The Wrong Way to Approach That Mysterious Illness - Part Three
A client recently said to me...
"Hope has been really good for my energy levels."
She made that comment in the context of talking about how this time (unlike her previous efforts to reverse diabetes) she feels like she's finally getting somewhere with identifying and reversing what has kept her from healing.
Notice that she talked about her feelings (hope), and how they made a biological difference (energy).
Without a doubt, the most common theme I deal with as a "health coach" has become helping people wade through their upstream emotional landscape.
I never knew that would end up being such a large part of my work, but I've found that our shared human malady--a difficulty understanding and navigating how we feel--is hands down the biggest obstacle to our physical well-being.
Not surprisingly, when it comes to mysterious (or chronic) illnesses there is inevitably a new (and often old) cascade of strong emotions that significantly influences the healing process.
As we have seen with the covid hysteria, operating from a place of fear, anxiety, overwhelm or bewilderment truncates our ability to think rationally, fights our ability to stay hopeful, and thus poisons our resolve with cynicism and apathy.
To get well, we need rational, hopeful resolve as much or more than we need any treatment that may have merit.
Today, I want to help you not overlook that key element of the process.
So, let's dive in and find some hope.
ANCHORING HOPE TO REALISM
I've seen so many amazing health turnarounds in my 18+ years as a health coach that I genuinely believe the body is capable of healing just about anything--even covid-injection injuries.
That said, I also have to help people ground that optimism in an understanding of our physical, mental, and emotional frailties/limitations.
One of those realities is that the work to get well is going to push you.
Mysterious puzzles force us to dig deep, face new questions, wrestle with complex scenarios, and likely, clean out a few "closets."
If you saw my first and second posts in this series, you know I'm a believer in the idea that we have to sit with complexity before we can arrive at simplicity.
Not surprisingly, few people are (emotionally) prepared for such a process--they are usually stuck in our culturally-prevalent paradigm of silver-bullet solutions and outsourced-thinking.
We all are guilty of that and it is not all bad.
Indeed, it is the better part of wisdom to outsource at least some thinking and thereby not limit ourselves to only ideas we can think of.
Hiring a trainer, using a personal shopper, or engaging a professional designer are examples where allowing someone else to figure things out for you can be great.
Outsourcing isn't the problem, but attempting robotic compliance to plans we took no part in crafting can only get us so far.
The level of engagement it takes to get well is where many people need an emotional recalibration.
Here's the rub to overcome...
In choosing to sit with complexity and not take shortcuts, you are choosing to slow down, and that can feel unproductive or even counterproductive, especially when there's an urgency to get well.
Before I attempt to give you a deeper understanding of the emotional puzzle here, let me first mention some of the most common questions people tend to ask when faced with failing health.
If you've been hit with an unmooring health situation, see if you can relate to any of these...
Why is this happening to me?
What is the long-term outlook?
How will this affect my relationships?
How will this affect my ability to work and make ends meet?
How will this impact my ability to carry out daily activities?
Will I ever be the same again?
How will I pay for treatment?
What is the meaning of this?
What if there is no cure?
Look at the list again and what you will notice is they are all narrative-based questions.
In an effort to help people appreciate the significance of how story impacts their health, I created this visual to (hopefully) simplify and manage expectations for a fruitful process.
In short: We have to deal with the upstream influences before we can impact the downstream realities.
With that said, one thing that is dependable about the human heart is that it aches for clarity, confidence, and certainty.
You can almost feel that ache in the questions above.
The questions are essentially a cry of "what is my place in this world, now?"
That may sound hyperbolic, but those are the kinds of question our frailty forces us to face.
There is a lot I could say here and since I can't cover every emotion and story, let me address the most important stories/emotions that I've found create the biggest upstream logjams that keep people from healing.
Inadequacy - I don't have what it takes get well.
Unworthiness - I don't matter enough to try that hard.
Hopelessness - What's the point/meaning of life anyway?
While there are a lot of downstream, secondary emotions that flow from the above (anger, apathy, grief, confusion, frustration, etc), those big three are the deepest stories/wounds that will, if not addressed, drain the life force out of any effort to heal.
If they are not identified and addressed, healing will assuredly continue to be elusive.
Now, with any luck, those core stories don't feel true to you.
IF YOU DO RESONATE WITH THOSE CORE STORIES...
Recognize that if you want to heal, you can't skip 1) addressing where those stories came from, and 2) doing the work to reframe them.
Emotional healing is integral and essential to physical healing.
An internal "reality" will manifest physical symptoms.
That's why my client said hope gave her so much more energy.
Her story changed, and so did her physical symptoms.
So, if you recognize any of those core stories in your thinking, there's a good chance your tendency will be to avoid or distract yourself from those feelings and hope they will go away.
My friend, that won't work.
That's like trying to keep a beach ball underwater and expecting the air will eventually relent and decide it doesn't want to come up.
So, if any of those ugly stories feel true, allow me to say this with full conviction...
You do matter.
You're not inadequate.
You're never without hope.
Now, on the other hand...
IF YOU DON'T RESONATE WITH THOSE CORE STORIES...
If that's you, then definitely revisit parts one and two of this series for more direction.
I also want to point out that if you're a caretaker of someone who is battling a mysterious illness, while those three core stories may not resonate with you, they may resonate with the person you're trying to help--and they may not even recognize that.
In that case, a gentle question like "Any chance you're telling yourself you're not worth it, can't do it, or are asking yourself 'why bother?'"
Hearing how they answer those questions (and reading their body language) can tell you if you're dealing with a heart that's giving up.
If that's the case,
Love on them.
Remind them of what's worth fighting for.
Help them find believable stories--someone like them who has overcome.
If conviction hit while reading anything above, or if you suspect that your hope meter is running low, don't waste any more time--find someone who will ask you good questions and allow you to process the stories you may not realize you're believing about yourself.
If you can't think of anyone in your life who is currently capable of holding space for you like that, consider getting in my schedule--helping people find hope and simplicity is one of the most favorite things I do.
Applying the principles in this series won't give you a shot at immortality, but they can dramatically improve your odds of overcoming a mysterious health challenge.
Make the most of the time you have and don't put yourself off a moment longer.
Never give up hope and remember you're worth it.
I hope you found this series helpful.
Until next time,
PS. If you want to know more about our coaching (and see the presentation where I unpack the upstream metaphor) check out our homepage, and/or reach out.
PPS. You can also follow what we're up to on our level-headed, free-speech friendly, kind-hearted social channel.