Level 4: Motivated

Level 4:    Motivated

Notice there is a thick line across the matrix between levels three and four.

This is an enormous transition zone that I have noticed in tinnitus people. Once you can get to level four, then it’s pretty much downhill all the way. Whereas the first three levels have been unpleasant and challenging, once you cross the threshold into green, then suddenly you start to discover that tinnitus is no longer the nasty, bossy old tyrant that it was, robbing you of peace and sanity. To the contrary, this condition seems to have turned into quite a useful healthometer showing you what’s right for you and what’s not.

Sounds pretty like level three, but the crucial difference here is motivation. Now that you have taken responsibility for your own tinnitus, and accept that it is there and you yourself have a massive impact on it, you are starting to get a sense of what is needed for you to be well. After the uphill struggle of the lower levels, in level four you are MOTIVATED enough to keep on going all by yourself. You have experienced how tinnitus can back off and you enjoy taking good care of yourself because it feels so much better to do so. It is worth it for the relief alone.

At this level there is a sense of much more space. Tinnitus is still in the house, but has moved out of your room into its own. It’s still there but it doesn’t bug you so much. At last there is a sense of it being manageable and you can get on with things.

Of course there are still bad days where it flares up, but you are starting to develop that all-important sense of knowing from direct experience that it will back off again the moment you go to bed early, or have a break or do whatever it is do you to feel good and relax. Tinnitus is not a threat anymore. Now you can stare it in the face and have a healthy respect for it. You are not controlled by it now, but you listen carefully to what this symptom is trying to teach you.

You are here most likely because you have started benefiting from a few months of therapeutic support. You have directly experienced that it is possible to feel much better than you were used to and are possibly starting to get in touch with more important underlying issues that fuel the tinnitus pattern in the first place. In short at this level you have developed a real sense of how to be well from time to time.

You have become INDEPENDENT and don’t need to be badgered into taking more care of yourself. You already have a good sense of what works for you and how good it makes you feel, and you are starting to reap the benefits. You’ve got out of the hole and it feels such a relief. Tinnitus has turned into a pretty good TEACHER and you are rapidly finding out what is right for you.

Level four on the matrix is the time when you start considering what really matters to you, and what changes you need to make in your life so that it can become more wonderful. It’s decision time. As you become much more caring towards yourself and start treating yourself with kindness and consideration, you start to get a sense of what you really want. Certainly the things you don’t want become loud and clear and easier to weed out.

I suddenly realised one day how tough I had been on myself, and how I had to do do do, achieve, be the best, prove my point, and try and try again. It slowly dawned on me that this was one of the most important underlying causes of tinnitus in me, this inability to just accept things just as they are and let myself be good enough as I am right now. Talking to hundreds of tinnitus people, I started to see how we all seem to be driven, and unable to appreciate that we are probably good enough already. Many of us seem to feel guilty about doing nothing. We simply give ourselves a hard time.

It was at this stage of level four that I started to treat myself with more kindness, and this made a huge difference. I started to let go of a need to be perfect and successful, and started to allow myself to be just good enough. It really was such a relief.

The technique at the end of this section helps develop this sense of loving kindness towards oneself. It is extraordinarily simple and yet if you do it properly, can turn out to be a memorable and powerful experience.

When I was passing through this stage there was quite a delayed effect on improvement. If I got a bad cold, lost my temper or went through a stressful patch, my tinnitus would rear up and start treating me like a grouchy doctor or sergeant major again. At lower levels I would have panicked at this wobble and would have needed to get support from my craniosacral therapist. However at level 4, having built up some experience of knowing what helps me and how to manage my tinnitus, I would just get back on the support wagon and do my relaxation exercises, especially the clench and relax technique at the end of level 3. I would do this for perhaps an hour at a time and feel immediately more centred and in control. However it might take me a week or so to settle back to the improved level of symptoms that I was experiencing before the wobble.

In retrospect I think I did quite well considering that the only regular support I allowed into my life was bi-weekly craniosacral therapy. Today I find my ability to cope with wobbles is better than ever, because I have a firmly established and regularly visited support network: psychotherapist, craniosacral therapist, a week off every month, a good diet, a strengthening Buddhist foundation, friends, daily swimming, and a wonderful partner.

I am aware that this may sound intimidating for some, and may get your Saboteur thinking, “But I can’t do all that, it’s too expensive, takes up too much time, I don’t believe in anything, etc.” Believe me, I used to be just as hard on myself and have no help at all like perhaps many of you who are reading this now. Tinnitus loves lurking in the lives of people who drive themselves to the limit and who are hard on themselves.

However the more I started giving myself time and space to be supported, the more I felt the deep benefits of it creep into all areas of my life. We are not meant to be alone and cope with masses of stress unaided. People who tend to do this (like me, for example) have often needed to cope and pull themselves together right from day one, as a result of the way they were brought into the world and brought up. Early patterns established by our mothering and family dynamic are powerful forces that turn us into the driven achievers and restless souls that tinnitus lives through. And yet, thanks to tinnitus, I discovered this fairly early on, and found that life is much happier and more manageable with plenty of resources to draw on.

