An essay in how we can love and heal ourselves
How we can unconsciously sabotage our lives and our health
I know I allowed myself to be brainwashed into this process when I was first diagnosed with arthritis. I started to over identify with my condition. Actually, it became my overarching narrative and was sadly very actively reinforced by others. This dis-empowered me and was undoubtedly a form of self-sabotage. I became the victim. I became the woman with the arthritic condition. It was all-pervasive; creeping into every aspect of my everyday life. So many people who are ill or who live with co-morbid and multiple health conditions or addictions are getting secondary gain from this. Bizarrely (or not) their minds are convinced that illness is somehow protecting them. I remember being in a workshop with Jeff Foster when he lovingly highlighted this to a woman in the audience who was convinced that she felt more pain than anyone else on the planet. The mere fact that she was there, however, heralded an opportunity for her recovery and restoration of her health – in community and with the right kind of love and support. In my work I have encountered people who will say they want to get well and recover, and while it’s true that there is a part of them that wants to get well, there is an even more influential, sabotaging part of them that has no interest or intention to be well. How could this be? For example, a high-sensitive who has been assessed as having some kind of disability realises they don’t want to give up their disability benefits and go back to a soul sucking job “in the system” because the system is the problem. However, they don’t know how else to pay the bills. Or they realise that their Fibromyalgia/Chronic Fatigue diagnosis is serving a purpose so that they can prioritise their own needs instead of caring for everyone else all the time. Somehow the real issues are masked. In their minds they see how the condition or conditions can be a good excuse to avoid uncomfortable situations, or have a jolly good reason for not pursuing a dream that might require them to risk failure. It keeps them stuck. People often feel embarrassed when they realise this, though it is a deeply human response. The saying “what we resist persists” rings true here. The sheer size of the challenge may overwhelm you. You may start to experiment and find yourself re-traumatised (like me!) and this leads to more resistance and mistrust. It’s fair to say that most of us have or have had some resistance to change, even positive change. Treating our resistance takes some guidance and it helps if we don’t resist our resistance but stay curious and ask it what it needs. The moment we dis-identify from the mind that sees things in this way, and from its conditioned patterns, is the moment choice begins. So, with awareness we can create choice and this has the potential to lead to change. With present moment awareness, we are liberated from the past and we start to realise that we may have been putting one foot on the accelerator and one foot on the brakes. That doesn’t help us to move forward. So, if we truly want to optimise outcomes, we need to address the blocks that are holding us back and feeding our need to self-sabotage and to clear them. If restoration of health is in our soul curriculum in this incarnation (and that is a big IF), it will have a chance to express without our unconscious sabotage.
Surrendering and letting go of expectations and outcomes
When, more than anything else in our lives, we desire to be in optimal health, we need to cast the weight of this intense desire over to the Divine and ask for help in navigating our healing journey. We need to trust that if action is required, we will be guided through this portal to co-create with life. So many people, just like me, have been or are seeking… seeking that magic bullet; the plant medicine that will be the cure all; the therapy or treatment that will finally get to the bottom of my health issues. However, I sense that this is not everyone’s journey in this lifetime. Some people, I feel, are here in this lifetime as young souls, early on their soul journey, and who need to experience particular challenges health-wise before they are able to surrender and let go. Or they may be here to transmute and heal generations of accumulated trauma in this lifetime. I deeply resonate with the notion that the accumulation of ancestral trauma and grief stops with me. For many people on their spiritual path, they understand that surrendering to Divine Grace is more a powerful action than weak. Trusting the process and asking for guidance on what is in the highest good. Yet it is hard not to be attached to the desire to get out of suffering or avoid dying. I highly commend Tosha Silver’s profound wisdom around surrender (author of Change Me Prayers and Outrageous Openness). She suggests we might say, “Change me into someone who can surrender this to Divine Will without defending or grasping”. Nevertheless, this is a shift in mindset – literally, as it is absolutely human that we grasp for healing and for a cure. Our brains our goal seeking. Yet we are constantly looking outwardly and grasping outside of us for something that is innate. Perhaps we have an external locus of evaluation created in early childhood, which means we give our power away to others time and time again. We may be constantly disappointed when we stay in this place of relentless hopefulness. However, the step of spiritual surrender is a gesture towards letting go. It is the first step to restoring our health. To being in alignment and to letting go into love. It acknowledges that there are things we can all do to be proactive about our health – and there are things in the unseen and in the mystery experience that our self-will, no matter how strong this is, cannot influence or indeed control. In my experience, asking for help and surrendering fully to whatever higher powers we resonate with (be that Source, All that Is, Love and Light, the Universe, The Cosmos, Divine Grace, God, Goddess, Angelic beings, Spirit guides or power animals, other deities, the Elemental forces etc), we can feel an inner knowing and a peace that frees us and relaxes our nervous system. There are some things we simply can’t push or make happen. We need to trust the process and see what unfolds – or not. And when we continually, as an ongoing commitment to life, surrender to Divine Grace, connecting to our own inner knowing, higher self and intuition (whilst also trusting the mysterious guidance that can come through) this trusting of the process sets the stage for our entire healing journey and our life as a whole.
