(3) Beliefs, Emotions, and Healing

We don’t receive wisdom, we must discover it for ourselves after a journey no one can take for us, or spare us.”  – Marcel Proust – Famous Novelist and considered one of the greatest writers of the 20th century.

“Every person has the power.  So often we allow the power to go to people around us who have opinions, or we look at where we come from or what our background is, and we don’t give ourselves enough credit.  That we DO have the power to create what we want to. That is the most important message I could convey to anybody. – Pete Carroll – Football Coach, and apparently a good one.  

“The only limits, are, as always, those of vision.” – James Broughton – American Poet and Filmmaker

Do you believe?: A vigorous immune system can overcome cancer if not interfered with and emotional growth towards greater self acceptance and fulfillment helps to keep the immune system strong.  

If it can overcome cancer, one of the diseases we’ve decided is the most deadly, what does this mean about other diseases and chronic illness.  

What are your beliefs – Does your body have the ability to heal?  Were you born deficient? How do you feel about treatments or therapy?  Are you more powerful than your disease? Does your lifestyle impact your wellness and health?  

The work of uncovering conflicts is the most important job facing the patient for when outer choices match the inner desires energy formerly tied up in contradictions becomes available for healing.  

We want to be led by doctors, yet complain about the medical system – does anyone see a conflict here?  

How do we discover our conflicts?

One way is to look at our words.  

The words we use are all about the message you deliver, not just to everyone and everything around you, but the message you deliver to yourself.  The body responds to the mind’s message, whether conscious or unconscious. What is the message you’re delivering? What words do you say? What expressions do you use?  

I used to say I was an accident.  I was an unplanned pregnancy. While it’s common, it’s also a bit disempowering.  I had attached an unconscious meaning of not being wanted to that statement. Then I went through and consciously rewrote the story.  

“I was not an accident.  It was my time to be reborn.  I grew up a little wild. Playing, learning, growing, and I was loved.  By my whole family. My mom, dad, brother, grandma, grandpa, aunts, uncles, the list goes on.  Many people have loved me and do love me. I have touched and brightened many lives. I am here for a purpose with a purpose.  I am intentional.”

Redirecting the story you tell about yourself can improve your self perceptions and that can change your life.  It seems silly, but I can attest that it makes a difference. It helps you reclaim your power. The power that has been given away since you were a child.  

Other words can be what you say about yourself.  When you talk do you talk about healing or being ill?  Do you focus on what is worse or what is better? I noticed a pattern in myself where I tend to focus on whatever is bothering me in a given day or set of days instead of focusing on what has healed.  I no longer have a regular cough, but I am sometimes fatigue. Instead of recognizing that my cough is healed I focus on how tired I feel. Then I attribute the fatigue to something negative instead of thinking that the body often need more sleep when it is healing.  The fatigue isn’t a bad sign if I’m healing. Especially if I actually notice a number of things improving.

This brings us to the roles we play.  We are playing out roles. Are you aware of the roles you are starring in?  Performing for the sake of others can destroy you.

My roles – Healer, Writer, Best Friend, Daughter, Sister, Dog Caregiver, Life Coach, Heroine, Cancer Ambassador,  the list goes on for a while.

If you were to tell your story what would be the plotline?  I have a few different plotlines depending on the day.

I have to be careful not to get sucked into the dying cancer patient plotline.  I’ve been this way for quite a while now. It’s the plotline that permeates society.  When someone hears I’ve had cancer they tend to ask if I’m all good now. Do I worry it will come back?  There are so many different responses, but most tend to be negative and reinforce the attitude that at some point cancer will get me.  It’s forever lurking.

The daily life of a person becomes so intensely focused on his or her illness that the rest of their life fades away.  Is this you? Are you buried under doctor appointments and different treatments? Do you feel better than you have in the past?  If not, then maybe it’s time to try a different approach.

In your story do you feel like the present and future are outside of your control?  Are the present and future conditions intolerable? Will you always be sick? Do you believe healing is even possible or are your just trying to maintain?  

The roles we play create feelings within us.  Especially if this roles conflict with our beliefs.  For me the cancer patient creates a lot of anger and frustration.  Unexpressed feelings destroy your immune system. I encourage the expression of all your angers, resentments, hatreds, and fears.  This can be difficult because it’s a fine line between the woe is me and releasing your anger, resentments, hatreds and fears. Many people will express them, but also hang onto them.  Sometimes you don’t have anyone to express them to. I often run into this problem when trying to express some of my frustration. People don’t know how to respond.

How do we express these emotions?  How do we rid them from our bodies?  

