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Top SecretI don’t really like the word “addiction” because it carries with it a sense of being completely out of control or even victim to a particular type of behavior.  I think this attitude is a big part of why I never stuck with the 12-step programs I attended for both my eating disorders and codependent behavior. I couldn’t get past the first step, which is “I admit that I am powerless over my addiction and my life has become unmanageable.”  While I was more than willing to cop to having an unmanageable life, confessing to powerlessness was just something I could never do.  I guess I’m just too much of a control freak!

Do What Works!

It is not my intent to either criticize or advocate the 12-step philosophy.  I know that AA and associated programs have helped a lot of people over the years and very likely could have helped me as well had I steadfastly adhered to the steps.  My best advice is always to do what works, and what works can vary for any of us as time goes by.  My current choice is to follow Louise Hay’s advice and philosophy outlined in “You Can Heal Your Life.”  Louise addresses the concept of addictions in detail in both her book and the corresponding companion book.

This post outlines Louise Hay’s philosophies on addictions, as well as some of the advice she gives for releasing addictive behavior.  I also share some secrets regarding one of my compulsive behaviors and the insights I gained from completing the Chapter 6 exercises on addictions in the “You Can Heal Your Life Companion Book.”

Louise Hay on Addictions

Louise Hay believes that addictive behavior is another way of saying, “I’m not good enough.”  When we engage in compulsive actions, we are trying to run away from both our uncomfortable feelings and ourselves.  Some feelings we have are so painful that we do not want to look at them, so we drink, abuse drugs, overeat, gamble, spend too much money, or any number of other actions which serve to numb our feelings and allow us to escape from reality.

Louise believes that the first step to overcoming what we’ve termed addictions is to acknowledge that there is a need in us to engage in these self-destructive actions.   In order to stop the compulsive behavior, we have to release the need which is underlying it.

Fearful and “Not Good Enough”

According to Louise Hay, the addictive personality is generally a very fearful one.  People who are consumed by their compulsive behaviors tend to be highly fearful of letting go and trusting the process of life (“control freaks,” anyone?).  They often believe that the world is an unsafe place full of people and situations that are just waiting to create stress and pain in their lives.  They also tend to be highly critical and unforgiving toward themselves and may even suffer from acute self-hatred.

People who suffer from addictions never feel that who they are and what they do is “good enough,” so they punish themselves day after day.  The addictions are a way of both punishing themselves and suppressing uncomfortable feelings and memories.  The addiction becomes “the problem” and the person may focus all of his or her energy on that instead of looking at the underlying issues, which are most often related to a lack of self-love and self-approval.

Keys to Releasing Addictions

As with all problems that people experience in life, Louise Hay believes that loving and approving of oneself are the keys in releasing addictions.  Also critical is learning to trust both yourself and the process of life.  Of course, these things are easier said than done, but that is the reason for “You Can Heal Your Life” and The Healing Project.  It isn’t easy to release addictions and heal our lives, but it IS possible!

The exercises in Chapter 6 of the YCHYL Companion Book provide a good starting point for examining the beliefs and attitudes which underlie compulsive behaviors.  One of the exercises asks us to list ten secrets that we’ve never shared with anyone regarding our addiction.  The objective is to look at our very worst actions and to be able to love the person who did those things.

My Secret Addictive Behavior re: Shopping

The main compulsive behavior in which I engage at this point in my life is shopping and overspending.  I realize that this behavior is compulsive because I often feel ashamed and remorseful for my actions.  Many of my actions are secretive and manipulative.  My husband has entrusted me with managing the household finances, so my subterfuge is not all that difficult. However, since the goal of my “healing project” is to heal myself and my life, I want to overcome my compulsive shopping “addiction.”

In the service of that goal, I will share a few of the secrets I listed in the exercise described above.  I realize that I may be harshly judged for my behavior, but I am a big believer in the notion that “the truth shall set you free.”

  • I hide new clothes and put them away when my husband isn’t around.
  • I use “creative accounting” to make it look like I’ve spent less money.  I put clothing and accessory purchases in other “buckets,” such as gifts, beauty, and household.
  • I change the dates of purchases so that it won’t look like I’ve spent too much money in any given month.
  • I use store credit cards (and sometimes even open new accounts) so that the bills won’t come until later.  I know I will have to “face the music” later, but at least I’m able to get my “fix” in the moment.
  • Sometimes I buy something for myself along with a gift for someone else and account for the entire purchase under “gifts.”
  • I buy things to get the thrill in the moment and later return them so that I can shop some more (this is a more recent behavior but is happening a lot).

Insights and Forgiveness

Although I am embarrassed to reveal some of my secrets regarding shopping, it feels liberating to be open and honest with my readers.  Now that I look at my secrets again, I realize that they are not that bad.  I am able to follow Louise Hay’s advice to look into the mirror and tell myself, “I forgive you, and I love you exactly as you are.”  I may not fully mean what I am saying just yet, but the important thing is that I want to mean it.

Beating myself up for my past actions doesn’t solve anything and only serves to make me feel worse, which may lead me to compulsively spend more money.  It is far more productive to face the music, forgive myself, make amends where needed, and commit to loving myself more and doing better in the future.