As you get stronger and look after yourself more, when life rocks the boat as it surely will, it gradually takes less and less to reactivate your tinnitus. These days it takes one hell of a cold, or a massive amount of fear, anger, stress, coffee, alcohol to bring it back. I’m generally free of it, but if a tiny whistle flickers on the horizon, it is usually gone by the morning.

The point I want to share with you is that the more you look after yourself, the stronger your whole nervous system becomes. Your immunity and ability to manage things slowly gets better and better. The delay between tinnitus flaring up and the amount of time needed to get back on track does get shorter and shorter depending on how readily you are prepared to look after yourself.

Even with powerful illnesses or enormous challenges like bereavement, the more we open up to support, help and nourishment from others, the better we will cope. You all know this. What I am saying is no great revelation. The fact that you have tinnitus is not because you don’t know the effects of a healthy diet, good friendship, or the benefits of therapy. It is possibly because you do not allow yourself enough of these things! You may be depriving yourself of all the things you long for and need because you have probably had to be tough, grit your teeth, and cope without them in the past. This is learnt behaviour that seems “normal.”

Why not rest, enjoy yourself a bit more, let go of the need to be brilliant, successful, wealthy, perfect, admirable, etc, and start just being OK? This is a really interesting question.

To show the consequences of this, 10 years ago a cup of coffee made me spin and feel nauseous, and my tinnitus flared up. Now I have one every day and thrive on it with no effect on symptoms. The same is true for wine, or staying up late. I had to be ultra careful of what I exposed myself to, or what I ate, but these days I am slackening the reins a lot and am getting away with it. This is possible because I have allowed myself to let go, switch off and recharge. I have plenty of time off, and instead of lots of money, I have lots of free time. In fact downtime has become sacred for me. I’m not encouraging bad habits here, but I am saying that, with tinnitus, when you really start looking after yourself, your constitution gradually gets better and better. Bear in mind that it’s not just tinnitus that improves. You may well experience:

Better digestion
Improved memory
Stronger nerves
Clearer thinking
Better sleep
More stable emotions
More energy
Stronger immunity
A longer life
A happier general mood

You are not just letting go of tinnitus, you are bringing yourself out of a body stress response which will have an effect on all these factors. Your tinnitus is your in-built personalised friend that will show you what is right for you. If you let it work for you, you will find much greater health benefits. Let your tinnitus guide you in a healthy direction that is tailor-made and perfect just for you. The more you do the right thing, the more it will back off.

The challenge at this level is to develop confidence and know that you will be OK every time you get knocked down a level by something challenging that comes along. When you get rattled by whatever trigger that comes along, setting off your alarm bells again, here you will learn from experience that it will go anyway, as long as you adopt your coping strategies that will be becoming clear at this level.

What is the situation touching inside you that you need to deal with? Take this to therapy and explore it. You cannot change the outside world but you certainly can change the way you deal with it inside. If someone makes you angry, there is something important inside of you that is reacting to it. It’s not just them, its you too.

Confidence in the fact that things will be alright each time your tinnitus flares up increases every time you manage to survive and recover from one of these episodes. The more this happens, the stronger you will get. You may get worse when you are overtired, but you know that a few early nights will make it better. An infuriating situation may set your head ringing, but if you spend an hour focussing on body sensation then you know you will feel better. This knowledge becomes more and more unshakable, and the gathering confidence takes root and strengthens like a tree.

As you really start getting better on a deeper level, you can be incredibly empowering for other people who are suffering with tinnitus. Your wellness and recovery from symptoms is inspiring and motivating and gives them hope and direction.

At this stage you start to get a sense of your body being the place where all your life experience is held, RIGHT NOW. With all the body work you have been receiving, you know that this is the place where blocked issues and undigested life experience can slowly be released and freed up. Working on the body directly helps the mind, and vice versa. They are inseparable. You have stopped treating yourself like a workhorse at this stage. It becomes harder to feed yourself rubbish and flog yourself to exhaustion. Your tinnitus is teaching you this.

Level 5: Letting go

Level 5:    Letting go

Your relationship with tinnitus really moves on at this level as this is the stage where it starts losing its grip on your awareness. Now you are entering the phase where you can start letting go of your need to monitor it all the time. You begin to regard it as a helpful indicator of how you are feeling, rather than a problem to be solved. What distinguishes this level from previous ones is that your awareness is no longer locked within your inner world. Here you are taking a larger perspective on things. You are able to sit back and witness how your body and mind affect each other, without getting swamped by feelings, reactions or symptoms. There is more space in your awareness. Letting go is the level where there is enough room for you to have an objective look at how tinnitus is intertwined with your life. You are realising that the way you are inside affects the way the world and life seem on the outside. You are becoming able to witness yourself from the outside and know what you are like, rather than just being locked way, unaware, inside your patterns.

This larger perspective and more spacious approach helps you let go. For example, rather than get angry and sit in a stew of boiling reactions, you notice how a situation is affecting you and you are able to work through your own reactions rather than just fling something back at the other person. If something irritates you then you are able to stay in touch with your reaction and process that rather than retaliate.

