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Archive for the ‘YCHYL Exercises’ Category

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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“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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Release and Freedom...This post is based upon the first two exercises in Chapter 3 (pg. 45-49) of “You Can Heal Your Life Companion Book” by Louise Hay.   I will share some of my responses to the questions, as well as some of the insights I gained from completing the exercises.

Over the course of my “healing project,” I plan to complete all of the exercises in this book and the original “You Can Heal Your Life” book, but I won’t necessarily do them in order (being the rebel that I am…).

The chapter begins with an affirmation (“I restore and maintain my body at optimum health”), as well as a health issue checklist consisting of eleven items, of which I checked eight.  Clearly, addressing my health concerns is a major issue for me in terms of healing my life.

Core Health Principles from Louise Hay

At this point, it is helpful to remind myself and my readers of some of Louise Hay’s core principles surrounding health (click here for a comprehensive review of the key principles of “You Can Heal Your Life”):

  • Our bodies are always trying to maintain a state of optimum health, no matter how badly we treat them.
  • We contribute to every illness we have, as our bodies mirror our inner thoughts and beliefs.
  • Every disease we experience is a teacher, and our illnesses signal false ideas within our consciousness.
  • Illness may unconsciously serve as a “legitimate” way of avoiding responsibility or unpleasant situations.
  • True healing involves body, mind, and spirit.

Connections to Our Parents’ Illnesses

The first exercise involves listing our parents’ illnesses and our own illnesses and looking for connections which may exist between them.  For me, the connections were not difficult to find.  With my mother, I share foot problems, migraines, knee problems, allergies, depression, and varicose veins. My father and I have both suffered from knee problems and bursitis.

One thing that struck me is that both of my parents have been and continue to be in better health than me.  Since my parents are now senior citizens and I am more “middle-aged” (I don’t care for that term, but I really can’t deny it…), shouldn’t my health be better than theirs?  What is it in me that has led me to create so many health challenges?

“I Am Willing to Release the Need…”

Louise Hay suggests that the first step for healing a health condition is to affirm, “I am willing to release the need in me that has created this condition.”  It is helpful to repeat this affirmation often and it is even more powerful when said in front of a mirror.  Internalizing this affirmation and repeating it frequently is a powerful first step to creating positive changes in the state of our health.  I am aware that since I have a number of ongoing conditions, I have many associated needs that are being met in maladaptive ways through my illnesses.  I am definitely willing to either release these needs or learn to meet them in a more productive and affirming manner.

Beliefs about Health and Disease

The second exercise explores beliefs we have regarding health and disease.  It begins with a few questions regarding how illness was dealt with during childhood and how early beliefs on this topic are impacting us today.  I actually don’t remember being sick much as a child, at least not any more than average.   When I was sick, however, I remember enjoying the attention and nurturing I received from my mother and being able to stay home from school and watch television all day.  Although I didn’t like being sick, I think I welcomed the break from the pressures of school and the social challenges of being a shy and insecure child in the sea of judgment and conformity that was middle school and high school.

Illness as a “Good Excuse”

It is likely that during my childhood, I internalized the belief that illness can serve as a good excuse for avoiding responsibility and for not having to do things we don’t want to do.  I also learned that sickness can earn one the attention and sympathy of others.  I don’t believe that I consciously create illnesses so that I don’t have to do certain things, but I acknowledge that my health conditions have served as valid excuses for bowing out of commitments.

One change I would like to make is to become more adept at being assertive and speaking up for myself and my needs with others.  If I can more adequately voice my needs and wants, I won’t need to generate illnesses to speak for me.  I have written a lot more about this topic in my post titled “Illness as Avoidance.”

Two Powerful Health Inquiries

The exercise ends with two powerful inquiries concerning how we have contributed to the state of our health and how we would like our health to change.  I acknowledged that I often don’t take care of myself as well as I should in terms of getting enough sleep and eating nutritious foods.  Although I have made definite improvements on both fronts, I know that I still need to work on improving my rest and nutrition.