Some Final Words from Louise

We don’t have to keep punishing ourselves for our past wrongs, either real or imagined.  Holding on to the past only hurts us because we are not living in the moment and experiencing all of the good things which life has to offer.  The past is over and cannot be changed!   By reliving the past, we strengthen our emotional attachment to it and punish ourselves today for what cannot be undone.  As we let go of the past, we then become free to use all of our mental power to enjoy today and create a bright future for ourselves.

I close with a few powerful affirmations from Louise Hay on the topic of addictions:

I am willing to release the need for ______ in my life.  I release it now and trust in the process of life to meet my needs.”

No matter what the past may have been, now in this moment I choose to eliminate all negative self-talk and to love and approve of myself.”

No person, place or thing has any power over me.  I am free.”

Related Posts

  • Overspending: Sometimes I lack self-discipline, and this is particularly evident related to shopping. I feel as if I lose my sense of reason and rationality when I find myself face-to-face with new things. This post highlights a recent shopping trip during which I overspent and how I felt following that experience. I also start to look at the issue of compulsive behaviors in general and how they are about desperately trying to fill an internal void inside of us.
  • Compulsive Behaviors: Over the years, I have struggled with various forms of compulsive behavior, including dieting, compulsive overeating, excessive exercise, overspending, and working too much.  You may have grappled with similar issues, or you may have had problems with drinking, drugs, gambling, sex, or any number of other maladaptive behaviors.  It doesn’t matter which of these behaviors has plagued you, the problem is usually rooted in the same causes. This post is geared toward examining compulsive behavior, getting to the root of why we engage in such destructive actions, and looking at what we can do to begin to turn it around.
  • Key Principles – Part 4: Louise Hay asserts that when we really love ourselves, everything in life works. When we treat ourselves with loving kindness, we experience a number of life benefits, including decreased anxiety, increased inner peace, improved relationships, and enhanced health and well-being.  This post explores the topic of self-love and how it is integral to healing ourselves and our lives.

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Angry woman on the phoneAre you a critical person?  Do you have a tendency to look at others – and life – with a “glass half empty” attitude?  Are you someone who is never happy because you always find things to fault about the people and situations in your life, including yourself?

How do you feel about anger?  Are you someone who readily expresses your anger and sometimes has a hard time controlling it?  Or are you a person who is very uncomfortable with anger, such that you can’t really remember being angry at anyone?  Do you confine your angry feelings only toward yourself because that feels more safe and comfortable?

Our Critical Thoughts…

I recently completed the exercises in Chapter 5 of the “You Can Heal Your Life Companion Book.”  This chapter is titled, “Critical Thinking” and explores the tendency we all have to be judgmental and critical toward others and ourselves.  The exercises focus on our beliefs and practices related to critical thoughts and the acknowledgment and expression of emotions, including the often controversial feeling of anger.

I’ve decided to focus this week’s post on the topics of criticism and anger.  I will share some of Louise Hay’s thoughts on these topics, as well as my reactions and insights from the Chapter 5 exercises.

Louise Hay on Criticism

Most of us have such a strong tendency to judge and criticize that we often don’t even realize when we’re doing it. Louise Hay believes that we will never be able to really love ourselves until we go beyond the need to make others, ourselves and life itself wrong.  Since loving ourselves is the key to overcoming all of the problems in our lives according to Louise’s philosophy, releasing the need to criticize is a very important step in the healing process.

Criticism breaks down the inner spirit and never changes a thing!  In contrast, praise builds up the spirit and can help to bring about positive change.

I Criticize Myself For…

One of the Chapter 5 exercises directs us to write down two ways in which we criticize ourselves related to the area of love and intimacy.  Below is what I wrote…

I criticize myself for _____ :

  1. …Attracting narcissistic and needy people for whom it’s “all about them.”  In these relationships, I feel like I am there for them, but they are not there for me.
  2. …Not being able to express myself the way I’d like to in relationships.  I want to foster increased intimacy with people, but I find myself unable to communicate in the right way to do this.

I Praise Myself For…

We are then directed to write about two things for which we can praise ourselves in the area of love and intimacy.  My examples were:

I praise myself for ____ :

  1. …Being able to attract a wonderful partner and grow together over the years.  We have a great relationship and I am very proud of that.
  2. …Not settling for sub-par friendships and relationships just so I’m not alone.  While I wish I had more connections in my life, I am glad that I haven’t held on to the needy and narcissistic friendships.

The purpose of the above exercise was to break the habit of criticism and learn to praise ourselves.  Through this simple example, I could definitely see that self-praise was infinitely more empowering than self-criticism. With the criticism, I backed myself into a corner of negativity.  With praise, I created more possibility and power in the present moment and for the future.  I also learned that when you look for something, you can find it.  While my natural tendency has been to look for things to criticize, it is just as easy to find things to praise when that is your focus.  Try it and you’ll see that it’s true!

