The Hazards of Awakening
“Why—” Lyra began, and found her voice weak and trembling—“why can’t I read the alethiometer anymore? Why can’t I even do that? That was the one thing I could do really well, and it’s just not there anymore—it just vanished as if it had never come . . .”
“You read it by grace,” said Xaphania, looking at her, “and you can regain it by work.”
“How long will that take?”
“That long . . .”
“But your reading will be even better then, after a lifetime of thought and effort, because it will come from conscious understanding. Grace attained like that is deeper and fuller than grace that comes freely, and furthermore, once you’ve gained it, it will never leave you.”
“You mean a full lifetime, don’t you?” Lyra whispered. “A whole long life? Not . . . not just . . . a few years . . .”
“Yes, I do,” said the angel.
A few months ago I wrote a post musing about the difference between healthy sensitivity, like being appropriately responsive to things one should be responsive to, and pathological sensitivity, a temporary hyper-responsiveness due to illness. A healthy sensitivity is one that increases with increasing health. A pathological sensitivity is one that increases with worsening health. They can be hard to tell apart. Despite being obnoxious, pathological sensitivities still need to be calmly respected while they exist. It won’t do any good to ignore them nor resent them. So the good news is that in either case listening to what your body is telling you is important.
A lot of friends come to me with concerns about their health and their increasing sensitivities like emotional lability, lower tolerance for interacting with people, and food and alcohol problems because they know it is my main jam. Most of these people are in their 30’s. Is their maturity leading them toward increased awareness and lower tolerance for lower vibrational endeavors, or having trashed their bodies and souls for three decades are they finally reaching a breaking point where the effects are catching up to them, or a little of both?
More Sensitivity = Better Health?
Since I wrote that post I’ve spent even more time thinking about this concept, in particular the part about getting even more sensitive as a part of the healing process. Or the growth process. I write a lot about chronic illness, but in the course of a normal life I believe that healing/growth will often occur. There seems to be a general, almost inescapable trend in the universe, a tide, toward growth and complexity and expansion. Even horrible choices and experiences that trash and traumatize a soul add layers of depth. Mmmm, precious depth. I salivate at the essence. Oh how I crave lovers with that quality...provided they are not too presently mired in the darkness.
This getting more sensitive due to progress thing doesn’t seem to be talked about very often but seems like it might be a real phenomenon. I’m sure it is a real phenomenon when it comes to developing a distaste for/susceptibility to poor-quality foods, and it seems to be a real phenomenon with other things I have encountered as well. I think that due to an expansion of their own consciousness/purification of their own energy body one can become more aware of/repulsed by/and responsive to things like toxic chemicals, electromagnetic field effects, people that are energy vampires, negative vortexes (any places that are uncomfortable to go due to their shitty ambiance, like strip malls), etc.
Disease symptoms or negative synchronicities (bad luck, non-flow, objects breaking or witnessing others experiencing unpleasantness) or both can result from exposures to vibration-lowering people, places, and things. Synchronicities are basically “symptoms” that show up in your external reality. These repercussions are especially obvious if the baseline has risen to exclude exposure on most occasions so that the rare exposures stand out in high-definition, although, technically, a shift in consciousness could happen instantly that makes the darkness stand out in higher contrast given the new light shown upon it. For example, an old friend may point out what a narcissistic asshole your boyfriend is and all of the sudden you find yourself in agreement, you can no longer look at things the same way. Just from having your consciousness seize upon the truth your vibration has raised enough that although you previously experienced no obvious “symptoms” from living with your boyfriend, they begin to occur, as if to urge you in the direction of leaving.
The way I see it is I imagine a high-jumping bar. When you take actions that increase your overall vibration, on purpose or by accident, your inner coach raises the bar, because they see you can jump over it. And you can because you are getting stronger. Life is good. But if you fall back into old habits, all the sudden the bar is still high, but you can’t jump over it. Life becomes frustrating and painful and “accidents” happen. It takes few screw ups before the coach heaves a disappointed sigh and lowers the bar for you again and acute badness stops happening for you. There is a lag time. Because there is this lag time, life can be very shitty if you behave inconsistently. It is best to make changes as slowly and methodically as possible and make sure they can be held sustainably. Mastery is a word that comes to mind here.
