is neuroplastic pain or mind body pain. And then at the same time, I'm like, but what if it's not. 

[00:02:57] What if it's something awful. What if it's cancer? 

[00:03:00] So I was like, well, the answer is to go to the doctor and get it ruled out and getting a cancer rule out of my throat. Is pretty straightforward. Because they look at it with a camera. And that was something I'm unable to do on my own. I had gotten a whole bunch of labs. All of my labs were normal. My provider and I checked for like, thyroid and parathyroid, like we did a deeper exploration using lab work. 

[00:03:32] So I go see this lovely doctor. He listens to me. Uh, You know, takes a look and then like does the thing with the camera. And it has me make a bunch of fun sounds so you can watch my vocal chords and epiglottitis and I was told I have a beautiful mucosa. That's always delightful. I could feel my body perk up when he said the word beautiful. And I was like, The mind is such a shithead. I'm like, I've never thought about my mucosa before, but now it's beautiful. I love my mucosa. 

[00:04:10] Anybody thinks that the mind body reaction is not there. Think about some body part that you've never thought about before. And call it beautiful or have somebody else call it beautiful or even a body part that you're like neutral about. If you now all of a sudden think like, your elbow pit is beautiful. Or like the tops of your ears are beautiful. Like you're going to have a whole different relationship to that body part. 

[00:04:39] He showed me the picture on the screen. So I actually get the visual data, right, the, the visual sensory data now lives in my brain. I even took a picture of it. And he showed me this one little part had a little swell and he said, that there's mild superglottic hyperactivity projected at petiole of epiglottis. So there's like this tiny little muscular swelling. I have neck pain and neck strain going on and it makes sense to me. I understand some things about the body. He kind of like pressed on my SCM my sternocleidomastoid muscles. And like, Ironically, and this is for all you body workers. He thought the right side was tighter. I thought the left side was tighter. 

[00:05:30] So practitioners' perceptions and people's perceptions of their own bodies can be very different. So I just thought that was interesting. I thought the whole thing was really interesting. And I left there in a huge amount of relief that I didn't have cancer. But what I noticed was I was also in disbelief that last year did not give me cancer. There was some part of me that believed that there must be some cellular lasting experience of how difficult last year was for me. I was just like, wow. 

[00:06:12] I didn't realize that was such a deep belief. I had just gotten my mammogram like two weeks ago. We did a mammogram and an ultrasound because I have some, cysty things, let's just call it that this is very technical podcast. So for my left breast, they always do an ultrasound.

[00:06:33] Everything's fine. Literally in my body, as far as modern medical science knows, everything's fine. I was just seriously, like how could I not be sick from this last year. And I just realized that was my subconscious belief. And there were times in which I was preparing myself for being sick. I was preparing myself for having cancer. I was imagining whether or not I was going to go through treatment or not. I was imagining all kinds of different scenarios. Uh, I have very strong feelings about whether or not I had enough of a support system to go through cancer treatment. And actually currently, house sitting for a friend who's going through cancer treatment. So there's a lot of overlap, complexity, beliefs about myself, my friendships, you can probably hear me be a little sad. There's some high emotional content in there. 

[00:07:42] So now I'm like, oh, right this is muscular tension, but it's also a lot of belief. This subconscious belief that I suppressed or I like, I let out every once in a while, the subconscious belief that I had cancer or that I of course would have cancer was you know, it was directly kind of affecting my perception of the sensations in my body. 

[00:08:13] And now I get to go explore what ideally is the healing path for me, which is to take care of myself. Manage my anxiety. Spend time doing some deeper rest and deeper healing. And getting into this sense of really deep nervous system care for myself. Not from a place of feeling rushed or running away. But this question and belief of what is it that I want to invite into the future? What parts of my life aren't working the way I want them to be. So right now, I don't feel like I'm getting enough rest in general. Sleep is a major contributor to health and wellbeing and going to start working on getting more rest, more sleep, having times in which my mind is getting some, like, Deep Rest Non Sleep time where my mind is not going a million miles an hour. Or I'm not trying to solve all the problems. Take care of all the things. 