I also need to change my inner dialogue about my body, as my poor body image adversely affects my health.  Body image is such a large issue for me that I have started a second blog, Body Image Rehab, which deals exclusively with this topic.  I invite anyone who suffers from body image issues to visit this blog and work on healing your negative body image along with me.

There are many ways in which I would like my health to change.  Basically, I am looking for close to a 180 degree shift in this area.  I feel that I have far too many health challenges and although I’m grateful that none of them are life-threatening, they do adversely affect my life.  I feel sick in some way (and often multiple ways…) each and every day and this impinges upon my life and decreases my happiness and well-being.  I strive to remain positive and upbeat, but that can be challenging in the face of ongoing physical pain and discomfort.  I’m definitely in need of some major healing and transformation!

No Longer a Victim

I no longer feel that I’m a victim to my illnesses.  I realize that I have more power than I previously acknowledged.  I am definitely willing to release the need in me that has created my various health conditions.  I am also willing to do the work necessary to turn things around for the better, and to involve my body, mind, and spirit in the healing process.  I know that I will be in a much better place by the time 2011 rolls around.  My healing project will be a success!

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I had intended to post much earlier in the week, but you know what they say about good intentions… This has been a difficult week for me, which probably means I should have been devoting more attention to my healing project, instead of virtually ignoring it for a number of days. In getting back on track today, I searched for an exercise from “You Can Heal Your Life” to complete and write about.  I was quickly drawn to the most appropriate exercise for me at this particularly point in time, the “Mirror Exercise” on page 35.

Simple Yet Not Easy…

The Mirror Exercise is extremely simple, yet not at all easy.  The straightforward instructions are:  look in a mirror and into your own eyes, speak your name, and say, “I love and accept you exactly as you are.”

Louise Hay asks each of her clients to do this exercise during their initial session with her.   She states that she has rarely had a calm reaction to her simple request.  On the contrary, some clients were brought to tears, while others became angry and refused to do the exercise.  One client even threw the mirror across the room!  Needless to say, it isn’t easy to proclaim love and acceptance for ourselves.

My Experience with the Mirror Exercise

During the height of beating myself up for what I felt was an unproductive week and an overall stagnation in my life, I decided to do this powerful exercise.  As I walked up to the mirror, I felt my heart pound loudly and a tingling sensation crawled up the sides of my body.  I also felt flushed despite the relatively cool temperature in the room.  My eyes welled up with tears before I even opened my mouth to speak the requisite words.   However, when I actually spoke the words, I did not feel sad or angry.  Instead, I felt a sense of peace and calm wash over my body.

It was a relief to affirm my acceptance and love for myself today and it really felt good for me to do it.  I know that in the past, it would have been very difficult for me to speak Louise Hay’s simple statement. I used to be far more invested in making myself wrong than in wanting to feel good about myself and my life. Although I still have a long way to go in terms of self-esteem and acceptance, I have made some definite progress in these areas.  It’s taken a lot of hard work and self-examination for me to get to the point where I am ready to accept and love myself.

Self-Acceptance is Empowering

Why is it empowering to declare love and acceptance toward ourselves?  Louise Hay asserts that the root of all human problems lies in not loving ourselves. Even if we can give ourselves a tiny bit of love during a brief mirror exercise, this can go a long way toward counteracting the negative messages we send ourselves on a regular basis. 

Positive messages are far more powerful than negative messages, and even irregular empowering messages can serve to inoculate us against an onslaught of self-effacing thoughts.  I know this is true because I’ve been inwardly affirming “I approve of myself” as often as I remember to do so in recent months.  This simple action has helped me to become stronger and I am finding myself less compromised by sadness and depression than before I began this practice.

Acceptance Doesn’t Mean We Don’t Want to Change

To clarify, stating that we love and accept ourselves exactly as we are in a given moment does not mean that we don’t want to change anything about our circumstances. We may have a number of things we wish to change, as well as some powerful goals for the future.  The truth is that we are far more likely to achieve our goals and make successful changes when we begin from a space of self-acceptance.

