Saturday, May 7, 2011

Fox hunting and being 'blooded'.

Where I grew up fox hunting was quite a prized part of life. When one first rode with the hunt, the novice hunters would be ‘blooded’ when their first fox was taken.

It was exciting. It was primal. It was disgusting.

Being 'blooded' was the smearing of fox blood over the faces of those who had not taken a fox before, to the cheers and upturned flasks of other members of the hunt. A young girl sweating with exertion and excitement, being smeared with blood and plied with hard alcohol sounds like something out of a satanic ritual, and yet with hunting season it was not out of the ordinary. All the new hunters went through it, and loved the event. All except the fox, that is.

And Mrs. Barlow’s cat, Mittens.

Yes. Accidents happen. I remember the day when thirty fox hounds took of yelping and snarling after something in the hedgerow, and all the horses chased excitedly down the narrow farm lane. The clatter of steel shod hunters on the tarmac as we followed the baying hounds into the village. Many of the villagers watched as redcoated riders gathered pace, the horses infected by the excitement that had overtaken the hounds, their quarry sighted.

Mrs. Barlow was the post mistress in the village, and her tabby cat, Mittens, was well known, sitting on the stone wall outside the Post Office, a homely reminder that on the Isle Of Wight you need to set your watch back sixty years when you arrive. The cat would watch each visitor to the shop, and scowl.

That morning the tabby, frightened by the baying dogs, broke cover and the hounds took it for a fox. Into the front garden the cat dashed, and the dogs took chase. A frightened look over it’s shoulder and up and into the living from through the open window.

Thirty hounds streamed into the garden. The horses, trained to follow through thick and thin followed. An open window presents no obstacle to a hound with it’s blood up. In went the lead hound, followed by another, and another. In a matter of seconds the entire pack had flowed like a river of brown, black and white through the open window into the front room of the postmistress’s house.

Perhaps you can imagine what happens when you place a trio of excited dogs in a living room, along with a display case of Dresden china, some art pieces, diverse pieces of genteel furniture and a tabby cat. Now multiply that by a factor of ten and you have the general idea.

This is not helped by the fact that most of the hunt were well lubricated with spirits before the hunt moved out, and the horses were definitely the ones in command here. The front lawn looked as though it had been rotavated. By the time the horrified post mistress had seen the dogs dragged from what was left of the front room, the furniture was smashed, the china reduced to a Greek restaurant tragedy and Mittens… Well, there was not much left of anything.

Fox hunting was banned in Britain twenty years later, though that would have been cold comfort to Mittens.

We all have a primal side to us. Some bury it better than others, but it is there.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

How anxiety affects allergies and immunity.

I sometimes joke with my clients that “you humans are such fragile creatures…” We respond in some surprising ways to the things that happen to us. I recently worked with a client who has suffered for most of her adult life from an allergy to a mould she was exposed to. In recent months her allergies had worsened to include a series of other everyday substances and foods.

We eventually traced the first allergy back to a time she had been cleaning out a cellar in a house she had bought. Whilst sorting through some old long abandoned papers in the cellar she found a few personal items belonging to one of the many previous owners of the property. There were a collection of letters and other objects. Being curious by nature, my client examined a few of the letters, which were dated in 1922 and 1923. There were other documents and bits and pieces, and in the gloom of the dark cellar my clients inquisitive nature took hold. In one particular box she found a collection of French photographs that were pornographic in nature. They were mildly shocking, and in the gloom of the moment she felt a little unusual.

The discovery of the pictures, in that unusual environment loaded with some basic primeval triggers could be easily considered nothing more than an unusual event. However it’s my contention that at that very moment she was exposed to the mould she is now allergic to. Her own energy was at that moment a little disturbed; she was off balance emotionally, as well as physically. The invasive nature of the mould hit her at a moment when she was both emotionally and physically out of sorts. Ordinarily it would probably not have affected her.

Now, it’s easy to be a little skeptical about this. I understand that. However, if you think about it there are quite a few instances when the combination of a physical and emotional experience produce a result that is far more destructive than a single issue alone. As an extreme example we could consider the effects of physical abuse. We can all stand being pushed physically a little; kids play fight all the time, with no ill effect. However, the addition of shouted words hurts us, words that make us feel offended, and the combined effect is radically different. The physical act combined with the emotional hurt results in a substantially more traumatic result. That’s a very physical example and one that is relatively obvious. Now let’s take the same idea a stage further. How about if we loose a loved one, and we’re grieving. Often during such a time we experience a lower immunity. This is well documented. If we are stressed our immunity to pathogens reduces. It’s reasonable to draw a correlation between the emotional wound and the resulting physical frailty.

In the case of allergies, as stress increases often we see the allergies increases, as in the case of my client. It’s absolutely normal to find people in their mid thirties developing allergies to substances that they never previously struggled with. Often they are experiencing an increase in the general levels of stress in their lives (children often have that effect). Treatment by orthodox medical means to suppress the effects of the allergies only resulted in other, often apparently unrelated issues developing.

Of course, the emotional impact of various events in our lives is extremely subjective. For one person grieving is a brief exercise. For another it’s a long process. As an emotional disruption this is fairly typical. We all react differently to emotional impacts. The following piece of video is a great example of how we can load something as innocuous as a stone with values that emotionally have an impact. In this video, brilliant English hypnotist Derren Brown creates an extremely physical response to a subtly implied value. The poor subject is visible trembling and emotionally very unsettled, to put it mildly. [On a technical hypnosis note: The techniques of physical hypnosis and confusional hypnotic technique are a brilliant example of Derren Browns skills. If you like to learn a little more about hypnosis skills, see the tutorials on my website.

See the Derren Brown video HERE:

Finding some pornography, being exposed to something unsettling, or even experiencing abuse can radically affect our health in surprising ways. It could be allergies, eczema, depression or seizures – or any number of other results. The disruption to our sense of self, our own personal energy, can have an impact that is long lasting and difficult to unravel.

As a hypnotherapist I should be out there saying we have all the answers. Well, we don’t. But understanding where some unusual issues come from helps us move towards solutions. Understanding the importance of the emotional impact on our physical self is important, and raises a lot of questions. For example, is it likely a ten minute appointment with a doctor is likely to really uncover the true causes of an illness? Equally one has to ask, how scientific are some clinical trials, when it’s clear that while all the subjects may be given the same drug, if they come from wildly differing emotional base-lines they will clearly respond differently? A supposedly scientific process suddenly doesn’t look scientific at all.

A simple process to reduce the levels of anxiety in the client resulted in a lessening of allergic responses. Currently she now enjoys a substantially more varied diet, and continues to expand the range of foods which she can enjoy. She does not react to the mold to which she'd been 'allergic' previously.

What is obvious is this. In matters of immunity and general health, the role of mental health and resilience is a very sound starting point. I end up thinking about my daschund, Franki, who sadly recently passed on at the ripe old age of 17 and a half. He was always a happy dog, and therefore always a healthy dog. Is that scientific enough?