Learn from it, write a poem, a story, or just write about the event.  Express it. Dance it out. Cry it out to heal you. Create something better from it so it doesn’t define your life and make you sick.  

One of the best ways to deal with fear is to acknowledge it whenever it appears.  Notice where it starts. Notice how strong it is. How it feels physically in your body.  Notice the thoughts that go on in your head when you are feeling fear. Tell yourself it is okay to feel this fear and list the reasons why you are feeling the fear.  Many people who do this notice the fear dissipate. It’s like a warning light on a dashboard or a child that wants your attention. Once it has it or has been acknowledged it will relax. Sometimes when you acknowledge the fear you may feel more vulnerable or helpless, tears may flow.  That’s okay it takes a lot of energy to suppress strong feelings and if you allow them to come out you free up energy for healing.

For anger or frustration it may work better to release the energy physically.  Have you tried screaming? What about taking a towel and hitting it against a bed?  Throwing rocks as hard as you can in a safe area? These emotions are within our body.  They are energy stored and we need to release it. One day I was very upset and I spent a few minutes punching and kicking a punching bag.  It felt great to let my aggression out. It wasn’t something I normally did. I rarely express my emotions physically. That’s something I’ve been working within my own life.  It needs to be an activity where you focus on letting the anger or whatever emotion out. It also needs to be an activity that doesn’t hurt you. There is always an activity that can be found if you’re creative enough and allow yourself freedom to express.    

Remind yourself that you are more than your emotions.  And remember that dealing with your emotions is a long term process.  It’s something you will need to do for the rest of your life. You have lots of chances to practice and get good at it.  

Sometimes it’s as simple as sitting with it.  A couple of years ago I had been going through a training and was directed to go back to my earliest memory.  As I did this I saw my grandpa who had passed twenty years ago. I then saw a highlight reel and the moment at the funeral where I swallowed my pain for my family.  My grief was upsetting other family members. I locked it deep inside me. From that day forward when I thought or spoke of my grandfather I would cry. I wondered if it would ever go away.  On that day two years ago it did. As I saw myself and my father’s discussion I realized what had happened and I started to really cry. I had soul wrenching sobs. I cried for the death of my grandfather and also because of the anger at my dad.  He didn’t realize what he had done to his teenage daughter, I hadn’t either, but from that moment forward I had been angry at him. All of this energy was freed.

Now, I can talk of my grandfather without crying.  I can smile at my memories of him. I know that I’ve released the energy that I held in me for twenty years.  

Much of this came about because of the role I had cast myself in as the dutiful daughter.  The need to be strong for my parents. Funny, I actually believe it should be reversed. Your parents should be strong for you.  I know I’m not the only child who did this. I could be resentful for this role, but everyone was doing the best they could. That and you can’t go back and change the past.  Being resentful for the past that brought you to where you are now means that you can’t learn from the experience.

Maybe instead of trying to recover what we feel we have lost; it would be better for us to discover what else we might be.  If we did this we could find true purpose and happiness.

Look at the roles in your life.  Especially when you feel trapped, powerless, helpless, hopeless, and powerless.  These feelings arrive with gradual dissatisfaction with a certain role in our life.  Not living the life you want, but instead the performance. For me- the loyal lover, the dutiful daughter, these came before self-care.  

What are some of the roles you see in your life (let’s make a list and see what we can discover about ourselves)?   

The Greats – doctors and scholars have come to a conclusion we largely ignore, healing has more to do with the mind than it does the body.  

“Sometimes the more measured drives out the most important” – Rene Dubos  French-born American microbiologist, experimental pathologist, environmentalist, humanist, … and his list of accomplishments goes on…

Medicine has been studying it’s failures when it should be learning from it’s successes.  We should be paying more attention to those who get well unexpectedly, instead of staring bleakly at those who die in the usual fashion.  

  • Even more exciting is some people have been studying this and we have found a pattern!

One’s attitude towards oneself is the single most important factor in healing and staying well – George Vaillant American psychiatrist and Professor at Harvard Medical School – his list of accomplishments goes on.  

Dr Carl Simonton believes that we develop our diseases for honorable reasons.  It’s our bodies way of telling us our needs aren’t being met. Not just our bodies needs, but our emotional needs as well.  

It’s intended to help us realize that the emotional needs met by the illness are valid.  When the needs are accepted, a person can move on to meet them in a constructive way, without the disease.  

