“You cannot manifest thin from thoughts of I hate being fat.
You cannot manifest purity from I despise being an addict.
You cannot manifest health from I abhor being sick.
In each of the above assertions of what you dislike, you are giving of your thoughts to creating more and more of the same.
Since you become what you think about all day long, once again, the solutions involve a different level of energy to any of these and similar circumstances.”
Wayne W. Dyer
… Likewise in the social and the mental area, my time with rheumatoid arthritis brought me new experiences.
There is hardly anyone who wants to be stigmatized. And certainly not as a „psychosomatic“ because of rheumatoid arthritis. We want to be socially recognized and taken seriously.
And although it can occasionally be a quite fancy thing to out oneself as depressed, mental health issues, no matter if they show up solely within the mind or affect the body too, will earn only very few of us much positive social recognition.
On the contrary, a “purely” physical, a “real” illness, of which one is “innocent,” on the other hand, is regarded as respectable. The question of whether or not the affected person is of a lesser worth, which is, either way, impertinent, is then no longer asked by the majority of the social environment. There will mostly be no doubt about one’s state of mind and goodwill. He or she is a good patient and bravely bearing their ordeal. Very quickly, others will pity their fate and appreciate them for “accepting “the disease. Additionally, one can gain belongingness to a group just for suffering from rheumatoid arthritis and this, in turn, can become a source of appreciation and kind attention that wasn’t there before to the needed extent.
In this case, the disease turns from a burden to a benefit.
The less real self-esteem exists, the more tempting the doubtful profit can be for the feelings of affirmation and comfort gained through the disease will boost the self-confidence.
I found the profit from my illness to be valorising. There were attention and appreciation from the doctor, the nurses, the pharmacists and from others affected by RA. For my life with pain and inflammation. For my problems, for my bravery, for my suffering and for my “reason” not to complain, to keep my appointments punctually, to take my medication regularly, for my cooperation as a docile patient. This situation created a role for me that on the one hand, was shaped by others but on the other hand, designed by me so I could identify myself with it. I pitied and appreciated myself for my suffering by itself.
Once found there is hardly anyone who would quickly turn down this source of happiness and false self-confidence – au contraire, most people will automatically and naturally start to protect it. Since if something feels soothing, of good use or as a source of well being, such as loving attention or appreciation, the inner magnetic needle will point to it.
Concurrently rheumatoid arthritis and sequelae took an increasing influence on my life through pain and movement restrictions I could back then only adjust to as best as possible.
In doing so, I had to give more than I gained in strength. So mostly, I made more energy for the condition than I could get for myself and lived with less energy every day than I needed. I did less, got tired faster and used up my reserves.
So I tried to address this problem as best as I knew: I consulted doctors, took medication, and completely changed my way of life.
Nevertheless, the RA persisted, continued to gain strength, and I kept trying to recover and strengthen myself as best I could every day, with days of help, beautiful experiences, and relief. However, overall I could not regenerate to the needed extent.
RA was only better or worse to handle.
Managing it didn’t get me out of it.
Without healing, I stuffed only a few of the gaps that were consistently caused by chronic inflammatory disease. Ultimately, however, RA, the loss of power due to it and their attempts to deal with everything remained. Only by managing them too, I could handle my day at all.
The RA-treadmill and the misery-management often very quickly become life-determining and continue into the habituation to the disease state rather than out of it.
Time and energy are lost as they are spent again and again for essentially more of the same.
So I started asking myself:
Do the others really care about me as my whole self? Or just about me as someone sick?
Am I meant, will I be supported and loved for travelling my path even if that means to deviate from the mainstream and to make new experiences?
Is my life with the disease just grist on the mills of other people, who draw a benefit from my situation?
What do I get from certain habits, how do they benefit me?
Do I need self-pity?
Am I afraid of societal stigmatization as psychologically burdened and guilty of my RA, and dazzle, therefore, that mental aspects naturally also play a role in the development and maintenance of many physical illnesses?
Do I want to be healthier, fitter and stronger or stay the manager of my maladies?
