"After a few years of being chronically unwell, I realized I must be asking the wrong question. Instead of asking 'when am I going to get well?' I started asking 'what do I need to CHANGE to get well'"?
Why is it that wanting to get well, and resolve your health problems, can keep you sick? Doesn't that sound a bit counter-intuitive?
Yes it does! But I'll explain why this is paradoxically true, and how wanting to get well can be one of the biggest road blocks to healing.
In order to understand this, we need to start with a brief overview of how the autonomic system (ANS) works.
The ANS has two branches (response systems):
Generally speaking, the SNS is the stress response of the body, which is triggered in times of threat or danger to life, which includes real and perceived threat or danger. The PNS is the state the body is in when it's not in the stress response, and is the self-healing, relaxation / regeneration response. The two different branches also have different functions, which we won't go into now.
However, what we can say is that when the SNS response is triggered or switched on, it diverts all systems of the body towards safety and survival, because the body-mind fears feels its very survival is threatened, and action needs to be taken to divert or avoid the danger.
This danger can trigger a physical fear, as a result of a real threat to life, or a falsely-perceived physical or emotional fear. Whichever type of fear it is, the body will respond in the same way and trigger the SNS stress 'fight-flight-freeze' response, and very often this stress response can become an unconscious habit.
When the body goes into the stress response, the stress is synonymous with fear: we are afraid for our life and the autonomic response automatically goes into the fear response in order to trigger the stress SNS response in order that we can do what we need to do to keep ourselves safe (and alive).
When the SNS response is triggered, it turns on certain functions within the body in order to manage and overcome the danger, such as diverting blood to the limbs so we can run away from the danger (increasing heart rate so it can pump the blood quickly) as well as other functional changes.
It also halts or stalls certain physiological functions in the body, such as digestion and self-healing, because it needs to divert all its resources to actions it needs to take to 'survive'.
When we go into the stress response, a constriction occurs inside the body. We tense up. This tension is felt throughout the body and even down to the cells, tissues and organs. This tension is a physical and metaphorical kind of 'pressure' because we feel this pressure mentally and emotionally as well as physically.
So how does this stress response relate with how wanting to get well stops you getting well?
Well, whilst it's very healthy and sensible to want to get well if we are sick, the pressure we are putting on ourselves to get well can keep us in the stress response and hamper progress.
There are 2 reasons this happens:
Whenever we have an expectation or strong desire, it puts 'pressure' on the body-mind. It creates a form of tension because internally we are wanting or 'striving' for something which we don't have. In other words, we are resisting reality and wanting something different. Whenever we 'resist what is', we automatically create a strain or pressure inside our body-mind.
This strain and resistance is a form of stress. In other words, it puts the body into the stress response. It puts pressure on the body-mind to give us something we don't currently have, which is very stressful for the body-mind! It is very stressful for the body-mind for us to not accept reality as it is. As you are going to see in a minute, partly this is due to the fact that the symptoms are manifesting for an intelligent reason, otherwise they wouldn't exist, so trying to wish them away without understanding why they are here is going against the natural intelligence of the body.
From a physiological perspective, as a result of the pressure and stress our body is experiencing from our internal expectations of wanting things to be different, we unconsciously halt and prevent the self-healing mechanisms of the body from working properly. We literally stop our own healing!
Here's another important point: your symptoms are here for a good reason. Your body is trying to tell you something! It's trying to give you a message. The body hasn't made a mistake. It wants you to understand something about yourself which you need to change! It's not happy about something and it's creating 'dis-ease' to try and tell you this!
What I discovered on my own (very long) journey to get well from chronic sickness, was that unless I did what my body was asking me to do, and change what I needed to change, and heal what I needed to heal, my body was not going to complete its healing.
So it's our job to interpret what our body is telling us via symptoms. And if we don't know how to do that, then we need to find someone who can help us do so, hence why I do the work I do, because I don't want you to stay ill as long as I did, with all the consequences of that, including losing my home and life savings and years of precious time finding the answers*. These answers can be drawn out in an hour with someone skilled in knowing how to do this.
You learn how to have an intention and goal of healing, you do everything you can to move towards that goal, and then you let go of attachment to the outcome.
Believe it or not, this will help you get well much faster than constantly pressuring yourself to be well.
How do I know this?
From personal experience:
During the many years I was ill with chronic fatigue, I kept giving myself deadlines (deadlines always bring pressure) to get well. "I'll be well by Christmas.... by my birthday.... by Easter". The deadlines would come and go and I was still ill.
After a few years of this, I realized I must be asking the wrong question. Instead of asking 'when am I going to get well?' I started to ask myself 'what do I need to CHANGE to get well'?
Instead of pressuring myself to be well, I turned my attention to what it was that I needed to do to stop the damage and encourage the self-healing. Because you see the body is a natural self-healing mechanism, and as long as we stop doing whatever it is which is damaging the body, it will heal itself.
I also stopped giving myself deadlines. I released attachment to the deadlines. And miraculously I started to get well much quicker!
I encourage you to try it. Let go of the attachment to wanting to get well, let go of the deadlines, and feel what it feels like to let that pressure go. Your body will thank you. Once the pressure is taken off, it has so much more ability to do its self-healing.
This is how I help clients when we work together. We find out what is causing the damage and the body to stay stuck in symptoms, we change that, and then the body automatically starts to self-heal.
Whilst it took me years to work this out, I show clients how to do this for themselves in a few short weeks or months. When you know what to look for it's not difficult, but when you don't know what to look for it can take you years.
So, main tips and advice from this article:
For more information on root cause analysis and to apply for private coaching to fast-track your recovery, see the Kiwi Health Detective information page.
To get the whole series, including downloadable mp3 audio recordings, and bonus materials not available in the blog, register for the free 'WHAT IF? SECRETS TO HEALTH' video series.
*I share exactly what it 'cost' me to stay ill for years in my 'The Cost of Illness, The Value of Health' program.
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