Be confident you can restore your health and thrive
We are sovereign beings. We have agency in our lives, though often it takes time and life experience to acknowledge this fully. It’s useful to recognise the not knowing that accompanies any healing journey and allowing ourselves to feel the feelings that come with uncertainty. But at the same time, we need to restore hopefulness and open the portal of potential. Disregarding any statistics we google or hear from medical doctors is helpful as this is OUR journey and OUR journey alone. No-one, absolutely no-one else can know what it is like to be us. Loved ones can get close. We can, through intimate communion, walk with each other and deeply empathise and understand, nevertheless no-one will ever know what it is truly like to be you. I mistakenly trusted others’ expertise rather than my own inner knowing and intuition and felt like I had betrayed my body and this created disassociation. It took a long time to forgive myself for that. We are so much more than statistics. More than numbers or subjects hidden amongst fields of data. We are all limited editions with as yet unknown and mysterious futures. I am not promoting being in a state of false hope or denial – far from it. It’s more about being willing to meet the uncertainty. This uncertainty opens us up to being primed for miracles and experiencing the re-enchantment of everyday life.
Setting an intention and being witnessed in that intention is, I believe, critical to all aspects of our lives. We can then surrender those outcomes consciously and let them go to whatever is in the highest good. For sure, a positive, upbeat attitude can help but we don’t have to believe in a therapeutic modality in order for it to work. A sceptic, for example, can receive an energy healing treatment and still experience optimal benefit (as happened recently with a woman who found herself drawn to a shamanic and energy healing practitioner). While belief probably plays a role, we need to integrate our unresolved trauma as we might be miraculously cured, even if we don’t believe we can be! I have witnessed this both in myself and in others and this often paves the way to awakening.
It’s about love and surrounding ourselves with the right support and being in the right environment
This is far more important than we know and realise. Feeling loved and safe and in an environment that is conducive to our wholeness and wellbeing are key elements.
Love heals. Love heals at the deepest level. The first step is self-love. Yes, this is a tricky one for those of us that have been socialised in the West. But being in right relationship with ourselves and loving and accepting ourselves is as key as the unconditional presence of another. It is a no brainer. If we can’t love ourselves how can we love another? If we don’t feel loved then how can we, as human beings, find our path to optimal health and wellbeing? Scientists and researchers keep trying to separate love and medicine. What if they are inseparable? What if it is the person administering the treatment rather than the treatment itself? What if it is the persons’ own support network that is holding them is the real aid to the healing? What if it is your sacred other’s patient presence that helps you to excavate and alchemise a deep seated trauma?
