We discuss in this interview:
- Elissa’s unique position of empathy as a mindset coach with RA
- Her first diagnosis at age 11 and initial attempts with heavy drug doses
- The emotional and psychological effects of disease and treatment, and lack of care about it
- Emotional release therapy
- The importance of a healthy relationship with our emotions
- Traditional Chinese medicine
- Placebo effect and its power
- PRP injections
- The benefits Elissa has achieved with the Paddison Program
- Dealing with negative emotions
- Get help from Elissa included in your membership of Rheumatoid Support. Or contact her privately for 1-1 zoom calls at https://elissalowenstern.com/
Clint – Today’s very special guest is going to talk about mindset because when we have rheumatoid arthritis, it can be so difficult to negotiate all the negative thoughts, all of the worries, and fears that come with having this very challenging condition. She is a mindset coach and well-being practitioner. She helps with mental well-being, she helps with shifting self-doubt and she’s also the coach on this topic inside our support group. So she helps our members with these issues as part of their membership. She runs her own practice and does this privately one on one with people via telehealth as well, and so I’d like to welcome Melissa Lowenstein to this episode. Good day, Elissa.
Elissa – Hi, Clint, fantastic to be here. Really a privilege. Thank you.
Clint – Your unique position is that you also have rheumatoid arthritis. Now, this puts you as a practitioner into a position of empathy like no other. It means that not only are you able to meet people on the mental level that intellectually so that they can absorb your concepts and listen to your teachings. But you’re able to meet them on that emotional level and that compassionate level that comes with having experienced this awful condition. Before we get into what your tips, your guidance that you’re going to give us on this call. Tell us, give us a little background on your situation and where you’re at today and your story of how you got there with your condition.
Elissa – Yeah, sure. Thank you. And it’s very true, actually, as you would know, being somebody who’s worked through the journey of rheumatoid arthritis, it makes for a very different lens that you look through when you’re working with people, whether it’s with nutrition and diet and exercise or in my case, with mindset and emotions. So I was 11 when I was first diagnosed with Rheumatoid, took about 6 months for the diagnosis to happen, as is often the case. I started off with septic arthritis in my left hip and then about 6 months later started giving the usual aches and swellings and so forth and was told it was psychological and my mother should take me home and come back. My hands were like balloons, comeback in 6 months if I was still in pain. And so she took me back in 6 months, and of course, I was a lot worse. There happened to be a pediatrician at the GP practice when we went back and he said, oh goodness me, this is not psychological, this looks like rheumatoid arthritis to me. My blood tests were positive straight away, everything sort of showed up. And I went on a fairly typical journey in those days because I’m 65, so you can imagine what drugs were around then. The massive doses of steroids and 32 dispend in a day such that I would turn up to school with nosebleeds and gold injections and kidney damage from a trial drug. At the age of 15 that my parents sort of were never even told about the potential side effects.
Elissa – The thing that was extraordinary for me throughout that time, which really led to the age of 20, was that not one person sat down and said. How are you? What’s going on for you? These are the side effects that you may experience from these drugs, etc., etc… So given that sort of fairly excruciating journey where I became more and more somebody who went inside myself, turned inwards rather than expressed what was happening for me outwardly. I think I had one year where I went into remission when I was 16, I’ve got no idea why. I exercise madly for that year and thoroughly enjoyed it. Then it came back, it just, I don’t know, it just slipped back. So anyway, look, I got to a point where I was 20, where I had stomach ulcers, plus the kidney damage and really looking down the barrel of at that point in time, similar medications couldn’t stay on them anymore. So I was told then that, look, you’re going to be in a wheelchair, there’s nothing more we can do, it’s going to be progressive from here, and you’ve got these other conditions because of the drugs. So I was really at a major crossroads, I was absolutely desperate emotionally as well as physically. So I had to make a big decision, it’s one of those sorts of line in the sand moments that you have in life where you are completely desperate. I’m sure a lot of the people who are watching this will as have you know that feeling with rheumatoid where you just feel like you have no other option.
Elissa – So I started researching, and I came across a psychiatrist, actually, who was offering, I don’t know why or how I ended up on the emotional side of the journey, but I did. You fall into different things in life, and that’s just sort of how it happened. And he was doing a very fairly radical kind of therapy that he said would help my inflammation, and I at that point in time thought, I am going to try anything. You’re looking at somebody who went on a great diet for 3 weeks thinking that that would help and please nobody out there try great diets for 3 weeks, it’s not good for you and it doesn’t help. But I tried everything, I’m sure like you did. So I went on this emotional journey, I went into a place. It was a very radical form of therapy, emotional release therapy. In those days it was called Primal Therapy, which I’m sure you may or may not have heard of. The name has sort of changed itself now, it used to be called the scream therapy a long time ago. I’ll give you an idea of how full on it it could be. But I went and lived inside this place for three weeks and I didn’t see anyone or talk to anyone, have any contact with outside other than the therapist. So it was pretty.
Clint – Wow. And your parents signed off on this.
Elissa – I was 21, so I saved up for it myself. My father didn’t sign off on it, he was totally against it. My mother did she actually helped me because she saw an article written by this psychiatrist where he had actually helped a young child that had been very sick with cancer, who didn’t want to live anymore. And he helped this child enormously. So she said, look, you just give it a go, anything could help at this point.
