The “C”quence of Healing Chronic Illness

posted in: Recent, Stage 3, Stage 3: Step 4


  • Connecting to every aspect of your life is difficult but is at the core of allowing your body to heal.
  • “Being” with your past may be challenging but is necessary in order to learn and grow.
  •  It is the opposite of pursuing self-esteem, which separates you from you.
  • The “C” quence is connection, confidence, and creativity. Creativity is where deep healing happensthrough neuroplasticity.

Connecting to your past provides “neuroshment”1 for healing.

Safety vs. threat

Feeling safe is a basic need and core driving force of life. We’ll resort to whatever means required in order to achieve it. A state of safety allows growth, regeneration, optimum function, good health, and a deep sense of contentment. Feeling threatened causes your body to go into a “flight or fight” reaction, which consists of stress hormones, increased fuel consumption, excitatory neurotransmitters, inflammation, and anxiety. A term for this reaction is, “threat physiology”.

Life is sustainable because the body regenerates and heals, but it must be in a safe state for enough time to refuel, strengthen, and build up reserves to fight another day. Even severe stress can be dealt with when there is enough time in safety to regenerate. So, healing happens by decreasing time in threat and increasing time in safety. These are separate, but linked sets of skills. One is using methods to lower the levels of stress chemicals and the other is learning to nurture joy.

This journey is reflected in a metaphor of a tree that I call, the “C”quence of healing allowing you go from reactive to creative.

  • Connection
  • Confidence
  • Creativity

CONNECTION – the soil

The ground represents every second of your entire past and is the source for learning and future growth. There is one major root in any tree, called the taproot, which grows straight down in search of water and nutrients. The trees with deepest ones are found in harsh dry environments. A tree may initially show little growth for a few years until the taproot is more mature. Roots grow relentlessly and will even grow through rock. The more developed and complex the root system, the better the chances for survival and growth.

All humans have experienced some degree of trauma. Our needs are not always immediately met even in the best of circumstances, and adversity never stops. Many people have suffered severe, even extreme childhood trauma, and there is plenty more to be had in adulthood. We don’t feel good about it and might even feel ashamed.

As a result, considerable time and energy is spent on analyzing, fixing, covering up, whitewashing, or suppressing the past. Somehow, we feel that by spending a lot of time dealing with past, we’ll have a better life. The problem is that your attention is focused on the problems and not the solutions. Since your incredibly adaptable brain develops where you place your attention, you are magnifying the unpleasant aspects of your life. Focusing on fixing the past also requires a lot of energy that could be used in dealing with the present, and thriving.


Specific skills are required to allow you to be with your past, as much of it may be unpleasant, painful, and difficult to be with. Digging in and being with your past is the opposite of seeking self-esteem. One patient who successfully broke free from 55 years of pain coined a term for using the past for future growth,“neuroshment.” Your brain physically changes its structure as it adapts to ongoing sensory input. This property is called neuroplasticity, and you can create the brain of your choice.


The trunk represents the confidence that emanates from being able to deal with every aspect of your life and not run from it. Since, there are many ways to effectively process the past, you are grounded and can deal with even severe adversity.

The term for this set of skills is “dynamic healing.” It acknowledges the interactions between you and your circumstances that create flight-or-fight body chemistry. There are many tools in each portal, none of them are difficult, but require learning and repetition to master them.

Anytime you are anxious or frustrated, you are reacting to something unpleasant from the past. You are in flight or fight, the blood flow to your neocortex (thinking brain). It is impossible to think clearly. You have also lost awareness of the present moment. These survival reactions are powerful, automatic, and you have no control over them. It is the reason that being with the past is difficult and specific tools are required to regulate your body back into safety. Deeply connecting with who you are provides “neuroshment” for future growth and confidence to deal with life’s challenges. This is a sharp contrast to seeking self-esteem to “feel better” about yourself. You are not grounded.


Connection and confidence represent the skills needed to regulate your threat physiology, but healing occurs with creativity. Brain circuits are stimulated reflecting the life you want as you “rebuild” the brain (life) that you choose. You cannot “fix” yourself. Your attention is on the problem and where your brain will develop (neuroplasticity).

But you can’t pursue pleasure in order counteract the survival circuits. They are too powerful and relentless, and your creative brain doesn’t work well while in threat physiology. Pursuing pleasure to outrun your unpleasant survival sensations has been shown to increase inflammation.2

The concept of healing through creativity is possibly the most important and difficult to comprehend and put into action. We are programmed to react and fix and are uncomfortable letting go. But you must let to in order to move forward. If you take the letter “C” out from “reactive”, it becomes “Creative.” You must become aware, create some “space” to see first in order to be able to make rational choices.

Deep healing

Sustained stress keeps your body activated, breaks it down, and increases the odds of developing a chronic mental or physical disease. The relevant issues are the intensity, duration, and your coping skills. Consider how long it would take for your car to break down if you were driving down the freeway at 70 mph in second gear. What if the car (your body) wasn’t tuned up, hadn’t had regular service, or was a cheap model? Compare this scenario to cruising in a well-maintained luxury car in 5th gear at the same speed. You could drive for a long time. Your body isn’t so different. What model of car are you and how are you caring for you?



“Neuroshment” from a complex root system and solid trunk, allows a tree to grow branches of all sizes. You willconnect into your creativity and train your brain to evolve in any direction. This is where the deepest healing occurs. You are moving towards joy and away from pain.

Nurturing joy requires skills that few of us are taught. Creativity requires awareness, and you must see “C” first in order to know where you are at and then make ongoing proactive choices.

In order to reach higher, you must first dig deeper. Consider a tree as a metaphor for your healing journey. Become a professional at living life and watch your life change from ReaCtive to Creative.

Questions and considerations

  1. Many, if not most of us have a less than ideal past. The human experience is messy. What you perceived as dangerous as a child is probably not threatening as an adult. But your brain doesn’t know that and will continue to react similar cues.
  2. How do you feel when your attention lands on emotionally difficult situations from the past or is triggered by an event today? Reassuring yourself that you are OK actually places your attention on the problem and reinforces it.
  3. Connecting with every aspect of your past and allowing yourself to be with a wide range of unpleasant emotions causes them to lessen. However, the discomfort you feel may be intolerable. There are ways to train yourself to be with these feelings and move forward.
  4. Consider how much effort we spend trying to “fix” ourselves. It can’t and doesn’t work. Remember when you felt that life had endless possibilities. How did it feel? That is where you want to return.
  5. The most important shift in thinking about having a better life is that it happens by nurturing creativity and joy. But you have to let go in order to move forward. It is a daily ongoing process that allows you to “rebuild” your brain and live the life of your choice. Quit fighting darkness; turn on the lights.


  1. Term coined by Rita Salvador who learned to thrive after being in chronic mental and physical pain for over 55 years.
  2. Cole SW, et al. Social Regulation of gene expression in human leukocytes. Genome Biology (2007); 8:R189. doi: 10.1186/gb-2007-8-9-r189