Do you ever get sick of hearing that it’s “all in your mind”?
I know I do.
Especially since the disabling psoriatic arthritis symptoms I suffer definitely exist in my body.
I’ve got the lab results to prove it.
Not only that, but even if looking at those results influences me to negatively perceive my problems and make them worse …
I Still Don’t Want To Hear It!
Because if it’s all in THIS mind, then I believe even less in the power of the mind.
Look, maybe I’m getting on my high horse here, but them’s the facts:
I’ve got a good mind.
A strong mind.
A mind that has scoured both science and pseudo-science in self-improvement to the point that it can slice through both sides of the genre with laser precision.
It’s just one of those areas of study where I’m not too modest, I guess! 😉
Not only that, but we might just have to put on our grown up pants and accept that feel good statements like, “The mind is everything. What you think you become,” from the Buddha himself might not always pan out the way we’d like.
Belief: The Ultimate Poison Of the 21st Century
I don’t buy for a second that my “beliefs” are somehow out of line with what I want for my health.
There’s no way this mind is secretly sabotaging its tremendous desire for the body it emerges from to feel well.
And I definitely don’t think that William S. Burroughs in all his wisdom must be correct when he wrote:
‘Every man has inside himself a parasitic being who is acting not at all to his advantage.’
No, no and a thousand times, no! My thoughts couldn’t be closer to what I want for my health. And yes, yes and a thousand times yes, I’ve read James Clear on belief and self-sabotage (recommended).
But even there, looseness around this term “belief” could be more helpful – more on that from me coming soon.
In the meantime, I’ve won a lot of health back by stepping up and acknowledging biological reality. And …
If Thought Could Heal My Psoriatic Arthritis Symptoms …
… I would have thought these symptoms out of my body a long time ago!
There’s no doubt that our thoughts and beliefs influence our physical reality. I happily explore the expectation effect, placebo and all manner of woo-woo to see what’s possible (see pins and needles pic below for the proof).
But it doesn’t mean I get to think or believe my way out of the biological cards I’ve been dealt.
If that were true … well, I can only repeat with the Achilles’ heel of my hamartia way out in the open:
If it were true, I could outthink the best of them.
If it were true, I could fly around the globe without a plane.
If it were true, I could eat sunlight for breakfast.
But I can’t do those things. No one can. And there are all too understandable reasons why.
A Downward Spiral That Can Only be
Managed, Never Improved?
Take my situation with multiple food sensitivities, for example.
You may have read about autoimmune disorders like psoriatic arthritis.
It’s the kind of disease where certain foods can cripple up your joints. (The psoriatic arthritis symptoms hip pain brings me … totally insane!)
Worse, it can your skin into a tornado of snowflakes against a flame red backdrop.
And then there’s the granddaddy of suffering, the painful, open sores.
Oh, and let’s not forget the intestinal discomfort from having a so-called “leaky gut.”
Yeah. I’ve got it all.
And it sometimes seems to be getting worse too.
Almost to the point that a fecal transplant looks more desirable than my favorite Italian ice cream stand. (Dark chocolate, please!)
And some people have said that merely by writing about my psoriatic arthritis symptoms with a skeptical pen, I’ll only make it worse. That I should “focus on the positive” and essentially using this blog to write incantations and spells of healing.
Okay, Okay …
So Why Not Give The Fairy Dust A Try?
Kind of boring to post about here, but to humor these people – and heck, even as a diversion from the pain – I’ve written many journal entries asking the universe and angels and all kinds of B.S.-mongers to help me out.
I’m a scientist, after all. I’m most comfortable in the lab and when it comes to Project Wolverine … in for a penny, in for a pound. Just so long as the experiments are removing blinders, not bolting them down tighter.
… despite my best attempts to shoo the symptoms away with belief through Project Wolverine, nothing seems to change a base level of my biological reality:
Some foods put me in a LOT of pain.
