Every condition in our lives possibly exists because there’s a need for it to exist on the physical, emotional or spiritual level. Symptoms of un-wellness are the outward effect of the inner condition of an individual. A specific sickness is the natural physical outcome of thought patterns and emotional disharmonies. They are coded messages from the body trying to communicate what is happening and what needs to happen in order to heal.
The positive light, the gift if you will, is that illness and all un-wellness teaches us, expands us, moves us on if we’re willing to listen..
Awareness is the first step. But, it is the action of change that heals.
My job is to help clients hear what the body’s saying and interpret the possible meaning. With that awareness, an actionable healing plan on the physical, emotional and spiritual dimensions is created. And then, often, voila = a miracle occurs.
I want to start sharing actual experiences with you every month because I think this may be the most helpful use of my experience.
In each case study presented, the personal details have been changed to protect the client’s identity. In many cases, I have merged the case histories within the category of the same diagnosis to deepen the understanding of the path to healing.
I met Niamh* more than 10 years ago. She was 34, is Irish and had lived in Hong Kong for 7 years. She was a self-professed stressed out corporate CEO. She was athletic, artistic and a loving mother of many. Her British husband was a pilot; loving but away a great deal of the time. I knew him socially and found him to be kind and clever. He had a biting wit.
* Niamh (pronounced Neeve) is not her real name, but it is the real name of a woman I admire from the depths of my heart for her empathy, gentleness and compassion for others. She is a present healer. She is not a client.
Niamh came to me because she was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis and was in debilitating pain.
With each client, I take a comprehensive physical, emotional and spiritual health history. This intake process often consumes the entire initial 90-minute session. This element of the process is the highlight of the work I do. I just love knowing people this deeply.
What I learned about Niamh will be shared with you after you read what I believe her body is telling her by presenting her with the gift of arthritis. A gift, that once opened and appreciated, can be healed with a newfound awareness.
So Niamh has arthritis. What might the body be trying to communicate? Some of what arthritis comes to tell us include:
“I can’t count on you”:
You feel betrayed by the world. You feel like bad things keep happening to good people, including you! The Universe is unfair, unjust, unreliable. I can’t count on you. You carry a great deal of suppressed anger because you feel there’s no point in taking action. What will it matter anyway? You may have stored memory as a child that your family could not be trusted. You were left to deal with something enormous alone. Now, you have to be Boss of the Universe. Never let go of anything. Sudden and messy are not ok.
“Whatever I do, it’s never going to be enough”:
You often feel you can’t move, can’t make a decision, are afraid to make a decision, feel confined, imprisoned, tied down. You are hyper critical of yourself. Whatever I do, it’s never going to be enough.You want to be free. You want to become someone, be someone, matter! Anger is the hardest of feelings to feel because it feels bad, wrong, even evil. You feel unloved and carry a deep bitterness. You are critical of yourself, but you are also often shockingly critical of others. You are holding you back in life. You are suppressing yourself all by yourself. Possibly, you remember your parents as being perfectionists. You will never measure up.
“I have to carry it all”:
You are full of blame of others. You’re pretty sure that no one’s there for you; no one will help you. People don’t carry their load dammit so you will…You have to carry it all. You can be rigid, intolerant and resist change. You hear yourself battling between a great desire to do something and an internal fear of failure if you do. You stagnate in the expectation of the worst scenario. It’s possible that you remember your home life as one where anything could go wrong at any moment. I have to do it all or it won’t get done. Or, it won’t get done right. Everything bad that happens is somehow your fault. No one’s there for you. I don’t deserve anyone to be there for me. Sometimes, you’re treated as the “intimate enemy” of the family. The chosen one. You feel the hostility from others because of this reality.
And then, when arthritis is met with a medical diagnosis of Rheumatoid Arthritis, the body feels compelled to shout out the compounded meaning which can sound like this:
I am worthless. I deeply dislike myself. I feel shame and guilt. I am self-sacrificing. I am unable to express my emotions because I was condemned or denigrated as a child. I am put upon, exploited because I remember living in a patriarchal and oppressive home.
And then it tightens and stiffens up into a ball of:
I am hopeless and overwhelmed with all the world expects me to do and I can’t change this.
Back to Niamh…
As a 6 year-old child, Niamh was walking with her dad in the woods near their home in Ireland. She loved her father. As the second of 6 children, she remembers her father as loving her the most. Her eyes fill with tears. She tells me that as they were walking and talking that day, her father fell to the ground. Before her eyes, he died immediately of an aortic aneurysm. He literally turned blue in the chest, neck and part of his face.
She remembers screaming and screaming to no avail. No one came. As she was running back to her house, she ran into neighbors she knew but didn’t like. They rushed to her father’s side. As they fell to their knees, they began to pray, beseeching God to help watch over her father. She doesn’t remember anything after that sound of praying. Her face tightens with anger. Her hands are clenched. She uses her left hand to move her bangs off her forehead. The tears stop rolling.
I ask her whether she was raised religious, often a silly question with Irish clients. She tells me that she refused to go to church. Her mother would literally drag her. She would misbehave and even force herself to vomit to be released to go back home. I asked her if she believed in God. She spits back; I’ve hated God ever since that day.
We go through a few other stories of her childhood and I gently sit with her as she weeps. She, as do most clients, asks me “Why do I still cry so hard when I re-tell this story…it was years and years ago”. I just hold her and whisper: And so it is. The first session ends.