Lasting transformation cannot be accomplished through brow-beating and self-effacement. A good example of this relates to weight loss.  I can remember many times when I would look at myself in the mirror, pinch my stomach and thighs, and use colorful adjectives like disgusting, ugly, and weak to describe myself. These debasements only served to make me feel much worse about myself and propel me to comfort myself with food, an action that was counterproductive for my weight loss goals.

I have had far better luck when I’ve treated myself with kindness.  If I start with self-acceptance and then move forward toward change, I am much more likely to be successful. If, instead of beating myself up and calling myself awful names, I dress in flattering clothing and do my best to look and feel attractive, the likelihood of my exercising and making good food choices is much greater.

Power in the Present Moment

One of the key principles of Louise Hay and many other spiritual teachers is that the point of power is always in the present moment.  In the here and now, we have a choice.  We can criticize ourselves or we can love and accept ourselves. One choice will lead us to feel weak and dis-empowered; the other choice will uplift and empower us.

As I stared into my eyes in the mirror and proclaimed my acceptance of myself, I experienced an energetic boost.  I was infused with power and strength to face the challenges of the day, along with a sense of calm and assurance that I can accomplish my goals for the future. This is far better than the metaphorical “air out of the tires” feeling I encountered each time I criticized myself for not meeting my impossibly high standards for acceptability.

My Challenge Moving Forward

My challenge now is to show myself more love and compassion than disdain and criticism. My task is to stop myself mid-criticism and switch to affirming self- acceptance and love.  My commitment is to know that I am enough, that I don’t have to be perfect in order to be loved by others – or by myself.

I close with a portion of a “spiritual treatment” from Louise Hay:

“In the infinity of life where I am, all is perfect, whole and complete.  I am always divinely protected and guided… It is safe for me to enlarge my viewpoint of life.  I am far more than my personality – past, present, or future.  I now choose to rise above my personality problems to recognize the magnificence of my being.  I am totally willing to learn to love myself.  All is well in my world.”

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I Should...This post discusses the concept of “should,” as well as my insights from completing the “I Should” exercise from “You Can Heal Your Life.”

It is my intention to complete at least one exercise from Louise Hay each week and to share my experience and what I learn in this blog.   These posts may be combined with the weekly lesson, or they may stand on their own.

Louise Hay presents an exercise in “You Can Heal Your Life” which is focused on examining our internal “shoulds” and how we can create a more empowering inner dialogue.  The exercise begins with writing or typing “I Should…” and completing the sentence in as many ways as come to mind.  Here are a few of my “shoulds”:

  1. I should be more productive.
  2. I should make more money.
  3. I should get a real job.
  4. I should get up earlier.
  5. I should dress nicely more often.

Why Should I?

The next step of the exercise involves reading each “should” aloud and then asking, “Why?”  The responses to this question reveal where a person is stuck in his or her beliefs and self-imposed limitations. Here are my responses for the statements above:

  1. To get more done, to make myself useful, to justify my existence (re: productivity).
  2. That’s what a person is supposed to do, especially if she’s not a mother; it’s the right thing to do; to take the burden off of my husband (re: making more money).
  3. To make steady and good money, to feel more worthy and necessary, to feel more grounded (re: “real job”).
  4. Most people get up early, to get more done, to feel like less of a “slacker” (re: getting up early).
  5. I have lots of clothes in my closet, to look better, to take more pride in my appearance (re: dressing better).

Should – A Damaging Word…

Louise Hay feels that “should” is one of the most damaging words in the English language.  Every time we say “should,” we are in essence telling ourselves that we were, are, or are going to be wrong. Louise doesn’t believe we need more wrongs in our lives and that, instead, we need more freedom of choice.  She recommends that we replace the word “should” with “could,” as “could” gives us choice instead of making ourselves wrong.

I Could… Why Haven’t I?

