September 25, 2019

The Fibromyalgia Personality

As we grow further and further in our understanding of various diseases, their causes, correlations, and ability to be healed, another element to understand is the particular personality style that is more predisposed to one particular disease over another. We now know that genetic predisposition does not need to be actualized so the variable is why is it actualized in some yet not in others. Simply put, personality and beliefs are the major factors.

I have created a Leadership Self-Assessment Tool ( https://www.askdrdorothy.com/ ) to support leaders in understanding their style of leadership, and later provide further information to help them understand the health implications that develop when they are in a constant state of fear and/or force. It helps to know that stress patterns vary widely between each leadership style and knowing their style provides the opportunity to change.

For those with Fibromyalgia, there is a particular style of leadership, and we are all leaders of our own lives, including those who refuse to take responsibility for such, since not taking ownership is a choice, conscious or otherwise.

In understanding Fibromyalgia patients after years of observing patterns that exist, including the quantitative and qualitative research I did for my doctoral dissertation, I clearly see a pattern of abuse in childhood, sexual, physical and/or emotional. In not being protected as a child, they also felt unloved or unwanted. Consequently, there is a limited sense of self, as a valuable, independent being of great worth.

As adults, they have come to believe that their sole value and worth exists only in their ability to love others in a way they never experienced (love is synonymous to being protected.)  The point of Fibromyalgia onset, then, for many (over 97% are women) is when a child leaves the nest and the parent can no longer “protect” them from any fear, sadness, confusion, loneliness, rejection, or failure which may occur. This occurs whether a child leaves home for school, even if down the street, or marries and moves across the country, or goes to college hours away. In each situation their ability to protect is either eliminated or at best minimized. Their fear of failure as a parent skyrockets because their ability to do their job, and have value, is threatened.

Over time I found that with some patients, it was a distressed husband or parent they are in a reverse parent-child relationship with, that triggers their fear.  Their pattern of relationship causes them to bring the same dynamic to co-workers, and elsewhere. We are not meant to live our lives in a state of fear and protection for ourselves or others. For Fibromyalgia patients, letting that fear and belief go is the challenge. Thankfully, personalities can mature or change along with beliefs especially when they impact health. 

In addition, Fibromyalgia is now a growing concern with our veterans. The additional experience of trauma they witness or endure themselves along with buddies on the battlefield can cause those with this tendency to develop acute Fibromyalgia. Did they not “protect” their buddies as they believe they should have? Are they taking unreasonable responsibility for failing others? Are they stuck in fear for those who are still over there while they are here?

Since so many go through similar experiences, how can one experience something one way and another experience the same event in a dramatically different way with far different consequences? Spiritual beliefs, world view, and a vastly different sense of who they are in the world.

For all of us, our stressors are experienced because of our background, our family placement, our relationships with our parents, our neighbors, and religious leaders etc. All of these influence how we see the world, ourselves, and our place in it. Learning to understand which belief systems support our health and which are harmful is a beginning. Even recognizing that some of our beliefs are simply beliefs and not universal truths is a start. Changing behaviors, patterns, and our way of doing relationships with ourselves and others is the important next step.

Those with Fibromyalgia who have trained others to expect much more than is reasonable must change that conditioning. Co-dependent and enmeshed relationships do not serve any one and they support the development of Fibromyalgia. In teaching their children how to do relationships, they are also teaching them how to develop this disorder. Changing their sense of self and their pattern of relationship, will change their health and reduce their stress while supporting the future health of their children as well.

A powerful exercise I use has them sitting in a chair and visualizing across the room, pretty far away, the life they have created: their spouse or lover, children, career, extended family, friends, neighbors, country, and religion. Stressing that none of those things are them. They exist apart from all of that. Each of those on the other side of the room are walking their own journey, bringing others into their lives, apart from my client.  

For Fibromyalgia patients this is a terrifying concept. They only exist in relationship to others.

Asking themselves questions such as “What do I need?” “What do I want for me?” "What have I given me, my power, and/or my joy over to?” can cause immense fear. Once they are in pain, they still have the need to protect but they finally have permission/expectation that others to protect them.  Taking protection out of the picture and teaching them self-care, personal responsibility, and individuation is required for healing.

In closing, Fibromyalgia is definitely a physical condition, and one that can be healed. However, it is a complex and multilayered condition whose root cause is psychological, and personality-driven. My hope is that the future of medical care will continue to explore the correlation between the mind and the body and look into alternative, non-medicinal approaches to patient care. After all, our focus should be on what is best for the patient.

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