Like detoxing or the healing crisis or the Herxheimer reaction this whole phenomenon is very confusing. Am I getting better, but having a hard time keeping up with the demands of my inner coach? Or am I just getting worse? All you can do is hazard a guess based on the sequence of events. For example if you notice an increase in negative symptoms/synchronicities after a mega dose of exposure to something suspicious you might just be getting worse, more toxic, more burdened, more unstable, lower vibration. The bar is the same height it has always been, but you’re not doing your part to make it over. For example you move into a new office contaminated with mold. You get more symptomatic because of it. End of story.
However, if you notice an increase in negative symptoms/synchronicities after trying to avoid something for a period of time, or perhaps avoiding other related things that were dragging your energy down, or you’ve been working on yourself and your healing and have some objective evidence that your life and trajectory is on the upswing overall, and yet you spontaneously no longer seem to be able to tolerate things that used to be no sweat off your back, you might be having a...what shall we call this phenomenon...an awakening of the senses? I’ll call it “awakening” for short. The bar has, perhaps without your conscious knowledge, gotten higher. In this case the moldy office would be equally bothersome but your body would be saying, “Jesus H. Christ, I’ve been trying to warn you about this stuff for years! It’s about time you actually heard me! Thank heavens, now you might actually stay away from this it.” You’ve newly awakened to a long-term mold sensitivity.
The annoying thing about the bar is that no matter how great your life is going you can still mess up. The inner coach has no sympathy. You aren’t ever immune from lowering your vibration from it’s current set point and suffering the repercussions. The good thing about the bar is that the higher it goes, the higher overall baseline of your life (better health, more abundance, more ease and satisfaction). There are always more thrilling and glorious heights to achieve and the bar always there to guide you in the right direction. If there were not set up this way wouldn’t you get a little bit bored?
Where Does This Theory Come From?
Is there any precedence for this bar hypothesis of mine? Besides what I’ve extrapolated and observed from nearly three years of working with guru Kevin and arguing with him about whether I’m getting better or worse, I think the closest description we have of this scenario in popular culture comes from new age interpretations of kundalini raising and consciousness expansion. You might have read on a website that “separating from old friends who no longer hold your vibration” or “no longer being able to tolerate drugs and alcohol” were signs of a 2012 shift or something similar.
Personally, I’ve never found shifts in consciousness to come from external forces like the movements of the planets, but I essentially agree that raising the vibration, through any means, can make things which were enjoyable and not previously toxic, at least not obviously so, seem to suddenly become toxic and intolerable. So for example meditating or doing yoga or qi gong a lot could hypothetically have the side effect of cleansing the system making alcohol increasingly unpleasant to consume even if the rate at which it is consumed doesn’t change at all. This is different that cutting out alcohol on purpose and subsequently losing the taste for it though both are examples of what I’ll call awakening.
The vibrational bar makes toxicity relative to an extent. Working at the gas station is probably a great step for someone who has never had a job. Probably not so great for someone with a Master’s degree in physics. What is right for one person is not right for another. It also is common to get all the good you can out of a relationship or situation and outgrow things in a short period of time and have them turn sour. And we are all pleased if someone who previously smoked a pack of cigarettes a day, now smokes one cigarette a day, even if they have farther to go.
Though the cigarette thing reminds me that on the rare occasion negativity arises from merely having the intention and not following through thoroughly enough. Earlier I gave the example of how merely realizing the truth of being in a bad relationship could start to make bad things happen as long as the woman remained in the relationship. If the woman in this example made plans to leave her partner in one month when she saved more money, she might expect her plans to go well. She’s moving in the right direction isn’t she? Well, unfortunately is it isn’t that simple, she might have problems around making these arrangements because she needs to leave EARLIER. She raised her vibration with this brilliant idea that she was going to leave, and tarnished it with actions that didn’t match her lofty intentions. Her inner coach is telling her, “Sorry, jump a little higher please. I know you can do it.”