And my psoriatic arthritis LOVES beaming red and yellow ooze through the surface of my skin when I eat those foods.
And yes, the war zone is as painful as it looks.
But sorry, no more pictures of psoriatic arthritis below the neck on this blog …
Oh, what’s that?
Okay. If you insist:
The photograph above doesn’t quite show just how swollen my left hand really was, but let’s just say the fire burned.
And when one – or both of my hands – erupts with napalm from the inside, let’s just say I ain’t rippin’ out Bach on my bass like it ain’t no thing:
Why The Ego Is Such A Hard Beast To Ride
When You Suffer From Food Sensitivities
Then there’s the suffering that comes from embarrassment.
And not just the shame I feel when I look like a red beat with leprosy. Except for this one video, I sometimes stay off camera for weeks at a time and stick to slideshows:
And the uglier truth is this:
I’m often embarrassed by the effects food has on my personality.
I don’t talk about it much, but they can be extreme.
Lifestyles Of The Dazed And Delirious
For example, I’m prone to intense moodiness.
Irrational anger. Suicidal impulses. Wreckless decisions.
For years, I “believed” these symptoms came from Bipolar Disorder.
Turns out that belief was wrong.
Since correcting my diet and discontinuing all medications, I don’t need to “believe” in diddley-squat.
The New Rules For A Quiet Mind
On A Diet Based Around Testing
Don’t eat fruits like apples …
Remove all wheat …
Eliminate all kinds of things you’d never identify without an MRT – though you also need more than just food intolerance testing, as this excellent Autoimmune Wellness guest post points out (click that link).
But their caveat aside, when I stopped eating these foods based on my results …
Crazy impulses to jump into traffic gone!
No belief necessary!
Just don’t eat that stuff (if you’re me) and the problem disappears. (Just imagine what might be at the core of what’s bothering you?)
So then, if all these discoveries with my diet have been so powerful …
What on earth am I yammering about now?
Well, buckle in.
As I’m sure you know, life throws you some strange and mysterious twists from time to time. And in this case, I brought myself to a place where it’s next to impossible to find “safe” food.
Oh boy …
Enter My Dojo Of Battling Psoriatic Arthritis Symptoms
Beijing is a great place in many ways, but it’s sometimes hard to pay attention to all the good streaming around.
Like when every joint in your body feels like it’s being hit with a flamethrower.
In addition to its constant noise, Beijing brings you post-apocalyptic darkness most hours of the day.
Worse, the food quality rates a minus in the triple digits.
Frankly, even if I didn’t have psoriatic arthritis, I’d probably still say that the food in China is mostly …
Minus 999% Awesome
Crazy thing is …
I knew it would be this way when I went.
And yet I chose to go.
Mostly for my wife.
Smart little cookie she is, winning that Ph.D. scholarship in Australia and all.
But it’s a win that required sacrifice on my part.
Like leaving Berlin.
And let’s face it. If you’ve ever visited, you’ll agree that Berlin truly is a slice of heaven. I miss it sorely.
Change Is The Ultimate Constant:
The Only Brand You Can Really Trust
Not only was it hard giving up all that I’d established in the city …
Going to Australia via Beijing felt like throwing my entire life upside down.
But here’s the thing:
When the opportunity landed, I knew I had to pursue it for another reason besides supporting my wife.
More than just the Nietzschean “Yes!” to life, I’ve had Robert Frost’s The Road Not Taken chilling my soul for decades.
Plus I’ve got The Monty Hall Problem bouncing around my ethics.
These bits of philosophy matter. If you want to live an interesting life, you’ve got to change your mind. You’ve got to walk the other road. Pick the other door.
No matter how counterintuitive and contentious, the math really does make sense.
Life Is Not Using Reverse Psychology On You
And what you realize when you’re on the road less traveled is that thinking inside the box works better than chasing after randomness.
