… Back then I used to think about the starting point of the disease. Did some cause for my RA slipped my mind? What did go wrong? I dug into my memories and found – nothing. Nothing besides the memory of the feeling of slight hollowness: „What do I actually live for – and why?“ The thought, as well as the feeling, were swallowed from everyday madness and I quickly forgot about it whenever it came to my mind. And if someone had asked: „What do you want? What do you miss?“ I couldn‘t have answered. But a sensation ensembled the feeling, a certain feebleness within my hand. But that alone did not give me sufficient evidence for an explanation of my RA. That is why it looked to me at the time as if my illness had nothing to do with my way of life and therefore had to be explained solely by a pure failure of my body.
Due to my discontinuation of treatment, however, I was now alone with my “rheumatism construction site”. I was completely on my own and wanted to make the most of my situation. But about my body, especially about all that is so soft and gibbering hid under my skin, I hadn’t thought more than absolutely necessary before.
So what could I do?
Arthritic pain, a lot of it, forced me to think.
With the words: „The pain will lead the way!“ Fritz Perls once described the function of pain as a guiding light to its cause and their elimination. This was true for me, because the aggressive course of my rheumatoid arthritis meant, among other things, that I only really became aware of the existence of different regions of my body due to the pain of inflammation.
My rheumatoid arthritis seemed like something independent that just did whatever it pleased. It felt like it was moving freely through my whole body.
As if something strange I didn‘t know and had no impact on had its own life inside me. And I experienced how exactly this “something” that consisted of pain, swelling and movement restrictions felt. From the slight tingling and dull throbbing to the sharp tearing, burning and unbearable, stinging pain I soon knew more, but had an only inaccurate picture of my bodily inner life and the pain and inflammation frightened me, made me insecure.
Illnesses such as colds or injuries such as broken arms or legs had always occurred in my life in clearly defined “normal” situations, in which the cause was openly obvious and remedy within reach. Apart from that, I wasn’t really used to feeling my body that intense at all.
My pain and physical decline made me very sad. My condition gave me anxiety and worry; I felt shame and anger. And this mental effort also physically invalidated me. Mostly I was tired and exhausted, freezing hard. From this cold, the goosebumps on my arms, the chill which rushed through my entire diseased body, I first noticed how what I felt emotionally could be found as a physical expression in my muscles, my nerves, my skin. My sadness sat like a pillow-sized, oppressive drop on my chest, hung heavily on my head and shoulders and pulled them down. My head was sore with worry and started to ache; fear cut my breath short laced my chest.
My illness and its consequences triggered emotions so that I could directly observe:
My physical sensations are reflecting on my soul!
And vice versa:
My emotions find their expression in my physical sensations!
The physical and psychological aspects of my whole being correlate – not only when one is blushing, freezing in agony or starts to shiver from excitement. That’s why I thought there would have to be access to an understanding of my RA from my thoughts and feelings.
During my pain covered nightly waking times, I read a book by Anne-Marie Tausch about her life with cancer. She described how she had intensively imagined the diseased regions of her own body, the processes in it and then the successful fight against cancer cells. So she wanted to stimulate her body to heal.
I really liked the idea of recovery through the idea of a healing body, even if my problem was not cancer, but rheumatoid arthritis. In any case, I wanted to do something for myself, even though I wasn’t a physician.
And so I deliberately directed loving, caring thoughts and good feelings at myself, letting them create pleasant and comforting images in me. Often I couldn’t bear warming blankets or thicker clothes because of the pressure sensitivity of my body and froze so much. That’s why I first imagined my body surrounded by a warm yet feather-light, fluffy soft blanket as a pleasant, comforting imaginary protective cover.
That actually gave me what the goal of this idea was: the sense of protection and comfort. I started to relax, which meant that after a while I actually got warmer!
So I immediate learned on my own example:
Feelings and thoughts provoke a physical reaction!
My sentiencies are real for both my body and my soul!
Consciously used good feelings and ideas of health should now help me to get out of the RA.
I was looking for clear goals for my conscious emotional-imagination images and therefore began to imagine my body with healthy joints and muscles.
I looked at a lot of images of the physical inner life of a healthy person, of bones and joints and also of everything related to them: tendons, muscles, connective tissue, nerve cells…and soon realized that graphics were usually more pleasant to me than photographs. So I specifically chose pictures that best matched my imagination and well-being and gave me a good overview of my body interior. And that put another complexion on things. I got more specific ideas about what it looked like within the areas where I felt the arthritis pain. Over time, I became better and better in explaining the different processes in my body.