Louise Hay on Anger

Anger is a natural and normal emotion, yet many of us have learned that it’s not nice, polite, or acceptable to be angry. Consequently, we learn to “swallow” our angry feelings.  These feelings then settle into our bodies and, over time, they can mount into the type of resentment which contributes to aches and pains and even serious diseases.   Some of the conditions which Louise Hay believes stem from anger include bursitis, carpal-tunnel syndrome, cellulite, cold sores, depression, jaw problems, kidney stones, and sore throats.  Long-term unexpressed anger can even lead to illnesses as serious as cancer!

We need to learn to acknowledge and express all of our feelings, including anger, in positive and healthy ways. But first it’s helpful to explore our family patterns around anger and our own history of dealing with angry feelings.  In many families, anger is frowned upon.  Many people either suppress their angry feelings completely or deal with them through addictive or avoidant behaviors.   Some people only express their anger when it builds up to a crescendo and then they explode in an unproductive manner.   They are like a pressure cooker in that they only show their anger when it builds up to the point where they can no longer stand it.

What Me, Angry?

I have never been comfortable with anger, either my own or that of others.  For most of my life, I denied even having any angry feelings toward anyone besides myself.  I often felt angry toward myself, mostly because I was unable to live up to my own high standards, and I expressed that anger by starving myself, binging and purging, and engaging in other destructive behaviors.  I also suffered from depression for much of my life, a condition which has frequently been termed “anger turned inward.”

In recent years, I have become more comfortable with having feelings of anger, yet I continue to struggle with appropriately expressing those feelings.  I now acknowledge that I have a right to be angry, but it still doesn’t feel safe to reveal that emotion to most of the people in my life.  This is an area of growth for me.  I want to increase the level of closeness in my current relationships, as well as develop empowering new connections.  Being “real” and communicating honestly are keys to our experiencing true intimacy in our relationships.

Anger – Not the Bogeyman!

The ability to express all emotions in a direct and mature way can help us to become closer to our loved ones.  Anger is not the bogeyman that many of us have believed it to be.  It is in our best interest to make peace with anger.  To aid in that effort, here are a few closing affirmations from Louise Hay:

Anger is normal and natural.”

I am safe with all of my emotions.”

I allow myself freedom with all my emotions, including anger.”

Healthy expressions of anger keep me healthy.”

Related Posts

  • Key Principles – Part 3: This post explores Louise Hay’s thoughts on the topics of criticism, guilt, resentment and forgiveness. Louise believes that the most damaging thought patterns in which we can be engaged are resentment, criticism, and guilt.  In contrast, the ability to release the past and any associated resentment is highly empowering and increases freedom, health, and happiness.  I provide some powerful examples related to these concepts, including an account of a woman who was raped and found peace through forgiveness and letting go.
  • Key Principles – Part 4: Louise Hay asserts that when we really love ourselves, everything in life works. When we treat ourselves with loving kindness, we experience a number of life benefits, including decrease anxiety, increased inner peace, improved relationships, and enhanced health and well-being.  This post explores the topic of self-love and how it is integral to healing ourselves and our lives.
  • Fear… Only a Thought: Louise Hay states that “fears are merely thoughts, and thoughts can be released.”  Chapter 4 of “You Can Heal Your Life” focuses on fearful emotions.  This post highlights some of the most impactful exercises from that chapter and the insights I derived from completing these exercises.

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Woman Holding Her Neck in PainI had a lot of trouble sleeping last night.  I was awakened around 2:00 am by extreme discomfort in my neck.  I tossed and turned for quite a while, but was unable to get comfortable enough to fall back to sleep.  Sadly, this wasn’t the first time I had suffered from such neck pain at night, but it was the worst time.  Since sleep was not forthcoming, I decided to get up for a while to stretch my neck and calm my mind.

Not Just a Stiff Neck

To call my problem a stiff neck would be an understatement. A little over a year ago, I started to experience aches and stiffness in the front of my neck.  The discomfort would come and go, and chiropractic care was not effective in relieving my pain.  I mentioned the issue to several doctors and other health professionals, but they were as puzzled about this development as I was.  Internet searches haven’t yielded any meaningful answers, either.  There are a few serious conditions which include frontal neck pain as a major symptom, but if I had one of those ailments, I’d likely be much worse off than I am by this time.

Insights from Louise Hay

Since the teachings of Louise Hay are an integral part of my healing project, I used my time of sleeplessness to revisit what she has to say about neck pain.  Louise states that the neck represents flexibility and the ability to see what’s “back there.”  Neck problems signify stubbornness, inflexibility and a refusal to see other sides of a question or situation.  A stiff neck is a mark of unbending bullheadedness.

Of course, Louise Hay offers hope and healing by means of new and more productive thought patterns, but I feel the need to explore how her probable causes for neck problems might relate to me and my current situation. As I write this, my neck discomfort persists.  It had improved earlier today, so I am wondering if my writing about the pain has served to reactivate it in some way.  Perhaps this pain carries a message from the Universe that I really need to receive… Since I don’t know the answers, I am going to entertain the question in the hope of reaching some sort of epiphany that can help me to heal this troubling malady.

