Friday, May 7, 2010
Tired and Hungry
Ever feel tired or hungry even though you just ate and had plenty of sleep? Let me tell you about a little trick your body sometimes plays on you - let me introduce you to FakeTired and FakeHungry. Recently I attended a weekend of lectures in London, something I'd been looking forward to for a while. I remembered finding it hard to concentrate in lectures at Cambridge, usually due to being tired or hungover or confused by the subject, so I made sure to get an early night the night before, and read up on the subject as much as I could. I had a great night's sleep and a light breakfast, and bounced across London feeling great, early for the first session. It was odd then, that about ten minutes into the lecture, I started to fall asleep. My head started to feel cloudy and confused, and I experienced an overwhelming feeling of tiredness behind my eyes. Instantly I started doubting that I'd slept well that night. I started taking sips of water to wake me up, and popped to the toilet for fresh air and to slap myself in the face. Having left the seminar room and run down the stairs, I felt wide awake. But two minutes after sitting down again I instantly felt tired. This was odd... and it made me start to think. Having done a lot of Tapping, I tend to try and apply it to everything. So I started Tapping the tiredness! It would have been odd to tap away in the seminar room, so I did it in my head - this tends to work just as well, as long as you clearly imagine saying the words, and precisely visualise Tapping the right points. I stopped feeling tired, and woke up to the point where I could easily pay attention to the lecture. I tapped some more in the break and a bit more that evening before I went out for a friend's birthday. Despite drinking alcohol and getting to bed later than I had intended, the next day during the lectures I was wide awake and thinking clearly. That was the first time I really noticed FakeTired - Tiredness You Can Tap (TM). Before I explain what's going on, I'll tell you about FakeHungry. This time it was me giving the lecture, during one of my weekend seminars. We do a lot of Tapping during these weekends, and don't shy away from intense stuff. This often brings up some bad feelings for people, so I frequently ask "how does everyone feel now? does anyone feel less than great?". Sometimes there are cloudy or foggy feelings, but this time a guy said he felt a bit hungry. It was an hour or so before lunch, and maybe he hadn't eaten that much for breakfast. A few other people said they felt hungry too... and I laughed along with everyone else when I suggested Tapping it. But the humour turned to curiosity and intrigue when they stopped feeling hungry. The guy who had said he felt hungry remarked that he still didn't feel hungry when we left for lunch, and after lunch he told me he didn't eat nearly as much as he usually did because he didn't have so much of an appetite. What's going on? Tiredness and Hunger (and probably Needing to Pee and all sorts of other body signals) are interpreted by the body as a negative feeling. They are very useful negative feelings as if we don't listen to them we pass out or starve (or burst!). Sometimes though, we associate, say, tiredness, with say, sitting in a lecture theatre. This particularly happens when we spend three years at University sitting in lecture theatres tired, hungover, bored, and confused. So as soon as I entered the seminar room EIGHT years later, my well-meaning sub-conscious mind said "aha, a lecture theatre, I know what to do here... time to get some kip!", and set about replaying all the genuine tired feelings it had learned to associate with lecture theatres all those years ago. Similarly, who knows what our minds associate with being hungry, it could be as simple as "I don't have an empty plate in front of me". We can certainly associate it with sitting in a seminar room. Our minds are wonderfully powerful learning machines, and all it takes is one time when you were really hungry and sat in a chair, to associate sitting down with hunger. When that association is triggered we feel FakeHungry or FakeTired, and the system is designed so that you can't tell the difference between that and the real thing. Even more confusingly, one way to banish FakeHungry is to eat, and one way to banish FakeTired is to sleep. When we eat, our system gets flooded with the feelings generated by digesting food, and these stronger masks the FakeHungry. It could even be that FakeHungry is always there, but we only feel it when the first stages of digestion are passed. Note that this happens way before we start feeling RealHungry. Sleeping switches off emotions that have been switched on due to associations. This is how powernaps work. It's less about a physical process of rest, and more about switching off the emotional processes that are going on. It doesn't take long to switch them off when we relax and close our eyes, but it also doesn't take long to switch them on when we go back to what we were doing. Because it is generated by the survival mechanism, FakeTired is fear-based. The creates a beautiful irony - have you ever felt so tired you couldn't sleep? That's because the strong fear-based FakeTired feelings are also keeping you awake to deal with possible threats. Another way to tell the difference between FakeTired and RealTired, or FakeHungry and RealHungry, is to see if you can feel them at will. See if you can focus and make yourself feel more tired or more hungry right now, just by thinking of times when you felt very very tired or hungry. As I find myself saying so often these days - you might want to tap that.