You recognise that tinnitus will come and go depending on how you are, and this no longer takes up much attention. It has become so NORMALISED that you no longer react emotionally to its comings and goings, and you no longer find it interesting or such an issue anymore.

Up to now tinnitus has had quite a lot of influence over you and your daily life, but here we are entering the stage where you genuinely start having a lot more choice. You can focus on it from time to time, but it is not important. At this level you can may well become bored of it, to be frank, and you start forgetting about it and focussing on other things.

If someone asks you how it is, you have to stop and find it first, before you can answer. It is there but, there is a sense that it is really backing off and getting quieter. Tinnitus has moved out and become a next door neighbour that can be noisy from time to time.

Taking more responsibility for how well you feel, you are now much more on top of how your nervous system reacts.

When a challenging situation comes up that could tip you over into great fury, frustration, despair, tiredness or any of the states of mind that give rise to tinnitus, you now have the ability to chose how you will react.

You can either lose your rag, wobble, get distraught and start fighting against tinnitus all over again, and find yourself spiralling down a level or two. Alternatively you can process it in your own way, or take it to your therapist/bodyworker and get support in releasing your reactions.

At this level you know how to take things off the simmer and switch off. You have learnt to process things in a manageable way, and spend much more time relaxing and looking after your reactions to life.

Taking care of yourself has become second nature. You know your limits and no longer take on too many commitments. You know when you need to put some time aside to get yourself back on track. When you have a set back, increasing confidence in how to manage yourself keeps you calm and motivates you to go in the right direction. In a crisis you know that in a day or two you will feel better again.

Tinnitus has taught you the cost of having a tantrum or stewing in negative thought processes. Because you have become much kinder to yourself, you can stop yourself from flying into a state of overwhelm.

I remember when my tinnitus was bad I was stuck in victim mode a lot of the time. If something terrible happened, I would feel that the world was unfair and I was the unfortunate mug at the end of the line. I would implode and then get really frustrated with myself, sulk, brood and then, as if that wasn’t enough, I would dislike myself for being weak, and not good enough. What a nightmare that was!

These days if something terrible happens, I notice where it affects me in the body. I really get in touch with these feelings and let them take their course over a few hours or days. I notice how my mind reacts, consider what I need, and then set about getting these needs met. That might mean asking for a hug, getting support, or just processing my reactions with a therapist. This approach is so much more manageable and I bounce back readily, rather than exacerbating the problem with spiralling negative reactions. I treat myself well, instead of like a tyrant.

When we can witness our experience instead of being locked up inside it, this creates far more possibilities. Its the difference between, “I am bloody furious,” and “Gosh, that’s interesting, there is some anger there, and I can really feel my jaw clenching, or a feeling like I want to run away.” The first is lost in the emotion of it and can feel pretty overwhelming, whereas the second is much more manageable, has more space and is in touch with the body’s reaction. Getting in touch with the body’s reaction means we can directly meet something we can let go of.

We all have the power to manage ourselves really well. Learning how to do this is one of the huge benefits of therapy work. We learn life skills that make everything more manageable.

We can let go into life more, no longer needing to cling on to our fears so much. I think everything boils down to love or fear. A lot of working through tinnitus is about letting go of fear and embracing a more loving approach to ourselves and the life around us. Just knowing we have support there and that we can rely on a class of tai chi, meditation, chi gung, yoga, is deeply comforting. The extra energy and clarity we get from being more centred and together makes everything more manageable.

At this stage you can sit quietly in a room and become aware of tinnitus and be OK with it. It has become a familiar part of you and that feels fine. Just like being able to sit down, focus on a shoe and become aware of how that feels, at this level you can chose to do the same with the ringing in your ears. There may be a sense of it there if you really try and focus on it, but you do not need to do this anymore. Of course you can feel your shoe all the time its on your foot, but you are not focussing on it, so it is not there in your awareness. Tinnitus can become as important as feeling your shoe!

This is such a useful place to get to with tinnitus because it is here that your perception of it changes and it goes quiet or disappears. You realise that if you are not thinking about it, it is not there. You catch yourself in silence and then looking for it, you recreate it again. You start to experience how fragile, tentative and unimportant the whole symptom is. It really has lost any power over you.

The challenge at this level is to stay friends with tinnitus when something negative brings it back. Do you need to check if it is still there? This is where we need to work on letting go of the need to monitor it. You know it is just a healthy warning, showing you that you need to look after yourself again. It is trying to help you. Appreciate it when it pops up into your awareness and thank it for reminding you to look after yourself a bit more.

What is happening inside you when it appears? This is the most useful enquiry: look into your reaction to the tinnitus rather than the tinnitus itself. What is it telling you about yourself? Are you a perfectionist, full of frustration, pushing yourself too hard? What is the emotional state that is driving this reaction?

Balancing Tinnitus With Music and Other Loved Sounds and Activities

Tim sent me this message and said is was OK for me to respond for everyone’s benefit.