Stubborn, Inflexible, and Bullheaded?

In what ways am I being stubborn, inflexible, or bullheaded in my life?  I have a tendency to be judgmental and critical toward others, especially those who are living their lives in ways that are far removed from what I consider ideal.  I’m not talking about morality issues here, but more in terms of self-awareness and self-actualization.  Since I am so committed to knowing myself and growing as a person, I often judge those who do not share my convictions in these areas, especially those who are close to me.

Instead of merely noticing the actions of such people and thinking, “That’s not for me, but it’s their right to live as they choose,” I sometimes pass judgment and look upon them with disapproval. This is true in regards to the person I wrote about two weeks ago in my post titled “Serenity, Courage, Wisdom…”  I have trouble accepting this person as she is and sit in judgment of her for her actions and choices.  This is one way in which I am stubborn and inflexible.

Unrealistically High Standards

I am also inflexible in terms of my appearance.  I hold myself to unrealistically high standards for how I should look, what I should weigh, and how my body should be shaped. I spend a tremendous amount of time and energy not being okay with what is in these areas (a big reason why I started my second blog, “Body Image Rehab”).  I am having a difficult time with the physical changes that are part of the aging process and although I have committed not to pursue plastic surgery or other drastic measures, I do experience distress about my wrinkles, extra belly fat, loss of muscle tone, and other signs of growing older.

Rigidity about Work and Career

Finally, I am bullheaded in terms of how I think my career and work life should be. I refuse to work for less than a certain amount of money and am very picky about my work situation and environment.  I enjoy working from home with flexible hours and have refused to consider other work arrangements, despite the fact that I’ve been unable to attract enough work to make a decent living under my current situation.

I tell myself that I shouldn’t have to commute to an office, sit in a cubicle, or work for less than a certain hourly wage, and these self-imposed requirements limit my prospects and opportunities.  I think it’s perfectly fine to have goals, aspirations, and standards, but when you refuse to bend in any way, that’s the mark of bullheadedness.  My rigidity has led me to have fewer opportunities, especially during our current recession.

Increasing Flexibility and Openness

I realize that I need to work on being more flexible in my relationships, attitudes, career, and self-concept.  I need to be more open and loving toward others and myself and allow more for differences and failings.  I need to stop holding myself and those around me to unreasonably high standards which are virtually impossible to meet. I also need to be open to work opportunities which could provide growth and valuable experience, even if they are not highly lucrative or as flexible as I might ultimately desire.  I need to recognize the value in situations beyond the surface.

I have written about my desire to increase closeness to others, meet new people, and continue learning and growing as a person.  This blog and the teachings of Louise Hay and other spiritual leaders will definitely help me to improve and heal myself and my life.  However, I need to be open to other powerful opportunities for growth in my life, including my relationships with and attitudes toward the people already in my life. If I can become more flexible, tolerant, and accepting, I believe that will also help me to heal.

New Thought Patterns

I close with Louise Hay’s suggested new thought patterns for those with neck problems:

It is with flexibility and ease that I see all sides of an issue.”

There are endless ways of doing things and seeing things.”

It is safe to see other viewpoints.”

I am peaceful with life.  I am safe.”

Louise’s recommendation is to repeat these affirmations many times each day, along with the more general assertion, “I am willing to release the pattern in my consciousness that has created this condition.

My commitment for the rest of September is to repeat the above affirmations in front of a mirror at least 10 times each day and to work on becoming more open-minded, loving and accepting.  It is my hope that, as a result, not only will my neck become more pliable and comfortable, but I will also become happier and experience increased inner peace.

Related Posts:

  • Serenity, Courage, Wisdom… – The post explores the meaning of the Serenity Prayer and how it can help us to live a more peaceful and happy life.  The Serenity Prayer is also applied to a personal struggle involving the self-destructive behavior of someone in my life and my inability to help or save that person.
  • Messages from Pain – On a day when I was experiencing my ninth migraine in less than a month, I examine the potential messages that our pain might be trying to tell us.  I look at how our critical inner voice adversely impacts both our health and inner peace.
  • It’s Always Something! – This post looks at another mysterious and unexplainable health challenge that I experienced earlier this year.  I explore Louise Hay’s probable emotional causes for this condition and how they apply to my personal situation. I also explain how writing my blog is helping me to heal myself and more fully express my creativity.

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Peaceful beach sceneA few years ago, I became highly “accident prone.” I broke three toes in three separate incidents, one of which necessitated a fairly involved surgery with a lengthy recovery time.  I repeatedly bumped into things and hit my head on at least ten different occasions.  After one of my head bumps led to an emergency room visit and a CAT scan, I decided I needed to look more closely at what was going on with all of my accidents.

Not Paying Attention

I came to the conclusion that a large part of the problem had to do with not paying attention to what I was doing.  My mind was always on what I had to do next, not on what I was doing in the moment. I frequently rushed around and felt frantic about getting everything done in a timely fashion.  I was always running late to appointments and often drove too fast and somewhat recklessly trying to reach my destination on time.  Needless to say, I was not living my life in a relaxed fashion!

