Every time I asked “Why?” I got the same response:
“It’s just one of those things.”
When you’ve been brought to your knees with pain or illness, it’s really no help to hear this from your doctor.
We don’t know why it’s happening. There’s no known cause. Or cure. There’s nothing you can do to prevent it happening again.
Hmmmm. I just don’t believe this anymore.
I don’t believe that if something can’t be immediately ‘cured’ by medication or surgery, then it can never be explained or healed. There’s always a reason.
Our Bodies Tell Our Life Stories
Our bodies tell the stories of our lives. The lines on our faces indicate our age; our scars tell of surgeries and accidents we have had; our soft tummies and stretch marks tell of babies we have carried.
But if we are willing to listen, our bodies can tell us a much deeper story. In fact, if you have any physical issues, like pain, illness or weight gain, you can be sure there is a very important and personal message in each of these physical experiences.
Our bodies don’t operate in isolation. They are heavily influenced by their environment – the beliefs, thoughts and feelings we have; the record inside our heads that interprets all our experiences and tells us what they mean.
These beliefs and feelings can either make us feel safe and loved, which boosts our immune system and keeps us strong. Or they can slowly chip away at our happiness, strength and immunity.
Many of the reasons for our physical problems lie in our unconscious minds. In order to get better, we need to make our feelings and beliefs conscious…so we can understand and change them.
What Are The Stories Behind Your Symptoms?
1. Your body is saying ‘no’ on your behalf
How many times have we needed a crisis in order to say ‘no’? There’s not many of us who have the courage or vision to make sweeping changes in our lives without permission first being given to us by illness. After all, if we get really sick due to stress, then we can say to everyone around us: “You see, I really DO need to give up that job I hate. I really DO need to leave this relationship that’s not working for me. I really DO need to take time out to slow down and look after myself more.”
How many times have we heard of someone having a heart attack and only then scaling back at work, spending more time with family and smelling the roses more?
It can take time to learn this lesson. You get better at making the changes you need in your life before you actually have that health breakdown.
THE BIG QUESTION: What do you need to say ‘no’ to now…before it turns into a health crisis?
If this strikes a chord with you, it’s worth reading Gabor Mate’s “When the Body Says No – Exploring the Stress-Disease Connection”
2. You’re not taking care of yourself
For one reason or another, you’re not looking after yourself. Perhaps your work culture promotes skipping lunches and working long hours. Maybe you’re a busy mum who is so caught up in looking after everyone around you that you’ve left your own needs till last. Maybe you’ve just got yourself into bad habits and find it impossible to start new healthier ones.
If you’re constantly getting sick or putting on extra weight, then you need to ask some questions.
THE BIG QUESTION: How can you nourish yourself? What do you really need? Is it more rest and relaxation? Is it better, healthier, tastier food? Is it more exercise? Is it more fun in your life?
When you know, then you need to make a plan to work your needs into every single day. If you have trouble with this, health coaching is a great way to set goals – and stick to them this time!
3. You’re looking to be rescued
This is a tricky one because we are usually completely unaware of this need. The need to be rescued comes from our childhood. As a young child, did you experience a lack of support, a lack of love or a lot of pressure to carry responsibilities that were not yours to own? Many children end up carrying the emotions of their stressed-out parents when they are too young to understand what’s happening. They will carry this baggage through life until it becomes too much to bear.
Sometimes, recurring illness is a way of crying out for help. You feel you need someone to step in and love you and protect you the way you needed as a child.
And what better way to have this happen than to get sick?
Except no amount of attention from others now can ease the hurt from the past. The only person who can rescue you now is yourself. Do what you need to heal the pain of the past. Usually this will mean seeking out the kind of therapy that works for you. When the child within you knows she is being looked after, she will stop screaming for your attention through illness.
THE BIG QUESTION: How can you rescue yourself now & every day? What is it you need from you to feel more cared for? How can you parent yourself now as you wish you had been in the past?
A wonderful read on this is John Bradshaw’s “Homecoming: Reclaiming & Championing Your Inner Child”
4. You don’t have enough real pleasure in your life
You think you love food. You think it’s because you enjoy food so much that you can’t stop eating. But how about if it’s actually the opposite?
You’re actually starved of pleasure in your life. Your cravings for food are really unmet cravings for love, understanding, pleasure and purpose.
Taking pleasure in your food means using ingredients that are so full of flavour that they have a little party in your mouth! You take your time over your meals, paying attention to and enjoying every morsel. You don’t try to control your food too much, constantly denying yourself what you want…and then bingeing when you can’t take it anymore.
But more than just taking pleasure in food, you satisfy your cravings in other areas of your life, so food is not the only means of experiencing the sweetness of life.
THE BIG QUESTION: Are you denying your need for downtime, time with friends, time away from your kids or intimacy with your partner? Are you denying your need to do work you love – instead doing something that drains you but pays the bills? Are you denying your need to feel beautiful, no matter what your weight – by wearing clothes you love and investing in looking and feeling your best.
5. Your weight protects you
Sometimes, weight can be an unconscious response to the need for protection. Perhaps, for very good reason, you’ve learned to feel unsafe in a body which will get you a lot of attention. Perhaps you think you want a romantic relationship, but unconsciously you’re scared of getting involved, being open and vulnerable, or worse, rejected. The weight is a way of keeping others away and protecting yourself from hurt.
THE BIG QUESTION: Could this be you? How do you really feel about opening yourself up to a relationship – even the relationship you’re currently in? Does the idea of being considered attractive provoke fear or unease?
6. You’re making moral judgements about yourself and food
Food is not good or bad. It’s just food. And the food you eat is no reflection on your worthiness as a person. You can be a good, kind, admirable person and choose to eat a whole packet of chocolate-covered digestives in one sitting!
When we chastise ourselves for being inherently bad, lazy or useless based on what we put in our mouths, we are confusing our own identity with our behaviour.
Sure, some food does not do us any good. And other food makes us feel our best. But we can choose to make our own decisions about food without it being any kind of reflection on who we are as people.
When you take the moral judgements out of food, it becomes much easier to have a healthy relationship with food…and yourself.
This is by no means an exhaustive list – there are any number of reasons why we get sick or hold on to weight. But some of these ideas may help you think through what could be going on for you.
So did any of these stories sound like your own? What might your body be trying to tell you? Please let me know your thoughts in the comments below.