Here goes:

Greetings Dainis!

Thanks so much for your message on “What makes you feel GREAT!” And thank you for sharing some of things that make you feel great.

I think Julian is so right — at least in my case! — about the tendency of tinnitus people to get lost in our heads. (I know I do!) The problem for me has been that sometimes the T can drive me even further into my head!

I wanted to ask you specifically about music, because I’ve noticed several times that you mention musical composition and performance as very much a part of your life.

How do you balance the T and music? Back before my T spiked about a year ago, I was in and out of bands and playing music all the time. Even though I had mild T at that point, I could play our shows — even at clubs — and not even think about my ears. (We were an all acoustic band, which helped of course, but things still got pretty loud and it wouldn’t bother me.) Recently some friends asked me to throw in with a little ensemble they have playing Irish and other roots/folksy music. Here’s the rub: I love playing music in bands, but found that it was tough on the T — especially the accordion the the tin whistle. It seems that the T has robbed me of something that really makes me feel great!

So, I’m just wondering how you balanced/balance your obvious love of music and the T?

Blessings!

tim

Level 6: Empowered

Level 6:    Empowered

Well tinnitus has moved out now and lives in the neighbourhood. But you’ve become friends, and you know that if you get out of kilter with your body it will be there to help you find your centre again and re-establish a good sense of health. Most of the time you are not aware of tinnitus, but if you sit in silence you could probably find it again. Equally, you might just notice silence.

The crucial point here is that you have practically no interest in checking up on tinnitus anymore. Why should you bother? There’s no problem. You know that if you look for it, you might find it there just sounding in the far distance sometimes, but there is no need to check this out. Your tinnitus is no longer important, so you don’t check up on it.

If you are operating at this level, you have probably already established an excellent support network, have plenty of downtime and really know how to look after yourself. Your lifestyle is balanced, in as far as you match the amount of energy you give out through work with plenty of nourishing time for yourself to relax and appreciate all the good things in life. There is an equal amount of give and take. Your central nervous system can rest in a state of neutral so that it can either burn off energy in activity, or switch off and recharge again when resting.

Having given yourself plenty of time to let go, process and relax, your system is able to function “normally” again. Just like a battery, our nervous systems do need to recharge for us to feel well.

The well-being you have at this level is there because you have learnt to let help in, and get support when you need it. You have got into the habit of taking any difficulty or discomfort to a body worker or therapist whenever you feel overwhelmed, and probably air your issues regularly with good friends. Nothing builds up too much for you to handle. When big challenges come along you have some sense of how best to cope with them and know where to go for help. This in itself is deeply comforting and reassuring. In short, you can relax in a position of strength and are ready for action if need be.

Tinnitus has turned into an incredibly useful guide leading you to a much greater sense of health and well-being. Helping you get in touch with yourself at a much deeper level opens up a whole new way of being and a new approach to your sense of self.

All the body work helps you get in touch with your body’s felt sense at a deep level, and you start to become aware of energetic reactions. You can focus on internal feelings in a much more detailed way and feel changes in temperature, tingling, floatiness, a sense of expansion, and an opening up into a more sensitive connection to the space around you.

I have found Craniosacral therapy and Core Process Psychotherapy to be particularly good for developing a greater sensitivity of internal awareness. The gentle hand contacts of cranial work often remain still in the same place for long periods of time. This means you are not distracted by lots of external stimulation and your focus naturally goes inside and you become aware of internal changes as you lie there. Equally a Core Process Psychotherapist can help guide you into bodily experience so that as you are working through each issue, he or she can help you get in touch with how it is affecting the body and how you feel inside. There is always a certain part of our body that is reacting to each situation. Getting in touch with this can really help transform how we hold on to things.

At first it seems like magic, but then you slowly start to realise that the body knows what it needs to do. All you do is just get out of the way and let go into the support. It is like an inbuilt intelligence and organising force gathers momentum, and starts helping things realign effortlessly. It can be deeply inspiring to feel something naturally sorting itself out inside you, without any apparent effort. There is most definitely a force that knows what it wants inside. Learning how to let go deeply allows this life force or dynamic organising system to come more and more into affect. The more I have learnt to let go into this centering and organising force, the more I have been able to release aches and pains in my body and become less dependent on medicines and manipulations to sort myself out. This arising energy or life force is available to all of us all the time. We just need to unblock our connection to it arising at every instant in our core.

These days, when I have a pain in my body, I lie down and settle into a deep state of calm. This involves getting in touch with all the things that feel fine, calm and comfortable in your body. Once I have a strong sense of this, I then go into the pain and really get a sense of how it feels inside. If it is bad pain I will only take my focus to the edge of it, without dropping right into it, to keep things manageable.

