What Can Your IBS Symptoms Reveal About Your IBS?
What Captures Your Attention?
We’ve all been to parties, happily engaged in a conversation, totally oblivious to all the conversations simultaneously occurring around us. Then, suddenly, our attention shifts. Something irresistibly grabs our us. We disengage from our current conversation and intently but casually (so as not to offend the person with whom we are speaking) tune into what someone else is saying about something in which we are emotionally invested.
What is going on here? This can only happen because our brain is actively monitoring many things at once. But, we are only actively aware of one of two of them at a time. Studies suggest that up to 90% of what is happening in or around us is being actively tracked by our subconscious internal and external sensors, while our conscious mind remains totally unaware.
Who Knows What?
Our selective attention abilities represent an important resource when it comes to managing IBS. Many IBS sufferers also describe feeling anxious, depressed, fatigued, achy, or report other symptoms.
Many mistakenly believe, or are told by well-meaning but under-informed health professionals, that these symptoms represent something independent of their gut-related concerns. They may even begin seeing different specialists for each separate symptom, rapidly losing perspective on the common root of many of their struggles.
In most cases, it is a false assumption that all these symptoms are independent. In reality, ALL these symptoms tend to be linked together through the multi-lane communication systems that carry important information about internal and external concerns to the brain and aware mind, and back to the body. It is hard to determine what comes first. Which is the chicken and which is the egg? What is the cause and what is the effect?
Tuning in and Taking in
This mystery is the reason why learning to tune in and take in the various sources of information that are flowing in and through us all the time is so important. There are many practices that allow us to become aware of what is being carried by these communication channels.
Sometimes, our gut, perhaps in the form of IBS symptoms, is what is most obvious to us. For others, feelings of sadness, anxiety, or worry appear first. Still others may find changes in behaviors such as sleep, energy, or memory/focusing ability.
The point is that ALL of these may be signs of something that is off in our lives. ALL of these signs are signals inviting us to tune in to what is off within us and take in what is off in different aspects of our lives around us. ALL of them ultimately arise from the same source: a unified, interconnected inner wholeness that is designed to guide us along the road to health and fulfillment in life.
How to Listen
My experience is that clients benefit most quickly from developing practices that involve slowing down, focusing in, removing external distractions, and learning to listen deeply. That can involve a walk in nature, a quiet session of meditation or prayer, jotting down observations in a self-reflective journal, or immersing yourself in a book of poetry or some other contemplative work.
The point is, your symptoms are actually signs and signals. They are signposts to guide you along your life journey. While managing them is important, learning to listen to what they have to say about you and your life is even more important. As J. Ruth Gendler said, listening “never tells me what to think or feel or do but shows me how to find out what I need to know.”
Are you ready to listen?