Clint – So before I ask a ton of questions, first of all, did it work? And if it worked, I want to know more.
Elissa – It did work Clint it did. It was extraordinary, I was in a really intense period of time with this place for about a year after that, 3 weeks of intense therapy, like I’m talking 3 or 4 hours on the floor in a padded room every day. And then at night, they ran groups because you would once you’d finished your what they called an intensive, you would come back and be part of groups where you might be in a group, a large group room, which was a great big padded room, which was the same color as the womb. Padded floors, padded walls, all to simulate the sort of early life experiences and to be a space where people can actually learn to let go rather than hold on to feelings. So at night, 3 times a week, I would go into the group room after having had probably 3 hours on my own with 2 different therapists during the day and be with, you know, 20 or 30 other people. First time I experienced, I thought, I’ve really gone mad here, I’ve completely lost it. We’re all mad, we’re all in a nuthouse here. But what this psychiatrist did with me in particular because of my rheumatoid, was he sent me along to a place called the Shepherd Foundation in Australia to have a whole raft of blood tests done before I went in, including a psychological profile. So all of my markers in my blood for rheumatoid, acidity levels, for all of the different things associated with autoimmunity. In the beginning we did it at the end of the intensive, and we did it twice after that at the three-month mark and the six-month mark. And all of my markers started coming down.
Clint – This is fascinating. So it definitely sounds like some kind of sort of almost like a psychological thriller film where the someone’s captured and they’re put into almost like a Leonardo DiCaprio, I think was called The Island or something and they’re really psychiatric. It definitely has these connotations of kooky.
Elissa – Well, it’s normalising it’s not. Nowadays it’s called there’s still there’s a place in Melbourne that does it now. There’s a place in the States there’s, it’s emotional release therapy now. It’s literally if you look at it, it’s about learning to even like somatic therapy.
Clint – Yes, which I am familiar with. Yes. I’m only making light of it in a sense that just that these days with everyone being so just interested in everyone’s being taken care of in the most immaculate way. No one should be slighted with their medical treatment, and you wouldn’t want to do anything wrong by the patient, and I guess with more of that kind of viewpoint, it sounds much more extreme than what we might have today. But it sounds like it actually really helped you, and that’s, I think, shaped the direction of now eventually your career and the way that you help people and the way that you view this disease as being very much emotionally driven, which we’ll talk about shortly with the emotional connection with inflammation, so it is fascinating. You said you spent a year of time, after that three-week period with this practitioner. Tell us the development of or the reversal of symptoms that followed.
Elissa – I also started to eat healthier, as you can imagine. One of the criteria for going in there was, healthy food as well. So, I think it was a combination for me, for somebody who had all of their life held everything in really. I mean, I had to put things in perspective, a fairly challenging upbringing compared to other people. I was like somebody taking the top off the pressure cooker, that’s sort of how it felt really. And on a really basic level for me and this is not the way I work with people now because it’s not the way everybody wants to work. And I’ve come a long way since then and studied and researched a lot of different modalities. Where I am now, as I feel that different things are right for different people, not everybody wants to go down to that deep level. And it’s not right for everybody, not everybody needs to that’s the thing it’s horses for courses. But for me, it turned my rheumatoid around in the space of 6 weeks, I went in there with sore, stiff, swollen joints. And I remember being told as a child not to damage them, not to hurt them, not to touch anything in the wrong way, not to exercise. And the more I thumped the hell out of something with a sore, swollen joint, the better it felt. So that led me to believe that it’s really important to have a healthy relationship with your emotions and to have a healthy mindset around your condition.
Clint – Couldn’t agree more. You’ve only taken us through to age, what, 21 in your story? There are a few years there to fill in. I really want to extract your tips and your exciting guidelines for us in some remaining time, I want to leave a lot of time for that. Can you just maybe press, maybe do like a decade at a time for us over the next maybe few decades there? And tell us what did your medical treatment look like? How were symptoms safe for the subsequent years to lead us up to where you are today? And then we can talk about all of the information that you’ve got to share with us.
Elissa – Medical treatments may sort of stop as soon as I did that therapy, and I thought this is it for me, that really the medications didn’t change at that point in time a long time ago. Traditional Chinese medicine played a big part in the support ongoing for the next decade. Three times a week, acupuncture, herbal poultice on joints, lots of herbs to be taken. I was a bit like you and like people who’ve really come out the other end of this is that I’m a very determined person. And when I set my mind to something, I go to the details to get the best out of it. So that next decade was I did that therapy for another eight years. Couple of times a week I did traditional Chinese medicine combined with that, and I started to eat a lot healthier and make choices in my life around that, let go of things that no longer served me. Really sat down and thought, how do I want to relate to this condition going forward? I decided that I wanted to be in charge of it because for all of those years, the medical profession, for want of a better word takes control and doesn’t give you a lot of say in how you manage your condition with rheumatoid, so that was sort of that decade. The next decade was really, for me, involved with children, and having children was a really positive effect on my body, particularly being pregnant. It must be to do with the hormones I think, my body just absolutely loved it. Along that time I researched a lot of different wonderful supplements as I know you have, and also started to feel what foods didn’t work for me. I went into some other as I got into my later thirties, I started to look at other modalities that worked for me, that helped my body. Things like a really good integrative chiropractor who does a lot of work, not with joints, but with muscles and keeping things moving.
