Multiple Sclerosis (MS) has mostly been defined by the physical manifestations in the body (i.e. myelin lesions) and symptoms expressed (i.e. problems in balance, fatigue, pain and numbness).
But most definitions do not explain all that MS is, much like a play cannot be described only by a description of the stage or the number of stage lights.
So what is a more comprehensive, a more inclusive definition of multiple sclerosis? What part does MS play in the lives of those who live with it? Is MS the tragic ending of the play of life or is MS a key protagonist for a great shift in one’s perspective on their unique play of life?
Definition of Multiple Sclerosis
Let’s begin with the definition of the word. Multiple sclerosis means “multiple areas of hardening”. Where has it been hardened? The nervous system, the communication system and the system that provides movement. How does it achieve this? It is suggested that the symptoms of MS might be caused by the immune system attacking the central nervous system. Continuing with our metaphor of the play, we would be witnessing a struggle in the areas of communication and movement. Its been described as –
One part of the self is attacking another part of the self that, in response, is hardening.
My clients always come in to their first session telling me how multiple sclerosis stopped them in their path. But was it their true path? Or was it a path prompted by high expectations of what success needs to look like and social demands mixed in with a significant fear of failure and need to be perfect and in control?
Have you found that there is an internal struggle in communication with yourself? A harsh internal judge and jury that is very hard on you, attacking you left and right and disregarding your needs (most times its telling you, you don’t have needs or you can cope better with hardships than others)? Does this sound familiar? And the heaviness you experience, like sand bags tied to your feet or stiffness that doesn’t allow you to move with grace and working full time any more, is expressing too heavy a burden imposed by this judge and impossible to achieve? In a sense, their is a conflict between two parts of you.
- What conflicts are in your identity? Are you constantly “should”-ing yourself?
- Have you negated a part of yourself? Considered it socially unacceptable?
- Do you sometimes feel you are two different people and can’t reconcile them?
An Expanded Definition of the Symptoms of MS
Each symptoms holds information on the internal forces battling within you causing your MS. The type of battle within depend on the symptoms experienced.
Was your first symptoms visions problems? If it was, could this lack of clear vision be showing you a conflict over what you are seeing and what you want to see? An unwillingness to look closely at things and situtations, or having double standards with oneself and others?
Do you experience a significant slowing down of your stride and an inconsistent gait that seems to be getting worse? Seen as a verb, the symptom is literally putting the brakes on (slowing you down) until you finally come to a complete stop. Could you have gone too far off track from your dreams, desires and true self? Did you take too much on, kept saying yes when you wanted to say no, or didn’t say anything accepting the pressures until there was no turning back? Did you push and push until a part of you said “no!”?
One group of symptoms you might experience is characterized by a loss of control, especially in the form of incontinence and involuntary spasms. Thus, taken metaphorically, could it be an invitation to let go of trying to control and plan everything? Of the drive for perfectionism and doing your best in everything? All of these a strategy to find a little more peace inside?
These are just a few samples of an expanded definition of Multiple Sclerosis and its symptoms. These examples are taken from sessions with my clients. How does hypnotherapy reveal the deeper and more expanded meaning of disease? In the hypnosis session, this information is given to the client directly in a three-way dialogue between the hypnotherapist, the client and their symptom.
What if Multiple Sclerosis is a Verb?
To begin to work through the disease and the particular symptoms manifesting, you must begin by realizing that MS is not a noun that you have received or inherited like having red hair or a full body tattoo, but a verb.
Red hair isn’t more red some days and less red others. Or not red altogether on occasion! But MS can be that way, MSing more some days than others.
MS is also not related to every part of you. It doesn’t effect every system in your body though some days it might feel that way.
So I always invite my clients who begin to work with me in my MS Hypnotherapy Program to refer to their MS as a verb and to be curious about just how much they “are MSing today?”. Knowing that today is not determinant of tomorrow.
What if MS is an Invitation to Develop New Strengths?
In physical therapy, I have seen how therapists will actually block off (for lazy eye or stroke) the stronger part of the body so the client works and learns to exert the weaker and less used parts of the body. This helps to strengthen those parts by focusing attention on them and by removing the parts of the body that don’t allow for this development.
Imagine if MS were your own private therapist? But not a physical therapist for increased body strength but to strengthen your psyche? What if MS is blocking those areas of your personality and behaviors that are over developed in order to prompt the development of other areas that would not have a chance to develop otherwise?
Lets see some examples of what I mean:
- Do you have the ability to pause and meditate on your problems until you know what is best and then act on it or do you go go go until they get resolved sometimes expending large amounts of energy because you don’t know how to stop or the mere thought of stopping creates deep anxiety?
- Do you work on your internal conflicts, on family issues, on painful emotions or do you push them down and ignore them and just keep going?
- Are you constantly seeking acknowledgement and success because you don’t feel you are worthy if you aren’t doing anything?
- Do you help others all the time and don’t want or don’t feel you need help ever?
What if MS is helping you develop more aspects of yourself that were being blocked by your dominant modes of operating and coping with life? What if the body was an efficient auto-corrector both of physical and mental imbalances?
Perhaps the definition of MS needs to be expanded to more than a mere error of the immune system?