In our culture, we have a tendency to need to be the individualist, the pilgrim. I consulted self-help book after self-help book (I confess I still do) and they like to suggest that healing can be a solitary journey. However, I simply do not hold with the idea that optimal healing arises from being alone. This funny little human experience is about community. About being in relationship. About being part of a bigger something. We sense this profoundly when we can restore our belonging within a circle of peers who are also on their own journeys. We have a strong felt sense of a communion and energetic presence. When we are given, by our own cultural co-ordinates, to believe we have to do everything ourselves and we can’t rely on anyone else’s love and support, that’s a reliable recipe for illness. No wonder our body would feel the need to nudge us to receive love, care and compassion! Even if we happen to be an introvert needing alone time to recharge, we’ll still need the right kind of community support. Scientists still want to prove that, for example, the energy healing method works independent of who gives it. I wonder why our society is so resistant to admitting that the care, compassion and love of the person offering the healing may be far more important than the treatment itself, but today’s prevailing, scientifically based paradigm seems to find this uncomfortable. Someone I met a while back was diagnosed with cancer whilst married to a person who was incredibly narcissistic and possibly psychopathic. They are an empath and a healer. They did have chemo and gathered around them an amazing “team” of other complementary practitioners who cared deeply about their recovery and offered them support. They told me that they felt that this was critical to their full recovery and they have now been cancer free for many years. I feel that having the right support and feeling loved is essential to the healing process. Let’s face it, when we feel loved, we feel safe. When we feel safe, as I say ad nauseam, our nervous system relaxes into the parasympathetic nervous system, and only then can the body’s natural self-healing mechanisms switch on and work their magic.
When we are broken-hearted we cannot heal. We heal in relationship. We need to be in communion. Feel a sense of unity within and with others. CommUNITY. When we learn to both give and receive love then we have hearts that heal. We need each other to do that. In a safe, trusting relationship. This is not a co-dependent arrangement. This is a quest to find our sacred other or others. Those with whom we feel safe to be our true, authentic selves. This is a poignant, conscious, deep, loving, trusting, unconditional connection. As above so below. As within so without.
If we don’t feel cared for by the health care professionals we have found then we need to find new ones. Expertise is great, but it’s insufficient for sustained healing towards thriving. The people who experience radical remissions, love and empower themselves, have loving friends and family and feel compassionately cared for by their support team. What I have learnt is that group healing seems to affect outcomes auspiciously just as when humans gather in sacred places on a pilgrimage (for we are surely all pilgrims seeking greater love, truth and faith) we can, in community, rediscover our health and wholeness.
Feeling and deeply listening to our bodies
It has been the biggest lesson for me. It was such a long time before I realised how disconnected to my parts of my body I had become. So stuck in my head. When I started to have conversations with my body as a whole organism, it became a sacred, life changing practice. This is the work. The head struggles with this as our nihilistic culture has told us time and time again that the body is simply a vehicle to transport our brain around and that everything and every body is replaceable.
This is about remembering and tuning in to the deep connection with our heart space, our inner guru, divine mentor and inner compass. It is essential to self-healing. It is a sacred connection to our inner essence. Our sacred core, if you like. We all need this as without it all the efforting in the world will not optimise the healing process. Nobody outside of ourselves knows what will best serve our healing journey.
Getting to the causes of the causes
Still waters run deep. The people I find most concerning when I am coaching are the ones who say adamantly that they haven’t had anything happen to them ever that felt painful or overwhelming, so they are mystified as to why they are suffering and life is so full of trials and tribulations. These are the people whose minds have convinced them so completely of this that they are the most resistant to go there. However, each and every one of us has experienced what might seem like smaller traumas, such as the developmental traumas that disrupt our healthy individuation and keep us developmentally arrested, affect our capacity for intimacy and experience of a natural, full expression of our authentic selves. This kind of everyday trauma, if you like, affects us all and impacts our health. Just take a look at the Adverse Childhood Experience study of thousands of people to see how the spectrum of trauma can play out in our lives. In my experience, mind based talk therapies simply aren’t not enough to heal these wounds. Trauma of all kinds is held in the body. It is not just about talking about it but feeling it to heal it. Feeling it helps us to clear the blocks held energetically in our systems and integrating this so that our essence – our vitality, can flow freely. This natural flow of life force can often cure disease and prevent future disease or disability. Now it would be naïve to claim that all ill health is the result of psycho-spiritual trauma but painful experiences and trauma tend to be at the root of the