Approaching the pain, sometimes you feel like something wants to move inside it, or like a pressure wants to release. I spend time getting in touch with the buzzing, throbbing or tightness that is there. After about ten minutes or so just focussing really carefully on it and connecting with it, I start to link the area of pain up to the rest of the body. So if my heart is hurting and feeling tight, I notice how it connects to each shoulder, how my breathing affects it, whether it feels tight towards the front or the back of my body. I literally feel all around it and explore this felt-sense. Sometimes I can feel something changing. When you widen your field of awareness out to include the whole body, the pain can actually start freeing up before your eyes. It is extraordinary what we can do just by focussing. This is well known amongst people who meditate a lot, and is an ability that develops with practice.

We are lucky having so much available to help our health with all the technical advances in health and medicine. However body-awareness is a huge underrated resource that we can tap into, transforming how we feel. To be really healthy we need to combine external scientific approaches with internal process and awareness. Both are good, and having both working together is best.

I believe we need an integrated approach to health where both an internal awareness is combined with external science and expertise. Ken Wilber’s approach to an integral way of life explains this clearly and simply in his book, “A Theory of Everything.” It makes sense.

Wisdom relating to health has been around for thousands of years and has always worked for those who bother to enquire into it. The problem is that it needs you to start the enquiry. I am not against drugs or surgery, but tinnitus is a symptom that responds directly to our internal process and how we treat ourselves. Rather than resort to drugs or surgery which can be extremely helpful in certain situations, I personally to try and sort things out inside first, and enter a very real possibility of getting better, before resorting to more invasive treatment.

Bodywork and therapy opens up this inner world and is of immense value. Stay with it long enough and you will develop an insight into the energetic realm, if you don’t have it already. This can completely change the way you approach yourself and the world around you. It quite literally opens up a completely different way of being.

The first session of craniosacral therapy was a direct experience of my body not as just flesh and bones, but a container of different kinds of energy resonating in a fascinating and powerful way. Like many people I am sensitive enough to feel this energetic perspective loud and clear and therapy has increased my awareness of the body as a container of moving fluids and energies. This has a big impact on your health, mind and your body.

Understanding how we develop psychologically is of immense help as well. When we start to become aware of our patterns of behaviour and where they come from, this too can really help us develop strength which helps us slowly, slowly, over a period of time, start to let go of our normal way of acting in the world.

Taking a deeper look at the typical tinnitus person for example. As a child he/she was not given enough love early on. As a result he/she grows into a highly driven and competitive person trying to prove to themselves and the remote parent that they are worthy enough of receiving love and attention. They spend their whole lives trying to fill this sense of emptiness inside and create the ideal conditions for symptoms like tinnitus to appear. Every day of their life is filled with a prevailing sense of never having enough, never being satisfied or at peace. In this book I have mentioned many surface causes for tinnitus such as: getting divorced, working too hard, exhaustion.

However if we look into the deeper causes, what really matters underneath is that there is very often a lack of loving continuity, guaranteed on-going protection and safety provided by our parents. Our earliest experience sets up the strongest reactions that form the central structure of our personalities. A less than ideal beginning can set up patterns of neediness and frustration that in later life lead to tinnitus. This is where psychotherapy can be immensely beneficial.

Slowly we can uncover the deep cause for our inner struggle that lies at the core of our being. When we can come to terms with our deepest struggles then something literally comes to terms, that is, something stops, and settles. As tinnitus is something that thrives on internal resistance, if we are able to accept and find peace with our innermost experience, then tinnitus doesn’t stand a chance!

At level 6, the challenge is to work through your innermost issues and find acceptance and resolution so that you can let go of this need to explain and understand your tinnitus. I admit this sounds like a tall order, but if you are at this level your goals in life are much more likely to be about finding peace and satisfaction.

At lower levels it helps to know how tinnitus works and what we do to perpetuate it. It can be really comforting to understand what is happening to you and how to let go of tinnitus. Here, however, in order to move into a deeper sense of peace, it helps to let go of the need to check up on tinnitus. I feel it is much more useful to work with the felt sense of the body. Once we learn to focus on responses that are real and alive inside us, we can work with something that is 100 per cent authentic and a part of us and get direct responses inside. If you stay with how you feel, and work through your internal responses, you will be working as closely to maximum health as possible. Your body is the best doctor you have. Give it the right attention and it will show you what needs to happen.

It’s simple, your body is constantly showing you how it is reacting, providing you with one of the clearest and reliably honest streams of information you’ve got. Use this information to guide you.

Developing your energetic awareness with meditation and having deep body-work therapies like craniosacral therapy or core process work will help you get in touch with this inner intelligence. It is amazing and humbling. I really hope you get a chance to connect with it.

Level 7: Liberation

Level 7:    Liberation

When I think back over the journey I have been on with tinnitus I am amazed how much my life has changed for the better. For me this condition has behaved like a spiritual guide because it is directly responsible for helping me find a genuine sense of health, well-being, and strength. I can honestly say I am happier now than I have ever been, and if you had told me this would happen when I was down at level one, I would have laughed at you incredulously and growled, “No way!”