Elissa – I’ve kept a traditional Chinese medicine going right throughout. I went into things like kinesiology, which I studied in depth and utilize that a lot personally and then became qualified in that area myself. Myotherapy lots of different integrative medical practitioners. I’ve done a lot of intravenous vitamins and minerals over the years at a clinic in Melbourne. I find that very don’t do it so much now, but I found it very helpful. I’ve done stem cell therapy.
Clint – Wow. Okay. We can tap upon, let me just ask you quickly then, did you do vitamin C as an exclusive vitamin as an intravenous therapy?
Elissa – The person in Melbourne that I was under, I do vitamin C but used to have with it B’s that cross the blood-brain barrier. Selenium, Magnesium, Folic acid, so quite a number of things in the intravenous.
Clint – Interesting. I’ve had exclusively vitamin C, I didn’t notice anything, but I was not very symptomatic at the time, so it’s hard to say. But I like it as a concept, it looks good on paper when you read the studies and so forth, so I was curious about that. And stem cells, it’s few and far between to meet people who’ve actually had stem cell therapy with rheumatoid, it just isn’t that common. Those people who I have asked about stem cell therapy for RA have had mixed results. I’ve had just a few people say they think it helped them and a few people say it cost them an enormous amount of money and they didn’t notice any difference. And so with that kind of pre-frame, how did you find your treatment and did you have it systemically or was it for a particular area?
Elissa – Good question, actually. I did it for the systemic reasons of rheumatoid because I’ve had it for so long. The doctor that I went to see, we both agreed that it would be given intravenously over a period of a year. I went through a fairly detailed protocol to clean up my body prior to harvesting the stem cells, I got rid of heavy metals and all of that sort of thing. So it was for the systemic effects of rheumatoid, not for localized joints. I had PRP for that.
Clint – You’ve done everything, wow.
Elissa – I’ve done everything.
Clint – My God, you really have. I’m going to ask you about that next.
Elissa – In terms of the stem cell therapy, so because it was done systemically, I wasn’t, sort of comparing joints, my joints are pretty good at the time. It was to address any systemic issues that may have been going on in my body that I didn’t know about. But as you know, because it affects the whole everybody system, that’s why we did it. So I didn’t really say, oh, that joint is better or, you know, because it wasn’t done for that purpose.
Clint – Had it any noticeable effect?
Elissa – I had a heart checkup earlier this year, I’ve had rheumatoid for well over 50 years, and I’ve got a health super healthy heart. I’ve got lungs that are fabulous. My liver is good.
Clint – It’s one of those things.
Elissa – It’s one of those things. One of the things that I have learnt and it’s part of the thing that forms my work is the placebo effect. And this is where my mindset work that comes in that it’s what you believe is so powerful. How can people be given a treatment that is fake? And yet that person’s body still initiates a healing process, even though they’ve been given a sugar pill. So if you go into any kind of treatment and your belief system says, Oh, I think this is a lot of rubbish, I don’t believe this is going to help my rheumatoid, then it’s probably not going to help at all. I’m not saying that that’s the only reason that treatments don’t work for people. But I think the mindset side of it is really important. But yes, so stem cell therapy for me was for that purpose. PRP was for the localized joints, and I found it really helpful. Painful, but really helpful.
Clint – No one has talked about this on a previous episode and this wasn’t part of our original sort of game plan here, but I want to ask you about this. So with the PRP’s now, the background I have on this, my knowledge on this is as follows. General guidelines are it’s good for supportive tissue around the joints such as tendinitis, muscle inflammation, and so forth, and that you draw some of your own body’s resources. Then it gets spun or cleaned if you like, I forget the details you might be able to improve my basic knowledge and then reinject it into that site, and it helps to reduce inflammation and create healthy tissue growth. I don’t have anyone who’s told me whether or not it’s worked around the swollen joint. Typically my inquiries have been met with, Oh no, this typically works for, maybe people with osteoarthritis or who’ve got weak connective tissue around the joints. I’ve really got a blank sheet of paper with someone who’s got active rheumatoid arthritis in some joints, who’s had the PRP injection. Can you tell us your experience?
Elissa – I actually flew over to Adelaide to see a doctor who was doing it over there, and I think I stayed for a few days and went to the clinic. So I had the infusions then I had it. It’s called plasma-rich protein and you’re right in how it’s done. I had my knees were sore at the time and I think one sitting with him, I had 20 injections, so I had them in to all of the small joints in my hands. It really helped my knees at the time I found it that this brought the swelling down and some of the soreness injections sort of went in. It wasn’t the most comfortable feeling to have the injection in sort of underneath the kneecap almost. Yeah. But as you know, some of the treatments for rheumatoid aren’t the most pleasant things to have done but I found it helpful, I had it done a few times. The clinic that I go to in Melbourne, Institute of Integrative Medicine in Hawthorne. I used to speak to a number of people who found PRP helpful for an inflamed rheumatoid joint. I had a positive experience with it.
Clint – Well, I think anyone listening to this who’s basically looking for alternative treatments and in the market for trying something new, I would definitely explore this. I would definitely explore PRP above anything else that we’ve covered so far as a first point. Pricings in the several quite many hundreds of dollars.
Elissa – It’s not fair actually. Unfortunately, a lot of integrative medical treatments are far too expensive. Nowadays, I focus on simple things, more simple things.
