Survival Mechanisms That Were Killing Me

I was lying in bed one night. It was a night like any other night. I was completely at peace, feeling a great sense of well-being, without fear of death or anything else, without any sense of compulsions or addictions towards anything and without much of a story of a person named Scott.  The question arose, “How is this even possible, to have such deep peace and well-being?” It occurred to me in that moment that so many of what I would have previously referred to as “survival mechanisms” were bad for my health and that, as those dissolved away or relaxed, this deeper peace and well-being became my everyday experience.

The Story of a Person

I grew up, like everyone else, thinking that I was a story. It’s not that I just had a past and a future. In a very real sense, I WAS my past and future. That was my identity. It wasn’t simply entertaining and dramatic to think of myself as this story. It wasn’t only self-indulgent to be immersed in the story twenty four hours a day, seven days a week. It was more than that. It felt like a matter of survival. Without my past, who would I be? Without a future, there would be no me. The story, then, was a matter of survival not of a physical body, but of a psychological creature named Scott.

By the time I was 25, I had developed several life-changing medical conditions and addictions. Some of the conditions were formally diagnosed and others remained elusive and unable to be pinned down with an exact diagnosis. I remember hearing the doctor say many times, “It’s stress and lifestyle related.” But as I look back now, it was more story-related than anything. The more I thought about myself, ruminating endlessly on who I was, what had happened to me, what was happening to me, and what might happen or not happen to me in the future, the more stress I felt in the body. This constant storytelling seemed like a survival mechanism on the surface. After all, without the story, this very thing called Scott seemed to be under threat of non-existence.

But the constant storytelling was actually causing and maintaining stress and mental and emotional instability. I would think about the past and experience regret, shame, guilt, resentment and sadness. And because nobody taught me as a child how to really feel those energies so that they could release, the energies just stayed around, stuck to certain words and pictures within the story of me. The stress arose like clockwork, each time the sense of “I” from the past arose.

As I would think about the future, I would experience either hope or fear. The hope would create its own kind of physical and emotional stress. Hope provided reason to seek something other than my present experience. And anytime I sought to find some other experience, there was a resistance to what was presently happening.  Present thoughts and bodily energies felt threatening, as if I had to escape those things and find a better future, where I wouldn’t feel any of those things. This constant enslavement to hope was very disturbing mental and emotionally. This moment was always “not enough.” I found myself escaping not only by trying to find comfort foods, drugs, and alcohol but also trying to find anything that seemed to hold hope for me including a new relationship, a better job, and a better house. This felt like one big resistance to what is, a resistance to what I was feeling in the moment. That was stressful.

And fear about the future brought its own mental, emotional and physical stress. Whenever the future seemed scary, the fight, flight or freeze response would come in. I would try to control and manage my experience and life circumstances in order to keep the scary scenario from coming true. And of course it didn’t work. Control never works. It just creates more stress. The fight, flight or freeze response also seemed like a basic survival mechanism on the surface. After all, in the face of real danger, like being chased down by a raging bear, fleeing is a good thing. But when it came to the psychological threats dreamed up by the mind, fight, flight or freeze became bad for my health. I wouldn’t stop to feel the energies. The emotion of fear would build up. The mind, acting like a search engine, would get busy trying to fix or avoid the future. The actual feeling of fear could not release in that way. It would just build and build, creating more need to fight, flee or freeze. My heart would race. My body felt contracted. My mind would remain in frenzy mode. And yet there was no raging bear around. All of these threats were perceived by the mind. They did not have a basis in reality. And this was really bad for my health.

Seeing through the story of self has been one of the greatest healing tools I’ve found. It worked better than most of the medicine I took that was prescribed by a doctor. And it was certainly more helpful than all the addictive substances and activities I used to try and medicate the emotional and mental suffering. Those were all merely band aids for a more pervasive cause of stress and dis-ease—the story of me. The story was really not about survival at all. It just seemed that way. The only thing that survives in the story is the story itself. As long as the story is entertained and followed, the story persists. And as long as the story persists, with its intense peaks and valleys of thought and emotion, stress happens in the body. Perhaps heart disease and cancer should be replaced at the top of the list of human killers with “the story of me.” Millions of dollars in health care costs could probably be saved each year by teaching people to rest in presence and let all emotions and sensations to be as they are, without stories and labels.