Was there perhaps something more that I wanted to achieve, other goals and desires in my life?
Something that was more than just the daily struggle to keep up to date? Did not I want to develop, move on, make more and become fitter, healthier, more successful?
Where every single day were my time and strength, to evolve and to change my daily life?
This can‘t go on like that, I told myself. I wanted so badly for things to change for the better because this life is the only one I‘ve got and I needed to be stronger than I was before. What could I do differently? Did I had a choice to change my condition?
I didn‘t want any benefit from my disease. It was whether good nor healthy and with ideas about how I could master my life without it lost its worth.
What I needed was a change in my condition for the better no sentimentalism or substitute gratification.
So I started with what had often helped me to solve difficulties and first described my problem:
I ended up gaining something for my rheumatism that I would have needed for my wishes, ideas, interests but also for my uncertainties, fears, my loneliness, and my helplessness.
This way, I realized that I “benefited “from my illness and at the same time, was helpless in terms of finding a solution to my dilemma.
Furthermore, the acknowledgement that I sometimes more, sometimes less susceptible to everything with which I chained myself to the state of my condition isn’t pleasant but helpful. Helpful because I could question myself about my needs:
I learned how much I needed care, loving attention, and friendliness and how these former often ignored needs had determined my actions and stopped me from getting what I wanted: health.
So my subjective disease gain sustained of both appreciations from others as well as self-pity. Appreciations and self-pity in a self-aggrandizing way: how much I have to suffer, how heroic I fight, how reasonable I am and how well I cope with the disease) for my suffering and my life with RA. This shaped my identity, and thus, it shaped my decisions on how to handle my RA. Mostly one was stuck to the other, but they had their roots within troubles I had.
The subjective gain I had from my disease was the breeding ground to me to set myself up for my condition, to come to terms and to stop fighting it, even though I was suffering from it at the same time.
Therefore, in my first months of with RA, I had a subconscious interest in sticking to my condition. It which slowed me down in terms of healing efforts that would have meant leaving the nest of revaluation, (self-) pity and care that I received because of the disease, by myself as well as by others.
Besides, such a nest offers feelings of safety and orientation. Leaving it, on the other hand, can bring your worries and fears more into consciousness. However, if you want to leave this nest and with it your comfort zone, it is crucial to learn from these worries and fears more about yourself and your needs. That’s also helpful in not letting fearful thoughts and concerns determine your mindset. But that doesn’t mean that we have to chain ourselves to them, let them determine present and future or push them to such a high level that we can’t see anything else.
To get to know ourselves better – through a navel-contemplation or as a part of psychotherapy – fears can be handled with profit. In everyday life, they may be quietly put aside, because through long fruitless pondering on the state of the disease can this exactly unsuspecting reinforced and become overpowering by their excessive attention when it causes more worry, doubt, perplexity, sadness and shame. These are not useful as constant companions of recovery if we only rotate with them in circles because they then weaken us and are thus unproductive. Then they mean negative stress, through which you lose only a lot of energy, instead of using this energy to achieve the care, the protective and the strengthening and improve your situation.
It wasn’t my illness that took away energy from my feelings – I unknowingly gave it to myself until I found out I could just as well stop it.
So I first had to let go of all the „benefits” whilst I seriously took care to heal myself.
Because as long as I was part of this problem, I couldn’t leave it. It took quite a while before I came to grips with this connection but as I did it had the liberating effect of eliminating old ways of thinking: self-pity and the subjective disease-gain have since ceased to exist within me. They are often protected as life-lies in the tone of conviction. It is important to give them consistent refusal as long as it takes until you have completely removed this poisonous toad from its well. My desires and needs for freedom from pain, for mobility and for ending the inflammatory process with its destructive consequences were stronger.
Even if the main part of the physical energy is used up very fast by the average day, I’ve still got our mind. In there I could find plenty enough room for reflections and plans. This way it can be a source of courage, of creativity, of good thoughts and motivation. Planning and considerations get more space and starting from here we can create more good energy for us to use. We can always intensify this process. Sometimes this can be a sure-fire success, sometimes it takes more thinking through.