This can be hard to see because often we still feel like our needs aren’t being met when ill.  We feel alone or unloved. We felt this way before becoming ill, it just wasn’t as pronounced. These feelings aren’t because of the disease, they are more pronounced because of the disease.  It’s harder to ignore. A spotlight is shined on them and in fact it may make it easier for us to accept them. There have been times in my life where I’ve wanted to just scream – I have cancer and you still don’t give me love.  I am constantly giving and giving and getting the short stick back. These feelings were really upsetting to me at first because I felt selfish and childish, but in fact they show a much deeper wound. I have often felt a lack of love and connection and cancer has made it obvious and almost seems to say, well what are you going to do about it?  

That being said, realization of one’s participation and responsibility in the disease process is entirely different from blame or guilt.  I recognize that my choices, my decisions led to my illness. It also means they can be my salvation. I can claim that power. So can you.  

Let’s take that a step further and look at treatments.  A treatment chosen out of fear is unlikely to be helpful.  This is because the body heals, not the therapy which is why different therapies work for different people.  

It’s why I refused chemo when my cancer returned.  I had done too much research for me to expect something positive out of it.  I believe that chemo is poison not just to the cancer, but to my body. My first experience with chemo was very difficult.  Even though my doctor assured me this time it would be different, I didn’t trust him. There are ways to resolve this, in fact our last group we used one of the tools, but this isn’t a belief I currently feel the need to change.  There are so many other options that don’t have the harmful effects that I would only agree to chemo as a last resort and then I’d find a REALLY good therapist.

That brings me to another point.  I didn’t trust my doctor. My lack of faith in my doctor didn’t facilitate my ability to heal.  He didn’t have faith in my ability to heal.

Doctors must realize however, that lack of faith in the patient’s ability to heal can severely limit that ability.  – Dr Bernie Siegel

The doctor’s job is not only to find the right treatment for the patient, but to help the patient find an inner reason for living, resolve conflicts, and free healing energy.

Have you given your power away?  Does your doctor do this? Do you have a therapist, and do they understand this?  Many do not. It doesn’t matter. You can work towards this if you have the knowledge.  

In the face of uncertainty there is NOTHING wrong with hope.  Do the therapies you do or think of pursuing give you hope? Does your medical team?  

Hans Selye proposed the idea that if a person rejects their own needs can a body rebel and reject itself.  

This contradicts the belief that the illness comes to kill us, to hurt us, to make life difficult.  Instead it came to save us. We were already killing ourselves.

I’ve found myself wondering this as I look over my life.  I have rejected my own needs frequently. I often put others before myself.   I watch my tumor markers fluctuate as I struggled to find the balance in my life.  I’ve actually come to give this meaning to my cancer which makes it empowering. I can control this.  I have the power to change this.

The meaning behind my illness.  I didn’t see myself as exceptional until I became sick.  Now I see that I have always been. It reframes a lot of my past experiences or troubles.  I’ve discovered reminding myself of this as I move forward in the future has become key. I still often forget how capable I am.    

What does self-love mean to you?  In our mainstream society it has come to mean only vanity and narcissism.  The pride of being and the determination to care for our own needs have gone out of the meaning.  What does self-love mean to you?

How do you change your beliefs?  

To change the mind, one must often speak to the heart… and listen.  Beliefs are a matter of faith not logic. – Dr Bernie Siegel. I have found this to be true.  In our logic driven, material based world it has been one of the hardest things I have done. Trust my heart.  What does your heart tell you?

Be incredibly curious about why you have the emotions you have, the rules you make, and the strengths that are unique to you.  

Take the time to answer the questions.  Don’t just move past it because you feel you don’t know the answer.  Spend some time going deep. Hopefully our time today has caused you to look at your experiences differently and allowed you to reframe some of them.  

When was the last time you asked yourself what kind of life you want to lead?  

What do you value?  What gives meaning to your life?  These questions help you recognize your beliefs.  

Find your will to live.  What is your reason to be here?  This helps you stop obsessing about your illness.  

Affirmations can help you program new messages.  

Like:

“I have robust health and vitality”.  

“I am strong.  I am healed. I hold the power.  I will fight, if needed, for my right to thrive in this world.”

Put them in a place where you will see them multiple times throughout a day and it will help remind you to say or think them.  I have them on the bulletin board over my kitchen sink and around my bathroom mirror. I’ve also recorded them and have them play as I’m getting ready for bed or I take time out to meditate and listen to them.  

I’ve created a list of affirmations to serve as examples (hand out).  These are just examples to get your creative juices flowing.  Feel free to use these affirmations or create your own. It’s recommended that you choose a few – ten or less and focus on them for thirty days or until you feel a shift within you and then you can move onto new affirmations.  

Now let’s take some time to have open discussion and share any experiences, ideas, changes, accomplishments with the group.