She returns 2 days later and I take an emotional inventory to see what sets of feelings she most resonates with in her life. The list of emotions detailed above…she ticks more than 90%. The session ends.
A day later, I’m in the Guardian pharmacy in Singapore and she calls me.
Niamh: Can you charge me for a session because I really need to talk to you.
Me: Go right ahead (and I tuck into the diaper section of the pharmacy hoping to have a smidge of privacy).
Niamh: I’m in the doctor’s office now. He wants to inject my finger with an anti-inflammatory because I’m having an incredibly painful episode. What should I do?
Me: What do you want to do?
Niamh: I want the pain to stop but I don’t want the shot.
Me: I assume your doctor has told you that the shot will also hurt, yes?
Niamh: No, not really.
Me: Ok, never mind that. Can you step out of the office and talk with me in private for a minute?
Niamh: Ok, hold on. (I hear her tell the doctor that she’ll be right back). Ok, I’m alone now. What’s your question?
Me: Which finger is hurting?
Niamh: My first finger.
Me: Your pointer finger?
Me: On which hand?
Niamh: My left hand.
Me: Ok, the question is.. have you been judgmental of any female figure in your life within about 10 minutes of the pain flaring up? Did you just wish someone would flipin do something right?
Me: Niamh, are you there? (mother buying diapers hearing me ask this and stops to listen so I walk to the shampoo aisle).
Niamh: Yes. My mother’s staying with us. She was making pancakes for the kids this morning and I had a real “go” at her for using a different flour than what I usually use.
Me: What did your mom do when you got angry?
Niamh: She just put the spatula down and left the kitchen.
Me: Can you remember what you were thinking when you shouted?
Niamh: (After a pause) …Yes, I was thinking God dammit, I have to do everything if it’s going to be done right.
Me: (Laughing) So a little judgmental yes?
Niamh: Yes…but what does this have to do with my finger?
Niamh: What do you mean?
Me: The longer version can be talked about in session. You can go back in right now and have that shot and the pain will subside. Or you can go home, sit down with you mother and apologize for your anger this morning. Whatever you decide will decrease the pain.
Niamh: How can talking to my mother decrease the pain?
Me: The finger hurting you is the finger of pointing judgment. It’s on your left hand because it’s judgment of a female figure. But Niamh, it’s possible, the pain does not come from the pancakes incident. It’s possible that the pain will keep coming to various parts of the body as long as you judge yourself as a mother and deflect your self-judgment by judging and raging at your mother..or anyone or anything else really. We need to look at where the rage really comes from. But, that’s not for today.
Me: You still there…?
Niamh: (In tears) I am and I hear you. Thank you.
Me: Don’t thank me babe, thank your body. She’s the one telling you. I’m just putting it in words for her so that you can hear.
That afternoon, Niamh called me back. She said that she and her mother sat in the kitchen and had tea together. She apologized and her mother cried. They shared stories of being hyper self-critical of their mothering abilities, the sensations of being trapped, disempowered. She said phrases like:
Whatever I do, it’s never not enough.
Full of shame and guilt.
Have to carry it all – such a martyr.
So uncomfortable with anger.
Feel trapped even though I love being married and a mom.
Full of hate and rage and have no idea where all this comes from.
Hypercritical and controlling.
Fear of failure even though I’m successful.
I saw Niamh for many months. Not because she needed me. Her arthritis was well under control.
We made all kinds of simple changes to her diet so she had less acid forming foods and more water when she drank alcohol*. She did indeed quit her job but soon realized that being a full-time mom wasn’t her thing either so we worked back through her emotional inventory and she created a future with a non-profit job that allowed her to work from home, enjoy exercise and be with her kids after school.
* Nearly all arthritis clients have highly acidic pH levels that can be easily modified through small dietary change.
Niamh still sometimes sees me or calls me whenever she has a flair up and we “unpack” it just the way we did when I was hiding in the diaper section at Guardian. To this day, the diaper aisle in the Holland Village Guardian reminds me of Niamh.
Niamh continues to make a fearless commitment to look at the emotions underpinning her arthritis. Flair ups still come and go but far less and she is un-medicated.
She can now hear herself in her own “stinkin’ thinkin”. She can feel the martyr and pays attention to the voice saying: If I don’t do this it will never get done. She practices being less in control, less self-critical, less demanding of others, less perfect. She’s working on being more liberated with her anger and bitterness and takes it to a meditation or yoga mat before she opens her mouth.
And, we spent a few sessions on God. She doesn’t believe in God to this day and that’s cool. But when I asked her how she could be so angry with a God she’s certain doesn’t exist, she investigated who she’s really unforgiving. She knows it’s her 6 year old child. She wept and wept and wept until she could feel, not think, but feel her lack of responsibility for her father’s sudden death. We sat together and re-enacted that scene over and over until her tears stopped. She can now share her father’s death story…in fact, can you guess what she does for a living now?
She is a trained psycho-therapist and specializes in grief counseling for children who have suffered the loss of a parent. Now I’m crying as I type this because this is the gift. This is how the Universe works magic This is how we heal.
I love you Niamh!
The intent is not to offer medical advice or psychological recommendations or prescriptions of any kind be it pharmaceutical, device or treatment. The goal of You!Healing is to offer the possibility of the meaning of ailments and disease in hopes that the sharing of general information will support a client’s quest for better health. In the event that you use any of this information for yourself, You!Healing, Anne Hockett and the publishers assume no responsibility for your decisions. You’re in Higher Hands.
I am here if you need to talk. Send an email to me at [email protected] or explore the programs page.