Friday, September 18, 2009

I Didn't Do It

I had a request from a reader to re-publish this post from last December, and I'm happy to oblige:

Do you ever wonder if there is a reason why we Sjoggies were given our disease? I am not referring to the why me? grief experience that everyone goes through when their life is impacted because of changes to their body.

No, what I am asking myself these days is - Do I have some kind of life lesson to learn in my experience with autoimmune disease? Is there some cosmic reason why my white blood cells have gone wacko? The question isn't Why do I have to deal with disease?, but rather, Why is my disease in me? How did it get there?

I know that one best-selling author says that autoimmunity, a self-destruct mode of sorts, reflects some kind of manifestation of a poor self concept, and the body responds to it's own destructive thoughts, and in doing so, damages itself in response to our thoughts and beliefs.


Author and metaphysical lecturer Louise Hay's book, You Can Heal Your Life, goes into great detail to explain the mind-body relationship. She not only defines the mind-body relationship in terms of the mind's ability to cure or improve our physical and psychic problems, but goes so far as to claim that "limiting thoughts and ideas are the cause of illness".

In other words, according to Hay, I am responsible for my illness because I have thoughts and beliefs which are causing my body to attack itself, and the lesson to be learned from this experience is to heal myself by changing my values and ideas; to love myself without limitations, to accept myself as I am, to affirm my value and worth as a person. She explains exactly how one would go about making those internal changes in her book and accompanying workbook.

I began to read the book with a slightly skeptical attitude, but I determined to explore her concepts with an open mind. The author felt she was speaking with extensive first-hand experience about her concepts. Louise had suffered a difficult life, including an abusive childhood, a failed marriage, and then cancer. She believed that by adopting the use of daily affirmations, visualization, psychotherapy, and nutritional changes, she cured herself of cancer and healed her emotional scars. Sounded pretty impressive, I thought.

I settled in to read the book, but I lasted all of one chapter before the hackles on my neck began to rise. It was difficult for me to accept without question her concept of the cause of disease, especially since I have been educated in the medical field and look at disease and the body from a scientific, cellular, physical, and chemical perspective. After some thought and continued reading, I was willing to consider that the mind/body connection could potentially be powerful enough to change the body at that cellular and chemical level.

I took a deep breath and continued reading. I scanned the upcoming chapters and became increasingly uncomfortable. My discomfort was not caused by disagreement regarding the power of a focused, positive, healing attitude in good health. In working with patients over the years, I have seen that a positive attitude and emotional support is powerful medicine for whatever ailments that a patient may have. I wholeheartedly agree - a mind focused on positive and healing thoughts can only bring about positive changes.

What concerned me was her theory that laid an enormous amount of guilt on an already stressed individual - that all the physical problems encountered by those with disease were brought on by their own mental and spiritual failings. I have brought autoimmune disease into my body by the concepts and beliefs that I hold about my own body. Shame, shame, shame on me!

What a mixed message Louise sends. A person can cause their own disease, and with this realization comes yet more self disapproval, shame and guilt. What kind of a morally deficient person would loathe themselves to the extent that they bring disease into their body?

But not to worry - Hay offers solutions in the form of uplifting phrases that when repeated often enough and with enough sincerity, will not only make you feel better about yourself, but will be better. And kinder. And also more successful in your job, your personal life, and your finances. And will ensure that anyone can live happily ever after.

I'm sorry, Louise - I just will not accept this load of guilt.

I will accept the responsibility for my Visa balance, the batch of cookies that I just burned, the absence of doggie obedience training and the resulting doofus dogs in our house, my pudgy butt and thighs, but I will not shoulder the responsibility of creating my autoimmune disease. I know in my heart of hearts that I did not create this monster. I know that I have a reasonably sane, accepting opinion of myself, and that as a matter of fact, I personally think that my ego could use a healthy dose of humility therapy instead of frequent self-congratulation and adoration.

No. I will not call my disease a self-inflicted wound.

However, I will accept the responsibility to live my life in the healthiest way that I know how and to follow my doctor's instructions regarding medications and other health practices. I will educate myself about autoimmune disease, and I will be responsible to seek others who are struggling with the same issues that I am. I will seek to treat myself with respect and kindness.

I will get through this. We all will - together.


Anonymous said...

Amen! This book is constantly recommended to the newly diagnosed and kicks them upside the head with MORE guilt just at a time when they need all their strength. I didn't hate myself so much that I "created" this. No one did.

Charlotte said...

Thanks so much for writing this post - it's nice to see such a carefully considered review of a viewpoint I myself completely disagree with. If you were aiming to get away from narcissism with this post, then congratulations :)

Not that there's anything wrong with a little navel-gazing...that's what blogs are for, isn't it?

Vicky said...

Her theory makes me laugh. Do people really believe in that crap? Amazing...

Anonymous said...

I don't need any more guilt! I've carried around more than my share of burdens over the years, but I don't believe that the burdens have manifested itself into an autoimmune disorder. I appreciate the power of positive thinking, but "blaming" me for creating an illness is perposterous!

Lisa Wheeler Milton said...

The mind/body stuff is tricky; I think optimism is helpful, but her methodology goes too far.

Nothing like feeling guilty on top of being sick to wear you down.

No thanks.

Anonymous said...

Hi I was just searching for a friends mother who has Sjogrens syndrome, Iooked it up under louise hay found the article written. The odd thing was I have had a few bouts with chronic fatigue syndrome since the late 70's then was sick from 87 - 2002 it then went, but according to statistics it would not go after 5 years. I don't know it this is what turned the tide but I let go of the illness according to statistics and I was stuck with this for the rest of my life. It then went. My take on what louise hay is say is don't beat yourself up, i think that possibly auto immune system problems come from attacking the yourself that you are not good enough...... In reality you are perfect he way you are
attributes and vices.

Truly I wish for you the greatest health


Anonymous said...

I feel you have misunderstood Hay. Her message is that we ALL have blocks in our self love to work out. Our particular manifestations, whether financial, physical, relational, are our chances to grow and shift mindset. She is not at all about self depreciation or blame. I feel you must have missed the message all together.
I am medically trained and treat chronic pain pts all the time. When I started Hay's work I was pretty ill (with Sjogren's and assorted autoimmune issues). I did some CRAZY work with her messages and lived and breathed it for months and am off all my meds, feeling very good, and listening to my body and self talk carefully. I am grateful to her.

Anonymous said...

Researchers are catching up. They are linking Adverse Childhood Experiences to health problems later on. Check out your ACE score: