Ian Cleary

Top Tip for Recovery Neuro Nugget Series

October 26, 2021IanChronic Fatigue Syndrome & ME, Chronic Pain/ Fibromyalgia, Lightning Process, NeuroplasticityComments Off on Top Tip for Recovery Neuro Nugget Series

Welcome to the first of my Neuro Nugget Series.

Talking all things Pain & Fatigue

I sat down with Adam Stanecki for his Digging Deep Podcast recently and chatting all things pain, fatigue and fear.

  • New directions in Pain research
  • Understanding Pain & Fatigue & Anxiety
  • Some great first steps & obstacles to change



October 8, 2021IanChronic Pain/ FibromyalgiaComments Off on

Like a lock & key, morphine fits into a special receptor & click, it works it’s magic on pain. BUT the ‘lock’ inside you that morphine works on isn’t actually made to be opened by morphine (or other artificial opioids). What’s the real KEY?

Like Dorothy and her magic slippers that were with her the entire time, you are walking around with the real KEY – a  substance 40 times more powerful than morphine because it’s an exact fit for the ‘lock’.
Tapping into your internal medicine cabinet needs no prescription and has no side effects.

Knowledge drives recovery!

Online Lightning Process Updates

October 4, 2021IanChronic Fatigue Syndrome & ME, Chronic Pain/ Fibromyalgia, In the News & Research, Lightning ProcessComments Off on Online Lightning Process Updates


Does the Lightning Process Training Programme Reduce Chronic Fatigue in Adolescent and Young Adult Cancer Survivors?

August 18, 2021IanChronic Fatigue Syndrome & ME, In the News & Research, Lightning Process, UncategorizedComments Off on Does the Lightning Process Training Programme Reduce Chronic Fatigue in Adolescent and Young Adult Cancer Survivors?




(Cancers 202113(16), 4076)

Another research study was published about the Lightning Process.

It is a mixed methods study of the effects of the Lightning Process on cancer survivors with chronic fatigue and has shown promising results.

Chronic fatigue is a severe side-effect commonly experienced by many who have recovered from cancer.  It is often debilitating and unresponsive to treatment.  The Lightning Process was evaluated as a potential solution for this issue due to previous promising evidence concerning its effects on fatigue.


This study found statistically significant improvements for all the patient-reported outcome measure (PROM) questionnaires comparing the pre- and post-intervention periods, with a significant reduction (p < .001) in the total fatigue score from baseline to 3 months and six month follow-up. This was reflected in the qualitative findings of the interviews where ‘participants emphasised that they now experienced both less fatigue and explicit improvement in their energy level’.

All 11 participants confirmed that the intervention had not worsened their health or caused them any negative side effects and that they were satisfied or very satisfied with intervention.  They also expressed that during the LP they felt they were ‘finally being taken seriously’ and the researchers noted how the LP course explicitly validated the participants’ symptoms as being real rather than ‘imagined’.

The researchers noted that ‘The reductions in the participants’ total fatigue scores were remarkable, since no changes in their overall level of fatigue, as subjectively expressed by the participants themselves, were reported over the preceding years.’

You can find the complete paper here: https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6694/13/16/4076/htm

Post Cancer fatigue

August 16, 2021IanChronic Fatigue Syndrome & ME, In the News & Research, NeuroplasticityComments Off on Post Cancer fatigue

I recently wrote an article on the nature of fatigue and the idea that fatigue / tiredness is not a lack of biological energy, but rather a form of protective response to a perceived threat.

With the brain being plastic and changeable with experience, a past threat can seemingly alter brain function to maintain the protective response of fatigue well after the threat has past.

Hence we get Post Viral Fatigue long after the viral threat has gone. Real fatigue, just no longer appropriate.

A common issue for those who have survived cancer treatment is Post Chemo fatigue. Does the same principle apply for Post Cancer Fatigue?

A paper came out in the journal Cancer today asking the question:

Does the Lightning Process Training Programme Reduce Chronic
Fatigue in Adolescent and Young Adult Cancer Survivors?



Fauske, L.; Bruland, Ø.S.; Dahl, A.A.; Myklebostad, A.; Reme, S.E. Does the Lightning Process Training Programme Reduce Chronic Fatigue in Adolescent and Young Adult Cancer Survivors? A Mixed-Methods Pilot Study. Cancers 202113, 4076. https://doi.org/10.3390/cancers13164076

What Choice Do you Have?

August 13, 2021IanChronic Fatigue Syndrome & ME, Chronic Pain/ Fibromyalgia, Neuroplasticity, Success StoriesComments Off on What Choice Do you Have?

Summing up the Lightning Process

A while back I emailed many of hundreds of graduates who had taken one of my trainings over the last 13 years. I gave them this challenge.