The final step in the “I Should” exercise is to go back to each “should” statement and re-write the sentence, this time starting off with “If I really wanted to, I could…” and then asking, “Why haven’t I?” Here are my responses to that follow-on question:

  1. In truth, I am quite productive.  I have some days that are better than others, but so does everyone. I tend to be too “all over the map” and that impinges upon my productivity.  I need to focus more on what matters most and then I will be more productive.
  2. The main truth is that I don’t have to make more money.   My needs are met, so I don’t have to take on work that I don’t want to do.  I have very high standards for the work I will do and will likely need to lower them in order to make more money.
  3. I want to be passionate about what I’m doing.  I want to like what I do.   I also enjoy having variety in my work and many “real jobs” don’t allow for the variety – or the freedom – that I so greatly desire.  I think that instead of focusing on a job, I need to focus on pursuing my passions and working through the fears that hold me back from doing that which most lights me up.
  4. I don’t like to go to bed early and I do better on 7 or more hours of sleep per night.  If I get up by 7 a.m. each day, that is early enough.
  5. I do dress nicely when it matters.  If I am working at home, it’s fine to wear what’s most comfortable.  When I go out, I dress appropriately for my lifestyle.  I don’t usually go out dressed like a slob unless I’m going to the gym (and even then, I’m dressed suitably for the activity at hand).

From Should to Choice

The responses to “Why haven’t you?” often reveal that we’ve been beating ourselves up for something we never really wanted to do or that wasn’t our idea in the first place.  In many instances, the “should” originated with someone else, such as a parent or other powerful adult.  Alternatively, it may be based upon a firmly entrenched societal belief.  My belief that I should get up early is in line with the standard 8-5 job concept which is prevalent in our society.  Since I worked in the corporate world for so many years, I came to associate getting up early with being productive or worthwhile.

One of the benefits of examining our internal “shoulds” is that once we become aware that our “shoulds” originated elsewhere and they aren’t serving us in the present time, we can choose to release them.  As Louise Hay says, the power is always in the present moment.  Awareness can lead to power and choice.

Releasing or Reframing My “Shoulds”

In examining the “shoulds” which I presented in this post, I have chosen to release two and reframe the other three. I decided to release “I should get up earlier” and “I should dress nicely more often” because I realized that I was basing these edicts upon the beliefs of others.  For my life and what I’m up to, I get up early enough and I dress sufficiently well.

For the belief, “I should be more productive,” my reframe is to focus more on what matters most in my life and to center my productivity efforts on those items.  I don’t need to do more; I just need to do the critical few things which will make the greatest difference in my life.

In terms of “I should make more money,” I have decided that I do want to earn a higher level of income, but that I am committed to having that income be derived from work that matters to me.  My empowered action will be to pursue income sources in writing and designing websites for businesses and causes which inspire me.   I don’t need to “get a real job,” but I would like to determine a way to make a reasonably steady income while engaging in interesting and challenging work.

Valuable Insights Lead to Empowering Possibilities!

The “I Should…” exercise provided some valuable insights for me and enabled me to release some long-held limiting beliefs.  I can now move forward with some empowering possibilities for the things I could do.   I’m sure that I will still be confronted by the “tyranny of shoulds” from time to time.  In fact, this subject is of such great interest to me that it will be the topic for another upcoming post…

I encourage you to look at the ways in which “should” adversely impacts your life and to determine if there are any “shoulds” that you might wish to release. I look forward to embracing life from the space of “could” and enjoying more choice and freedom!

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I recently completed an exercise on beliefs from Louise Hay’s “You Can Heal Your Life Companion Book.”  The exercise was straightforward and consisted of sentence completion for nine topics.  The objective was to uncover hidden beliefs which may be holding me back in certain areas of my life.  In this blog entry, I will share some of the insights that I gained from completing the beliefs exercise.

The topics which were explored in the beliefs exercise were:  Men, Women, Love, Sex, Work, Money, Success, Failure, and God. For each word, I wrote the various thoughts which popped into my head.  I tried not to think too deeply about the “right” or “best” answers for any of the topics.   I spent about twenty minutes uncovering my beliefs and then took some additional time to review my answers and look for insights or “aha moments.”