For more information about seeing through the story, check out the Living Inquiries.

Addiction

Addiction deserves its own discussion. If you read up on the brain and how addiction affects it, you will see that the brain, once addiction kicks in, doesn’t know the difference between the need for basic survival and the need for the addictive substance or activity. For example, when one becomes addicted to cocaine, the brain’s chemistry treats the substance as being needed for actual survival. The same is true for all other addictive substances and activities from chocolate to caffeine to gambling and probably even to self-improvement and spiritual seeking. The brain gets wired into thinking that these addictive substances and activities are actually needed for survival. Yet no rational human would ever argue that chocolate or cocaine is actually needed for survival. Most would agree that too much of these things actually threaten survival.  But this part of the brain that gets hijacked isn’t rational. It’s compulsive. The part of the brain that experiences compulsions does not respond very well to the part of the brain that is rational.  Don’t trust me. Research it yourself.

So all that time in my youth, when it felt like I needed this or that addictive substance or needed to engage in this or that addictive activity, the brain was treating that as a matter of survival. This is why it felt so scary and threatening to imagine life without these things.  The very idea of living without some of these things was utterly terrifying sometimes.

So addiction is yet another example of where an apparent survival mechanism became bad for my health. All that chasing after sugar, caffeine, drugs, alcohol, and even things like self-improvement and spiritual awakening were products of that part of the brain that got confused into thinking these things were about my personal survival. The brain couldn’t tell the difference between a high from sugar and a high from a spiritual experience. “If it feels good, do it, chase it, find it again.” That’s the motto of the hijacked brain. For from helping me to survive, all that chasing caused more stress and anxiety in my body. Present emotions and sensations were constantly avoided in favor of some future hope seemingly contained in a drug, a drink, a donut, a spiritual experience or a “more improved version of Scott.” That wasn’t about survival. That was about getting pleasure and avoiding pain at all costs. Some seeking of pleasure may be necessary for physical survival.  For example, knowing that certain food is pleasurable makes me want to eat. And eating keeps the body alive. But chasing incessantly after chocolate, cocaine, caffeine, and sugar is certainly not about keeping the body alive. Not only is this constant chasing not about survival. It is exhausting and bad for the health.

For more information, check out the Compulsion Inquiry.

Health and the Body’s Strange Reactions and Stories around Illness and Pain

This is perhaps a more subtle area where survival becomes bad for the health. As I said, I’ve experienced many medical conditions through the years, from a nervous system disorder, to chronic pain in my spinal area, to urinary issues and stomach issues, to cancer. Most of that was either cleared up or greatly reduced, not from medicine but from resting in presence and using the Living Inquiries.

I used to experience pain and illness very differently. Every single uncomfortable sensation used to feel like a threat. The body had its own way of resisting these sensations, not only on a mental level but also on a physical level. For example, if pain would arise, the muscles around that area of the body would contract and resist the pain. It was in fight mode. The mind would tell word-based stories about the pain e.g., “This means I have a spinal disease and I might die from it.” The mind would also bring up pictures of the part of the body that was in pain. And these pictures would appear and reappear, almost in an addictive fashion, turning pain into chronic pain. And with all this mind activity, I would experience emotional responses of fear, sadness, shame, and anger. These energies would build and build, feeling stuck to certain words and pictures that would arise, time and time again. I suppose the mind believed that all this incessant storytelling, picture-making, and resistance was somehow helpful, somehow about surviving. But all this activity was creating more and more stress instead. The very way the mind and body was dealing and reacting to pain and illness was seemingly creating more pain and illness, more stress, more mental and emotional exhaustion.

I was fooled for a long time into thinking that all of this suffering around pain and illness was necessary. I thought a cancer diagnosis meant living in fear. I thought chronic pain was a life sentence. I thought the uncomfortable sensations around pain and illness needed to be resisted, thought about, and reacted against for the sake of survival.  I could not see that all of this was contributing to poor health.