The previous years, my RA hadn‘t occurred evenly over all the days, weeks and months. There were times when it had been more imperceptible, slower, less inflammatory and less painful. This was always the case when I could relax more intensively than usual during the illness and thus also relieve enough stress to get closer to or even from time to time below the critical limit, where stress becomes gets overloading. That this was the case struck me in the situations in which I had found myself: beautiful and harmonious family reunions, activities with my friends, pleasant walks, fun and joy, an exciting film, a captivating reading, all in all, not the everyday life.
However, I wasn‘t able to feel that and how tensed I was in normal, everyday situations. I could only compare my experiences and the inflammations and pains that accompany them, and in hindsight, I attributed them to my tension level in these situations. That’s why I practised relaxing more in all sorts of normal situations and taking a more relaxed attitude into my habit by taking over and over again the previously viewed images of healthy and strong hands, arms, elbows, etc. until they were completely familiar to me. I imagined my own body healthy in this way, combined these ideas with relaxation and happy memories and found that I could also recreate unrestricted and carefree body movements and postures!
By the use of relaxing body-techniques (autogenic training, Feldenkrais-method, progressive muscle relaxation…) we improve body perception. Doing that we‘ll learn how to detect and eliminate tension with relaxation.
This was exactly what I needed in the case of my rheumatoid arthritis to cure it.
So in my first healing exercises (today’s Level 1), I used the fact that health, as described more detailed above, can begin through the head, thoughts and emotions, even if the rest of the body is restricted by a disease.
This helped me to experience more consciously again, despite illness-related limitations, which at the start made purely body-therapeutic interventions very difficult or even impossible.
Doing so, I realized that the sensibility was not only a little lost in terms of my tension. In contrast to my feelings of pain and unhappiness, i.e. to the sensation of strong stimuli, I noticed many finer physical stimuli due to various effects of my RA no longer at all or at least only noticed them physically ataly weakened.
That my fine sentiencies vanished due to RA I first figured by looking at the broken little hairs on the back of my hand and fingers. By that, I noticed that I was grabbing and touching things just little too hard than it would have been necessary – but I didn‘t felt touch anymore without pressuring more and more within my movement. I needed more and more force as I lost more and more my ability to sene and feel. So I also understood through other experiences with the RA how the effects of the disease affected my perception of my changed sensations. I realized that the RA changed my body in such a way that I was less able to help myself when I could perceive things and connections less well and my senses no longer or no longer sufficient to report to the police.
The worse I felt or felt something with my hands, the deafer they were, the more they hurt me, the worse I felt. The more swollen my feet and legs were, the worse my knees were, the worse I appeared. Not just once, but often, too often. Restricted senses therefore also lead to unhealthy body movement and posture. In my worst times, I would sometimes slam my crooked hands desperately at my desk and hated them for how crippled they were. It was like they were against me. I wanted to be able to feel right with them again, I wanted them to be completely mobile again and above all painless. At the same time, however, I knew very well that by using force that wouldn‘t happen.
I had to contemplate my, to a greater or lesser extent restricted sentiencies as well as the fact that I felt myself for this reason and also due to the consequences of gentle postures and lack of training (which also lead to shortened tendons, less Muscles, poorer circulation and more fatigue) moved accordingly limited, as my limited sense of touch had an effect not only on my body movement and posture but on my overall perception.
Therethrough I realized that I had to contemplate two conditions. The first were my to a greater or lesser extent restricted sentiencies. The second was that I moved accordingly limited due to the restriction of my sentiencies and to the consequences of relieving postures and lack of training – which in turn led to shortened tendons, weakened muscles, damaged blood circulation and overfatigue.
My senses and sentiencies, which constitute my perception, were modified by my RA (takes to mean: by inflammation, pain, swellings, numbness, limitation of motion, energy loss and overfatigue). Thus I was inevitably in the unfortunate situation of being unable to get the fine sentiencies of me and my surroundings through my senses (damaged by the disease) I got before RA. Out of these lessened sentiencies arose information that was modified by rheumatoid arthritis. And out of these modified informations my RA-reality came into being. A reality that wasn‘t very real anymore: I forgot the things I couldn‘t feel anymore, I forgot all those movements RA made impossible. It wasn’t just about being unable to move freely because of an RA, to be in pain and the destruction of joints in prospect, it was about me forgetting my actual range of movement.