[00:09:23] Some parts of that are about identity. My identity as a healer. So there's a lot of internal work for me to do, but I'm excited about it. Now that I don't have cancer, I've got a lot of time on my hands. Now that I don't have cancer I feel like I can experience time in a different way. Even just the unconscious belief that I might have cancer changed the way I believe I've experienced time.

[00:09:54] So I want to inspire you to think about what are your beliefs about your body? What are your beliefs about what is possible for you to be healing? What is possible for your body in the future? And what are you thinking is wrong with your body now? 

[00:10:15] And really allow yourself to think about the things that you are trying to suppress. And it's hard. And it can be scary. So please take care of yourself as you do that process. 

[00:10:30] And that's what a rule-out is. And so for mind, body disorders, We really want to get things like cancer, infections and auto immune disorders ruled out. And there's some debate about auto-immune disorders. Because I see people healing from auto immune disorders in the mind-body circle. But that's what the current prevailing suggestions are and so that's what I did. 

[00:11:00] And today already, my neck feels better. There's an interesting article about perception from Greater Good Berkeley. Eight ways your perception of reality is skewed. And this is based off of a book called Perception, How Our Bodies Shape Our Mind. And it explains that sometimes unconscious forces that shape what we see feel and think create our perception. 

[00:11:25] Part of the mind body pain reprocessing process is to teach your nervous system and your brain that what it is perceiving is not correct. That we're going to offer to the mind and the body a new and different updated perception that any particular sensation that is unpleasant or troublesome is not dangerous. 

[00:11:53] Alan Gordon's new book The Way Out describes how to create what are called corrective experiences when you are feeling unpleasant sensations. And the key that I walked away from reading that book besides the fact that it is a delightful and kind of lighthearted book even though it's talking about reprocessing pain. And pain of all kinds. What I liked about the book is how simple it is. We must apply corrective experiences, which is talking to your brain and nervous system, there's a process called somatic tracking, which is this neutral witnessing of your sensory experience with non-reactivity. I like to bring in a somatic smile or invite in neutral or pleasant sensory data, right. We're going to lean into positive feelings, positive sensations. Doesn't have to be an emotion. Like you don't have to think happy thoughts, especially if you're not feeling happy. If you're going to try to think a happy thought when you're not feeling happy that feels like an internal, emotional conflict. But we have senses in our body that can connect with something that feels pleasant or feels neutral. We look at something that we believe is beautiful. We touch something that we feel is comforting or soft like a pet or stuffed animal. 

[00:13:25] We want to fill our perception with the opposite of danger. So that we tune and retune our nervous system and our reaction. So this article is interesting because they have kind of these, you know, kind of not obvious examples of this unconscious process. This idea that what we perceive to be true may not be true is a threatening idea. Because there's tons of historical experience of Black, Brown, Indigenous, not heteronormative... there's a lot of experience of people not being believed for their experiences being discounted, for suffering and pain and experiences that are happening in their life or to their community. And so it's very hard to say that perception is not reality because when we come from white supremacist, white dominant culture, that culture is based on this story, that one particular culture is kind of valid and others are not. That some people are believed that some people are not like in cases of sexual assault. So there's a societal version and then there's the personal version. There's the outward world of perception and that there are things that happen to people and communities that should be believed. 

[00:15:02] But then when we're talking about internally, our own personal mind, body. The perception of what is can also be questioned. And the reason why we want to question that is to change our mind body belief around pain to be not pain. So this shifting of perception is about your own benefit. Not about culturally coercive, diminishing messages. But in some ways you can also look at this as my perception of safety, there's something my body is trying to communicate to me. The pain is real, as it is a felt experience in your body. That can have a lot of intensity and negativity. The pain is not due to tissue damage that needs some kind of external fix. So that there's some part of you that needs attending to. The pain is there for a reason. Pain is a protective mechanism. So learning to even just entertain this idea. And practice these skills. When we practice the skill of decreasing our reactivity to pain and fear then our body creates safety within itself. And that same thing can be said for a high emotional experience. When we attend to the story or the experience of a high emotional experience with less reactivity, our brain and our nervous system are more available for problem solving or more available for other people, are more available for ourselves to care for ourselves. 