Resting in presence and the Living Inquiries, again, were the key for me. It is because of those tools that I can lie down at night feeling this deep peace and well-being, noticing that there is no threat anywhere in the body, not in any sensation, word, or picture and no self that is going to die.

"Working with Dan has been nothing short of transformational. His open heart, honesty about his personal experience and permission to be real and not hide have helped me unlock those qualities in myself. And that has been a total game changer. I've been truly blessed, not only to have him as my KI Facilitator, but also as my mentor. Without a doubt, working with him has helped me to show up authentically, helped sharpen my tools and made me a better facilitator than I would've been on my own. I can't recommend him enough."
Darby Totten
Certified KI Facilitator

Dan McLintock is a Certified Facilitator, Trainer and the Co-Developer of the Kiloby Inquiries method/approach the New Model of Recovery along w Scott Kiloby. 

A Jacksonville, Florida native, Dan graduated Flagler College in 2004 with B.A. in Theatre Arts and English Literature and has played music professionally in bands for over 20 years. But his true passion lies in sharing the context, possibility and practicality of healing, awakening and release. 

Dan has worked one-on-one with clients in and out of the Kiloby Center since 2017 and has an unconditionally loving and earnest approach to healing trauma, dissolving the drivers of addiction/suffering and unhooking long-held toxic beliefs about ourselves, others and the world at large. 

He’s also worked intensively, side-by-side with Scott Kiloby for the past three years to develop the transformative tools of the Kiloby Inquiries as well as the principles and approach of the “New Model of Recovery” rooted in unconditional love and non-judgment. Much of this approach was borne out of Scott and Dan’s work with each other on their own personal traumas as well as their work with clients at the Kiloby Center. 

Scott and Dan have simplified, demystified and condensed some of the principles and practices of eastern/non-dual spirituality into an easily accessible set of tools most anyone can understand, learn and utilize to free themselves from their own suffering. 

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To book a clarity call, select your preferred facilitator (hover over their picture and click the “Meet” button). Then, enter your email and click “Book Your Call.” From there, you’ll be able to select your preferred date and time and schedule your clarity call (please double-check your time zone before booking).

Valerie Vinger is a thriving survivor of life’s painful challenges and growth opportunities. She has worked with 12-step programs and is currently a 13-year stage-III cancer survivor. Her cancer recovery journey started with the traditional “cut, poison, burn” approach but eventually led her down a natural path to healing her body, her pain and suffering, and her buried emotions.

Valerie first stumbled upon Scott Kiloby at a workshop of his in Boulder, Colorado in 2012, which she says is one of the most transformative experiences she’s ever had. She is filled with gratitude for the person she has become through her journey with cancer recovery and with the Inquiries, which she describes as “coming home to myself.” She loves working with people who are ready for relief from their pain and suffering.

Julianne Eanniello is a Certified Trainer and Facilitator of both the Kiloby Inquiries and the Unfindability Inquiries (formerly called the Living Inquiries). She is also a Certified TRE Practitioner, and the developer of the somatic movement process called Natural Flow Movement. She works with clients all over the world on virtually any topic, including spiritual seeking, stress, anxiety, depression, pain and health related issues, traumatic experiences, repression, relationship issues, and general unhappiness with ourselves and our lives. She does this through online sessions, deepening courses, workshops and facilitator certification training.

About Julianne:

For most of my life I’ve wondered who I am and why I am here. As I was growing up, no one else seemed to be talking about these things, or even thinking about them, so I buried it deep inside and tried my best to fit in the way I was “supposed” to, all the while feeling like there was something desperately wrong with me and that I needed to fix it.

In my early thirties, the death of a young relative left me feeling hopeless and helpless, wondering what is the point of life if we’re all just going to die anyway? This launched me on a search. I didn’t even know what I was looking for, I just knew that there was a longing – a desperate longing for something that actually made sense about life. I learned several alternative spiritual and healing techniques. I meditated. I read books and watched videos. I eventually learned of non-duality teachings, and I read more books, watched more videos, and even sat with several ‘awakened’ teachers. Yet I was still searching, something still felt missing. I was looking for the key that would unlock the mystery of me and of life.