Clint – So you came to our program at one point as well. Let’s jump forward to that and then let’s get into our tips.
Elissa – Exactly a good point. I had a really bad flare, Clint, I had been working as a lawyer, probably a profession that I should never have taken on, but I decided to. Left the legal profession in a really badly flared state. Again, I think that was stress-induced for me. And. I don’t know whether it was mentioned to me, but I was at the computer researching, researching, researching an upcoming Paddison Program, and it was absolutely miraculous for me, it was similar to how I did with that primal therapy. My markers were really high when I started with you. As soon as I started the juicing because I started juicing first, that celery and cucumber juice and leading to starting the program a bit more gently, that juicing was like turning the tap off. And then I went along and started exercising at the same time. Paddison program to me, I have not looked back. I recommend it to anyone that I come across is some people say, Oh, I don’t want to change my diet. So I changed also by doing that at the same time I went back and started exercising, which I had stopped. Of course, you always stop all the good things when you get stressed, you get into this little spin-off cycle. And I follow and program today and that’s what 2016 I think wasn’t it or something like that. 2017, I think, is when I started with you. People are used to it now, I still don’t eat out a lot. And if I have, it’s rare that I’ll have a flare these days, very rare. It might be just one sore joint and I know exactly. You know, I’ll think, well, yeah, I did that, but absolutely love it. Couldn’t look at anything else, now I know, exactly. In fact, a woman who was on when I was on, we’re still good friends, Louise and I. And every time I do my fries in my air fryer, which I use every day, I think of her because either my potatoes or sweet potatoes in there, I can eat potatoes fairly easily. But as I’ve said before when I am very privileged to have been able to experience your work. And when I look at Instagram and see a lot of people on there with rheumatoid and think if only you’d have a go at being completely radical turning it around. And nowadays I’m really used to people saying, particularly if I go and see medical practitioner, what are you doing not eating this or that? I think it works, I’m healthy and it works. If someone had said to me when I was 15 years old this is a diet, I’ll tell you what, can you imagine?
Clint – Can you imagine? And that just gave me goosebumps all over. Left-arm, right-arm, and legs because if only you knew, if only I’d known. If I’d have known how to eat, I would never have had this disease. If I’d have known that 5 years of antibiotics as a teenager, and then again 3 months of antibiotics. The same antibiotics, again at age 30 would result in me developing RA only a few months later. Look, the choices we would have made are just extraordinary. The trajectory that, our life has followed is a result of things we didn’t know.
Elissa – Had intravenous antibiotics, actually. That was my lead into rheumatoid because of the septic arthritis was treated with I.V. antibiotics for a month, every day for a month.
Clint – There you go Elissa, you can look back and you can say, that was the cause. I did a podcast about a year ago or something, and it was all about the relationship between antibiotic use and the development of rheumatoid arthritis, and its dose-dependent. The more you take, the more your risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis. And only one dose of antibiotics, one course not intravenous, but one course of antibiotics in the last ten years increases your risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis. I mean, the relationship is extremely strong.
Elissa – I also ate a lot of sugar as a kid. Anyway, we should move on, shouldn’t we?
Clint – It’s so interesting on so many topics. We could have talked this whole session all about just alternative treatments.
Elissa – Happy to have another one sometime. Do you want to talk about some more?
Clint – Yes, we could. But you help people inside our community and you’ve put on a couple of events, live events now, which has been great. So we’ve expanded our coaching with the likes of yourself and Carl, and we’ve got some other contributors as well. Katie’s doing her yoga sessions now each month, and so we’ve got all of this going on, we’ve got our laughter therapy as well. We’ve got these sessions happening all the time. You’re handling the mindset side of it, you’re giving presentations around that. Can you talk with us now about the relationship? For example, the emotional relationship with inflammation might be a good aspect to delve into and how this might affect our inflammation levels. Stress and the impact, just everything to do with the non-physical and its impact on inflammation. If you could speak about that and then we’ll talk about what we can do, practical tips to try and resolve that on our own as best we can.
Elissa – Yeah. So look, from my own experience, as you know, the way I’ve spoken so far wholly in emotions not being able to recognise negative emotions. And when often with autoimmune conditions, particularly like rheumatoid arthritis, we tend to be very self-critical my markers aren’t coming up enough. I’ve got a sore joint and I’ve been eating really well for two weeks, or I’ve been on the program for a year, and all of a sudden I’ve got sore joints. Self-criticism is a really, really big deal I think when you have a condition that you’re dealing with, it’s so easy to slip into, it’s my fault. And that was one of my common denominators for me. It’s something that I am very, very conscious of on a daily basis in, and I think that was the first little session I did on here, which was about unconditional love. The relationship that we have with ourselves is the most important relationship that we have with anyone in our lives. And often most of us don’t even know what that relationship is like. You go through every day and you’re not even aware of how you are with yourself. What are your thoughts like? If you’re with somebody, you spent 2 hours with someone and it might not have been easy, 2 hours for whatever reason. How are you after that? Do you pay out on yourself? Do you go over and over and over the conversation? Are you negative? What do you like when you’re with family? We all have a family member, most of us do that pushes our buttons. I’ve had 2 children, I know what children are like, they’re hard work. Are you somebody who finds self-worth difficult? And that’s something that a lot of people understandably don’t even give much thought to Clint, because we are taught as children to seek validation for who we are outside of ourselves, through achievements, through sports, through what you own, what you buy, what education you have. Nobody says to you, you need to love yourself regardless of what happens to you in life because of who you are, without anything else. And the thing that I found for me that shifted me out of what I call the negative mindset with my rheumatoid was that I’m separate from my rheumatoid. I’m over here, I’m a great person, I’m lovable, I’m good enough, I’m funny, I’m in a bad mood. Some days I’m grumpy, other days I’m not a perfect parent. I’ve made mistakes in my life, but I’m still a wonderful human being who is worthy of loving herself and separate from somebody who has an autoimmune condition that’s been really tough. That still could be tough in the future. But I linked the two of those things together. And that’s the one thing that I find in moving now into tips is to be really to start watching yourself on a daily basis, just little things you like. How are you at the end of the day? What does it feel like when you wake up? You feel negative. Do you feel down? How can you shift that? It’s starting to look at how you relate to yourself. From an emotional perspective, I’m a big believer in just getting it out. Finding ways to not hold on to the stuff that you don’t need, and it doesn’t have to cost money. I think we were talking in a thread in your, in the group, literally, about going for a drive in the car somewhere and having a damn good yell. Yeah. If you’re having a crappy day.