Some Surprise Beliefs…

For some of the areas, there were no surprises.  I knew that I had issues regarding Work, Success and Failure, and I will be writing about those topics in a later post.  I also knew that my feelings about Love and God were basically positive in nature.   However, the biggest surprise for me in doing the beliefs exercise related to my feelings about men and women.  I learned that I have basically positive feelings about men and a lot of not so positive attitudes about women.   Because I am a woman, my attitudes about my own gender bear some exploration…

My Beliefs About Women and Men

Here are a few of my statements about women:

  • Women can be catty, petty and mean.
  • Women aren’t nice to each other.
  • Women can be too obsessed with appearance.
  • Women have fewer advantages in life.
  • Women don’t know what they want.
  • Women are too picky.

In contrast, here are some of my thoughts about men:

  • Men have more advantages in the world than women.
  • Men have more fun than women.
  • Men are easier to get along with than women.
  • Men generally feel better about their bodies.
  • Men are not to be feared or hated.

If I read the above statements and didn’t know any better, I’d think they were written by a man!  I was definitely surprised to learn some of my hidden feelings about men and women, but what does this all mean?  I am still processing this information, but here are some of the insights I’ve gained thus far…

Beliefs About Women – Or About Myself?

Many of my statements about women were more about myself than about women in general.  I am picky and unsure as to what I really want in life.  I have a tendency to be obsessed with my appearance and I am often not very nice to myself.  I can be catty, petty and mean, particularly towards myself.  While I have many advantages in my life, I sometimes don’t appreciate what I have and times, I feel guilty for the privileges which I enjoy.   I question whether or not I deserve to have the many benefits with which I’ve been blessed.

I sometimes feel as if I’m not a “normal” woman.  After all, I’m not very maternal, I’ve never really wanted to have children, and my domestic skills are sorely lacking.  While I enjoy being pretty and feminine in terms of my appearance, I have often tried to develop more masculine personality characteristics.  I have believed that I should be more career-driven than is my natural tendency, especially since I was lacking the drive to bear and raise children.  I beat myself up on a regular basis for not achieving the societal vision of success, a goal which men traditionally feel more pressure to reach.

Strength – Masculine or Feminine?

While I know a number of strong women, I think I’ve always associated strength more with the masculine than the feminine.  Unlike many other women I know, I do not fear or distrust men.  I find that I easily build rapport with men and in general have positive feelings about them.  Before I got married, I had more male friends than female friends.

The women with whom I have bonded tended to be other women who don’t fit the traditional female mold.   I feel that more traditional women don’t “get” me and sometimes look at me as if I have two heads.  At times, I feel judged by other women for the choices I’ve made in life, particularly the decision not to have children.  I do not begrudge their decisions, but I feel that they begrudge mine.

Next Steps for Me

Of course, I don’t know that any of my suspicions about other women are true.  We often project our own beliefs onto others and are frequently unaware that we are doing this.  The Beliefs Exercise has helped to open my eyes regarding my beliefs about women.  Now that I am aware that some of my beliefs are not empowering and don’t really serve me, I have a choice and some additional work to do.  I need to decide what I want to believe about women and about myself.  I choose to adopt more loving and empowering beliefs about women in general and about myself as a woman.  As this process evolves, I will share my new insights, as well as the ways in which I am growing and learning in this area of life.

Follow-On Questions for Readers

  1. What are your attitudes about men and women?
  2. Do you find that you have more positive attitudes about your own gender or about the opposite gender?
  3. In what ways do your attitudes about men and women positively or negatively impact your life?
  4. Are there any dis-empowering beliefs which you would like to release?

In a future post, we will examine other topics from the Beliefs Exercise.  I encourage you to take some time to explore your beliefs about Men, Women, Love, Sex, Work, Money, Success, Failure, and God.  Powerful change begins with awareness.  As Dr. Phil says, “You can’t change what you don’t acknowledge.”   The Healing Project is all about self-awareness, empowerment and positive change.  Although some insights can be painful, they often serve as a springboard toward growth.  Please join me on the journey toward awareness and healing!

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