The story so far…
At a metaphysical lecture facilitated by Guy Williams, Guy made the
comment that most people don’t really want to heal. What most people want,
according to Guy, is to stop hurting. In Part 1, we met the ego, and discovered that
the most effective way of letting go of our limiting and outmoded beliefs is to
accept that there is no need to change these beliefs because they’re actually
working just fine. What we have, on the other hand, is the option to upgrade our beliefs and to make more elegant choices.
For most of us, healing is a big, scary, and uncomfortable prospect. Healing
requires that we do two very simple, yet incredibly unappealing tasks. First, we must
accept that we are responsible for creating our own illness: Our thoughts, beliefs,
choices and actions are directly responsible for the imbalance and dis-ease we are
experiencing in our physical bodies. Second, we must be willing to change our lives
and eliminate the thoughts, beliefs, choices and actions that created and supported
the imbalance and dis-ease, replacing them with new choices that support balance
Taking Responsibility For Our Illnesses
The first step to healing is to accept that we created our illnesses in the first place.
This can be a difficult concept to swallow. So many of us are invested in the
prevailing Western scientific medical view of reality that we can’t quite understand
how we created our illnesses.
Most illnesses are caused by viruses or bacteria. If we catch a cold, or get the flu,
how is that our responsibility? Someone sneezed on us in an elevator, and now
we’re laid up in bed for a week. We’re so helpless against the various flu strains that
there’s even an annual cold and flu season every year. Every ad for cough
medication, every news report on flu vaccinations only serves to reinforce the belief
that we’re helpless victims of forces beyond our control. The only way to avoid
getting sick is to avoid human contact for six months of the year.
But what about the people who don’t bother with flu shots, and don’t avoid human
contact and yet they also don’t get sick? Are they just lucky? They’re being exposed
to the same bacteria and viruses that we are. How is that that they stay healthy?
Could it be that their thoughts support perfect health and a strong and functioning
immune system, while ours somehow invite illness?
What about hereditary or genetic disorders? How can we be responsible for these?
Or is it just possible that our belief in heredity is what creates hereditary diseases? If
we believe that because heart disease “runs” in our family that we are “at risk” for a
heart attack, how does that belief become our reality?
Of course, in the case of heart disease, there are so many other contributing factors,
such as diet and exercise that have as much, or more to do with the health of our
hearts than heredity does. It may just be possible that what we inherit is not a
genetic predisposition to heart disease, but the nutritional and lifestyle habits that
actually result in heart disease. We inherit behaviors from our families as well. We’re
responsible for our choices, and we’re responsible for any dis-ease that results
from our choices.
I have a friend who “inherited” a degenerative neurological disorder that affects her
feet and makes it difficult for her to walk. Every doctor she saw told her that she
would be in a wheelchair by the time she was 40, and there was nothing she could
do about it. She knew how her relatives had lived out their lives with this disease,
and decided that this was not an acceptable life for her. She refused to accept the
diagnosis, and began to explore alternative therapies. She made radical changes to
her diet and lifestyle, and very quickly noticed a radical improvement in this chronic,
progressive, degenerative condition. According to the best medical experts, she
shouldn’t be able to walk today. However, because she took responsibility for her
illness and changed the thoughts, beliefs, and behaviors that created her illness,
she has been able to reverse it.
Many conditions result from negative thinking and limiting beliefs. Unexpressed
anger, regret, grief, and other painful emotions can manifest as chronic, painful,
and sometimes terminal illness. In order to heal these conditions, we must identify
the negative thought or belief that is at the core. The challenge, however, is to
identify and release the negative thought without triggering the ego. All too often,
we punish ourselves for having negative thoughts in the first place–we beat
ourselves up for beating ourselves up. This only reinforces the negative thought and
We must accept that every belief we hold, no matter how negative or limiting, serves
us in some way. This goes for our illnesses and dis-eases as well. Before we can
heal, we must become aware of what benefits we get from our illnesses.
Discovering And Accepting That Our Illness Serves Us
Every choice we make, we make because it meets a need. We created our illness
because it gives us something that we believe that we want. What is the payoff we
get for being ill? What are we getting out of this situation?
No matter how painful or debilitating the illness, there is always a benefit.
Objectively, we may have made a rather unskillful bargain, of course. We may feel
that we’re paying much too high a price for the benefits we receive. But until we
identify the benefit–until we become aware of what it is that we get out of being ill,
we can never truly heal.
Healing requires that we identify what it is that we get out of being ill, and then
become aware of our beliefs surrounding this need. We must be willing to give up
these benefits, or recognize that we can meet these needs in less debilitating ways.
When it comes to minor illnesses such as the cold or flu, often we get sick because
we haven’t been listening to our bodies. We’ve been working too hard, and under
too much stress. We haven’t been taking care of our physical, emotional, or spiritual
needs. The only way that we will take any time for ourselves is if we’re too weak to
get out of bed, so that’s what we create.
I have a friend who has a rather intense family history, with enough drama and
intrigue to fill a prime-time soap opera. A number of years ago, she experienced a
rather significant identity crisis. An inheritance set her up financially so that she
could do whatever she wanted to do with her life. The fact that she could do
whatever she wanted with her life meant that she had to actually choose what she
wanted to do with her life, and this created a great deal of stress. She began to have
anxiety attacks, and soon developed acute agoraphobia, finding it very difficult to
leave her house. She’s struggled with this condition for many years. The payoff of
this condition is that she has an iron-clad excuse not to face her fears and do
something with her life. All of her time and attention is focused on her condition
and her anxiety.
