Multiple Sclerosis has mostly been defined by the physical manifestations in the body (i.e. myelin lesions) and symptoms expressed (i.e. problems in balance, fatigue, 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 life’s perspective own involvement in their individual, 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? In the areas of communication and movement. How is this done? It is suggested that MS is caused by the immune system attacking the central nervous system. That can be expanded to suggest that:
One part of the self is being hard on / attacking / not accepting another part of the self.
There exists an internal judge and jury, a disregard for one’s needs, of one’s own importance, corrosive dismissal of self – the ultimately – being hard on oneself!
Multiple Sclerosis stops one in their path. But is it really their path? Or is it a path prompted by external forces and expectation, social demands and definitions or maybe unchecked internal forces, perfection, need for acceptance and high personal standards?
Perhaps the heaviness experienced, like sand bags tied to one’s feet, is expressing too heavy a burden impossible to achieve. Interestingly enough the whole immune system is not involved in this attack or otherwise we would be dead in minutes. Only a small part of the oneself or ones identity is in conflict. The rest of the system is working on mending the destruction created. In a sense one part of our identity is attacking us, the other part of our identity is trying to restore harmony.
- What conflicts are there in ones identity?
- Has one negated a part of themselves?
- Considered it unacceptable?
- Does one wish to be two very different people and can’t reconcile them?
An Expanded Definition of the Symptoms of MS
Not only does the disease hold many of the causes of the disease. Each symptoms holds information on the internal and external forces causing MS. As different people experience difference symptoms, not all the forces expressing through MS are present in each person that has the disease.
Many people first experience visions problems. Could this lack of clear vision be showing a conflict over what one is seeing and what one wants to see, an unwillingness to look closely at things, or having double standards?One symptoms manifested and very characteristic of MS is a clear slowing down and inconsistent gait to the point of paralysis in some cases.
Seen as a verb, the symptom is literally putting the brakes on (slowing oneself down) until one finally comes to a complete stop. Could one have gone too far off track from ones dreams and desires? Did one take too much on, kept saying yes I can, yes I can to that as well…or didn’t say anything but just kept accepting the pressures until there was no turning back? Did one push and push until a part of them said “basta”?
One group of symptoms is characterized by a loss of control, a letting go the reigns, of one’s bodily functions. Not everything is lost, just certain areas of the body are no longer under the control of the person. Thus, taken metaphorically, could it be an invitation and an unrecognized internal desire to let go of the pressures to exert control and plan everything in advance; of the drive for perfectionism; focusing on controlling ones surroundings thinking that if one could just control everything out there in the world, somehow one could finally feel a little more at 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 as well as literature and interviews of other practitioners successful with MS. 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, one 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, being more MS’y some days than others. MS is also not related to every part of oneself. It doesn’t taint the whole body. Interestingly enough only certain parts of the body are affected. Other parts may be working just as well as ever.
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 therapists? But not a physical therapist for increased body strength but to strengthen the mind? What if MS is blocking those areas that are over developed in the body-mind 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 from the outside world because you don’t feel you are worthy just by being you?
- 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 there is more to MS than just a mistaken immune system?