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Happy New Year!As we move into the final hours of 2010, I thought it would be appropriate to do a “best of” post for “The Healing Project.”

I started this blog in February 2010 and have made 50 posts to date. Regular weekly posts will resume next week (and will continue at least through February 2011 – most likely longer).

Which Posts Were Tops?

I have designated the following posts as the “Top 10 Posts of 2010.” This designation was made based upon several criteria:  post popularity, comments and feedback from others (either directly on the blog or to me personally), and my personal feelings about which posts were my best of the year.   The posts are listed from most recent to least recent and a post summary is included.  To read a post in its entirety, click on the post title.

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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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Sometimes a headache isn’t just a headache… This is something I’ve pondered in recent months as I’ve considered how often I suffer from migraines.  Could it be possible that my headaches serve another purpose beyond causing me extreme pain and discomfort?  My thoughts and realizations on this subject will be the focus of today’s post.

Inconvenient Migraines & Other Such Ailments

Last summer and fall, I attended classes three nights per week.  Every two or three weeks, we would have a project to complete and hand in for course credit.  We would usually be given one class period to use as a “work night” for our projects.  After a few months of class, I noticed that I would almost invariably have a migraine on each project night.  Was this just a mere coincidence, or was something else behind it?

As I considered my project night migraines, I noticed that I would also get migraines on days or nights on which I had certain other commitments, such as a Toastmasters speech or a social function to attend.  It is highly unlikely that my migraines on all of these days happened by chance, so perhaps there were other forces at play…

I’ve also begun to notice that my other health issues have a tendency to come to the forefront at certain critical junctures in my life.   My digestive problems, sore throat and swallowing issues, neck and chest pains, and various other ailments often crop up under times of stress or discomfort.

Avoiding Commitments

Sometimes my headaches or other health challenges allow me to escape commitments in my life.  After all, if I am writhing in pain, who would expect me to attend a party or give a speech?  I am able to “bow out” of certain obligations by claiming illness without suffering the wrath of others or other such consequences.  I don’t consciously create the illnesses, but whenever there is a glaring pattern being displayed, it is worthwhile to examine the situation and any potential “payoffs” therein.

“Payoffs” of Illness

It may be strange to consider the “payoffs” of a migraine, digestive distress, or any other seriously uncomfortable condition.  After all, I am not exactly swinging from the chandeliers and celebrating when I am afflicted with such maladies.  But truth be told, I am getting a payoff from being sick.   I “get” to avoid a commitment that I have perhaps been dreading on either a conscious or subconscious level.  But at what cost?   Is it really better to be at home suffering in my body than to be in a situation with which I am not fully comfortable?  This is something I never really considered until recently…

Shifting Focus

Another “payoff” for me in my physical maladies is that my focus shifts from other problems or concerns to the illness at hand.  I no longer have to think about what else is bothering me; all of my attention moves to my body and its discomfort.  This was the case on my class project nights.  I was worried about doing a good job on my projects, about measuring up to the teacher’s standards and impressing my classmates.  Once the migraine would appear on the scene, however, it was all I could do to stay in class and work on the task at hand.  I didn’t have the energy to worry about my fears of not being good enough, so I just did my best on the project and let that be that.

The Lesser of Two Evils…

Do I like being in physical pain?  Of course not, but that pain is easier for me to bear – and more familiar – than any emotional pain which I may be feeling.  I don’t know what to do with the emotional pain; the possibilities are seemingly endless.  Plus, it isn’t socially acceptable to talk about our psychological pain, yet the discussion of health problems has no such taboos.  How many people will tell their co-workers about an appointment with a physician, yet guard a counseling appointment as a secret from all but their closest confidantes?

Awareness Leads to Choice

Realizing the ways in which my illnesses serve as vehicles of avoidance has helped me to change the ways in which I interact with my infirmities – and with other people. I now give myself permission to say no to commitments I don’t wish to fulfill.  If I don’t want to do something (and it isn’t necessary for my work, relationships, or life), I decline to commit, and I don’t allow any feelings of guilt to enter my consciousness.  If I don’t commit in the first place, I don’t need to create an illness in order to avoid doing something which I’m dreading.

However, if I have already agreed to do something and the time is at hand, I no longer use existing physical complaints as excuses for not honoring my commitments.  Only on a very rare occasion will I now cancel an obligation due to a health issue.  In almost all cases, I do what I have committed to do.  If I am in pain, I do my best not to show it and instead strive to move past it as best as I can.  What I’ve found is that I often end up feeling better once I get out of the house and am engaging with others at a social or business function.  The reason for my ailment (the avoidance) is no longer needed, so the pain gradually dissipates.

A Powerful Decision

I have made a decision not to let my physical pain stop me in life.  If I have decided to do certain activities on a given day, I will do them, pain or no pain.  Unless the pain is downright excruciating, I am not going to let it sideline me.  Pain isn’t going to stop me from living – and enjoying – my life!

I don’t believe that all of my aches and pains (or anyone else’s, for that matter) are means of avoiding commitments or thinking about uncomfortable situations.  But I’ve come to understand that some of my pain serves the purpose of avoidance.

My awareness of the subconscious functions of my pain has helped me to fight back and prevail.  I am no longer a helpless victim to my seemingly endless list of physical complaints.  I can be at choice in my life, and I choose to live each day to the fullest!

Something to Consider…

The next time you get a headache or some other type of pain, stop and consider what might be brewing beneath the surface.  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?  Perhaps if our ailments no longer serve a purpose in our lives, they will gradually fade away, and we will be free!

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