A Simple but Significant Decision

A little over a year ago, I decided to allow myself more time to get things done and to be more mindful about my actions. This one simple decision made a significant impact on my life.  Not only did I stop bumping my head, arms, and toes every few days, I also found myself feeling much more calm and peaceful.  I began paying more attention to what I was doing in each moment instead of living for the future, whether it be two minutes or two years later.  Without really intending to start being present as a spiritual practice, I experienced strong benefits in that realm.  I started to become more of the person I wanted to be – happy, peaceful, calm, and joyous.

Spiritual Practices

I have read that even washing the dishes can be a spiritual practice.  At first I scoffed at such a suggestion, but I now know the veracity of that claim.  When one is fully present to whatever action he or she is taking, a stronger connection to divine energy is experienced. As someone who has tried and failed to meditate in the traditional sense over the years, I learned that there are many forms of meditation. Some are more sedentary and include the lotus position and mantras, while others are more active and involve being completely focused upon whatever actions one is taking. The latter works better for me, at least for now.

I remember attending a retreat which included an activity called walking the labyrinth.” This exercise is a type of “walking meditation in which one walks through a maze-like circuitous path to the center of a labyrinth and back out again.  There is only one way in and one way out, so there are no decisions to be made along the way.  If desired, one can set an intention or ask a question before entering the labyrinth, but neither of these actions is necessary.

The activity of walking the labyrinth quiets the mind in a way similar to traditional meditation. I enjoyed this activity very much and have since learned that there are labyrinths all over the world.  According to the Labyrinth Society, there are six labyrinths within ten miles of where I live!  Perhaps a regular visit to a local labyrinth should be an integral part of my effort to experience “the power of now” (by the way, I highly recommend Eckhart Tolle’s wonderful book by that title!).

Slipping Back Into Old Habits…

A few weeks ago, my husband and I were gearing up to go on a trip for several days.  Unfortunately, I did not allow myself enough time to get ready to leave and found myself frantically rushing about and still far behind our planned schedule. It is no big surprise that I hit my head, forgot to pack a critical item (underwear, believe it or not!), and ended up in a foul mood.  I had gone to bed late and wanted extra sleep in the morning, so I didn’t allow myself the additional preparation time which would have rendered the entire morning far less stressful.  I was thinking a step or two ahead instead of focusing on what I was doing in the present moment.

Fortunately, I didn’t hit my head hard, I was able to purchase underwear once I reached my destination, and felt much calmer and in better spirits shortly after we were on our way.  But I did learn a valuable lesson from my negative experience.  I need to honor my commitment to give myself more time than I need to get things done and to be fully present to whatever I am doing in any given moment.

Louise Hay’s Insights

I also decided to take a look at what Louise Hay has to say about accidents and being “accident prone.”  Like everything else in life, Louise believes that we create accidents as a result of our negative thought patterns. She also states that accidents are expressions of anger and indicate built-up frustrations resulting from not feeling the freedom to speak up for one’s self.

Accidents can be related to rebellion against authority or anger toward ourselves. The accident is a way to punish ourselves and to receive sympathy and attention from others.  The area of our bodies in which we experience pain from the accident can give us a clue as to which area of our lives we feel guilty about (see Chapter 15 of “You Can Heal Your Life” for “The List” of physical problems and probable causes).

A Wake-Up Call

Whether you believe Louise Hay’s explanations for accidents or decide that they signify the need to be more careful and present, accidents can represent a “wake-up call” for you to make changes in your life.  Either way, the message is to look within and examine your thoughts and behaviors more thoroughly.  It is never a good idea to just go through the motions of life in a virtual fog.

All too often, people numb themselves out through addictive behaviors, “busyness” and projection of their feelings and motivations onto others. While I have definitely done all of these things in the past and sometimes slip into such maladaptive tendencies from time to time, I choose to be fully present to my thoughts, my motivations, and my life. There is beauty and richness to be had in all of life’s experiences!

I need neither future nor past, but to learn to take today not too fast.” ~Jeb Dickerson

Having spent the better part of my life trying either to relive the past or experience the future before it arrives, I have come to believe that in between these two extremes is peace.” ~Author Unknown

Related Posts

  • Compulsive Behaviors – This post is geared toward examining compulsive behavior, getting to the root of why we engage in such destructive actions, and looking at what we can do to begin to turn it around.
  • Illness As Avoidance - Could it be that you have created your physical pain in order to prevent or avoid potential psychological discomfort?  If so, how would it be for you to face the challenges at hand and not let your ailments stop you?
  • Messages From Pain – When you keep experiencing the same health challenge over and over again, it is helpful to look for messages which your pain may be trying to communicate to you.  This post uses the example of my 25-year battle with migraine headaches to illustrate this point.

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“Fears are merely thoughts, and thoughts can be released.”
– Louise Hay

Frightened WomanThe quote above begins Chapter 4 of the “You Can Heal Your Life Companion Book,” the chapter which focuses on fearful emotions. Although I have been diligently working through all of the exercises in this book, I have decided to only post on those that are most impactful to me and which I feel will be most relevant to my readers.