majority of the causes of the causes. Trauma and overwhelm play a far more significant role in the development of illness than most doctors and scientists are acknowledging and we really need a more trauma informed health care system. As Dr Gabor Mate says, “the attempt to escape from pain is what creates more pain”. So, to go deep to the root cause or the seat of the pain is a courageous step (rather than to continue to run away from it). It was my journey too. I had an epiphany when I was working for the Department of Health when working with an eminent person in Government and Health and Wellbeing. They used this term… getting to the causes of the cause (I later found out that this was “borrowed” from an occupational health specialist but hey…everything is recycled) and one day I realised, as I walked away from yet another toxic business, that if we didn’t go under the surface and dig deeper, we would not be able to get to the causes of the causes and address the wider challenges of poor health and wellbeing in ourselves and in the business world. The epiphany came as I had one of those taps on the shoulder that said that this was my journey too. With the right kind of the support (this is important) to dig much deeper than I ever had into my own personal stories and history. To go deeper into my own trauma and pain (though at the time in 2012 I hadn’t a clue how deep into my own well of being I would need to go). This is still the most uncomfortable and potentially triggering step to healing and it’s the one we are likely to need the most support to uncover. I know I did. There are pillars of resistance there too. Our support needs to be trustworthy and unconditionally loving and wise. So many people are in denial about what their bodies may be trying to communicate with them through illness or injury. We have lots of defences built up to protect us from actually facing the truth. If you’re sick because your childhood wounding has resulted in your inability to say no, for example, then your condition may be the way you’ve adapted, so your body forces you to say no by shutting down. That way, you have a good excuse to say no, and it’s easier to say “I’ve a migraine” than “No, I haven’t got the capacity to help you or meet your needs right now.” People may judge themselves and their bodies severely for having an illness that says no for them, so once you learn to love, accept and appreciate your body and even your illness, once you are willing to have that conversation with your body, honour and respect how it might think it’s helping you, then you can face the truth about the causes of the causes, which is that you still have unmet trauma from childhood that made you incapable of saying no and that has, since that time, created issues with unhealthy boundaries. Once that trauma is met, your body may not need to say no for you anymore, because your authentic voice can express your no instead.
The key is to ask good questions of our body as it never lets us down. Everything we have ever experienced is deeply etched on our body and in our primal being. It needs and wants to be heard and met. Here, you will notice that I am deliberately saying that our experience and our trauma needs to be “met”. Whilst I am also of the opinion that it can ultimately be healed and often can be miraculously in an instant when we stumble (or not) on the right practice for us, I am also aware that most often what we need is to fully meet the trauma, deeply listen to and manage our trauma. Ask it questions about what it wants. What it needs. How it would like to be cared for and loved.
Creating a sacred toolkit for health
When we are at that place, as I have just referred to, where we can ask our body what it needs and how we can live the life our body wants to live and love, then we can create a non-negotiable and intuitively guided sacred toolkit for health. This can be anything that sparks joy and helps us to feel good. Helps us to really be in our bodies. Grounding, daily ritual such as gratitude ritual, ceremonies, journaling, writing, reading, meditation, yoga practice, sacred intimacy, dance/movement, music, sound and energy healing and healthy and nourishing food are all wonderful as part of our toolkit. It can potentially (and often does) include conventional medical treatments. It may include other complementary and alternative therapies such as acupuncture, massage, shamanic, divinatory and spiritual practices. It may include trauma release and somatic therapy to clear the wounds we identify when we have excavated the depths of our being and when our trauma has started to surface to be recognised, remembered and is ready to be integrated, assimilated and met. It may include lifestyle changes like setting boundaries in relationships or making a career change or moving to a place that feels like it enhances, rather than detracts from our wellbeing. It may include joining or running a workshop and other learning opportunities that our souls feel called to explore. The important thing to know is that this sacred toolkit is yours and yours alone. Our doctors and other healers can make suggestions, for sure, but they are merely our advisers as the most important guidance is staying in our power, knowing our own truth, staying curious, asking the right questions, tuning in and staying in integrity with our own impeccable alignment with our internal yes/no or don’t know.
And as far as my own healing process is going, it is a work in progress. Yet, I no longer have pain from my condition. I lovingly tend to it when it needs me to do so. I listen to my body, ask questions and stay curious. I trust my intuition and guidance. I have excavated the depths and become my own alchemist. I actively use and add to my sacred toolkit and this supports me and keeps me resilient.
Whatever yours is… enjoy the journey!
In deep love and in service.