Clint – The laughter sessions that we were just mentioning before. Have I done that? Gosh, I think I wrote it in either an email that I wrote once or I don’t think I did a podcast about it. But yes, it’s called Screaming in Cars, and I used to wind up the window and get on the road and scream, I used to do it a lot, I used to do it a lot. The intensity of my screaming through frustration, anger, and hopelessness was so great that my voice used to be raspy for hours afterward. Like it would it be as though, like not very relatable, but years later I’d be doing comedy gigs sometimes with a microphone that wasn’t adequate in a big room and you’d be really working your voice and they’d be raspy afterward. Same I mean, I would yell so much because the depths of frustration are so great that I don’t think anyone outside of our community, the rheumatoid community, the autoimmune community, can understand that when you’re in pain constantly and you’re doing all the things that you believe should be enough to make progress, you feel entitled to get some relief. And when it doesn’t come, you just have this tidal wave of frustration. It has to come out, as you said. And I used to scream in cars and I would have punched walls if my elbows could move enough and my fists could form enough to withstand that. And you can’t you can’t even punch the damn wall because your body is messed up.
Elissa – So now you know why I love doing that therapy. All those years ago, that’s all it was Clint was just that. The thing is that we need to realize and this is where I’m interested in this space, is that you can’t change what happens to you in life, can’t change the past. You can’t change anything that’s going to happen in the future. But you can change the way you respond and react. And this is where we can help ourselves when we have a really tough condition to find small ways to help shift things, to change the focus, change the perspective, to release things as they come up, to learn to look at when we are. That little inner critic, a lot of people with conditions like rheumatoid have what I call the inner critic. I call it the little monkey inside your head that just does not shut up. You could have done that better, you could have said that differently. Why didn’t you do this? And it doesn’t help the joints, this is where the neuroscience comes in because the research in neuroscience, which is something that I studied a long time ago.
Elissa – Neuroscience now points to evidence that our immune system cells. There are cells in the body called neuropeptides, and the neuropeptide is what’s called a signaling molecule, and it enables information to be passed inside a cell for all sorts of reactions and responses to happen in the body. If those neuropeptides are elsewhere in the body, then they send messages back to the brain and the brain will initiate a different response, etc., etc… Now, there was a neuroscientist a long time ago, who discovered that these signaling molecules are found in areas in the brain and the body where emotions are processed and stored like the limbic system in the brain. Then she discovered that these same molecules sit on the top of immune cells, which means that immune system cells are capable of processing and passing messages to do with our emotions into our immune system cells and then send information back to the brain. So the immune system has a lot of interaction with the brain about our emotional well-being. What she then went on to write about was that In her own words, emotions are the glue that holds the body together, and that they are incredibly potent and that we do not give enough credit to our emotional well-being for the health of our immune system.
Clint – I can say with great confidence from my own experience, that the emotional state of excitement and I’m a very I choose my words carefully. Excitement is always over the years for me has been associated with a period of most notable healing or most notable full sense of well-being. And when I feel like I was on to something, I’ve worked it out, I’ve taken the oil out of my salad if we go back 11 years. Taken the oil out of my salad, I feel better today, I’ve left it out now 3 or 4 days in a row, and everything, all my pain scores they’re all down and they’ve stayed down. It’s the oil, I’m excited. That feeling of excitement is at least as therapeutic as anything else at that point that I was doing. I can really, really feel confident about that in my own body. Likewise, on the flip side, I was just writing this for my book is that a study was done, 274 patients with rheumatoid arthritis, a survey questionnaire, 86% reported that stress, and of course, it can be emotional stress, interpersonal stress. Stress was reported as the most frequent cause of their symptoms. And so I know it’s only patient questionnaires, but this is what people believe is that something is emotional, the stress levels, it’s all contributing to their joint pain. Nearly 9 out of 10 people with RA feel that that’s their most dominating attribute. And so it’s so true is what I’m saying I mean, it plays such a phenomenal role in both the improvement and also the perpetuation of the condition. You mentioned earlier getting it out, I want to go there more. We talked about screaming, do you have people scream during your sessions? Do you have or do you teach other methods? Do you tell them to go off and get in a car as I’ve done. What do you do?