I wondered what could invigorate me.
At first, I couldn’t think of anything else than what I had already done before. So I would let my thoughts continue to thrive in this direction and kept my mind open.
Until I one day remembered how I confidently and naturally conveyed love and security to my child, comforting and strengthening it, telling stories. How I planned and performed adventures together with my child. Things that made both of us happy. At first, I was able to do that much better for my child than for myself. From time to time, it takes an inspirator, a listener, a friend, and a protector. One who always stays at the others side no matter what, who laughs with him and empathizes. One who preserves the freedom to call good things good and bad things bad. One that allows you to be just as you are. With all corners and edges, with everything unfinished, everything imperfect, with mistakes and weaknesses. Insults, blasphemies, and other loud and open malignancies have no access here, as well as the quieter and better-hidden ones, which are often only in the gut feeling or even self-inflicted.
I was able to do all of this for myself as well, being consciously more aware of my needs than I had been before.
As well as we can imagine how a familiar and mindful person would treat us, we can treat ourselves. I began to be more attentive, respectful, and benevolent with myself, and in this way to better manage my well-being, even in the face of difficulties.
In doing so, I learned to turn debilitating feelings into restorative, intentionally turning frightening and sad thoughts of similar small stories into encouraging and happy thoughts and emotions, to give more room to my hope and to plan my healthy future. Even the attempts to do so, as well as partial successes, help with some difficulties, crises, misperceptions and even injuries that life can bring when dealing with your weaknesses, such as the feeling of being inadequate.
helps with not putting more energy into the ill condition than necessary.
We can’t afford to lose energy senselessly because we don’t have an infinite amount of power, and what we have we need for ourselves. So I focused on healthy living and threw my malady-management overboard!
After two years of suffering from RA, I had to endure so much pain that it wouldn’t shock or frighten be as much as at the beginning.
I increasingly perceived my medical condition just, as a matter of fact, no matter how bad it was. I denied it as much energy as possible by thinking less and less about it, grieving or frightening myself. This way, I preserved my strength and could use it for my HÜ-exercises — our will to heal needs every support possible.
I dealt with the pain the same way we can deal with nightmares: I didn’t run from my fear but turned and looked it right in the eyes.
With my intentional thoughts, I get closer to my good and invigorating goals every day. With that, I don’t fall prey to feelings or moods. They start in my head, in my imagination. I make myself happier, relax better, and I am courageous. Good thoughts improve your mood, give you energy and out of the good ideas about all the beautiful things I can do today arise. The gaze lifts, the posture becomes more upright, breathing becomes more natural. All of this is my good physical reality.
With increasing self-awareness, I withdrew rheumatoid arthritis further basics: stress by too little self-understanding, stress by too little self-respect and stress from misunderstandings between me and my environment. So I could raise my ability to empathize to a new level alongside the new understanding for myself.
The better we purposely care about ourselves, the better we support our healthy mental-physical-psychic reality in the healing of diseases, including stress-related rheumatoid arthritis. The less unhealthy, overloading tension and strain, the fewer impulses of sick, overburdening tension whatsoever are exerted through them on our joints, the less inflammation and pain occur.
„Change the way you look at things and the things you look at will change.“
In all things, the thoughts and ideas which receive the greatest share of attention have an extraordinary influence on our feelings and our actions before all others. We picture them more often and more precisely before our inner eye and connect them with more emotions – for better or worse. And we do it from dusk until dawn even in sleep, in our dreams. That gives us the power of choice.
What can happen when one thinks and empathizes with a specific disease can be observed on the example of people who are not or no longer affected but mentally intensively concerned with an illness.
Studying specialized literature medics sometimes visualize the described processes and symptoms so well that they, like any other person would, become seriously ill themselves if they successfully “do” simple physiological and psychological mechanisms.