[00:16:51] But I just wanted to make that point because it of course sounds like when I say perception is not reality. My brain goes to. Yeah, but there's a lot of things that happen in the world that really are real. And they're not perception. And we're always told that like, that these things are minimized. 

[00:17:15] So. Hmm, continue to figure out how to articulate more clearly about that, but I wanted to make that point. 

[00:17:22] There's a bunch of studies in this book but I'm going to link to the article in the podcast. So our energy and abilities impact our perspective and they did a bunch of studies that our physical body and our ability to move, influence how we view our surroundings. And I've had this conversation with my clients before. 

[00:17:43] That if they are afraid, they cannot walk the distance from point a to point B, that that distance looks much farther than it is. So same thing. People wearing heavy backpacks, see steeper hills in front of them than those without backpacks. So our walking ability shapes the apparent walkability of a hill, which determines how you see it. 

[00:18:08] You do not see the hill as it is, but rather as it is seen by you. 

[00:18:13] So if we know this, we can care for ourselves during a process. During walking, we can say this distance feels very far because I have some beliefs about my ability to walk this distance. Even yesterday, I played this little experiment. So I was on the Bart, there was, of course, no escalator going up and I had to walk up the stairs. And I said, if I look up the stairs and think about how much further I have to go, It is going to be hard. If I look just at the stair in front of me and just walk up and distract my brain I would imagine that these stairs are going to be a lot easier. And I'll just eventually get to the top. And that's what happened. 

[00:19:07] It was not hard. It increased in difficulty the more I went up because there were a lot of stairs. But I didn't perceive a threat or a danger or an overwhelm in walking up the stairs. I had an initial moment of like, oh, hell no when I looked up the stairs when I realized the escalator wasn't working. But I knew enough about the mind body process to decide my best answer is to not think about how much more there is to go. And I had a podcast on, and I was just like, let's just go into enjoying this podcast. And we'll walk up the stairs and eventually the stairs will be done. 

[00:19:50] And the whole experience of that. Was just much more relaxing and much less stressful than I thought. So our perception of a distance creates our experience. I had a client who would have panic attacks every time she had to walk a distance, she thought was farther than she was able to do. And one of the things that I helped her work through was that it was her perception of her ability to walk that was creating the panic attack not her actual ability to walk. 

[00:20:26] And what we were able to do was help her work on those panic attacks work on that fear. We worked on a number of solutions. One was to walk more slowly and sense into your feet on the ground and your ability to feel secure. Like you, weren't going to fall. Right. So we're creating a sense of peace. A sense of confidence in her gait. And a sense of understanding that she could stop when she needed to. Right. So that she didn't go into physical and emotional overwhelm tipping her vagus state over into fight flight or freeze. That was starting to happen the moment she looked at a distance. We really worked through this. She held her own hand as she walked different distances. Not literally, but figuratively held her own hand. Held her own nervous system as she walked different distances and walking those distances became easier. 

[00:21:34] She actually realized that she could walk farther than she thought she could because her mind body wasn't stopping itself. It wasn't creating muscular inhibition because of fear. She described it as walking with the emergency brake on. Which makes a lot of sense because we have a conflict. I have to get from point A to point B. It was, she had to walk to go to the doctor. So, you know, her desire to get from point A to point B was very high. Point A to point B seemed very far. She was going to do it anyway, but the way that she had been white knuckling, her way through that movement was like walking with the emergency brake on. And so what we worked on was taking the emergency brake off. And finding a pace that she felt comfortable with. And stopping when she needed to and noticing where there were chairs that she could sit if she wanted to. But I think she was able to walk without sitting down because her body was relaxed. And her muscles were available to her. And there's nothing wrong with sitting down. 