We may find it difficult to accept responsibility for having created our illnesses
because we created our illnesses to avoid having to take responsibility in the first
place. Illnesses and injuries are often cries for attention and validation. When we’re
ill, injured or otherwise in pain, we’re entitled–and even expected to think only of
ourselves. We are excused from our responsibilities to others. We don’t have to go
anywhere we don’t want to go, we don’t have to do anything we don’t want to do.
And we can expect other people to do things for us and we’re under no obligation
to return the favor. We can cancel plans at the last minute, or even simply not show
up, because we were in too much pain to fulfill our social obligations–and we don’t
even have to call to apologize.
Within reason, we’re able to complain to others about how we feel, or put on a brave
face, enduring the pain (but also making certain that everyone knows that we’re a
martyr to our pain and we don’t want to ruin everyone else’s good time). Either way,
our illness is making us the center of attention, and this makes deposits in our
Validation Accounts. Granted, the deposits are very small, and the cost is extremely
high, but for many of us, this is the only way we believe that we can receive
validation and attention from others.
Healing means that we will have to give up our “special” status. We will no longer be
entitled to be the center of attention at all times. We will no longer be able to
demand that other people notice us and pay us special attention. We will be
expected to do things that we may not particularly enjoy, in order to meet our
personal and social obligations to others.
If our illness is a chronic disability, healing means that we will once again have to
work to earn a living. If we believe that the only way that we can earn a living is
doing work that we find repugnant and draining, where is the incentive to heal? And,
could this belief be one of the primary reasons we created our disability in the first
Sometimes it’s more important to keep our handicapped parking privileges than it is
to heal and have to (or even be able to) walk an extra block to the
Please know that there is nothing at all wrong with that choice. We are free to
choose to keep our illnesses and our dis-eases. These conditions meet very
important needs for us, albeit at a considerable cost. We may not really want to
heal, and that’s a perfectly acceptable choice.
Of course, once we accept responsibility for having created our illness, and become
completely aware of the costs and benefits, we may realize that we can, in fact,
meet those needs more effectively in other ways. When we realize this, we are truly
ready to heal.
The Courage to Heal
Healing is a very threatening process because it requires that we make significant,
often dramatic changes in our lives, and change is always threatening. On the most
fundamental level, safe equals familiar. When our most basic, physiological needs
are being met, we’re often able to overcome minor concerns about the unknown
and embrace change without feeling threatened. When we’re in pain because of dis-
ease, however, our most basic needs are not being met.
When our Physiological Need account is overdrawn, all of our need accounts are put
on red alert. When we’re in pain, we’re most definitely not feeling safe, and
any change will be a threat. To make matters worse, the behaviors that we
will have to change–often eating, drinking, and/or smoking–seem to be the few
reliable ways that we can make deposits in our Safety Accounts.
On an intellectual level, we may understand that the only way to truly heal and be
free of the pain of our dis-ease is to alter our behavior. However, when our safety
needs aren’t being met, we act on instinct. The very thought that we have to give up
the few things that give us pleasure makes us feel even less safe.
What happens next is that we often retreat into victim consciousness. We long for
the magic wand that will miraculously make the pain go away and let us continue
with our lives exactly as they are, because that’s the only option we can imagine
that lets us feel reasonably safe. When we escape into fantasy, of course, we avoid
any personal responsibility. We also give up all personal power, and lose the ability
In order to truly heal, we must accept each healing crisis as a call to awareness.
When we’re in pain, all we can do is find some way to alleviate the pain. This is an
essential first step. Healing requires that we address our safety needs, and we can’t
do this until our physiological needs are being met. Healing isn’t about stopping the
pain; healing is about what we choose to do once the pain has stopped.
Healing is not about pain management; it’s about safety management. In order to
change our behaviors and allow our bodies to heal, we must learn how to manage
our Safety Accounts.
For example, we might have an emotional attachment to sugar. Anytime we feel
stressed, unhappy, or otherwise unsafe, we can always rely on a candy bar or some
ice cream to make us feel a little better. If we are at risk for diabetes, however,
eating sugar poses serious health risks. Of course, the thought of having to give up
sugar makes us feel unsafe, and in order to replenish the balance in our Safety
Account, we dive into a pound of Godiva chocolates.
The only way to break this pattern is to learn to manage our Safety Account. We
must discover other behaviors that help us to feel safe that do not involve eating
sugar. We can use the “Present Moment Awareness Safety Exercise” (see The
Relationship Handbook: How to Understand and Improve Every Relationship in Your
Life, page 48) to manage our general stress levels so that we’re less likely to
give in to our cravings. We experience the truth that we can meet our needs in many
different ways, and so we do not feel threatened and unsafe by the thought of
limiting or excluding sugar from our diet. And, of course, we apply AWARENESS,
OWNERSHIP and CHOICE to create new behaviors that support our health.
Now, anyone who has struggled with attachments or addictions will tell you that
while the theory is very simple, simple isn’t the same thing as easy! Throughout the
process, we also have to be careful not to trigger our egos (as we covered in Part 1).
We must take small steps, validating and rewarding ourselves for each elegant
choice, no matter how small, and avoid punishing ourselves for not being able to
change our behavior patterns instantly.
We did not create our dis-eases overnight, and we won’t be able to heal them
overnight, either. We must accept that healing is a gradual process, and in this
acceptance is one of the keys to healing. We generally do not need to make drastic,
immediate changes in order to heal. We can make gradual changes in our behavior
and our beliefs, and the more gentle we are with ourselves during the process, the
more successful it will be.
Healing does not have to be difficult. It’s just that for most of us, as soon as we stop
hurting, we lose interest in actually healing.