Accordingly restricted were motion and posture of my body. On one hand, this solidified my RA and on the other caused other restrictions and health implications.
Progressive change and longer duration of the disease increased not only the difference to my fellow human beings, but also to the person I used to be. Stronger and faster changes by the RA were usually even better than slight, steady and unusual. The greater the difference that RA normality had to my former healthier normality, the clearer it became to me how much influence the RA has on my own life. I had to fight against certain operational blindness, which made my life and feelings with RA more and more my habit. I learned with my own body that information and thus also information from my own feelings change me. Just because something is changing that doesn‘t necessarily mean it is changing for the better.
Thus it was hardly surprising that my rheumatoid arthritis, a chronic inflammatory process with pain, swelling and deformations, could not be left out of it alone with goodwill. In order to be able to assess myself and the world around me well, I need my senses. I needed information/perceptions from healthy impulses/sensations that I couldn’t get through a restricted body on my own. This is a normal process because we are stuck in our own skin and feel the world out from within. And for so long as I did not intentionally and consciously intervene by using my own skills to practice my sense of touch and agility my perception was mainly based on my increasingly limited physical sensations.
Intervention now meant to treat my body more cautious and prudent. In doing so I discovered that I could compensate for a lack of sense of touch, e.g. with deaf, swollen or aching hands and feet, by watching my movements and immediately whilst doing more to gain strength and to improve my posture. This allowed me to regulate them better and thus relieve my body – despite a limited sense of touch and a limited motion. As I thought, tried and practised activating my senses and combining my skills, I felt more and more about how much more comfortable my body feels to me as I keep myself unencumbered and move. This encouraged me to do everyday things in this better and healthier way.
I decided to make every situation and every single handle my exercise and training in everything I was dealing with anyway. For example, when I moved, when I sat down, got up or ran, when I opened a faucet, took my jacket off the hook… I combined my body movement and posture with emotions, with imaginations and with my sensory sensations. I realized how much all these closely intertwined elements make up our dealings with ourselves. They direct our body movement and posture and at the same time are provoked by it again.
This trained my prudence, improved my attention inside and out. My exercises changed me, made me more mindful of what I had done so far, overwhelmed me. I dismantled such harmful habits, for example by no longer abusing my body as an impact and impact tool or beast of burden.
With my healing exercises, my finer, physical sensations became accessible to me again. This was important because it was precisely these finer sensations that act as warning signals of the body before and while overloading by using it incorrectly. And when, in addition to the clear sensations such as harsh pain, I also felt the finer and beginning discomfort, I also felt stress and my reaction to him so much more that I could break them down before they worked so strongly in me that I fell ill with it. Such an internal early warning system against overload, inflammation and pain requires all senses.
I observed how my sensory perceptions, emotions and ideas affect my physical expression because they are all direct-acting impulses for how I move and hold my body. Depending on my possibilities and my daily form, exercises for posture and movement were added.
HeilÜben-exercises Level 1
- address with words what we are aware of: our minds and the feelings that are accessible to us – it explains exactly what is practised.
- are aimed directly at body and soul with imaginations and movement. So by working with more than just our minds alone, we get more power to change. At first, the body is addressed directly through intentional thoughts, relaxing ideas, images, feelings and in subsequent HÜ about body perceptions, about sensations (through relaxation, gentle movement).
In the midst of my illness, I used my own skills to create healthy impulses from pictorial images, a more conscious body-soul-feeling, concentrative relaxation, posture and movement.
All of this based on the abilities I had in my normal life, without ever paying any particular attention to them, and yet using them successfully.
Over time I got to know my own skills better and strengthened my confidence, which in turn improved my healing and thus pushed my motivation. I collected more and more concrete observations and insights that confirmed my endeavours.
All of this may sound unfamiliar while your own body is “freaking out” and you’ve experienced so far yourself that none of what you’ve done so far has ended the RA, healed you out. But I had the best will to help me and also put my own skills. However, these were not sufficiently pronounced from the outset. As long as I did not practice my skills, my health efforts did not succeed.
All of these wholesome impulses had a constant alternating effect, amplify and triggered relaxation in my body. I managed to relieve my posture and movement in the middle of the RA. During the healing process, it was very important for me to intentionally interrupt the tension habit again and again by consciously relaxing in a wide variety of situations.
From a certain degree of their form my skills enabled me to reach the necessary knowledge and relaxation-skills for the next advanced healing exercises (Level 2).
While I was constantly working on my exercises, pain offered me a sheer amount of food for thought…
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All the best!