Those who were formerly overburdened by tension can, due to their experiences, remember the time with emotional stress very well and spontaneously put themselves back in time. In contrast to the medics above, you can then end the tension through deliberate relaxation within a few minutes. The shock, however, takes a moment, because it must first be recognized and dismantled. The physical processes become conscious. “Is everything coming back now?”, as a fearful breath, when something frightening meets us and the relived exhale when the danger is over.
Every day I have new energy, that is for me to use. And at least some of it I’ll always invest in myself, transforming it into training and development. With this strategy, I felt happier and hopeful, even as some parts of my body were still on strike.
The rule is: We can always use our grey matter against stress-related rheumatoid arthritis. And if we invest energy in something we can benefit from it’ll give us power back we can again spend in this process. The more energy we gain this way, the better we will strengthen ourselves.
While I was fighting RA, I used as much as I could of my daily energy to work on my HÜ-exercises. During the worst times, I got this energy mostly from my thoughts. Luckily for all of us, health can begin right there in our mind. Often my body was already exhausted from the nocturnal pain. So I just sat down and started to think. In my imagination, I wrapped myself in a feather-light sun yellow blanket. This imagination comforted me and made me feel protective of myself. This way, I was able to treat myself in the middle of the disease. I directed loving, careful and friendly thoughts to myself and felt how effective I was. With my thoughts, I can get better. So I didn’t care much about all the things I missed to do or wasn’t able to approach. I wasn’t sorry for the two years I had spent in the rat race of misery-management but instead just cared about the things I could do and do effectively. It’s all just about the plus in our lives. Even if it seemed as if there is no energy is left for any action at all, I knew deep inside of me:
I am a change for good to myself. I’ve got a choice.
What we were able to do for ourselves is memorized by our brain as experience. So we can always use this knowledge again. Every lesson will be restorable as long as we are sane and not heavily injured.
Pauses won’t keep them from being worthwhile. Sometimes little breaks can be essential to let the training settle in. We can take on HeilÜben-exercises anytime after a pause precisely at the point we were before. I had some somewhat involuntary, and they didn’t stop me but on the contrary, made me stronger. The experiences of failure are essential.
The rule is:
We practice with what we have. If we are lying on our knees, we’ll do it from there.
If you are weaker, you’ll have to train harder than others, but in the end, you’ll be better for you’ve learned how to fight all odds.
With HeilÜben-programme, we direct our thoughts and emotions to our health. We can reduce the energy-loss when we replace senseless worrying by happy, strong feelings or thoughts about the things that make us happy.
Thus far, we are able to help ourselves (with pain and insecurities) we can determine how we feel.
We can calm down our breath and loosen up our body to regenerate strength.
It doesn’t mean passing out but working on the goal.
And it isn’t about avoiding confrontation or conflict. It is about being able to preserve our strength through a calm breath rhythm and relaxation no matter what.
With time and practice comes knowledge about and experience with situations we can’t handle. These situations don’t mean, and it is okay to back up and first relax until we can look upon them with a more unobstructed view. We can only train from the point we are currently standing on.
The better we can do so, the more energy we get and save.
For this, you’ll need every action directed to health, every helpful thought and every positive emotion I told myself.
Every single one is a success on our way to healing no matter if it works alone or connected with others. Therefore every little aspect needs full attention while we exercise HeilÜben.
The more we train, the better we’ll get – this rule applies for every training. We learn to trust our abilities, and our successful actions start to make space in our daily life. Thus far, our efforts begin to determine our life – instead of RA – we stop feeding the disease with attention and energy.
Every training requires attention, time and energy. The more HeilÜben-exercises become a habit, the faster we can use them. Then they’ll give power back to us.
Illness can be a lifestyle as well as health. It depends on which we choose.
Compare the effort you take for your illness to the effort you take for your health. And ask yourself:
How much time, emotional attention and energy do I spent right now for the disease?
How much time, emotional attention and energy do I spent in my health right now?
Do I have an emotional energy-leak that my thoughts and feelings are often tied to without actually changing anything?
Am I throwing myself a pity-party?
Do I get anything from being sick?
Which are the apparent or hidden “benefits”?
Next post: Overcome the procrastination-trap
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HeilÜben founder, coach, and trainer
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