In my early forties, I developed a chronic health condition that left me unable to work for several years, and most days barely able to get out of bed due to extreme fatigue, brain fog and pain. I lost my banking job, and eventually lost my home. I saw a multitude of doctors to try to find out what was wrong with me, and used every tool in my metaphysical and alternative medicine toolkit to try to heal myself. My seeking became even more intense, and I was looking for a way to escape my pain.

In 2009, I met Scott Kiloby. Since I started working with him and doing the Living Inquiries, the seeking for enlightenment has stopped, and the question of ‘who am I’ is no longer relevant. My victim stories around my health started falling away. Once I started looking at my experience through inquiry, everything changed. I stopped chasing something ‘out there.’ I no longer seek some future state of happiness or peace. This is not to say that I don’t have problems, or ever experience pain. Quite the contrary. I still use the inquiries regularly, and now there is much less avoidance or resistance to what I’m experiencing. I experience more and more freedom in the present moment, exactly as it appears.

Having trained with Scott, I was one of the first to be certified as a Senior Living Inquiries Facilitator and Trainer in early 2012. In 2014, I moved to CA and became a business partner with Scott at The Kiloby Center for Recovery, where we worked with people suffering from addiction, anxiety, depression and more for the next 8 years.

I can’t imagine my life without these inquiries. They saved me from myself. If you are still suffering, searching, longing… I encourage you to give this a try.

As a young child I saw a picture of Jesus gazing lovingly at some children around his feet. I immediately longed for the unconditional love I saw in his gaze. At the same time, I was being read fairy tales, like Cinderella, and came to believe that romantic love would satisfy that longing for love.

So, I married my handsome prince at age 19. But then, by age 29, I found myself alone, as a single mother, with four young children. I was devastated and convinced that something was terribly wrong with me, to have ended up in such a predicament. 

I had learned to love and please others, but not how to love and respect myself. I was a “good girl,” and repressed my urges to have my own needs acknowledged and met. A wise teacher later told me, “We need to love everyone, including ourselves.” This was an amazing revelation for me!

Learning to meditate helped immensely to bring moments of peace, while I was sitting still, though I was still being triggered regularly in my relationships. Finally, the Kiloby Inquiries taught me how to turn my attention inside in daily life – towards the trapped thoughts and emotions I’d been running from – so that I could face and release them. It was like some tender, lost children began coming home, to take their rightful place in my inner world. 

I am honored and excited to be able to facilitate these wonderful inquiries for others.

Sumitra lives on the Hawaiian island of Kauai with some of her family. She has four grown children and six grandchildren. For many years she lived and worked in a yoga retreat community in California, and has taught yoga, meditation and Compassionate Communication in addition to facilitating the tools of the Kiloby Inquiries (since 2013).

Sumitra also loves working with couples and others with relationship challenges in a simple (though not always easy) deep listening practice that allows each person to be truly heard and acknowledged.

Alina is a certified KI facilitator & a founder of Presence Alchemy – An advance mindfulness platform dedicated to liberating suffering & limiting core beliefs through Kiloby Inquiries & non-dual awareness. Presence Alchemy was born eight years into Alina’s embodiment journey of an inner shift from ego to wakefulness. Alina works one-on-one with clients, hosts online intensives and training, and organizes local retreats & workshops.
Alec Rodrigues has been certified to facilitate inquiry since 2015 and brings a keen sense of intuition to his work. He believes that in connection, the deepest healing takes place, that the mirror of relationship is the best crucible for transformation. Through rest and inquiry, Alec has found the empowerment to meet others authentically and stop running so damn fast from the seeming “ordinariness” of life.

He currently lives in Washington state with his girlfriend and works as a training assistant for the KI Personal Mentorship Program, where he empowers enrollees by teaching them the KI tools.