Sum up the Lightning Process in one word.

I knew it was a big ask, as we cover so many things over the 3 days – both practical skills and information.

There was a variety of replies but the winner by a country mile was –


Graduates summed up the Lightning Process with that simple word.

When we are stuck in our health and lives, by definition we’ve run out of choices. We are stuck. It doesn’t matter what we try, we stay stuck. We might try something that works a little or works for a little bit, but before long you find yourself back there – you’re STUCK.

From a brain retraining perspective, the Lightning Process shows people where they DO have CHOICES.

Choices based on understanding how the mind and body interact to influence our health.

By consistently choosing to choose deliberately, we can retrain the brain.

Deliberate Neuroplastic Change. 

From stuckness to ……..? Well that’s the point. It’s a choice what the life you love actually looks like.

Some use the Lightning Process to get their dream job back. Some go on to change their career. Others go on to work and earn for the first time ever. Some go on to love their daily run on the beach, train for a marathon or go on hiking trips. Others simply choose to get to a point where they can easily lift their grandchildren, have the focus and energy to have friends around or simply to have the capacity to be there for others for a change. Often it’s simply having the energy and focus to enjoy their days rather than just getting through them.

Sometimes it’s grand. Sometimes it’s simple. But it’s always special because of the power of choice.

You didn’t get stuck by your choosing, but you can get unstuck by your choosing.

When you are stuck, even more than ever, recognising that you DO have choices is a powerful part of making change.

Neuroplasticity shows us that the brain is incredibly flexible and adaptable. With deliberate and focused effort designed to engage the adaptive power of the brain, people can go from stuck to flourishing.

What choice do I have?

“What choice do I have” is the catchphrase of victimhood AND the catchphrase of someone looking for their first step out of stuckness. Choose wisely how you say that statement.

You could simply start by choosing to be willing to look at your situation differently.

You could choose wisely what you read. You could choose to update your understandings of what brain science tells us about the nature of pain and fatigue or ignore it. You could choose to get offended by talk of the brain or you could choose to get curious or excited.

You could choose to be involved in forums that are negative, all about management or that promote hopelessness – that’s a choice. There are others forums and websites around devoted to telling stories of people who have recovered from conditions such as FIBROMYALGIA, CFS/ME, CRPS, anxiety, depression, PTSD. Not just managing it well – Recovered.

The Norwegian Based Website Recovery has many many wonderful stories of ME/CFS recovery stories to choose from.

My website is filled with success stories. You could choose to find someone like you on that list.

There is a power in every deliberate choice. Choose wisely.

“CHOICES are the hinges of destiny”. Edwin Markham

If you want to know more about the Lightning Process you could download the Lightning Process Audiobook or simply Email me to arrange a chat.  It’s your choice. 🙂

Is Fatigue a lack of Energy?

There’s nothing like a good night’s sleep to recharge the body’s batteries – except that’s not how it works.

Some people think that going to sleep is like plugging in your phone to the charger at night.

Give it 8 hours and you wake with full batteries and you’re good to go all day. If you don’t get your 8 hours, it’s like you haven’t ‘fully recharged’ or your body’s batteries are not at 100%.  This common human experience easily leads to assumptions about fatigue and we use the metaphor a ‘lack of energy’. We make ‘energy’ a thing. And ‘fatigue’ is also a thing …. or a depletion of a ‘thing’.

We equate the sensation of ‘tired’ with a biological lack of energy.

This is sometimes known as the Energy Depletion Model of fatigue and while it makes intuitive sense – like other insights from science, sometimes things aren’t as they seem. The link between tiredness and biological energy is not as direct as we usually think.

It might surprise you that TOO MUCH sleep is also associated with fatigue. I’ll just repeat that. Sleeping too much is associated with fatigue. Did I plug my phone in for so long that I am somehow back to a flat battery? So there goes my phone recharge metaphor! 🙁

Now think of what you know about a symptom of low iron levels – FATIGUE. Fits nicely into the ‘Energy Depletion’ Model. Low Iron = Low batteries = Fatigue.  Bingo! Depletion Model of fatigue is back on the table – dust off the phone recharger metaphor.

However unusually HIGH iron levels are ALSO associated with fatigue. Sorry phone recharger metaphor. Back to the middle drawer of useless cables for you.

Too little protein AND too much protein is associated with fatigue. Too little fat in a diet is associated with fatigue ….. and you can probably guess now what is ALSO associated with a diet too high in fat. Our old friend – Fatigue.

A lifestyle excessively high in exercise …. fatigue. But a life style too low in exercise ….. fatigue.

Not quite ready to ditch the ‘energy depletion model’? Well did you know that sleeping USES biological energy.   How much? Approximately the same energy as a 30 minute session in the pool swimming BUTTERFLY – about 360 calories! So by rights plugging in that phone recharger overnight should show up as fewer ‘bars’ on the phone in the morning due to all that energy-draining sleep!

