The Wright Way

The Wright Way

Monday, November 14, 2011

Storming the Citadel

"There's isn't person on earth who has ever choked after a mouthful of something to drink," the psychiatrist said to me. This was well over 25 years ago and a good while before I began to discover the power of being able to change our mindset through altering our perceptions and reprogramming patterns of behaviour.

To cut a long story short I'd become blighted by instances of taking amounts of any liquid I was drinking "down the wrong way" in the course of swallowing. The worst instances involved my having no conscious idea where my next breath was coming from - and the associated gross anxiety leading to panic when this was happening to me. Each 'attack' was pretty scary and another layer to the fear was if (and when) it were to happen when I was alone, with no one there to thump me between the shoulder blades!

In a protective sense my cognitive counter to this was to take smaller mouthfuls, which over time became sips. This meant I could consciously control the volume of this potential danger to life - which led to a reduction of my daily intake of fluids. The thing was - this whole thing was not a problem when I took on solids AND liquids such as soups, cereals and milk, etc. It was liquids only and, I discovered over the years, the thicker the liquid the easier it became and the less the underlying feelings of fear were manifest.

The Barium Meal

Before referring me to a psychiatrist, my GP had covered a number of bases in terms of this presenting problem. This included making sure there was no physiological reason for the swallowing mechanism being affected this way. Being x-rayed while drinking a barium meal was quite traumatic to say the least. I found myself alone with a glass of foaming liquid in a leaded booth and being repeatedly shouted at to "drink and swallow" by a technician who clearly had no idea what torment, torture and level of fear I was going through. In the end I can remember thinking, "Well if I do choke on this stuff at least I'll have half a chance of surviving as I'm here in hospital already." As waves of relief came over me after the event I can remember him saying to me, "Mmmm, he seems to have trouble in initiating the swallow," as if the "he" he was referring to was some distant 3rd party entity. Clearly the detachments in his working life extended beyond protecting himself from xrays!


As I started to study psychology, NLP, the power of hypnosis and a whole array of pathways to dealing with this issue, I learnt a lot of new ways of protecting myself - though not a lot in the area of self-reprogramming. I discovered what would be most likely to create the mental conditions for an 'event' to happen, and built further layers of protection here as well.

So, in the end, I had a great array of physical and mental strategies for protection - cut down swallow volume by sipping, controlled abdo breathing, avoid stressful and anxious build up, instal anchors and triggers. All these were hidden or I'd casually explain my "condition" whenever I found myself in a social environment where a drink was present.
In essence I got to be very good at the whole pattern of behaviour.

When one gets this good at dealing with something, then it might be simple to decide "I'm comfortable with this now, and can tolerate it for the rest of my life." Many people get resigned to obsessions and phobic responses for these very reasons - when the 'deal' is no longer such a big deal.

When you are an "agent of change" for other people however, it makes good sense to really spring clean your own cupboards when the opportunity arises. After all, there shouldn't be too many drunk driving instuctors, smoking doctors, fat nutritionists, angry yoga teachers or obsessed, phobic mind therapists out there, should there?

Grasping The Nettle

The opportunity came along when I was working with a colleague in a 'personal breakthrough' session and I presented my condition for us to examine in depth. Depth here in particular is all about things at the unconscious level as well as those intellectual understandings and beliefs which can be oh-so deleted, distorted and generalized!
The session was lengthy and investigative, and I'm indebted to my friend's sensitivity, thoroughness and diligence. A number of things got 'dug up' as a result - some expected and some unexpected. There were two crucial discoveries which were both astounding and pivotal. One was that a chunk of residual emotion over a particular event was nothing like as relevant as I had been making it - and the other was concerning an accident that happened to me when I was 2, about which I had no experience in recalled memory, just some anecdotal evidence my mother had told me.

The first thing I felt after our session was a notion that the 'cupboards' were now dust free and also that there would be a period of time where I would be re-familiarising myself with how the unconscious is able to best run the autonomic function known as swallowing. When there is an underlying and lifelong unconscious competence, that has been overlayed with another acquired and learnt unconscious competence then (for me at least) the release is taken in steps.
I remember posting up this message to my friends and followers on social media a few days after things 'had happened' - "It's so nice after 22 years to be able to finish a cup of coffee before it has gone cold!"


There are many more cups of hot coffee to be drunk I am sure, as well as glasses of un-flat beer! And whilst there may be more to life than enjoying beverages at their best, I can honestly say that there is a huge learning from the metaphors embedded in there.

When life serves up an opportunity to make it better - then grasp it with both hands, swallow whatever is stuck in your throat, drink the experience deep into your very soul and notice how much sweeter, satisfying and more meaningful everything can be. You'll be mighty glad you did!

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