Presentation20

Hi.  I am Alison and I am a Mindset Coach and I specialise in Resilience and Transformational Coaching  and this evening, I would like to share with you the story of health transformation, my passion for the power of our brain and a little bit of insight into my coaching process.

A story that will take me… and you from a wheelchair > rock climbing > coaching.
 
It’s one that I’ve only recently felt ready to share.
Because for me, it is a deeply personally story.
One that has taken a long time for even me to believe as being true.
 
But I am the living testament to the story being true and am eternally grateful to now be in the position of telling it and in doing so, sharing with you tonight the knowledge of what is possible.
So whilst my road did indeed become somewhat bumpy, I feel very fortunate to be able to start this story saying that my childhood and early teen years were happy and full to busting with potential.
 
As you can see, I was and am still, blessed to be surrounded by a loving family and great friendships that have supported me throughout the many highs and lows of my life.

 

And my Mum has actually joined us this evening… so HI MUM!

 
One of my favourite memories from this time was attending an outdoor pursuits summer camp in 1988 in South Wales. It was here that I fell in love with rock climbing, abseiling, kayaking pretty much everything outdoors oh, and also one of the instructors. My first human love!
 
But outdoor pursuits fast became my path ahead and I spent my teens obsessed with physical sports and I can recall now my clear intention to grow up, most likely move to the Rockies, buy a kayak and be a rock climbing instructor!
 
However, as is often the case with life… life had other plans for me…
 
If you were to meet me today you would most likely assume that I am fit, healthy and fully living my life and you would be right to assume those things.
 
If you had met me prior to May 2016 however, you would have met a currently unrecognisable version of me. 
 
In 1993, I was diagnosed with M.E./CFS and Fibromyalgia and went on to spend the following twenty four years chronically ill. I was predominately bed-bound, often in a wheelchair and from time to time, on morphine and valium for chronic bone, muscle and joint pain. It was unquestionably my most challenging of years.
 
 
Now I don’t have a photograph of myself in a wheelchair as that was something I would never have allowed. It was too painful a reality for me. I’ve never experienced an anger like I felt when in that chair so there was never going to be a ‘smile for the camera’ moment. 
 
So I’ve created a visual representation instead to try to in some way convey the grim reality of those years.
I believe this montage says it all.
 
The shift from ‘healthy’ to ‘ill’ was fast, traumatic and literally, an overnight shift. One day, I was a healthy teenager at the start of my A-Level studies. The next, I was bed-bound with chronic pain throughout my body and it was fast clear to myself and to my family that I was not going to be going back to school for the foreseeable future. And so began our journey of endless doctors and hospital appointments and endless medical tests to find out what was wrong with my body.
 
At this time, there was no blood test that gave a definitive diagnosis of M.E./CFS and Fibromyalgia. Instead, you were thoroughly tested and if those tests all came back negative but you were presenting with the symptoms of chronic muscle, bone and joint pain, extreme fatigue and cognitive processing struggles then, you were given the diagnosis of M.E./CFS.
 
The lack of a blood test that showed something was clearly wrong within the body meant that the label of M.E./CFS left the patient with a feeling that it must be all in their mind. This feeling was compounded at that time by a lack of belief in this diagnosis by many in the medical profession and society. It was known for a long time as ‘Yuppie Flu’ as many high-flying professionals in the 1980’s were given the diagnosis after ‘burning out’. Many Doctors believed that the patient was ‘just depressed’ and there was also a belief that the patient was ‘opting out’. From a personal perspective, this was deeply demoralising. Previous to becoming ill, I had intended to become an outdoor pursuits instructor. Spending twenty-four years house and bed-bound was never part of that plan.
 
I’d had a virus six months prior to the illness and I’d also experienced nasty side effects from having tried Cannabis with had left me with some bizarre and concerning after effects. While I was continuing with my life and school work during this time, I realise looking back now that my body was gradually breaking down. It all came to a head one evening after saying ‘goodnight’ to my Dad. As I climbed into bed, the symptoms of intense chronic pain hit my bones, joints and muscles hit me and along with a variety of other hideous symptoms, then stayed with me for the following twenty-four years.
 
As I said before, I was blessed to have family and friends who understood and cared for me but my reality was beyond grim and at no point, could I see a time ahead that would be full of health and vitality again. The more the years passed by me, the further into the distance any potential for a healthy future drifted.
 
Over the years, I tried every form of medication appropriate for the diagnosis (which often resulted in side effects and the worsening of symptoms) and every alternative therapy that I could access. From Nutrition to Reiki to various other types of healing. Nothing touched the sides of the daily chronic pain, extreme fatigue, intense light sensitivity and exhausting cognitive struggles. 

 

But now lets fast forward 24 years out of the dark times to 2016 when I had finally reached a point of being now past twenty years of living with this illness and I’d hit my limit and THIS was when my transformational journey began.
 
 
In a moment of sheer frustration (and inspiration!) one afternoon, whilst alone in my bedroom and expressing out loud ‘I am done’, I heard my brain ask myself the exact question: ‘What the **** have I not tried?’. It was in that moment that I realised that the Lightning Process which is an NLP based training program was the one option that I knew of that had positively impacted the health of people with M.E./CFS and yet was the one thing that had somehow passed me by.  I quickly picked up the phone, made a series of investigative calls and within twenty four hours had booked myself onto the next course with a local practitioner .
 