As the resting daily focus has moved down from the head into my body, I have started feeling things that I would never have dreamt possible just a few years ago. Before I used to spend the whole time in my thoughts and with all my attention in and around my head. These days I feel centred around my heart a lot of the time and when I walk down the street, or sit with people nearby, I can feel a strong interaction happening between us, often with a focus in my heart area. It feels like a magnetic connection or a gentle push pull. It seems independent from my thought process and gives me valuable information that can be very different to what I think. In fact I rely on my felt sense much more than my thoughts these days if I need to make a decision. The felt sense is much more reliable than my neurotic mind!

All this work has opened up an awareness of the space beyond my physical body – the transpersonal space. Sitting with people I can feel resonance in the space between us, and that is inspiring. Tinnitus has led me into a way of being that is very different to living in a tight, thought-packed head. It is very comforting to get a sense of what the larger picture is like and the connectedness of everything. It fills you with awe and gratitude and lets you experience a deep sense that everything is alright.

I wish I could show you what this is like. Well, as a therapist I guess I can start to. In the meantime I encourage you to continue on your journey of finding peace inside your body. Tinnitus is such an obvious guide to help you along the way towards this goal. As soon as you listen to it in a positive way, you can move towards what is right for you. With support and encouragement the relationship with tinnitus will change from a horrible tyrant that seems to be in control, to a useful guide that is leading you into better health and awareness.

If you let tinnitus help you, slowly you will feel clearer and more aware inside. Deep, careful work like Core Process Psychotherapy or Craniosacral Therapy, or learning how to meditate and focus inside allows you to open up to a larger experience of an interconnected sense of self. Please know that with therapeutic support it is possible to drop into very deep states of calm. As you get in touch with what is going on behind the scenes you can really start to know stillness.

You can become aware of a vibrant state of peace and calm where you feel your centre really clearly, your mind is calm and focussed and you feel very connected to things around you. It is deeply inspiring to touch into these states of being because it can help us shift into a new level of awareness.

Ken Wilber’s books: “A Theory of Everything,” “No boundary,” and “One Taste” provide a very clear understanding of how our level of awareness can change dramatically as we progress through our lives. It is amazing what happens to our sense of self when we really do settle into a deeper stillness. “The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching,” by Thich Nhat Hanh, gives us a clear insight into the notion of self and how Buddhism provides a path out of suffering back to well-being. Indeed any spiritual foundation provides invaluable support that helps us let go on a deep level. I personally would encourage anyone to find this kind of support.

I often think of tinnitus as a symptom which, if it could talk, it would say, “Listen to your body, listen to yourself, listen to what is going on inside. Pay attention to this.” That is what tinnitus is trying to do, isn’t it? It gets people listening to themselves like nothing else does. It gets you to focus inside. Once you do this properly, tinnitus changes.

Personally I don’t think this is any coincidence. As a craniosacral therapist myself, I have learnt to have a deep respect for symptoms. They are often a direct link back to health, because they are showing where the problem is. All we need to do is really pay attention to them and notice what they are trying to communicate to us. This is not such a far-fetched idea, if you think about it. If there is pain, then there’s something wrong. Owch! Not good. We need to focus on it. That is what the body is trying to achieve – get our attention in that one place. It does this effortlessly. Unfortunately we often do the opposite and try and blank out the pain with painkillers. Managing pain is one thing, but turning a blind eye to it and pretending that everything is OK is not healthy and is asking for more complicated trouble at a later stage.

The more we focus on how our body feels, the more we understand how well we are or what needs seeing to. Read Eugene Gendlin’s book “Focusing,” for a very readable and approachable way into this territory.  I am grateful to my own tinnitus for showing me this challenging but rewarding path back to health. It really has made me change my diet, exercise, sleeping, social, and resting patterns enormously. It has been an incredibly accurate guide showing exactly what is right for me.

It is no exaggeration to say that tinnitus has been the best doctor, teacher, therapist, friend and guide that I have ever had. What makes it so good is that it is spot on for me, tailor-made for my own needs and nobody else’s.

Because tinnitus arises in your body, and is really just an auditory feed-back connecting you directly with the state of your nervous system, you are learning to work directly with what is best for your body. What could be better than that?

So while we are waiting for the magic pill to intervene and switch off this highly intelligent and useful mechanism, leaving us in silence (great), but also in the dark about what causes it in the first place (not so great), in the meantime I encourage you to start working on how you feel inside, and feel better! Its all here, right now inside your body.

My aim in writing this book is to show you a way which works. It makes sense. Many people go through this process of getting better all the time. The only thing that stops you going in the same direction is you! Keep an eye on the saboteur here. Become very suspicious of your own behaviour when you start thinking, “oh this worked for him, but it won’t for me, I can’t be bothered, I’m too tired, oh its too expensive, I’m waiting for the tinnitus pill to be invented, my doctor said nothing helps, maybe next week.” Look through these thoughts and ask yourself what you really want underneath. Maybe you have more choice than you think.