But given all my current pain, suffering and how my goals with the Self-Improvement Supercharger blog have been thrown into chaos …
I’ve been pondering one simple question:
How do I use my mind and the limits of belief to deal with physical discomfort and enjoy the world? Especially when my suffering is so legendary, even in hell?
All The Answers Are Always In The Belief-Free Lab Of Your Life
The answer to suffering?
And for the first line of experimentation, I asked one simple question:
How can I stop myself from dwelling on the negative?
After all, with exhaustion and poor nutrition, it was all too easy to jump on the downward spiral of thoughts. Like a cat on a bird.
And as the poisonous food wormed its way through my system, I thought endlessly about how going to Beijing to apply for our Australia visas had shot all my health gains from 2015 and 2026 in the foot.
Is Nonsense Better Than No Sense At All?
And I knew as the thoughts were happening that it made no sense to whine and cry about how I placed my entire working operations with developing this blog and maintaining Magnetic Memory Method at risk.
Then there were all the “could haves” …
I could have stayed in Berlin.
I could’ve continued the diet I’d established that eliminated nearly all my pain.
I could’ve carried on the regular fitness routine with Lars that helped me achieve the kind of physique I’d previously never imagined would be possible.
I could’ve saved oodles of money and spared myself tons of exactly the kinds of stress that lead to skin outbreaks and depressive episodes.
I could’ve continued thinking inside the box as I work on solving memory and depression problems.
Tempting little bastards, those could haves.
Newsflash: They Aren’t Listening!
And here’s the thing:
Those could haves? All they do is fill our childish ego needs to shake our fists at heaven with frustration when things go worse than expected.
No way, Jose.
Not by a long shot.
In The Dojo Of Your Own Problems
What to do instead?
Self-awareness is one of the finest weapons you’ll ever develop.
But it isn’t easy.
Self-awareness is a heavily partitioned toolbox with multiple layers of skill.
And it can take a lifetime to develop.
It requires constantly steering yourself clear of self-deception.
And there’s an awkward problem built into it:
Some of the other tools in the self-awareness toolbox create the very same problems that need solving.
Pharmakon, A.K.A. The Cure Is The Poison
And The Poison Is The Cure
I’ve always loved Ancient Greece. The philosophy. The tragedy. The brutal truth of ideas like pharmakon, the likely source of our word for pharmacy.
It literally means that whatever we do to heal ourselves also comes packed with some form of poison. And like fertilizer for plants, a substance that burns leaves, can just as easily help nourish its roots.
For that reason, you need to know the math and your capacity for bending the numbers.
I’ve become quite good at this using the food grid discussed in the Self-Improvement Supercharger video program (scroll up to register for the free video course now or grab it here).
But when it comes to being on the road in a country with zilcho food quality and almost none of the daily predictability I need to thrive …
I had to “eyeball” three things at once:
1. The side-effects of what I’m eating.
2. My propensity to justify poor decisions as experiments when abundant evidence exists for predicting a result.
3. How tightly I’ve obeyed my morning ritual habit chains.
How To Replace Belief With Focused Action
Instead of “believing” that the words flowing through my mind about food are part of the problem, I FOCUSED on chewing. On really being with the food, even though everything in Beijing was toxic to me with my condition.
Pharmakon … Pharmakon … Pharmakon …
But I had to eat something. No two ways about it.
So for that reason, it was all the more important to be actively present with the poison, rather than passively letting it do its damage.
How To Develop Your Belly Fullness Zen
Then there’s stopping when full.
This is ultra-important if you’re eating in a foreign land with multiple food sensitivites.
Because if you fast for hours on end, something curious happens when you finally do eat:
You can’t stop eating. Your body wants to make up for all those missing calories.
But as an intermediate faster, I’ve learned to read my “gut instinct” for when I’ve had enough.
At least, until I got to Beijing.
When food lacks so completely in nutrition, I found I needed to re-read the signals of having had my fill. But it’s unfortunately all too easy to eat beyond need when your body knows it’s being undernourished.