From the first day of being on that course, I never sat in a wheelchair again and more importantly for me, I never relapsed again.
 
Now I will explain more about the course and how it essentially gave me back my life but first I would like to first take you on a de-mystifying magical tour of two of my most favourite things to talk about.
 
Neuroplasticity and NLP.
So if you are human and you are living a life then you are sure to be having thoughts and therefore, I am in no doubt that you will be able to relate to this image and this representation of overwhelm by life in our modern world.
 
In 2005, the National Science Foundation published an article summarizing research on how many thoughts humans have per day. It was found that the average person has about 12,000 to 60,000 thoughts per day. Of those thousands of thoughts, 80% were negative, and 95% were exactly the same repetitive thoughts as the day before.
 
Sobering statistics I’m sure you’ll agree.
 
But the good news is that our brain can be harnessed to be on our side and this is how… 
So behind the scenes of all that chaotic chatter is our beautiful brain and its magnificent army of neurons.
 
Neuroplasticity describes our brains amazing ability to re-wire and re-shape our 200 billion neurons and trillions of neural connections (aka neural pathways) that live in our brain and continually create and re-create the structure of our life experience. There was a time not so long ago, when scientists believed that our brains stopped growing and changing in our early teens. We now know that this isn’t the case and that humans are constantly re-wiring their neural pathways, usually without knowing it, throughout their life-time.
 
When we are learning to walk, speak a new language, learn and practice a new skill and engage in communication with those around us our neural pathways are busy firing and wiring connections in our brain that embed that learning and experience within us. And as you know, the more you practice anything, the better and more skilled you become at it. 

This is because each time you repeat an action, the neural pathways associated with it fire and create stronger and faster connections which will enable you to access the skill or memory quicker and become even more efficient at recalling that new phrase that you are learning in Danish. 

 

And of course, we engage, create memories and can choose to learn a new skill at any age.

 

In NLP we say that ‘Neurons that fire together… wire together’

NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) was created by Richard Bandler and John Grinder in California in the 1970s. It comprises various psychological models that each call upon the plasticity of our brain, the use of verbal language and body language and the more subtle elements of the mind in order to create positive and resourceful states within the participant. These states are the foundation upon which the participants newly imagined reality is hardwired through NLP techniques and then lived.
Neuro: Refers to our neural pathways and the key part that they play in enabling us to shift our state of mind (and body) from negative to positive.
Linguistic: Refers to language and how we can use our verbal language (both internally and when speaking to others) and our body language to access the inner working of our mind and create powerful change in our lives.
Programming: This refers to how we humans live according to our programming – which is essentially our feelings, beliefs, reactions, learned experiences, habits, traditions and habitual thoughts. And how we can hack that programming and change it to serve us better and enhance our life. Essentially we can choose to stop living on autopilot and instead set the course for our life. 
Imagine your brain is a computer (which essentially it is). NLP techniques allow us to hack our inner computer and re-code (re-wire) our brain with the version of reality we most desire. We first design the new reality in our imagination and then code it into our neurology with language, movement and clear and congruent intention. In short, NLP is an empowering process that shifts the participant from a place of challenge and struggle to a place of self-power and living one’s best life.

When you look at life from an NLP perspective you essentially see a structure.

A structure of experience.

 

 

When I work with a client who is presenting for example, with anxiety about going to an event there will be an internal structure upon which their thinking about the upcoming event will sit.

 

 

That structure will most likely have been formed on a past negative experience at an event that would have been quickly followed and compounded by their internal dialogue and narrative about the event which will have meant that any future event will have been seen through a distorted lens. The outcome of which will most likely have also been a negative experience. More scaffolding to add to their current negative structure.

 

 

But through the application of NLP techniques and powerful coaching conversations their internal relation to events can be turned from a negative structure into a positive structure. 

 

 

And while we all know that life can throw us curveballs and that future event might well turn out to be challenging, being able to approach it with an internal structure, dialogue and positive expectation will only put us in our best state within which to experience it and embrace all positive aspects and of course, deal more effectively with any negative glitches that might arise.

 

So there are many NLP techniques that I love and could tell you about today but one of the key elements of NLP is modelling. And I thought that this might be a nice take-away for you to think about and apply in your own life.
 
One of my favourite presuppositions in NLP is that if someone can do something that anyone can learn to do it.
 

So using rock climbing as an example because I have used this modelling approach highly effectively within my own climbing life to progress my ability and skills…

I will watch with great focus and attention climbers that I know who are highly skilled at climbing. This includes both friends and  elite climbers who are in top of the game. These guys, I will watch climb relentlessly on YouTube. 

 

But what is going on internally for me, is watching HOW they climb.

 

The way in which they move and all the subtleties involved.

 
Talking with them (or listening to them in interviews) about their thought processes before, during and after climbing.
 
Finding out what their habits and patterns of behaviour are that surround climbing for them.
 
