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Prudence, Horror and Intraocular Pressure

Submitted by dave on Wed, 03/30/2011 - 5:21pm

Recently we had a discussion on the FitEyes email list about experimenting with glaucoma medications. As part of that discussion, people expressed that they were horrified or fearful. At least one person responded by advocating a prudent stance. I certainly do not disagree with the advice given. In fact, I think everyone who responded to the original post was in agreement that the thing the original questioner contemplated was totally inappropriate for the person's skill level. So that was the end of that discussion, rightly so.

But what the emotional aspects of the discussion continue to intrigue me and I would like to go in a tangential direction with a new article drawing inspiration from that prior discussion.

As a refresher, here is an edited excerpt from the last posts in the prior discussion. (It's not necessary to read the prior discussion because this article goes in a different direction and is really a completely different topic.)

Person A

I am personally horrified at people experimenting [...] and posting them on the BLOG. People can experiment with their own body, but by posting them they are in the danger of influencing someone who might not have wherewhithals to understand the consequences of this experimentations.

Person B:

[Person A] is not alone in questioning the prudence of [these experiments]...  That was my "take" also on this thread.

It's true that the Internet age offers us huge opportunities to obtain and share information.  Hopefully people realize, though, that the old Roman saying still applies:  CAVEAT EMPTOR ("Let the buyer beware" -- or in this case, the consumer of information).

I don't think I would personally [experiment in these ways].  Some of you out there might call this fearfulness; I myself would call it PRUDENCE.

Again, those are valid points and I tend to agree with the sentiments of that prior thread. But, as I said, that discussion was a source of inspiration for this article. I think I can also share some related insights that might get your attention and that may touch you. The process of discovering these things touched me very deeply.

To set the stage, please allow me to share this poem by Rilka:

God speaks to each of us as he makes us,

then walks with us silently out of the night.

These are the words we dimly hear:

You, sent out beyond your recall,

go to the limits of your longing.

Embody me.

Flare up like flame

and make big shadows I can move in.

Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror.

Just keep going. No feeling is final.

Don’t let yourself lose me.

Nearby is the country they call life.

You will know it by its seriousness.

Give me your hand.

—Rilke’s Book of Hours, I, 59

The lines that prompted me to want to share this poem are, "Nearby is the country they call life. You will know it by its seriousness." I would like to examine the perspective that we must approach life with such seriousness. I would like to relate that to what I have learned about managing my eye pressure.

As you know, I have become very interested in the relationship between my emotions and my eye pressure after seeing a correlation between the two that has persisted over all the years I've been doing self-tonometry. In fact, my emotions can, at times, overpower multiple anti-glaucoma eye drops and render them completely ineffective. That's a powerful effect! Few things in my life influence IOP as much as my emotions. And I hear reports from people every day who use tonometers and tell me they are finding the same thing.

Of course most FitEyes readers now recognize that stressful situations can raise intraocular pressure. For the most part, emotions are at the root of this. But the relationship is not limited to "stressful" situations. All emotions can affect IOP, each in its own way.

As I read the prior thread I was paying attention to all the emotions discussed. Horror and fear were brought up, of course. That caught my attention right off the bat.

For the sake of making the discussion interesting, let's contrast two groups we could possibly create among the diversity of FitEyes readers. We have some readers who are taking calculated risks and carefully experimenting in ways have already benefited their intraocular pressure. We can imagine another group of people who are not doing self-experimenting but who are experiencing emotions that are most likely having a harmful effect on their own IOP. (It can get a bit ironic when those emotions are coming as a reaction to what the first group is doing!) I'm not suggesting that any one person is any either group -- indeed, I've probably in both groups at various times in my life. But there is something really interesting that I am leading up to and that's why I made this contrast.

The really interesting aspect of this discussion is that I found prudence to be one of the worst emotional states for managing my IOP. Other emotional states that really play havoc with my eye pressure are self-righteousness and judgementalism, but all three of these tend to go together for me. Prudence may be the most insidious of the three.

Let me give an example of how easy it is to observe the effects of some of these emotions. When I have gone to internet sites where most of the people didn't agree with me and I found myself caught up in judging them or feeling self-righteous and defending myself, my eye pressure can spike up to very high levels very rapidly. IOP measurements before and after leave no doubt as to how these emotions affect my eye pressure. This is one way that self-tonometry continually reinforces my path. I prefer to be less self-righteous and seeing that dropping my judgemental tendencies helps me manage my IOP is great reinforcement for making the desired changes.

What's really interesting is that as I followed the self-tonometry data down the trail of emotions, it lead me to prudence. This was a more difficult relationship to discover because it plays out over time. In fact, this is something that has been playing out over my entire lifetime.

Prudence entails a state of mind that makes it almost impossible to maintain my best IOP. Prudence implies a focus on the future -- specifically a belief that we can influence, manage or control future outcomes by calculated actions, constraint, deliberation, thoughtfulness, etc. To a prudent person, life is also a serious affair, as Rilka hinted in the above poem.

It took a lot of IOP measurements and a lot of introspection and impartial observance of my own personality to recognize that a quality I had been taught at a young age by my well-intentioned parents, and quality that society universally praises could actually be underlying my loss of vision. I was quite shocked to discover that prudence played such a role in my elevated intraocular pressure and therefore threatened my quality of life far more than anything else I was facing. Ironic, eh? I thought so.

I once filled out a personality questionnaire and, as a fun mental exercise, I answered every quality about myself with a word that started with the letter "P". What triggered me to do this was the central role of prudence in my personality. It was so central that I thought it would be fun to use that focal point and make every other word I used to describe myself start with the letter "P".

I don't know if prudence has exactly the same effect on other glaucoma patients, but I suspect there are commonalities. It should have a similar effect on all glaucoma patients because there are principles that govern how all this works. Science now tells us that consciousness structures the physiology (e.g., neurons that fire together wire together). Without needing to resort to any "new age" thinking, we can connect the dots to see that it is quite likely that any internal state that fosters constraint, excessive control and excessive cogitation will also lead to physiological constriction. See this article for a first hint at how the dots can be connected: If you are a glaucoma patient, I think you really should give that article some deep thought.

I am finding it such a relief to let go of being prudent -- when I can. Prudence can be a bit of a burden after all. It is much easier to be carefree. It is a joy to experience lightness of being. Prudence is heavy and constrictive. But for a lifelong prudent person like myself, the habitual emotions can make it almost impossible to be really carefree. Guilt will quickly force one back into the habit of prudence.

I think I will ultimately master my own IOP when I also master my emotions to the extent that I can let go of prudence. I actually find it easier to let go of things like fear or anxiety because those are not deemed to be "good" qualities by society at large. The problem with prudence is that, even though it provides no guarantee of a good outcome, everyone will quickly blame the lack of prudence for any undesirable outcome. It is fallacious thinking to do so, but the possibility of being on the receiving end of such criticisms tends to make those of us with prudent tendencies hang on to them. That's the guilt that forces us back to being prudent. I'm working to overcome that because I have incredibly strong personal evidence that prudence is intimately tied to the pathology of my glaucoma.

A lot of what I'm discussing here will only make sense if you have some understanding of what recent scientific discoveries say about the role consciousness plays in our state of health. Furthermore, some understanding of what things like morality, compassion, stewardship and sagacity look like without prudence would offer a good perspective. I just can't put all that background in one article while keeping it to a reasonable length. But I also felt compelled to speak up on the subject of prudence and IOP based on my experiences. I hope you find this helpful.

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