That didn’t stop me from picking away that weird pink stuff. Reminds me of the lines from the movie version of Orwell’s 1984:
“You know, I don’t think there’s a single piece of meat in this stew. Looks like meat. Tastes like meat. It isn’t meat at all.”
But no matter what I did or where I went, I had to eat something, including deadly rice.
And that meant stacking on the toxins.
Ouch and very ouch. There were some days I could hardly walk.
But At Least You Always Have Your Mind
No matter how hard Beijing’s cuisine pummeled my body, I was grateful for one thing:
The memory techniques I teach are awesome. No matter how sick I’ve gotten, they still make it possible to learn.
It’s like a wonderful depressant: Simply remembering information cuts through brain fog like a sword.
Even better, the sense of amazement and accomplishment never fails to lift my spirits.
But it was more challenging than ever in Beijing. So to help combat complacency, I decided to rush into the arms of my favorite enemy:
Memory improvement software.
I’ll spare you the speech regarding why I’m so leery about memory improvement software (for now), but the point is this:
There’s no better time to overcome misery than doing what you love to do from an underexplored angle.
And being just sick enough to struggle with maintaining rituals that work, I decided to maintain my rituals by making friends with an old enemy.
Turns out, the memory improvement software I tried is not only fun, but I enjoyed it far more than I supposed.
And know this:
No Matter How Bad Things Get, You’re The Envy Of Billions
There’s an Ursula K. Le Guin story called The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas.
It describes a perfect city where the only cost is the suffering a single child who must live in filth and misery.
Sorry if that ruins the punchline for you, but it’s one of those tales where even when you know the ending, it still makes a mark.
Now that I’ve killed the plot, here’s the takeaway:
We all have the ugly tendency to think that we’re the child in paradise who suffers more than others.
If you don’t think so … think again. Especially when those tough moments land. That’s usually when we slip the most.
And in reality, most of us stand far from having it the worst. And thinking that we do only brings more suffering than necessary.
Escape From Beijing
April and I were pleasantly surprised when our visas came in. We’d heard rumors it could take five months or more.
That would have meant an unknown period spent with ill health on every corner: coughing, spitting, strange beliefs about poking yourself with needles that I wound up trying just to take my mind off the pain.
Does Maintaining Rituals That Work Really Work?
Ultimately, I hate to admit it but I fell off the wagon while in Beijing.
Not too much, but enough.
Daily meditation sagged. I was so beat down I couldn’t concentrate on the simple art of not trying to concentrate on anything.
I wish I could say I managed to keep up with fasting, but when you’re doing it to avoid food, fasting has the opposite effect:
You get weak, not strong. You develop impulsivity around food, not greater depths of discipline.
And as a result, I went through a lot of Drama Queen stuff during my food reactions.
I ate things I shouldn’t have and paid the price:
Mood swings …
Dead skin snow storms …
Looking like a doppelgänger for Beijing itself.
Why It’s Easier To Get Back On The Horse
You Already Know How To Ride
But I am proud of one thing:
My months of unbroken meditation won me more self-awareness than I would have felt otherwise.
It helped me treat each new day as another test.
And what I lost in consistency, I gained in consistency. Now that we’re mostly settled in Oz, my long history of keeping it together made it much easier to get back on the horse than it would have otherwise.
And you know, sometimes you have to lose what you hold precious in order to appreciate it.
Decent food, the ability to observe daily rituals and civilized access to the Internet …
Well, what can I say?
My “First World Problems” have never felt so good! Even the ones that might be only in the mind …
How you been keeping? 😉
P.S. Come back next time. I’ll tell you all about why I and how I let myself get roped into this:
P.P.S. I really appreciate the comments people have left, especially the challenges to my thinking. Here’s a personal video response:
I look forward to further discussion on these topics and more related to Supercharging the collective health of humanity, physical and mental. 🙂