A Systems Theory Approach
In the case of a chronic illness like chronic fatigue syndrome, the awakening phenomenon would be based on the idea that your body was suffering from a case “neurovegetative exhaustion” similar to what we think of as the final stages of adrenal fatigue, and has started to come out of it. I pulled that term from an article exploring whether or not exposure to cordless phone signal caused significant changes in the heart rate variability of self-proclaimed electrohypersensitive people (answer: yes, but not all due perhaps to “neurovegetative exhaustion” or “sufficient adaptive capacity”). Basically in the state of neurovegetative exhaustion the body doesn’t have enough time or energy to react and alert you to something bad for you because it has been continually exposed to that thing or other bad things, and continually knocked off-center and drained.
From the viewpoint of systems theory, the body and its organs are animated by a set of oscillating biofeedback systems which are tuned and orchestrated by internal forces and external environmental inputs like light, movement, food and the forces of gravity. The evolutionary science aspects of rewilding and common sense (you can’t live the Mars) suggest that the human body is adapted best to a certain range of inputs. It NEEDS them or it will suffer and eventually die. The bodily system is of course quite flexible, allowing people to thrive in sub-par conditions like the Arctic Tundra...or public school.
The overlapping of smaller systems is also a brilliant safety and stability mechanism because it allows some which are stronger to compensate for others which are weaker and thus stress is not always immediately apparent. Too many disturbances will eventually cause system breakdown and inability to maintain homeostasis around the certain range of set points necessary for good health. There are red flags that happen during the compensation stage, but mostly we are trained to ignore them. You could say that in the born sensitive, someone with a highly refined nervous system, everything that is destabilizing to a normal person rocks our boat even more. We walk a finer tightrope. Or said another way the bar has to be set much higher for us to feel good.
As I pointed out in my last blog, the Earth is a fairly toxic place and the status quo is very much a liability, for EVERYONE, especially the sensitive. I said a few paragraphs ago that toxicity is relative, but now I am saying it is also not. I believe humans, sensitive or not, have a general range of nurturing habitat requirements, just as do apes or snails. There may be an alien race for which the most pristine environmental conditions we find here on Earth would be biologically toxic, and what we would consider an easy, carefree life would be horribly traumatic. I believe that because society is not so great at providing healthy habitats/inputs, if high level physical, mental, or spiritual well-being is your aim you MUST somehow rise above the status quo. You may be able to make up for exposure to physical toxins with a lot of psychospiritual work to clear your energy but you have to do one or the other.
For some people well-being is not their aim. Their aim may be fun or adventure or despotism or something else, but I’m a big fan of letting people know the facts so they can make their choices, and at present the status quo being normal conceals the fact that is isn’t very healthy. Minor ailments (or major ones treated by pharmaceutical drugs), a loss of inner vitality, a sense of emptiness, and mediocre employment and relationships, are all the result of living according to the status quo. The status quo doesn’t even recognize synchronicity, but only randomness or God’s will, so negative events don’t even trigger an alarm bell for many people.
If that all sounds depressing, and unnatural, like literally “why on Earth” would things be this way, why would they not be abundantly supportive of health and happiness, imagine Earth as a video game world that YOU picked out. You picked a world in which you would have to struggle, and a level of difficulty based on your birthplace and circumstances, and now you have to work hard to “win” but a feature of all games is that winning is possible. So give yourself a pat on the back for being brave and choosing this challenging world. The Earth may be sort of like how the first immigrants saw traveling to America: fraught with danger but worth it purely for the opportunity. In the short run it seems like an exhausting travail, but in the long run everything is flawlessly designed and Good.
The Numbing and Dumbing of the Organism
Stay with me here. An important point is this: because the system aka the body relies on environmental inputs (information) to maintain stability and health (relies on being perturbed, and oscillating in response to perturbances), specific inputs matter, but the frequency of those inputs also matters. Too little exposure to something or too much can both cause the system to dysregulate. For example, the human organism relies on the daily sun cycle to set a strong circadian rhythm. Both the amount and timing of light exposure have to be within certain bounds for the human animal to function properly. People living in complete darkness or cut off from natural sunlight tend to go crazy. Most modern people experience too little exposure to natural sunlight during the day, but too much exposure to artificial light at night. This causes the melatonin cycle to dysregulate and contributes to insomnia, among other things. I’m sure you can think of other Goldilocks-type inputs. Too little touch causes babies to wither, too much working inhibits productivity.
