I'm known as an author of spiritual books and card decks. Although I studied and practiced psychology for years, I've been focused upon spirituality even longer.
This book doesn't discuss spirituality, but it was born of a spiritual experience in which I received a surprising inner message.
The inner message came when I was in San Francisco, as part of a book tour. After 25 years on the road, I was feeling burned–out with travel. I loved teaching and meeting audiences, but getting to each city had become a major drag. I'd grown highly sensitized to things like the intensity of airport security stations, urban traffic and noise, air pollution, and staying on frantic travel schedules. In addition, it was difficult to maintain my self-care routine on the road.
I wanted to stop touring, but it was the only way that I knew of to teach about my books. It was a career habit. Still, I was stressed–out from traveling, and it was getting to me. Then it happened: I hit bottom with the stress. I was at the airport on my way to San Francisco. I'd just taught a workshop in Toronto during one of its snowy wintry weekends. I was feeling cold and tired.
When I checked in to the Toronto airport, the airline representative told me that I'd been randomly selected for extra security-measure screenings. I'd have to go through a manual pat–down and additional x–ray screenings! She handed me my boarding pass, which was prominently marked with the letters SSSS, a code for extra airport screening.
I began to cry with frustration. Usually, I could muster up a positive way to deal with airport security, such as prayer, engaging the security officers in conversation, or reminding myself that security was a measure to keep all passengers safe. But unbeknownst to me at the time, my diet, life stress, and unresolved traumas from my past had maxed me out to the point where I wasn't able to access my normal positive coping strategies.
The thought of doing additional security screening pushed me over the edge, and I was in tears of extreme anguish. I loved writing and teaching, but the constant travel felt like I was trapped on a treadmill with no way off.
When I arrived in San Francisco on what seemed to be an extra-long flight, I decided that&nsash;no matter what the consequences—I had to stop traveling.
Then, the next day as I was walked along Post Street in Union Square, I heard the inner message that is the basis of this book. It was one sentence, which was so profound and rung so true that I was stopped in my tracks in front of the Tiffany store so that I could write it down:
“The reason why you and so many people are experiencing life drama is because you're addicted to histamine.”
I heard this message as clearly as if another person was talking with me (which is the usual way I've received spiritual messages since childhood). Now, lest you think I was having auditory hallucinations, please know that my master's program in counseling psychology at Chapman University required all students to undergo a battery of psychological screening tests. I passed all of these tests and received my degree.
Researcher D. J. West gave this definition of the difference between a hallucination and a true psychic experience: Pathological hallucinations tend to keep to certain rather rigid patterns, to occur repeatedly during a manifest illness but not at other times, and to be accompanied by other symptoms and particularly by disturbances of consciousness and loss of awareness of the normal surroundings. The spontaneous psychic [now often called “paranormal”] experience is more often an isolated event disconnected from any illness or known disturbance and definitely not accompanied by any loss of contact with normal surroundings. (West 1960)
Well, I definitely was in contact with my surroundings when I heard the message. I've also been 100 percent sober since 2003, so it wasn't a product of intoxication.
Studies show that the difference between an auditory hallucination and a true psychic experience is that the former is negative or ego-based, and the latter is positive. And this was a positive message.
There was an Aha! sensation accompanying this message, but I didn't yet know the scope of its impact. I was somewhat familiar with the physiology of histamine. Intuitively, I felt that the words were pointing to my addictive cycle with histamine produced by life stress and drama.
So, I wrote down the message and even posted it in my daily blog on Facebook. But then I forgot about it, until happenstance (which felt like Divine intervention) had the old quote I'd written on Facebook pop up one day.
That's when I began researching the addiction to histamine, and I was blown away by what I found! I realized that my meltdown at the Toronto airport was largely a buildup of my eating a high-histamine diet, being overwhelmed with stress (which increases histamine levels), and not taking the time to face and deal with past traumas I'd experienced.
Ironically, as an addictions and eating disorder therapist, I'd studied and treated trauma for decades. My doctoral dissertation was on the link between child abuse and the development of addictions, which later became the basis for my book about addiction and eating disorders called Losing Your Pounds of Pain. I'd attended workshops given by the pioneers of trauma research, including Drs. Peter Levine and Bessel van der Kolk.
I'd even remarked to a fellow psychotherapist that Dr. Levine's descriptions of trauma sounded like my own. My colleague promptly scolded me for even considering that I might have experienced a trauma, since I hadn't been to war or been abused as a child (the two types of trauma most often connected to post-traumatic stress disorder). He berated me for using the term trauma lightly.
So I shrunk into a shell of apologies (probably because of the trauma I'd experienced) and decided that he must have been right. Since my traumas didn't involve child abuse or combat, I dismissed them. I overlooked the impact that these painful experiences had on my life.
After conducting the research for this book, though, I discovered that the definition of trauma is quite broad, and it turns out to include any situation where we feel horrified, helpless, or intensely fearful that we'll lose our lives. My experiences were traumatic by these definitions, and they did reorganize my body and brain chemistry, as well as leave me with psychological scars. I wasn't using the term trauma lightly at all, according to the research I studied. This was real trauma, for a lot of us.
This shows the level of denial that can block trauma recovery. Even with my clinical background, I didn't recognize my own post-trauma symptoms and had minimized the impact of what I'd endured. My colleague was also in denial, perhaps because he wasn't willing to face his own traumas.
Based upon my research, I began working on healing. I followed every recommendation for trauma healing you'll read about in this book, and found that it helped a lot.
At first, like a lot of trauma survivors, I was impatient and wanted immediate results. Once I caught myself in this behavior, I realized that patterns take consistent commitment to heal. After three or four months, I noticed a huge positive shift within myself. I felt a new level of happiness and contentment that I didn't even know existed. I finally understood how my old trauma patterns had attracted drama in my present life. Once I saw this dynamic, I made a conscious decision to “Drama Detox,” and the patterns faded away.
To my delight, the emotional detox healed me physically as well, as bloating and itchy skin symptoms I'd experienced also disappeared. I could see the cheekbones of my face again! Following the methods you'll read about in this book also helped me transition my career smoothly. Friends remarked that I looked years younger, and I felt that way. A warm peacefulness in my heart replaced the gripping stress I'd become accustomed to.