In this post, I share some of the exercises from Chapter 4 and my responses, as well as some insights to use in your own journey to facing and overcoming fear.

The Price of Fear

Fear impacts all of us.  We let fear stop us from pursuing our dreams, speaking our minds, sharing our love, and fully living our lives. We experience fear of rejection, fear of failure, fear of change, fear of the future, fear of intimacy, and even fear of success.  Some of us literally become paralyzed by our fears.

The chapter begins with a checklist of thirteen fear-related statements which express negative and limiting beliefs that hold us back in life. We are instructed to check the ones which feel true for us at present.  Even though a few of the statements were phrased in more extreme language than I would personally use, I checked those for which I felt heaviness in my chest upon reading the words:

  • Growing older frightens me.
  • I have difficulty expressing my feelings.
  • I can’t focus on anything.
  • I feel like a failure.
  • What if I have to endure a painful death?

Following the checklist are some empowering insights from Louise Hay on the subject of fear.  She states that “in any given situation, we have a choice between love and fear.” She follows by emphasizing that when you feel frightened, you are not loving and trusting yourself.

Fear is Not the Real Problem

Louise mentions the powerful book by Susan Jeffers, “Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway.” This book was published in 1987, but its message is equally as valid in 2010.  In a nutshell, Ms. Jeffers postulates that fear is not the real problem that people are experiencing.  The real issue, she states, is not the fear, but how we hold the fear. We can approach the fear from a position of power or a position of helplessness.  When we allow ourselves to feel the fear but take action anyway, we move from vulnerability to empowerment.

“Do the thing you fear most and the death of fear is certain.”
– Mark Twain

Acting In Spite of Fear

Acting in spite of fear requires both self-acceptance and letting go of the judgments of others. How often do we stop ourselves from taking action because we doubt ourselves or worry what others will think?  It is important to remember that everyone doubts themselves at times. Who is really sure that his actions are the right ones, and who can be certain that his actions will yield the desired results?

Those who are living the lives of their dreams are the ones who acted in spite of the worry and doubt. They are also the ones who, when they fail, pick themselves right up and try again.

Follow Your Own North Star

The happy and successful in the world do not waste needless time and energy worrying about what others think of them. They are guided by their own North Star and are willing to risk the rolling eyes and shaking heads of those who chastise them for choosing to follow the “road less traveled.”

Think of the people whom you admire.  Are they the ones who do what everyone else is doing, or are they the ones who march to the beat of their own drum?  The people who I admire are those who are self-aware, confident, and true to themselves and their dreams. They may not be rich or famous, but they are happy because they are living their own lives and are governed by possibility instead of fear.

Empowering Affirmations to Fight Fear

Another exercise in the “Fearful Emotions” chapter instructs us to list our greatest fears related to ten key areas of life, from career and family to health and death.  Following each fear, we are asked to create a positive corresponding affirmation to help counteract the fear. The area in which I am experiencing the most difficulty at present is health.  My deepest fear and empowering affirmation for my health are as follows:

Health Fear: I will continue to have a plethora of ongoing health issues and it will only worsen as I get older.
Health Affirmation:
I release my health problems and embrace my right to vibrant good health!

The above affirmation provides infinitely more possibility for my future than the corresponding fear. I was so energized by the affirmation that I have affixed it to both my computer and bathroom mirror so that I can subconsciously internalize my new belief throughout each day.

In Closing – Choosing the Positive

The chapter ends with a list of suggested affirmations to counter the destructive fears from the checklist in the first exercise. I end this post with my new empowering affirmations, as well as a few quotes I like on the topic of fear.  May we all “feel the fear and do it anyway!”

  • My age is perfect, and I enjoy each new moment. (replaces “Growing older frightens me.”)
  • It is safe to express my feelings. (replaces “I have difficulty expressing my feelings. “)
  • My inner vision is clear and unclouded. (replaces “I can’t focus on anything.”)
  • My life is a success. (replaces “I feel like a failure.”)
  • I will die peacefully and comfortably at the right time. (replaces “What if I have to endure a painful death?”)

Empowering Quotes on Fear:

Each time we face our fear, we gain strength, courage, and confidence in the doing.” – Unknown

FEAR is an acronym in the English language for “False Evidence Appearing Real.” – Neale Donald Walsch

You block your dream when you allow your fear to grow bigger than your faith. – Mary Manin Morrissey

Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear. – Ambrose Redmoon

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White dove flying in the cloudsFifteen years ago, one of my closest friends committed suicide at the age of 32. The day on which I found out was absolutely and unequivocally the worst day of my life.  Time seemed to stop and I felt shocked, sad, and numb all at the same time. I cried and cried until there were no tears left in my body and I felt a depth of pain that I didn’t even know was possible to experience.

Time Heals All Wounds – Or Does It?

The tears and the sadness lasted for a long, long time, but I gradually moved past the depth of my pain and was increasingly able to take comfort in my happy memories of a person whom I felt blessed to have known.  Although I don’t know if one is ever completely “over” a loss of a loved one, I thought that I had mostly moved on after the passage of so much time.  As the old saying goes, “time heals all wounds.”  Or does it?  Surprisingly, I recently realized that I may still have quite a bit of grieving and healing to do over the loss of my dear friend.

