I was working with a lady (we’ll call her Alex) who had suffered from IBS for years. She wanted to understand what was behind the symptoms she was experiencing, and get some relief.
She particularly wanted to know what she could to make things better and waste less time every day in the bathroom.
For her, the worst part was in the morning. She needed 2 hours to go to the bathroom and generally feel in a reasonable state to go to work.
This took a huge amount of time out of her day. Every day.
She told me how she started the day with a coffee (to wake her up) and a cigarette (to calm her down).
Looking behind the symptoms
So we started looking at what might have created that situation, working backwards:
How did she sleep? She had trouble getting a good night.
Why? This took a little digging, but it turned out that she had a lot of thoughts about what she hadn’t got finished that day and everything she had to do the next. It made her feel bad, but she wasn’t sure why.
Before that she had her evening meal, which she digested badly, particularly in the evening.
We wound the clock back further. It turned out that these thoughts really started up when she stopped work for the day. She never really felt she had done enough – no matter how much she had got done.
I asked Alex if she had ever felt that feeling before.
It reminded her of when she was a teen and she was always being shouted at and told that she was really lazy. And felt that horrible shameful feeling in her back, shoulders and stomach.
If you have any teens at home, you will know that they all seem lazy. Left to their own devices they will spend all day in bed lolling around doing nothing.
But there is a reason for this. Their body is going through a great deal of change, and their minds are still developing. It is also a time where they have a lot to deal with at school. And there are times that are legitimately tired, which makes them seem lazy, because they do the strict minimum.
This is natural.
And as adults we often feel tired and a little resentful of all the things we have to get done, fed up that we’re not getting much help. And we can start ranting.
But you can see how from that regular rage about how she was lazy, she took that into be who she is. That she wasn’t doing enough. That how she was being and feeling wasn’t OK. She felt shameful and scared around this feeling of not “being enough”.
We all automatically do this. We all make conclusions about the experiences we live. And if repeated or strong enough, they can develop into trigger loops that trigger physical symptoms.
And if we look closely, Alex is still doing this today. She is having trouble knowing that she has ever done enough. She never “feels” that she has done enough, and every day during her meal, her evening and her sleep time this message is going around in her head.
This is not a mental health issue as she feared.
It’s just that she deeply believes something about herself that isn’t true. She took that repeated situation in and decided that the person who was shouting “You’re so lazy” was right. She gave herself the label “lazy”, and she is absolutely convinced that she IS lazy.
What do you think might happen if she could see the light? If she could see what we can see?
That her value has nothing to do with what or how much she had done that day.
Do you think she could start to feel better about herself?
Do you think she might digest her meal better in the evening?
Could she possibly sleep better knowing that she was fine as she was?
If she slept better, would she “need” a coffee and a cigarette to start her day?
Or would she have new choices?
Maybe she wouldn’t need to feel those strong emotions every day.
Maybe she would gradually need less and less time in the bathroom as her body and mind adjust to this new information.
She could start feeling more energetic and a little happier about herself.
Maybe she could even break her IBS cycle for good…
This is the transformational work I do, and am passionate about.2