Elissa – I don’t facilitate the therapy that I did a long time ago. There is a place in Melbourne I think that’s very few people really want to do that, and I really would never, ever, in fact, I don’t really talk about it with a lot of people. A lot of people judge it for different reasons, most certainly in the work even in traditional Chinese medicine, which is one area that I have practiced, the different meridian systems in the body have a different emotions associated with it. So it could be singing, it could be yelling, it could be, you know, like if it’s to do with the liver, it’s about yelling. To do with another meridian, it could be more about singing. But the way I work with somebody is if I’m working with someone who I feel I can sense is somebody who holds on, not everybody does. Then I will talk with them about what do they do to express things as they come up? Like how do you express sadness? How do you express anger when you’re angry? How do you express excitement when you’re excited? Do you express it? Because in the modalities that I studied, one of which being psych and kinesiology. You look at how that person digests their emotions. Like, do we turn them over? Because it actually physically affects your digestion? If you’re somebody who’s a turner, who’s a worrier, who’s an internaliser, how do we digest our emotions? Do we digest them or do we just turn them around? So it depends on the person, some people are really good at saying, look, I’m a bit grumpy today, I’m going to go for a brisk walk and talk it out. That’s for some people, a really good thing to do. Other people, it’s good to yell, it just depends on who I’m working with and what they’re like. I personally find it beneficial to let it out, whether it’s frustration, whether it’s anger. But it’s also really important, I find, to help the person connect to what it is they’re expressing. Like, when you get a sore joint, how were you feeling before you got it? Because I know sometimes I’ve had flares when I’ve had a lot of stress going on in my life. And I look to the point and I think, well, how was I experiencing that thing? Was I angry? Was I sad? Was I frustrated? Was I hurt? Did I express it or did I go away and just let it sort of sit there? So yeah, that’s sort of. The Neuroscience side of it to me underpins what I’ve always known, what I’ve always felt intuitively that emotions, mindset have a huge input to our immune system along with other things that you specialize in and we all know very, very well. There’s a wonderful man called Bruce Lipton, who is I’m sure you’ve heard of Bruce Lipton, The Biology of Belief.
Clint – The name is vaguely, vaguely familiar.
Elissa – He is the science underneath the work that I do in a called Psych K, which essentially talks about we are more than our environments and our biology and our genes. We are the product of our beliefs, and our beliefs are conclusions we come to as we grow up based on our environment, our upbringing, and our education. And they inform decisions, behavior, attitudes, and thoughts. Interestingly, the science nowadays says that on a daily basis, most of us are only acting consciously 5% of the time.
Clint – I’ve heard similar things like this, which are of the tens of thousands of thoughts that we have each day. Something like 80% of them is the exact same thoughts we had yesterday. If not 90.
Elissa – Most of the time we are responding to subconscious belief systems. So you’ll have an interaction with somebody and your response will most likely be from something in the subconscious rather than what’s happening in the present. And so one of the areas I’m interested in is helping people to shift, limiting subconscious beliefs that influence everyday life. It’s pretty easy to do using different neural processes that work at the subconscious level. I use muscle testing to get there, to tap into that. Because when you can change the lens that you look through life which is just our perspective. You can then respond differently to every day and you can be much more present. You can say, well, I don’t need to respond today. An example would be I was in therapy a long time ago with a young physiotherapist who made the connection that often when someone pushes his buttons, when he gets angry, he doesn’t just respond to what’s happening in the present. He ends up sort of emptying the whole wheelbarrow. This is what they mean by, I guess, not necessarily always being present when you’re interacting. But the thing is, you don’t know it, most of us don’t know that. But getting back to the rheumatoid aspect of it, the belief systems are really important Clint, because, you know, if you have a negative belief system around how you’re working with your condition or even how you’re relating to yourself as a person, it’s going to have a big impact on your body. And to help people, shift negative beliefs, to help them bring in positive ways of working with their condition and with themselves. It can have a fantastic impact, I think in the way that I’ve worked with myself on the condition, on a day-to-day basis.
Clint – There’s no doubt about it. And I believe that in my personal circumstances, for as much as I feel that I was competent at working out the dietary and exercise components, managing to sidestep the landmines of counterproductive medications that exist, and that’s only a small subset of the medications these days. But some are counterproductive that we talk about, these negative gut drugs. I feel that in parallel with that, the mindset, the belief systems, the reduction of limiting beliefs, if we like was one of the things that I feel was one of the strengths that I had throughout this whole journey and continue to have. And I find that I generally have always had a naturally positive attitude towards life, to beliefs that I’ve always had. These I’ve had since I was probably a late teen, is that things always work out for me. I’ve always believed that, I don’t know how that came into my mindset, how I started to believe that. But I’ve always believed that. And later in my twenties, it was probably only a few years before I got rheumatoid, belief system that I’m the luckiest person in the world, and that was very strongly held belief. And then rheumatoid put the greatest pressure on that belief and squashed it into the mud for several years. I questioned that and I questioned a whole lot of things. But it slowly gained a little bit of kindling and started to gain a little bit more traction as I started to see some progress years after diagnosis and elbow surgeries and misery and lost all my cartilage in my left knee. I mean misery to the max screaming in the car years.