And then I will internalise all of these elements and begin to embody them within me and then when climbing, it is almost as if I become that person that I am modelling them in both thought and movement.
 

When  I have used this with my climbing I have always found much to my delight that my ability transcends my expectation of where I had previously believed my abilities to sit. And have found myself making moves on the climbing wall that I previously didn’t know I was capable of making.

 

It’s a wonderful and exciting way to learn and grow.

And so. The NLP course that got me out of a wheelchair and fully back into life.
 
The Lightning Process was created by Dr. Phil Parker in the 1990s. It is a three day training program during which the practitioner teaches a technique that is based in NLP and self-coaching. 
 
The technique harnesses three of our physiological processes that can each have both positive and negative impacts on our physical and mental well-being – Neuroplasticity, Allostasis and the Physical Emergency Response (P.E.R).
The P.E.R. is the physiological system that enables us to fight or take flight when faced with imminent danger. For our prehistoric ancestors the threat might well have been a bear or a tiger in which instance the P.E.R. would have served them well and likely have saved their life. In order to get us moving when faced with a threat, our body will activate a sudden release of hormones that include adrenaline and noradrenaline and this release gives our body the boost of energy needed to get us out of danger.
 
With short lived threats, the body is able to return to its normal state quickly once the danger has passed. This means that the effects our P.E.R. produces in these acute stressful moments, such as a rapid heartbeat, fast breathing and muscles tension have little chance to negatively impact the body and instead enable us to hopefully stay safe.
Modern threats however, tend to be less imminent. Of course, there will be moments when we will need to take a quick course of action but more often than not our P.E.R. is now activated by stresses such as chronic medical conditions, confrontations, divorce, moving house, stressful work situations and giving a presentation. These types of stresses tend to be more long-term in their nature so this means that our system stays in a constant state of ‘fight or flight’ and is therefore consistently producing adrenaline (along with other hormones).
 
Allostasis is the process by which our bodily systems adapt during change such as the stress symptoms experienced when in ‘fight or flight’ mode. The physiological effects produced compound over time and create what is known as an allostatic load and this can have a detrimental effect on our physical and mental well-being and lead to chronic medical conditions.
 
The good news however, is that along with Neuroplasticity, our P.E.R can be managed, our allostatic load reduced and our neural pathways can be hardwired to our advantage allowing the body to heal. The Lightning Process skill-fully enables us to use our verbal language, body language, ability to visualise and create a clear intention for positive change to move ourselves from negative states to positive states. We can in essence, turn off the neural pathways that no longer serve us and instead create a clear vision of the future we want and turn on neural pathways that will move us in that direction.
 
Whilst the Lightning Process was originally designed in response to the work Dr Parker was doing with clients who presented with M.E./CFS and Fibromyalgia, it has since been found to work to varying degrees of success with many other medical and mental health conditions.
And now for the best slide of all!
It is a wonder to me that this slide of images exists only because of my brain’s incredible ability to change.
 
This is a snapshot of my last 5 years since attending The Lightning Process course in 2016…… I believe it says it all!
I became ill at 17 years old and 24 years later woke up healthy at 41 years old. I’ve had a lot of catching up to do!
 
I have therefore, spent the last five years catching up and that has looked, sounded and felt like rock climbing, mountain biking, hill walking, running, travelling, living in my van in the heart of the  Snowdonian mountains ALL whilst holding down a very busy, stressful and physical full-time job as a Duty Managers in a Youth Hostel in North Wales.
 
There was a time not so long ago when making a cup of tea would have triggered immense pain and exhaustion so for me now being able to do all of the above not just for one day but for five years straight with no symptoms or payback is truly a remarkable and beautiful reality in which I now live.
 
But whilst I’ve been having a LOT of fun out there finding my feet and catching up this year for me has been about coaching.
Coaching has been waiting for me to go have some fun but now it is time for me to use my history, my experience of overcoming illness to help others, you… work out what your version is of my wheelchair and overcome it.
 
Because as my favourite NLP presupposition says….
if I can do it… then so can you.
 
So as I said way back at the start, I specialise in Resilience and Transformational Coaching and my coaching process is a mix of powerful coaching conversations, the harnessing of one’s internal change-creating tools and NLP techniques.
 
And now I’m sure you won’t be surprised to see my use of a mountain metaphor to walk you through my coaching process…
So change, and therefore the coaching process, always begins with awareness…

From there we can begin to create our new reality internally using the power of our imagination to create the life that we want to shift ourselves into….

And then there is the power of language which is a key part of the process. 

Once we have our clear intention for the change we want to make in place, we can begin to re-wire our neural-pathways to create the new structure of our life experience with NLP techniques.

And then begins the exciting journey of embodying this new reality that we have chosen for ourselves….

…and the going out into the world to fully live our life!

For me it really comes down to this.

Today’s thoughts and actions truly do shape our present and future.

 

So thank you all for listening and I would love to now welcome any questions that you may have….. I know there will be an opportunity at the end for you guys to ask away.
 
But if you would like to speak with me privately then please do drop me a message, I’d be very happy to have a conversation with you.
 
Thank you again Carol and Ritu. It’s been a real pleasure being with you all this evening 🙂

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