So sleep uses biological energy yet we wake up ‘energized’. Well some of us do. Other don’t – regardless of how much sleep they have.

And if you are one of those people – a different understanding fatigue could be invaluable.

Understanding that fatigue is not a depletion of biological energy, as counter-intuitive as that may seem, is a game changer – particularly if you are chronically fatigued.

Those people already know that NO amount of sleep gets them to “fully charged” (even if you add day naps or pre-emptive sleep before an activity). Neither do they hit fully charged if they sleep lots AND do very little. Other have the most intense healthy diet to build up those batteries and still – fatigue.

YET people still hang onto that historic model of fatigue.

Believing that tiredness is a lack of biological energy may put in place behaviours, management techniques and strategies that are counter productive and keeps people from finding actual solutions to the problem.

Trying to rest one’s way out of a chronic fatigue is NOT associated with positive outcomes. It might be managed by rest but unlikely to be solved.

So what is fatigue if it is not a lack of energy?

The clue is to look where it is present. Sleep problems, food intake issues (quantity or quality), stress issues, a virus, bacteria or active illness, recovering injury, undergoing cancer treatment, anxiety, depression, past trauma and grief.

A different model of fatigue now sees it not caused by a depletion of energy but rather a neurological protection response associated with a THREAT. When the brain detects a threat it can turn on fatigue to help us.

So why do I feel tired after a poor night’s sleep? Sleep is primarily for the brain so if the brain hasn’t had enough time to do its important nightly function that’s a problem (threat) so the brain turns on fatigue. Interestingly, and inline with this model, studies also show that fatigue can be triggered by someone believing they haven’t had enough sleep when they actually have. So a perceived threat or actual threat can trigger the fatigue.

So a more useful metaphor might be that it’s not a ‘running out of petrol’. It’s the brain slamming on the emergency breaks. And before people start to email me that I am claiming it’s ‘All in the Head’ remember neurological not psychological.

When the brain detects a virus (threat), it’s not in our interest to run around so the brain turns on fatigue. Neurological not psychological. The fatigue is real AND your body also has sufficient biological to go about its daily functions. It’s just not in our interest to go about our daily functions. So you can have biological energy AND real fatigue at the same time. (Petrol in the tank AND the brakes jammed on).

For some people, the viral threat passes yet it is as if the brakes are jammed on and they are left with ‘Post Viral Fatigue’. The threat has passed but the brain is still triggering fatigue. The energy was there all along and it still is –  the only issue is that the fatigue is also still there. Real fatigue just no longer appropriate fatigue. It’s not ‘all in the head’. It’s the exact same crushing fatigue as when the virus was present. It’s now just no longer appropriate.

And that is the dark side of Neural Plasticity (the brain’s ability to change with experience). Anything that goes on for long enough can create changes or adaptations in the brain. Neurological not psychological.

The THREAT has past but the fatigue remains.  Real fatigue just no longer appropriate.

We can see a similar patterns play out neurologically with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The original threat has passed but the brain is still turning on its protections mechanisms. We see it with some Chronic Pain conditions where an original injury (threat) has passed but the brain is still tuning on another neurological protective mechanism – pain. We see it with childhood trauma. The childhood threat has passed, yet the body is still turning on protective responses. (Fear, pain, fatigue, behaviours, anxiety).

These are the neuroplastic adaptations that have occurred in the brain and nervous system.

Within this model, you can probably see why rest is NOT associated with recovery. You already know what is associated with excessive inactivity – fatigue. Suffers of chronic fatigue also know that just pushing through and exercising isn’t going to work. Because the brain has put a threat value on exercise. Just like when people have a virus. Activity can trigger the protective response of fatigue. You’re stuck ….  fatigue if you rest or if you exercise. Being told there ‘Is no cure’ also doesn’t help the brain’s assessment of threat but that’s another story.

So if resting isn’t the answer and pushing through and exercising isn’t the answer then what?

Well there are actually many options available. A great starting point though is to have a better understanding fatigue.

Now that’s something to sleep on. 

Fire & Your Brain


As fire season starts I’m reminded of my work on fire crews when I was younger. Little did I know that my work testing moisture in leaf litter or plugging in wind speeds would give profound insight into the brain and pain & fatigue.

Who is better protected from catastrophe – a town with a super-fast fire crew that can respond as soon as the first whisp of smoke is detected OR a town that can predict in advance of a catastrophic fire season and set off the warming bells early and take necessary action?

The answer is that it is safer to predict well than respond quickly. 

That is also the brain’s key strategy – it protects and serves us by predicting. BUT HOW?

