A pack of coyotes? Choosing a reference group

One day a woman greeted me with more intensity than the passing “good morning” that walkers usually give when crossing paths. So I stopped to listen, and she said, “I’m new here and I see two coyotes over there”—motioning to the dry river bed—“Do I have to be concerned?”

“No,” I said. “They’ll just stay down there and won’t come hurt you or your dogs.”

With that reassurance, she continued on. I was glad she had asked. If she hadn’t, she might have missed out on enjoying the beautiful desert morning, the air still reasonably cool, the desert willow in bloom, the birds flying over the riverbed. She might have hurried back to her vehicle, looking over her shoulder for a coyote, afraid to return.

Probably over 99 percent of the walkers, runners, cyclists, and horsepeople exercising that day would have given her the same answer I did. But what if she had asked someone else new to the area who didn’t know? Hopefully they would have just asked the next person they encountered. But what if the person they happened to ask was someone with an unusual perspective, perhaps a member of the High Anxiety Walking Group who started to panic? Rather than getting realistic information to allay her concern, our walker’s fears would have been fed.

Our reference group is critical when we desire to form realistic perspectives, healthy ones that help us make good choices.

As I became increasingly sensitive to chemicals, I talked more and more with people who were also very sensitive to chemicals. In many ways that made sense; we understood each others’ experiences and could be supportive. But we also often fed each others’ fears, by focusing on our reactions and all the toxins in the world.

When I found the Gupta Programme, I learned about how we can become conditioned to have reactions to common chemicals. An exposure to a certain level of a toxin may bring on symptoms that are from the actual exposure. But with the low-dose reactions of chemical sensitivities, the reaction is from the body’s fight-flight adrenaline response. And once the body goes into adrenaline overdrive, that sends a signal that we are in danger, which feeds the fire of the adrenaline response.

The Gutpa Programme has many wonderful tools for retraining the brain to no longer overreact to small amounts of chemicals. The body can then shift from fight or flight to the calm parasympathetic nervous system response that allows us to rest, digest, have a healthy immune response, and to better detoxify from any chemical residues in our systems. And to then have the energy to more fully participate in the planetary shift to environmentally healthier ways of living.

Before I found the Gupta Programme, I had already discovered that I did better if I did not think so much about chemical sensitivities. I was still very sensitive, so with the connections I already had by telephone with people with MCS, I sought to shift the focus of conversation. What self-help healing modalities were we studying and finding useful? What beautiful plant was growing outside the window?

One of the best experiences was starting a group that sang over the telephone. Even with someone who I found to be very negative in her thinking, singing was an activity we could enjoy together. A few of us met in a support group to deal with a specific issue in our lives. These successes gave me the courage to reach out to a group of non-MCS women writers I knew, and ask to be included by telephone. We later got a grant to hold a writing workshop that was accessible by telephone. I also started working by telephone as a freelance journalist. Later I would learn about 12-step meetings that happened by conference call and that became another lifeline.

I also organized a group of people with chemical sensitivities to celebrate some holidays together in person. Some of us then ventured out to outdoor events together. I found that many food co-op and other health food people were safe for me to be around even when I was still sensitive.

I feel thankful now to be able to go anywhere, and be with anyone. My expansion started with simply shifting how I connected with the network of people in my life. My network shifted over time as I found who desired to go in the direction of healing, and as I made new connections.


Deborah Mayaan is a trainee coach with the Gupta Programme, as well as an energy work and flower essence practitioner. She works by telephone, Skype, and in person in Tucson. http://www.deborahmayaan.com

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