I sincerely wish researchers well. It will be very useful to know exactly which parts of the brain are involved. The work being done on the limbic system is very exciting. The more we know about the engine that we are all driving – ie our bodies, the better. Tinnitus usually arises because of the way the driver is driving the engine, rather than a problem with the engine itself. Drive too fast or put too much strain on it and the engine will flounder and make unhealthy noises. It is not sensible to put more sound-proofing over the engine to smother these noises out. This is not dealing with the problem. Surely it’s better to help the driver slow down and drive in a way that keeps the engine functional for the longest time with as few problems as possible. The good news is that there is one important difference between a car engine and a body: if we give our bodies space and our full attention, they repair themselves. Bodies are designed to work as well as possible and to do the best they can to function at maximum health. Healing happens when we rest, eat well, feel happy and well in ourselves and when we switch off and let go. Cars need mechanics.

At this level, you know yourself and your body well and you are aware how you drive it. The challenge here is to open to the larger picture and help others overcome their own suffering. As your tinnitus gets better and better you can share this approach with others. We need to be strong in the face of all the negativity, and lack of understanding surrounding tinnitus. When we hear people say, “There is nothing you can do about it,” we need to reply from our own experience, “Well actually there is masses you can do about tinnitus. I have got better and I know how this happened.”

I can only hope that health practitioners stop saying tinnitus cannot be cured. This is very harmful and does not help anyone. Please learn how to help tinnitus first before delivering devastating messages to disempowered people who cannot cope with them. This increases suffering. Send people with tinnitus to practitioners who can provide them with proper care and support, and who can bring their nervous system out of overwhelm and back towards ideal resting states. Keep it simple. Send people with tinnitus to practitioners who will help them discover well-being. This is already a huge step in the right direction.

The magic miracle cure for tinnitus is to help bring people out of red-alert mode back towards a neutral resting place. This involves bringing the parasympathetic nervous system back into balance with the sympathetic nervous symptom. This is simple physiology, and is something that alternative practitioners and body-based psychotherapists do everyday.

Technique 1: Crisis calmer

Technique 1:    Crisis calmer:

When you get into a state, try immersing your feet into a bowl of comfortably hot water for fifteen seconds, and then plunge them into a bowl of cold water. Move them backwards and forwards from hot to cold, back and forth for a good ten minutes. Notice how your focus settles more into your body. This simple technique is great for calming you down, getting you out of your head and slowing down any panicking thoughts. In more distraught moments, this will help take the pressure off, and will help divert your attention away from your head. Try it and feel for yourself.

Technique 2: Clenching and relaxing

Technique 2:    Clenching and relaxing

Stop thinking and start feeling! This exercise allows you to really get in touch with your body and find out what it needs. Learn to feel how your body is coping with your life and everything it has experienced This exercise increases your body awareness.

Lie somewhere comfortable, preferably not on your bed (unless you are trying to get to sleep), and make sure you are warm enough. I like lying in the middle of the carpet with a cushion under my head and another under my knees. If you are feeling particularly bad, have a long bath or shower first or perhaps try the hot and cold water technique from level one before starting this.

Focus on your feet. Notice any feeling you can pick up from them. Become aware of everything you can feel, which foot feels more comfortable, whether you can feel your socks. Notice hot, cold, tingling, numbness, tightness, etc. Are there any areas you cannot feel? Does one foot feel bigger than the other? Is one sticking out to the side more than the other. Allow as much information to come through from your feet as possible. Then gently and slowly clench and relax your feet muscles.

While you are clenching it will be easier for you to feel exactly where your feet are. As you let go of them, see if you can stay in touch with how they feel. Does the felt sense of them disappear as you let go? As you relax, has the feeling changed? Can you feel tiredness, aching, tightness etc? If you can’t feel anything, try clenching again. Just notice how they are.

Don’t worry if the feelings are not clear to start off with. Ask yourself questions about the temperature, size, location, tightness, etc of each part and you may be able find answers them. For example, do both your feet feel the same height off the ground? You know they are physically at the same height, but sometimes one foot can feel much higher than the other, or much further away from your head than the other.

Then move on to the next set of muscles – the calves, and go through the same pattern of 1/ focusing on what you can feel in that place, 2/ clenching & relaxing, and 3/ feeling any reaction. This is not about making anything up, pretending or analysing. It is purely and simply about letting the feeling of your body come into your awareness. You don’t have to do anything other than let this information come to you.

Carry on throughout your body. If you start getting involved with one part of the body then go into as much detail as you like. Don’t be surprised if you start twitching or you suddenly feel changes of temperature or tingling or floaty sensations. Work all the way through your body focusing, clenching and relaxing and then noticing any reaction until you have worked through your neck, facial, and forehead muscles.

I recommend doing this at least 10 minutes or more everyday. At first you may not notice much. Don’t worry. The more you do it, the more you will relax. The more you relax, the easier it is to feel.

If a major distraction keeps popping up, like a thought, a pain or ringing in the ears, that’s normal, but just keep going back to the body. You may need to clench a few times before you can really focus on your body. Sometimes it takes a good ten minutes to really start being able to focus properly.

You can only ever really focus deeply on one thing at a time. If you are focusing on your foot with all your attention, then you won’t be focusing on your tinnitus, or other aches and pains. Its fascinating how the more you focus on parts of your body, the more you can influence how it feels. It gets more and more interesting the more experienced you get at it. For more information please read “Focusing” by Gendlin.