Now, a lot of people use aspects of this perturbance theory to point out that small regular doses of certain types of stress are good, bringing up exercise and hormesis. It is true, people often perform better under light stress, and many plant toxins have stimulating or medicinal roles in the body. But people will then use this hormesis point to defend their shitty lifestyle, oh “I need to eat some junk food once in a while, it keeps me healthy, keeps my organs on their toes.” Unfortunately that isn’t exactly how this works. The reason such mild stressors are good for any creature is because in nature the average life supplies an average amount of them which is the amount that organism has adapted to over millennia. Sadly, there is NO evolutionary biological precedent for a lot of the things people do ALL DAY, EVERYDAY like sit in chairs, eat copious amounts of sugar, drink and bathe in fluoridated chlorinated water, and use electricity.
Why am I going on about all this? Because I propose this constant overexposure (or underexposure) to certain stressors is a major reason why most people suffer to some extent from neurovegetative exhaustion or numbness on at least some levels their whole lives, unless they radically change their lifestyle away from the status quo. This means that not just sick people, but EVERYONE has a chance to raise the bar for themselves. Becoming more sensitive could easily be a hot new goal. There is room for the Übermensch in this theory...but, like, not in a creepy way. Super sensitive, super human.
I’m just trying to dissuade people from the idea that subjecting oneself to all manner of abuse marks or builds toughness and resilience, because resilience might be easily confused with numbness and dumbness, and true resilience might at some point be characterized by a level of responsiveness that is not considered “normal”.
The idea that people experience some types of unnatural stressors their entire life also explains how they could descend into chronic illness without acute symptoms in response to specific triggers on the way down and why climbing out of illness is not necessarily the mirror image in that sense. There has to be a break in the stimulation in order for the effects of a single thing to stand out amongst the background noise. When I was in college and first becoming ill, I did experiences some oscillations in my well-being. I was able to come back to my dorm room and breathe out my chronic pain, but I was bombarded constantly with EMF, chemical, food, and social stressors and not at all aware that those things could be making me ill. It is no surprise that eventually the oscillations stopped and I became stuck in one crappy state.
Disassociation as Coping Mechanism
Do you know what the sensitive plant is? Its a little legume that when you touch the leaves, they close up. Scientists, by putting these poor little plants through all manner of abuse, have found they have a memory of sorts, and that they can be trained to ignore stressful stimuli. For example, if they get dropped they will close their leaves. But if they get dropped over and over again, they will start to ignore the impact and not close their leaves! Are they just tired and out of leaf-closing chemicals? No, because if they get shaken, the close their leaves again. The plants also retain their memory of being dropped. After a whole month of not being dropped they still don’t close their leaves. Apparently the plants are only experiencing this neurovegetative exhaustion ( Ha! get it? Vegetation!) in response to certain stimuli. People, I think are the same way. They can become disassociated from specific stressors without suffering full-blown adrenal fatigue.
Experiments with dogs show similar kinds of unresponsiveness or “learned helplessness” in response to shocks that are unavoidable. Even if circumstances change so that the shocks can be easily avoided it is difficult to get them to move. Perhaps similar to these dogs and plants people and their bodies learn to be physically or psychologically unresponsive to stressors which seem consistent and unavoidable.
Such adaptive coping behaviors preserve health given such circumstances, but people, unlike dogs or plants, can change their own circumstances...provided they are conscious enough to see the value in doing so. Many of us are “dropping” ourselves and “shocking” ourselves without even knowing it. I’m sure there are many ways I am unconsciously harming myself, and many more which I am aware of but haven’t been masterful enough at avoiding. Life is very difficult.
Shit Lakes Vs. Shit Lightning
If it weren’t obvious from the unsavory connotations of the two words, there is a price to be paid for being numb and dumb to life’s stressors. Neurovegetative exhaustion actually does come with symptoms but the symptoms are more of what I call “chronic shit life” than acute symptoms, and thus somewhat invisible. What is important to note here is that as healthy sensitivity increases the old repercussions and the new repercussions of doing the same thing are not the necessarily the same. Ah, were life that simple. But no, it is NOT simply that the person is more aware of the same symptom. For example if before an individual ate wheat and had diarrhea constantly but didn’t know why and now that they don’t eat wheat they only have diarrhea on the rare occasion when they break their diet, that would NOT be an example of this phenomenon. They aren’t becoming more sensitive to wheat in this example, they are only becoming more aware of a pre-existing sensitivity.