Clint – But holding on to some of those beliefs is just crucial. And I see this working with people like you do when people come to me and they say things to me like, on email, they see you’re my last hope. You can tell they’re questioning life itself and I’m their last hope and they help me and stuff and you see these people in this position of helplessness, not in a position of empowerment. And it’s not a judgment, it’s just an observation that we all are in different sort of self-empowerment states, we’re in different levels of desperation, we view our situation differently. Working with someone like yourself, be able to identify with your experience, what that person needs and how to help them. Because for me, it’s often challenging through just an email. How do I, what do I say to this person? Now here’s our program, you need financial help, okay? You don’t have to pay for it if you’re in a third-world country, there you go. But other than that, I mean, how can I help that someone like yourself can step into those shoes for those people who are mentally in a real tough place.
Elissa – Yeah, look, it’s small steps, Clint. You have to be really careful when you’re helping people to see where they’re at, and this is where my own journey helps me, to know that they might need very small steps. You know, And other people might be able to take bigger leaps in the beginning, some people have had a lot more challenging early life experiences that make it even more challenging for them. But in terms of the mindset, I think and I think I wrote this in my little bio in your in the group, that you look at people like Ash Barty, who, you know, is recently retired, but she has her mindset coach, Ben Crowe. And he did this massive turnaround with her. And you see it in particularly in elite sportspeople, where they get to a point where there’s a lot of stress on board, where there’s a lot of expectation from other people. And they get very self-critical, watch it on the court, and start to pay out on themselves. You can see it in their self-talk. And this is what he shifted with her, he shifted the same, he works very similarly to me, shifted in separating the doing from the person. So what we do with our rheumatoid is separate from who we are. But often what most of us do is we bring the two together and we say, Well, today I’m not having a great day, therefore I’m not a great person, I failed today. And the doubt comes up. That’s like when you see them, when they email you that it’s out of desperation at times, you just go into this huge void. That is for a lot of people, very difficult to come back out of. I still have people that I have coaches that I work with and I check in with. I’ve got somebody in the psych area, another practitioner, and we do work on each other, I’ve got to make sure I’m still there. It’s the same with your diet and your exercise, if you let something slip and you have some oil, you’ll get a massive flare up. It’s the same with your emotions and your mindset, it’s something to be vigilant with. And it’s where I think, I can help a lot of people in this space because I’m Like you’re very passionate about what I do. And also, like you, I’ve always had this incredible determination that nothing is ever going to stop me from being alive and from living the way I want to live and not. I guess for me it was always that sort of visual of the wheelchair that kept me going, I’m never, ever going to end up in one. And look, it’s not to say that people who do haven’t tried their hardest either.
Elissa – I don’t know where we are time-wise Clint, but there are a lot of different strategies and techniques that can help people. Some of the simple things that people can do on the platform on a day-to-day basis are what I said, in the beginning, is just starting to notice how you relate to yourself as a person on a day to day basis. Little simple things you can, whether you want to keep a journal or not. But how do you feel when you wake up in the morning? What do you do with that, if you do feel negative? Are you kind to yourself? How do you express that kindness to yourself? Do you ask for your needs to be met emotionally? Like, do you say to somebody, Look, I feel really whatever today I need you to tell me that I’m lovable, I need you to give me a hug, I need you to sit with me and just listen. So having our needs met is really important, recognizing what those needs are. Along with expressing emotions. Unconditional love, as I said in the beginning, is probably one of the most important things that you can do. It’s a process, it takes time, you don’t just say to somebody, you’ve got to learn to love yourself unconditionally. There are a whole lot of steps, and one of them is, first of all, starting to notice what sort of relationship you have cultivated with yourself. Because that relationship then determines how you relate to your rheumatoid. How you relate to the practitioners that come into your life, whether you’re negative, whether you doubt them, whether you share with them what you need to share with them, and how you relate to other people.
Elissa – One of the things that I talk about is learning to have a home base of self-love. So even if you have a really crappy day, at the end of that day, you can sit down somewhere quietly. Close your eyes and do some deep breathing, because it switches off the sympathetic nervous system. Quietly going towards yourself and offer yourself some kindness. You know it’s been a hard day for joints have been difficult, just the self-love. To go to bed on a negative place, on a really I’ve I’m no good at this, I’m not going to do it, It’s hopeless, I’m hopeless. It’s little things like that that will start to build up over time. I sort of see it as helping people to create choices. Because as children, we don’t have a choice, we don’t really get to choose how we respond and react to life until we’re adults. Can’t change what happens to us when we’re kids or when we’re teenagers. But we can as adults, we can learn to be. There’s a wonderful man who works out there called Gabor Mite, and he has a process that I’ve done a bit on called the Compassionate Inquiry. And it’s about exactly that going into yourself in the most compassionate, kind way you possibly can as a method of inquiry as to how you are with yourself. Because when you have rheumatoid or another inflammatory condition, you need to be your own best friend. And usually, it’s the opposite way around, isn’t it?