This is about receiving information from the body. You are feeling not thinking. Noticing, not analysing. Just notice what its like being you….

If you find areas you can’t feel at all, don’t worry. Just become aware of the numb bits. How far does this numb, mystery area extend? Where can you start feeling clearly again around it?

These patterns change all the time, even while you are focusing on them. Your body will feel completely different in ten minutes time, on a different day, in a different mood.

Are there any emotional feelings held within? Is there sadness behind your tight chest, for example, or a feeling of anger behind your legs that feel like they want to kick? Perhaps there is a feeling of too much responsibility in your seized up neck and shoulders.

When your mind starts to wander, just simply refocus on your body and start noticing how you feel again. If you are a cerebral person (most tinnitus people are) use the clenching technique to really anchor your mind back into bodily sensation.

This is the perfect exercise for when you can’t sleep. Tiredness is held in the body. If you come out of your thinking mind and connect with where the tiredness is held in the body, and how it feels, you are more likely to fall asleep.

Before you finish this exercise spend the last few minutes seeing if you can connect with what feels OK, comfortable, calm, safe, relaxed, easy, spacious etc. inside. What feels OK? Learning to get in touch with all these positive feelings is one of the most positive things you can do. I wonder how good you are at doing this? Can you say what feels OK in you just now? I don’t mean in your head, I mean something specific in your body that feels OK. There is usually plenty that feels OK, but we sometimes become experts at focusing on all the bad bits. Which do you do?

I went through a stage of practising this for about 45 minutes every day. I was amazed at how the worst tantrums and feelings of despair and anxiety could eventually be settled just by maintaining my focus. If you persist with this technique you will become aware of all the energy and how it is stored in your body. This awareness helps you let go of things. I can do it these days to let go of a headache or bad mood. It takes practice, but with practice it works.

From my experience of treating literally hundreds of people with tinnitus, I have found that those who set up a programme of therapeutic support and spend time working through this technique, make good progress. Give yourself a few weeks trying this every day and see how it is for you. Most people generally get a lot out of it, especially if they have spent a whole lifetime living in their heads! Ring any bells?

Technique 3: Better and worst list

Technique 3:    Better and worst list

Get a piece of paper and put a plus sign and a minus sign at the top. List all the things that you notice make you feel better under the plus. Whenever you find you are having a good day, take a look at what is going on add it to the list. Do the same with the negative side and know what things activate your tinnitus and make it worse.

Stick this list on a prominent place like the fridge for a month or two and build up more awareness of what works for you. Obviously you may reach some important conclusions about you, your lifestyle and your activities by the end of this. It may help you to become clear about what to avoid and what to work on.

You may feel that your tinnitus is fairly constant. If this is the case, notice when you feel things are more manageable, or when things become more unbearable. People often think their tinnitus is fixed, but on closer inspection notice it actually changes much more than they realised. What we believe is the case is very often different to the way things really are.

Technique 4: Knowing what matters to you

Technique 4:    Knowing what matters to you

One day I sat down and made a long list of all the things that I loved. I started slowly but after a few minutes I really got into it. Much to my surprise I ended up spending a couple of hours doing this and amazingly it brought up tears, and a much greater sense of clarity. I really recommend this.

Tell everyone to leave you alone for a while. No phone calls or interruptions are allowed. Get a large piece of paper and evenly spaced out all over it, write different categories of things that you could describe from your life, eg: people, animals, places, work, dreams, memories, plants, smells, activities, hobbies, body sensations, thoughts, pieces of music, philosophies, writers, poets, and so on. Then in clusters around these words list all the different things that you love and that really matter to you. Give yourself plenty of time.

If this sounds too complicated, just start writing a list of all the things you love. Make it as long as possible. Keep adding to it.

It sounds so simple, but as you do it you learn something important about yourself. Sometimes you can feel something open up inside. It can leave you feeling warm, expansive and quite simply joyful. NB Beware of the saboteur, as it really likes sabotaging this one! Thoughts like: what a load of nonsense, what on earth is this going to achieve, that’s too new-age for me, etc can actually be just a way of avoiding your heart. I made a decision to change my career path after doing this. It helped me get a sense of the kind of work I needed to do.

Technique 5: How do you view yourself?

Technique 5:    How do you view yourself?

Try doing the same thing, but this time base it on yourself. Write category words that could relate to you like: personality, looks, talents, strengths, interests, loves, originalities, clothes, taste, intelligence, desires, contributions, relationships etc. and then list all the good qualities about you. This can be an incredibly revealing exercise. You may well end up staring at the truth of how you treat yourself, view yourself and drive yourself around like a donkey. This can be a real heart-melter. Once again, tell the saboteur to jump in a lake while you have a deeper look at yourself. If you do this properly, you can really start to bring in a whole new depth to looking after yourself, a bit like becoming your own therapist. It literally helps you warm to yourself and appreciate you in a way that you quite often miss!

If there is any resistance to doing this, look at it. What are you afraid of? What is stopping you from loving and appreciating yourself?