What I mean by this phenomenon is that such a person would have been able to eat wheat regularly without diarrhea but with some other spread out, not very recognizable repercussion: extra fatigue, extra depression, extra “bad luck” in life, something vague but overarching. Or maybe they would just have some milder digestive upset like gas or loose stool. The body wouldn’t be able to rally enough forces to mount a reaction. It would be like a drunk dude watching television in a recliner. It would weakly lift a limp wrist in protest and say “eh, whatever” letting it fall again.
Then, after cutting out wheat this person would get something acute and obvious and distressing like explosive diarrhea or a migraine headache or a severe mood swing when they ate it again. There would be no question what it was tied to. At the same time that fatigue or moodiness or “bad luck” would have improved but the improvement would be spread out, say 10% less depression or less fatigue each and every hour of every day, such that they would hardly notice it. So because they still have some depression, but they have these new acute symptoms it would appear they simply “got worse”.
It’s like this: continuous exposure to something unhealthy, perturbations at a frequency beyond what the organism is designed for, cause this neurovegetative exhaustion which causes symptoms or synchronicities to manifest differently and be distributed in a “shit lake” wide and shallow, whereas intermittent exposure causes the symptoms or synchronicities to be dispersed as “shit lightening” condensed and extreme and more obviously correlated to the perpetrator.
The Four States of Health
I am suggesting that most people start out their life in an apparently healthy state of being in which their systems can compensate for one another to hide the worst symptoms and which they are more or less reacting appropriately albeit to inappropriately continuous stressors that offer no breaks for comparison. There are subtle signs that all is not well, but they remain ignorant of the mechanics of the Universe and their true potential, and accept their life as normal, which it is. After awhile of this they will enter a pathological state of being in which they can’t compensate to maintain homeostasis and the systems start to show irrefutable evidence of break down. Some of us call this chronic illness. Most people call this aging. (I’m not suggesting immortality is a possibility, but rather that aging could happen slower and more gracefully).
I am suggesting that there is a third state, we’ll call it the awakening state in which the body’s ability to compensate and react to negative events is actually improving. The flat line of neurovegetative exhaustion is disappearing and the internal variability in response to stressors is back, or perhaps there for the first time ever. It seems extreme and unhealthy and the opposite of resilience but it actually isn’t. It’s like the body/soul wanted to tell you what was wrong all along, but it couldn’t find the voice, or it couldn’t get a word in edgewise. By you withdrawing from some stressors, it recuperated enough for its “vocal cords” to come online so that it could complain about those same stressors or others it is experiencing. It finally has the energy to say “Hey! It really bothers me when you do that!”
Furthermore, because what the body/soul can or can’t handle is relative to it’s current state, it may actually get less sensitive over time as it heals. Confused yet? As you can imagine it is a little bit touchy as the climb out of neurovegetative exhaustion begins, easily “triggered” and hypervigilant just like a person who has undergone psychological abuse. Now that you know what it doesn’t like, it needs you to be gentle and cautious and nurturing and continue giving it a break from similar situations until it heals enough to tolerate some reasonable amount of stress without getting worked up. This is how you get rid of pathological sensitivities (allergies) while retaining healthy sensitivity (acute awareness). We’ll call the fourth and final state the true health state. Achieving true health is probably like achieving self-actualization, there are levels upon levels so the pursuit never really ends.
So oddly enough, getting better, in illness or in life, can mean going through a phase where you can’t hardly stand anything until your nerves are calmed after all those years of overwhelm. Waking up is probably one of the hardest things about healing. It can be really difficult to rearrange things satisfy all of these new demands and honor all of these new sensitivities, but don’t forget, the overall baseline of life gets subtly better at the same time acute symptoms feel much worse.
And what of the fact that some improve their life with supplements or detox measures or brain retaining techniques, or energy/shamanic type practices and never go through a hypersensitive awakening phase and/ or a slow and difficult process of experimentation and fasting and observing what sorts of things are raising and lowering their vibration? Honestly, I don’t know. I think healing CAN be fast. But I’ve tried the pills and the smoothies, and the tapping, and the psychedelics and they haven’t worked for me yet. My life and my approach to healing (same thing, healing consumes my life) is something like a cross between getting a Master’s degree in “environmental studies” and the seemingly never-ending, seven-season murder mystery show Pretty Little Liars, at least according to my dream imagery.