Elissa – That’s profound. That last sentence, especially all of it’s great, but that last sentence, you need to be your own best friend, because when you’ve got challenges of that scale, then you really have to provide yourself with that. Those positive, beautiful, supportive emotions and feelings because you need them. You need them more than someone else who is not unhealthy. You need them, especially because you’re suffering more. It’s almost like when there is grieving people all come together at a funeral and everyone is cuddling and all past tensions and conflicts put aside for that period where we encourage and support and give each other love to get through. Well, every day feels like, that sometimes with rheumatoid arthritis and if we’re not getting those cuddles and encouragement and love from someone close to us, we certainly got to be giving them to ourselves. So I love that we need to be our own best friends is great.
Elissa – I work a lot using towards the end of the work with visualizations because I find that especially when you have a tough condition like rheumatoid and even without the rheumatoid, most people will say to me when I say, how can I help you? What is it that you’re wanting to change? They know what they don’t want, but they don’t know what they want instead of that. So if I said it’s up to you about something that you might want to change, a negative behavior that you have towards yourself or your rheumatoid. What do you want instead of that? How do you want it to be different? Because most of us don’t know that we’ve only got this negative pathway that we go down. So to take the brain in another direction. Which is a bit like learning a new timetable. You use all of the sensors to do it because they’re the things that created the negative pathway in the beginning. So essentially, we’re laying down a completely new neural pathway in the brain for a positive belief system around the rheumatoid and around the relationship with yourself. But to do that, you’ve got to completely visualize that pathway to bring it in.
Clint – Yes, I, I love and have been utilizing that technique as well. A lot of these things I’ve picked up throughout the years, my dad has always been into, affirmations and positive visualization. He read a book many, many years ago and told me all about it. And I’ve been interested in this area as part of a connection with my dad. I like talking about this stuff and he always has put me in this direction. So I’m always running a book like this, and if I’m to find a section at the back of the book, if I can, I’ve got it written at the top every night and it says visualization. And I’ve got a bunch of things here that are quite personal to me, so I won’t read them out. But relating, you know, getting a best seller book published on Amazon and, and related to things like this and, and some business goals and some health goals. Ten pull-ups, ten chin-ups, and I visualized them. I don’t just read them out, wrote, learning. It’s like I’m picturing myself moving through the motions. I’m picturing how long that last rep will take me because of the struggle. And so, yes, it works there’s all this stuff you say works.
Elissa – I talk to my joints, Clint, I actually talk to them. Because one of the things that I realized in my journey is that I was so awful to my body, I hated my body, I was ashamed of my body. So what I do now is I’ve got a joint that I don’t like for some reason I talk to it, the nodule comes up, I talk to it, I look at it in the mirror and I say, Come on, I really do know you’re there for a reason. I really love you, but I don’t need you. So I need you to go away. If I had a sore joint, I’m going to give you as much love as I possibly can today. But you know, people out there can just think about the fact that the Indigenous people in Australia, our Aborigines. They do a rain dance if they want the rain to come, so they actually create that experience before it actually happens. I saw a movie once when it was based on a true story where in Europe they built a train track going from one country to a couple of others years before they knew the train would come because they knew the train would come. It’s that same visualization because in our brain, neuroscience says that you can create new neural pathways. I studied kinesiology, I worked with a neuroscientist who became a Kinesiologist because he had a deep sea diving accident, and he came up a paraplegic. But because he was a neuroscientist, he knew every single neural pathway in the brain off by heart. So he spent three months in hospital visualizing. He would start with his big toe and he would work his way up that from the muscles all the way up the body to the pathway in the brain, visualize removing that again. 3 months later, he walked out of the hospital. And he said it was just from the visualization of going through every single muscle to its pathway in the brain to re-firing that again to getting it going.
Clint – That’s just extraordinary, isn’t it?
Elissa – It’s testament to, this is what we need to help people. We can do it.
Clint – That’s it. Well, how do people get help from you? If they’re motivated with what you’ve shared today and they want to do more? I believe you have a website. If you would like to state your website, we’ll put it on the show notes as well on the Web page.
Speaker2 – Sure, It’s elissalowenstern.com. And I also work in the Paddison Program Group, which I am very privileged to be able to give back, that’s how I am seeing what I’m doing. For all the lovely things that you’ve given me, Clint. Very much appreciated for the opportunity that I’ve had. More than happy, I really would like to encourage people to reach out to me. Even though I’m going to be doing a one once a month at the moment free call as part of their membership inside the forum. I think the next one coming up is towards the end of April on emotions and stress and inflammation. But please ask me questions, use me I’m there, to share my wisdom, to share tips that I have. Please don’t feel shy about coming forward and asking me any questions that you want to. I’ll be more than happy to help in any way I can.
Clint – For members who missed Elissa’s presentation that she did on Unconditional Love, It’s loaded up inside your member’s area for members of Rheumatoid Solutions, Rheumatoid Support go and check it out. You can watch the replay that she kindly did record even though she did that session live so you can go and watch that. If you’d like to learn more from Elissa, as she said, go to her website or jump on board one of our memberships and you can take part in the live presentations that she’s doing monthly or ask a question and use her. She’s a fabulous resource. We’re blessed to have her as part of our group and what an achievement. All those decades of rheumatoid arthritis, and here you are in front of us looking so healthy and well, and it’s just a tremendous health outcome. And it’s so nice to have been able to play a little bit of a positive role in our services and the program and everything to contribute to the already immense results that you’d already had. So thank you, Elissa, it’s been really interesting chatting about all these different things, and really appreciate your time.
Elissa – Yeah, thank you, Clint. It’s been an absolute pleasure.