When going through boxes in our storage unit in preparation for our recent move, I came across what I had labeled my “Joe box.” Shortly after his death, I packed away all of the mementos I had of Joe – cards, photos, etc. – because it was just too painful to have to look at them and realize that I would never see my friend again.  I have carried that box with me through a number of moves over the years, but I have never opened it. I didn’t think much about this all those times because I was also carrying countless other mementos and collections with me through my life journey.  It’s only now, when I’m making a concerted effort to downsize and become more of a “minimalist,” that I actually thought about going through my “Joe box.”  Yet, when it came down to it, I couldn’t bring myself to do it…

Exploring the Issues of Loss & Letting Go

My hesitance to revisit my mementos of Joe surprised me and I feel it bears some examination.  For this reason, I will explore the issues of loss and letting go in this post. We have all experienced a number of losses in our lives and they affect us in different ways.  Although death, particularly that which is tragic and unexpected, is likely the most painful of all losses, other types of losses also have a lasting impact on our psyches and our lives.  Included among these are divorce, romantic break-ups, deterioration of friendships, job loss, and financial loss.  Loss is an unavoidable part of life, yet some among us navigate its waters more smoothly than others.

Difficulty in Letting Go…

A friend once told me that I didn’t know how to let go of things and pointed out that I held on to people and things even when they were no longer useful or productive in my life. She was right… I would always try to remain friends with my boyfriends after we broke up and held on to childhood, school, and work friends even when we no longer had much in common.  I would keep cards, letters, articles, notebooks, and journals from throughout my lifespan such that these items filled countless boxes in my various homes and apartments.  My closets would be stuffed with clothes, some of which I hadn’t worn in years, on the off chance that I might want to wear them again one day.  The stuff continued to pile up and I didn’t even question it until recently.

My “Stuff” is Affecting My Health

When I look at my laundry list of health complaints in “You Can Heal Your Life” and examine the probable causes outlined by Louise Hay, I see strikingly similar statements over and over again:

  • Holding on to old ideas.
  • Fear of letting go.
  • A refusal to change.
  • Stuck in the past.
  • Fear of going forward.

In fact, the probable cause specified for ALL chronic diseases is “A refusal to change. Fear of the future.  Not feeling safe.” Since at least a few of my ailments may be classified as chronic, it appears that my inability to let go of the past and move forward courageously into the future is adversely affecting my health. As I’ve failed to get the message of my long-standing health issues, new ones have cropped up to capture my attention.

Clearing Out the Backlog

I didn’t really think I was stuck in the past or holding on to old ideas, but I when I was confronted with all of the stuff in our storage unit, I could no longer deny it! Of course, the physical backlog of “junk” that I’ve been carrying around for many years is not the only build up I need to address, but it’s a start!

Change can occur in any or a combination of the dimensions of our life experience:  physical, emotional, mental, or spiritual. I have chosen to start with the physical in going through all of my stuff and letting go of that which I no longer need.  In doing so, I have begun to free up energy which had been tied up in holding on to so many items from the past. The storage unit is almost cleaned out and we will soon be relinquishing it completely.   This is a good first step for me in letting go of my past.

Making the Connection

Back to Joe and the issue of loss… I realize that I need to push myself to go through that box. I need to allow myself to do whatever grieving is left to do so I can move forward in my life.  Of course, I do not need to throw everything away or forget a person who meant so much to me.  I can and should always remember him, but I should remember him with joy and a light heart instead of sadness and angst.

Up until a few years ago, I would always feel intense sadness on the anniversary of Joe’s death.  I commented on this to a friend and she said that if I wanted to honor Joe, I should do it on his birthday, not on his “death day.” Wise words from a wise person!

Facing Things Instead of Avoiding Them

I believe it’s important to face things in life instead of avoid them. There are a number of issues from my past that I have been avoiding for years.  Some of them are so buried that I don’t even know or remember what they are, but as I progress with my healing project, I am uncovering different layers of my psyche and addressing whatever accompanying challenges arise. I didn’t realize that I still had grieving to do over Joe, but now that I have unearthed that reality, I must face it head on.

Celebrating a Wonderful Person & A Powerful Bond

I have decided to go through the “Joe box” on what would have been Joe’s 48th birthday this September.  I will celebrate his life and our relationship and remember the close bond that we once shared.  I will revisit the loss of someone so very dear to me, release the sadness of his absence from my present day life, and embrace the powerful truth that he will always live on in my heart and in my memory.

Closing Quote

“I joyfully move on to new levels of experience.  All is well.” – Louise Hay

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Woman with Her Finger on Her LipsI just spent over a week without speaking.  No, I didn’t go to an ashram or a silent retreat; I simply had no voice for nine days.  My laryngitis was related to the flu virus that I mentioned in my last post and although it wasn’t unexpected, I never thought it would last so long.  However, since I am a big believer in the messages of our physical ailments, I decided to look for the meaning and lessons of my “week of silence.”