Well those fire signs we see are not just a person sticking their head out the window and getting a ‘feel’ for the day. They methodically measure temperature, wind, moisture levels AND have a programme that looks at how that relates to PAST fires. It’s the PAST that helps us predict our safety on any given day. OUR PAST is how we predict the FUTURE. The measurements are meaningly unless we compare them to the PAST.

And so it is with the brain. If you haven’t figured it out by all those red highlighted words : OUR PAST IS HUGELY INFLUENTIAL IN HOW OUR BRAIN RESPONDS

Those who have been following my Lightning Process emails know that the approach looks at the role our brain plays in our physical and mental well-being.

Our brains are always changing and adapting to experience (Neuroplasticity). A key fact about the brain is this simple but profound concept … rather than responding to the PRESENT moment, our brains are actually predicting what will happen NEXT and protecting us from that predicted FUTURE. It does this by looking at patterns of the PAST. Like a town preparing for a future fire season.  So technically the brain is not responding to the moment to keep you safe – it is predicting what you need to stay safe based on your PAST. That’s worth pondering – Your brain is trying to keep you safe by looking at your past.

So – your past matters in your brain function. Your responses are unique to you because your past is unique to you.

Long periods of historic stress, adverse childhood experiences (abuse, neglect, household dysfunction) or intense traumatic experiences in our past are highly influential in brain function.

Long periods of stress in our past are associated with an over-protective brain. We might actually be safe now but the brain isn’t focused on the present. It’s focused on the PAST and predicting the future.

Think how this might be relevant to anxiety or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

But we don’t have to be at the mercy of our past. With focused attention and effort we can retrain our brains. That’s what I call ‘Self-directed Neuroplastic Change’.

How might YOUR brain be responding historically rather than appropriately? As a reminder, a ‘response’ could be your stress response, your behavioural responses, your emotional response or even a neurological response like pain and fatigue. (YES – those last 2 are neurological protective responses. This pain TED talk might be a good refresher.)

As we enter a new year our brains will be looking to our past to figure out how best to approach 2021. Sometimes that is useful and sometimes it creates an over-protective response. We don’t have be at the mercy of our past.

Past traumas, threats, stresses and challenges can change how the brain responds. Past stress is associated with over-protective responses. Past stress can create a fear-based brain and introduce biases in how the brain determines what is a threat. Ongoing stress can change the brain so that it can start to respond to safe things as if they are dangerous – very real and physical responses triggered by an over-protective brain.

Pain, fatigue, fear, immune responses, stress, avoidance, emotional responses and ways of thinking can all protect us AND over-protect us. A key finding in neuroscience is that in time the brain changes (NEUROPLASTCITY) and we are stuck responding historically rather than appropriately.

Are you ready to retrain your brain?

It does take focused effort to retrain an over-protective brain but the brain IS the most trainable organ we have. If you feel ready for a brain-based approach I would recommend downloading the LP Audiobook. It guides people through the concepts behind the training and will help you decide if you feel ready to do the work required. Download HERE. You can also simply email to arrange a time to talk through the programme and your own situation.

My Lightning Process online 3 day trainings run twice a month in live video sessions available anywhere across Australia & New Zealand.

Break the cycle of the past – Simply contact me for more information.

Lightning Process Research

Lightning Process Research

Below is a recently published paper which reviews current research into the Lightning Process.

Systematic review of the Lightning Process finds an ’emerging body of evidence supporting the efficacy of the LP for many participants with fatigue, physical function, pain, anxiety and depression.’



Background: The Lightning Process (LP), a mind-body training programme, has been applied to a range of health problems and disorders. Studies and surveys report a range of outcomes creating a lack of clarity about the efficacy of the intervention.


Objective: This systematic review evaluates the methodological quality of existing studies on the LP and collates and reviews its reported efficacy.


Data sources: Five databases, PsycINFO, PubMed, CINAHL, Embase, ERIC (to September 2018), and Google and Google Scholar were searched for relevant studies.


Study Selection: Studies of the LP in clinical populations published in peer-reviewed journals or in grey literature were selected. Reviews, editorial articles and studies/surveys with un-reported methodology were excluded.


Data extraction: Searches returned 568 records, 21 were retrieved in full text of which 14 fulfilled the inclusion criteria (ten quantitative studies/surveys and four qualitative studies).


Data synthesis and Conclusions: The review identified variance in the quality of studies across time; earlier studies demonstrated a lack of control groups, a lack of clarity of aspects of the methodology and potential sampling bias. Although it found a variance in reported patient outcomes, the review also identified an emerging body of evidence supporting the efficacy of the LP for many participants with fatigue, physical function, pain, anxiety and depression. It concludes that there is a need for more randomised controlled trials to evaluate if these positive outcomes can be replicated and generalised to larger populations.

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