Those individuals may not have been as sensitive to begin with, meaning their bar doesn’t need to be set as high and they don't need to alter their lifestyle as much for them to begin to feel good again. Or they may have been equally as sensitive to begin with but not been as downtrodden on as many levels due to better life circumstances, meaning they has less layers of exhaustion to wake up from and less broken systems to get back online. They may bump up their energy very quickly and dramatically leapfrogging right from exhaustion to health. Or they may never reach the same level of health and self-knowledge someone who has gone through that careful observation process is able to reach. They may return to a state of apparent health without achieving this state of supersensitive health I’m calling “true health”. This is why I chose the quote at the beginning of the article.
A Real World Example
To what extent has the awakening phenomenon played a role in my own symptomology? A real life example is that I cut down down on EMF exposure for one month. In particular I went from using my computer all day long to hardly at all. When I resumed using my computer again I started to feel really mentally unstable, like in an overwhelming and acute way, even though I hadn’t particularly noticed being more mentally stable during the computer fast as opposed to before the computer fast, which was pretty fucking annoying. You’re telling me now I can’t use my computer like I used to without wanting to blow my brains out? That's an example of shit lightning
I had however noticed being less fatigued during the day during my fast. I also noticed some good synchronicities, people and circumstances popping into my life that seemed to be reflecting a higher vibration or higher consciousness during the fast, and they mostly disappeared again after I resumed using the computer. Evidence of the shit lake receding and flooding again? I did get a roommate for the first time in three years, someone to hike with and help pay the bills, ostensibly as a positive result of this fast. I haven’t fully resumed using the computer as much as I used to, and luckily the roommate situation hasn’t fallen apart.
To put it another way my vibration went up and my inner coach raised the bar, and my baseline life got slightly better when I didn’t use the computer. When I first started using the computer again, I crashed into the newly raised bar and manifested the severe symptom of mental illness. After a few weeks of using the computer again, my coach disappointingly lowered the bar, and the baseline of my life got a little worse, but simultaneously the acute mental illness was no longer apparent.
Or, to say it yet another way, the frequency of EMF perturbation in my life was too frequent to allow a rest and recovery period between oscillations causing neurovegetative exhaustion in regard to EMF exposure (imagine waves that come so fast they pile up on top of eachother forming a tidal wave that simply pours in like a flood rather than distinct waves which recede between each one). When I silenced the exposure for awhile, my body was able to summon enough reserves to show me its reaction with clarity.
I still don’t have electrohypersensitivity to the point where I can pinpoint exactly which electronic devices are offensive and how offensive or anything like that. You can see how that level of sensitivity would actually be good and useful if those devices are really hurting me. Even without that level of specificity, this is a fairly clear cut example of something that is most easily explained by the awakening phenomenon. Only because I removed something that I had been exposed to endlessly for years for long enough, and only because I approached the fast with an awareness for synchronicity as well as symptoms, was I able to draw the correlation.
My multiple chemical sensitivity symptoms on the other hand didn’t particularly develop after a period of purposeful abstinence and seem more to have increased in direct proportion to each bad exposure, like when I moved into my current house and it had just been painted, or when I busted my transmission and spent a lot of time fixing it. After each of these “big” exposures I used to become hypersensitive to other “small” smells but would recover over a few weeks as if my body was temporarily burdened by these chemicals but able to clear itself. But with each exposure my ability to recover with time and avoidance seems to have diminished, and at this point I am pathologically hypersensitive to everyday smells like cardboard, books, pen ink, and printer ink 24/7.
This could be the awakening phenomenon. Perhaps when I was eating a worse diet and living a more stressful lifestyle I wouldn’t have been triggered by those big smells at all. Perhaps my nose burns constantly now because I’ve gotten more clean and more conscious of toxins in my life. That doesn’t really make a lot of sense to me given the initial pattern of massive exposure-->triggering-->recovery which devolved into invariable triggering (compensatory systems worn out, no more oscillatory powers), but I guess it is possible. Should I abandon my stinky books and go live in the jungle? Have you ever experienced something that could be explained by this phenomenon?