What Does Louise Hay Say?

As a first step in my search for answers, I referenced “You Can Heal Your Life” to see what Louise Hay had to say about laryngitis.  While I generally recognize myself and my situation in her remarks, I was left with a huge question mark on this one.  Louise Hay’s probable causes for laryngitis are:

  • So mad you can’t speak
  • Fear of speaking up
  • Resentment of authority

I am not an angry person. In fact, I rarely feel much anger at all.  I do experience a fair amount of frustration, but the thought of my being so angry I cannot speak is highly foreign to me. I do sometimes fear speaking up for myself, but this was not an issue for me around the time I lost my voice.  I also resent authority at times, but my rebellious streak has been tempered by age and I don’t feel this is a prominent issue for me any longer.

Could Louise Be Wrong This Time?

Could it be that the great Louise Hay is wrong in this instance? Possibly… She has stated that her probable causes ring true approximately 95% of the time.  Perhaps I’m i n that other 5%.  If I am angry at all, it’s about some of my life circumstances, such as my health issues and my career woes.  I have some anger toward myself for my role in these issues, particularly my failure to stick with a single career path long enough to become an expert in a certain profession.  But I would have to say that these are more frustrations than anger and are so long-standing that I would doubt they would lead to an acute bout of laryngitis in July 2010.

Worse Before It Gets Better?

One possibility that I have entertained is that my Healing Project has increased my focus on issues and feelings which had previously simmered more deeply beneath my conscious awareness.   In some respects, it feels as if things have gotten worse instead of better since I began this journey – and this blog – five months ago.  Sometimes things do get worse before they get better, but I am still optimistic that I can and will heal myself and my life in one year.

Great Communicator

Although Louise Hay may not be spot on regarding the probable causes for my laryngitis, I have derived a number of personal insights concerning losing my voice.  First, a bit of background information… I love to talk and am known to be a very talkative and animated person.  I have been a member of Toastmasters International for over six years and have been working on further honing my verbal communication skills through that venue.  I believe that one of my greatest strengths is my ability to communicate well through both writing and speaking.

Taking Our Blessings For Granted

We often take our gifts and our blessings for granted; it’s human nature to reflect more on what’s missing than on what’s present in our lives. I never really thought twice about being able to vocalize my thoughts and feelings whenever I desired to do so.  However, in my “week of silence,” the only sounds which were emitted from my lips were quiet whispers.  I was unable to speak on the phone or even verbalize a food order in a restaurant.  When a passerby said hello to me, I could only nod or wave in response.

Unable to Speak

It was difficult for me not to be able to talk, not just logistically but emotionally as well. I was rendered much more dependent upon my husband to do things for me and to be my “voice.”  I reflected upon those who are physically unable to speak for long periods of time and felt great empathy for them.  I wondered if they needed to carry a sign around wherever they went to alert the world of their handicap and if they were perpetually armed with a notepad and pen so that they could communicate even the most basic of ideas to others.

I also thought about Roger Ebert, the film critic rendered unable to speak as a result of throat and mouth cancer.  I saw him on Oprah earlier this year and marveled at how he has adapted to the changes in his life.  I saw his happiness at simply being alive and his gratitude toward his wife for how much she has helped him through his years of illness.

The Importance of Listening

What were my lessons from my week of silence?  I can think of a few… First, I am profoundly grateful for my gift for speaking and the ease with which I generally communicate through the spoken word.  Second, I realized that I need to spend more time in silence; that I need to listen and reflect more than I usually do.

I remember an old saying which expresses that we were given two ears and one mouth because we should listen twice as much as we speak.  I became aware last week that I don’t listen enough, as I am too preoccupied with talking.  When my husband and I go on long walks, I generally do most of the talking, but last week I ended up listening more to what he had to say.  When I’m not clamoring for “air time,” I get to learn more about others, including my wonderful husband, who is my best friend in the world.

Focus on What’s Right, Not What’s Wrong

Finally, I learned to appreciate the health that I do have instead of dwelling upon my niggling health complaints.  I was reminded that what we focus upon grows, so I should focus on my physical blessings instead of on my defects.  Of course, I will continue to pursue solutions to that which ails me, but my main focus should be on what’s right instead of what’s wrong.

It’s true that I still experience many migraines, but I also have excellent vision and hearing, as well as a strong and resonant voice most of the time.  That voice is gradually re-emerging after my week of silence.  It sounds hoarse and raspy now, but I am ever so grateful to be able to talk to my husband in more than a whisper.

A Closing Affirmation – I Love My Voice!

I close with the powerful affirmations on the voice from Louise Hay’s “Love Your Body”:

“I voice my opinions.  I speak up for myself.  I sing the praises of love and joy.  My words are the music of life.  I choose the thoughts that express beauty and gratitude.  I proclaim my oneness with all of life.  I love and appreciate my beautiful voice!”

I am so grateful to be able to speak! I am so grateful to be well after almost two weeks of being sick.  I am grateful for the many health blessings I have, including my wonderful voice. I am grateful for this day, and for every day of my life, and I wish you all a wonderful week!

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