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I had planned to write about the menopause this week, but you’ll have to wait for that newsletter (something to look forward to lol) because I’ve been thinking a lot about energy recently, and wanted to formulate my thoughts, if only to work out what I believe.
I don’t mean energy as in the cost of living crisis, and I don’t mean the Pete Davidson kind of energy - I’m not even talking about Beyonce’s energy. In scientific terms, energy means the capacity for doing something. For example, anything that moves has ‘kinetic energy’. And something that is taut, like a stretched elastic band, has ‘potential energy’.
But I’m talking about energy with no scientific basis, no evidence or stats to back it up, nothing but a ‘feeling’ - and a lot of people around the world who believe in it. Spiritual energy, otherwise known as Prana, Qi, Chi or ‘life force’, is the basis of many complementary therapies, such as Reiki and acupuncture, the aim of which is to heal any disruptions in energy flow around the body.
On paper, to my rational brain, it sounds crazy. But I do know that feeling of sensing that someone is behind you before they make a sound. Or meeting someone for the first time and, before you know anything about them, getting either a good or bad ‘vibe’ that instantly makes you warm to them, or be wary of them. I also think there’s something in the idea of collective energy, when there is a feeling that grasps many people at the same time. It’s the fizzle in the air on Christmas Eve, or the electric atmosphere at a gig or a football match - it’s even the vibe in London during the Queen’s funeral yesterday.
The reason that I have got interested in energy recently is - rather predictably - to do with cancer. Because of my forthcoming book, I’ve been reading and researching a lot about cancer. And one concept that keeps coming up over and over again, from not only the more woo-woo people I speak to, but also plenty of the rational and reasonable ones too, is energy. Specifically the idea that one of the (many) reasons why people get cancer could be to do with ‘blocked energy’ in their body.
As a naturally cynical person, my initial response to this was: well, that’s a pack of bollocks. But the more I read about it, and about how Traditional Chinese Medicine has focused on clearing blocked energy for centuries, the more interested in it I am.
I certainly believe that lots of cancers are caused by things that have nothing to do with energy, such as smoking causing lung cancer, or a genetic mutation causing breast cancer. But Dr Gabor Maté’s enlightening book, When The Body Says No, really got me thinking about the mind-body connection, and how bottled up stress can have physical consequences.
So I decided to give it a go.
In LA last month, I had a course of energy healing sessions. I’m not sure how much it worked, although I did find it very soothing to lie on a treatment table while a healer waved her hands around over me. One thing that put me off was, in the chat prior to the energy healing session, she asked if there was a history of breast cancer in my family. I said my Nan had breast cancer twice, and she asked her name so I told her: Elise. Then during the energy healing, she suddenly exclaimed ‘Elise is here with you!’ To be honest, invoking my dead Nan made me feel a bit uncomfortable and put me off the whole experience.
But last week I went to an extremely fancy medical spa in Germany, to write a review of it for a newspaper (I know, it’s a tough gig). They have state of the art medical treatments and futuristic biohacking technology available but, since my health goal at the moment is to reduce my risk of breast cancer recurrence, they recommended Reiki. Reassuringly, the woman doing the healing this time was a trained psychotherapist, who first took the time to really excavate all of my fears about recurrence. Then, when I was on the table, it was a completely different experience from the one in LA. I felt rushes of warmth, and a kind of vibration flowing through me. At one point it actually felt as though my mind floated up out of my body.
Perhaps it was the emotional release of having a right old cry during our conversation first. Perhaps it was just supremely relaxing. Perhaps it’s psychosomatic. But, as Gabor Maté (him again!) said on the Feel Better Live More podcast last week: ’Psychosomatic should be a diagnosis, not a dismissal.’ In other words, if you feel it’s real, then it’s real for you.
Ultimately, I’m still not sure what I believe. I’d like to know what you think, so please do let me know on Instagram or Twitter or in the comments below.
This week I’m…
Reading Gabor Maté’s new book, The Myth of Normal: Trauma, Illness & Healing in a Toxic Culture
Sashaying into a fourth series of RuPaul’s Drag Race UK, on BBC Three from Thursday
Finding new ways to eat the bounty of beetroot from our neighbours’ allotment. This soup by Clodagh McKenna is beautiful and delicious
Hitting Bali with George Clooney and Julia Roberts in Ticket to Paradise, which is exactly the escapism we need right now
I've been reading a book called The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel Van Der Kolk which discusses how trauma affects the mind, brain and nervous system. I truly believe that with the right tools our body can recover from conditions such as chronic fatigue, ME etc if we teach our bodies how to deal with prolonged stress and anxiety and thereby unblocking the emotional functions of the vagus nerve which is like the M25 of the human body. My Coach Joanne Oakley recommended this book and Gabor Maté’s books also.