Good afternoon! I have had to take a little involuntary break for a few reasons. One is that I have been fairly busy with work (which is a good thing) and the other is that we have had a wicked virus running through our household for some time. As I write this, my husband is arguing with his digestive tract, poor guy! Fortunately, I wasn’t hit as hard as everybody else, so was relegated to the role of soup maker, ginger ale supplier and general caregiver. Since most of my coaching work is done via phone, it has not interfered too much, except that I have been a little low on energy. I began a number of blog posts that will need to be completed, but that’s about all I could do for a while.
So, this morning I was thinking about viruses, trying to make my thoughts drown out the noise of my husband’s “symphony for a sick gut” in the background. I was thinking that in spite of our efforts to prevent the spread of bugs, the little microbes sometimes have minds of their own and they can run wild and take over a household in a short time, wiping smiles off everyone’s faces and depleting our energy. When we are in the throes of these kinds of illnesses, we know (intellectually) that they are self-limiting and it is only a matter of riding them out usually, before they retreat and leave the battle grounds and we will be all right. We know that, for the most part, if we are in good general health, these bugs are not life-threatening, but at 2 AM when we are running to catch the porcelain bus (Sorry if I am spelling things out for you too much here) we feel like our misery will never end and all we want to do is hunker down under the warm quilt and sleep and moan, alternately.
Sometimes people can catch an SDV, or self-defeating virus. There are various strains. These viruses lie dormant in our bodies, from past exposure to teachings and experiences that long ago caused us to erupt with behavior that undermined us and made us feel worthless and unhappy. This exposure may also be the reason we don’t succeed at things we claim we want to achieve, or why we give up before giving something a good shot. As we go through life and the conditions are “favorable”, these viruses can surface again, spreading through our bodies and minds speedily. So, for example, when we go to visit an older sibling and in our childhoods, that sibling was permitted to give us orders or to denigrate us, the SDV surfaces with its insidious symptoms and takes over. We find ourselves stepping back into the role of being the doormat we used to be with this sibling, or we respond with hostility that perpetuates a vicious cycle of interactions, not satisfying to us or to the other party or parties involved.
If an SDV has surfaced and we don’t let the healthy parts of us (our psychological immune system) go to work to counter the viral effects, we will often revert to behaviors and responses we had in childhood, which did not serve us well then and won’t now. We may be all grown up, accomplished in our field with a variety of credentials, but when our SDV pokes its head out, surveys the landscape and sees an opportunity, it tends to jump in for the kill. If we don’t take note and take appropriate measures, it invades and our old dysfunctions come pouring out.
When you were a child, your environment may have conditioned you to feel that you were helpless. Perhaps you were not permitted to express yourself or given simple choices that started you on a road to good independent decision-making. Maybe some bad things happened to you and one of the symptoms that has recurred after early exposure to a life that didn’t feel safe or predictable, is pessimism. When things aren’t going well for you, or when you are stressed, your dormant SDV pops out and takes over. While there is no eruption of spots and no chills or fever, you find yourself looking at the world through the darkest of transition lenses. Despite the brightness of the sun, you find yourself only able to see shadows hanging over your life. Your SDV causes you to babble words and phrases like, “There’s no point… I can’t… It won’t work…I’m no good at..It’s his fault, not mine.” You give up quickly and stay stuck in a place you would rather not be, that hurts, but you don’t have the strength to pull yourself out of.
Naturally, if your SDV incubates and then flares up in the form of a serious clinical depression, you have to get professional help. This could be pharmacological intervention and/ or working with a qualified mental health clinician. If you got a physical virus that caused you to be dangerously dehydrated, you would need to replenish your body of electrolytes by pumping fluids to restore your normal pH, but if that did not work, you would wisely seek assistance from your doctor or naturopath, and in extreme cases, might even have to be hospitalized with IV fluids . If your physical condition required such measures to restore health, you wouldn’t be likely to resist doing whatever it took.
An SDV in its dormant but always-present state, will feed on your learned and remembered insecurities and self-doubts. The first step, as with most problems that threaten to keep us ill and in pain and that hold us back from living a happier, more productive life, is recognizing that such a thing exists. Then we must make up our minds to do something about it.
What do you do when you are sick in bed with a physical virus? You don’t pretend it isn’t happening till you collapse in a heap, do you? You don’t go out to a club and dance the night away when your stomach is dancing dangerously on its own without any accompanying music. You usually take to your couch or bed and baby yourself. You let your body rest, treat your digestive tract kindly and sensibly, nourish your body as much as you can tolerate. If your throat gets scratchy, you take an appropriate action and pop a cough drop or lozenge to relieve the sting, you drink fluids if you can keep them down, you take some ibuprofen or acetaminophen and you wait it out. If things worsen, and you develop a cough or symptoms persist for quite a while, you feel awful and can’t function, you don’t whine and cry and let yourself get sicker and sicker (I hope). You get some medical intervention if you can, and do what is needed next. If you can’t see a doctor, or for whatever reason, don’t want to, you figure out some other possible actions. You call a friend to come and care for you, or to make some soup. You stay home from work and do what it takes to get well, even if, in some cases, it just means riding things out. (Sometimes a lack of action is actually an action or choice, as long as it is conscious and thought through.)
Most of us have a medicine cabinet in the bathroom, or a shelf in the bedroom with pain and fever reducers, or we send someone out to the store for the cough drops, juice, ginger ale and chicken soup. Think about creating a kit filled with tools and remedies you can use to help when you feel the symptoms of an old SDV coming on. If you are in the middle of a situation and begin to feel the shaky signs of negative thoughts and behavior that in the past have caused you to react instead of responding in a positive manner, stop for just a moment. Recognize that your SDV is working its way out to attack and to sabotage you. Can you think of a time in your life when you felt the same way? What happened? Better, yet, can you remember a time or situation when you stopped your SDV in its tracks by rushing to use one of your tools or remedies? What happened?
Why not begin working on building up your kit and your remedies or antidotes to your SDV’s before they hit? Find a time when you are not tired or stressed. Make a list of 10 or more of your greatest strengths and best qualities. Do not let what others think of you influence this list. Write down things you are proud of, like about yourself, and which have served you well. Are these the traits and strengths that helped you in the past? Write them out on small slips of paper and post them in a prominent place. Memorize them. If you are into self-affirmations (I am!) create a few that mention your best and strongest qualities. Say these to yourself on a regular basis. I know it sounds kind of “New-Agey” but this really work for many people. Try it!
Jim Rohn, the motivational speaker who mentored Tony Robbins, said that “Affirmation without action is just self- delusion. And for your well-being there is little worse than self-delusion. There is a very thin line between faith and folly. ” How then, are you going to use your affirmations to create actions that will be your first line of defense when your SDV’s try to take over? Begin to act in ways that will change the entire structure of your SDV’s. Use your tools to help you build antibodies to protect yourself and to change your life for the better. Don’t let your own talents and tools just sit on a shelf and expire.