[00:22:51] There's the last one, which is also about perception. It says our feelings affect our perceptions and our thoughts. Feeling bad makes things seem harder. So if you have felt sad or depressed it is interesting to note that these feelings also change our sensory perceptions. So people listen to melancholic music tend to think a hill looks steeper than people, listening to happy music. Emotions have the job of giving a red or green light towards approaching or avoiding objects, people and situations and shape perception accordingly. So that means nurturing our positive emotions may help us to approach difficult tasks more easily. 

[00:23:36] There's another part of this says having people around makes things seem easier. The presence of other people affects our perceptions and difficult since situations too. Holding hands with someone while having a painful experience can lessen the pain. Anticipating having to carry a heavy load with someone else as opposed to alone makes it appear lighter. 

[00:23:58] And just thinking about friends can make hills seem less steep. Our social connections seem to play a role in reducing stress. Which might be why being with others changes our perceptions of pain or difficulty making them both easier to bear. This study is and more point to the centrality of our social relationships for resilience when things are hard. 

[00:24:21] Which makes sense to me why I was feeling more stress when I was thinking about going through a potential cancer diagnosis and treatment where I was feeling very alone and feeling like I did not have the social support that I would need to go through an experience like that. Which then brought up a lot of thoughts and feelings about social support that I didn't want to be thinking about. That is very painful for me. 

[00:24:50] There's another study they did about, political beliefs affecting our math skills. So, this is how group affiliations, like the political party we belong to effect our perceptions. So in one study, people were asked to solve math equations to verify the truth of a research finding like whether a vaccine is effective. Or whether banning guns save lives. As predicted people with greater math skills were able to figure out the answers more easily, but only when the result of the calculation didn't contradict their political belief. If it did, everyone's math was worse. They solve the problem correctly 25 to 45% less often. 

[00:25:35] So this flies in the face of the idea that people just need more information to figure out the truth of a situation. Thinking, even doing math is not a process happening in isolation. But it is instead embedded in our personal thoughts and group identities. We literally become flummoxed, stupefied and incapable of wielding our full faculties when confronted with facts that threaten our social identity. 

[00:26:05] That is a lot about the mind body process. What is our social identity? And how does that relate to what we think is happening on the inside of our body? What we think is happening and is possible around healing and feeling better? 

[00:26:24] Every fat person I know has been told something scary slash dangerous slash diabolical about their bodies. They live in a wash of negative future predictions about our bodies, about how our joints are disintegrating about how any pain we feel is our fault, is because the load on our joints and the future predictions of our longevity and wellbeing. 

[00:26:57] We're told we're literally dying, taking years off of our life every time we eat a French fry. And it may sound like I'm being hyperbolic. And yet I'm not. 

[00:27:11] So. I think I will leave it here. I am excited to see how this process with the tension in my neck unfolds. I can already feel my relationship to these sensations changing.I was in the kitchen making coffee and I could sense a little neck tension. And my brain first says, well, it's not cancer. 

[00:27:36] And then my brain was like, this is probably just some tension. I'm curious how I'm going to go work through this tension. I'm going to think I'm going to go add in some more meditations. Um, find some time in my schedule to do Danny Fagan's TMS yoga work. And maybe find a craniosacral therapist who will do a little relaxing body work for me. So we'll see how that goes and see how that changes. But already I can start experiencing the difference between a fear response and a not fear response. And honestly, I prefer the not fear response every single time. 

[00:28:20] So I hope that I've given you some ideas and things to think about. Always, I am talking about the relationship between your mind, your body, and your nervous system. We are one mind body system. And our mind body system lives within larger systems. Some we have controls over some of them, we don't, some of them are conditioned responses and impacts that we have going through time, back through our ancestors and our families and our communities. 

[00:28:53] So I hope that some of this work helps you think about your body in a different context. The important part to start with is the foundation of your own bespoke brain and body.

[00:29:08] As always, if you're curious about pursuing more study, more information and learning how to use pain reprocessing for you and your life, you can check out my website at debmalkin.com. Book a curiosity call with me and I will tell you about my fear brain and chronic pain program. And how it can help. Thank you so much for listening. I am thinking of you and wishing you well.