“A further sign of health is that we don’t become undone by fear and trembling, but we take it as a message that it’s time to stop struggling and look directly at what’s threatening us. ” ~ Pema Chödrön
A compulsive analyzer at heart, I spent much of my eight years healing from Lyme disease trying to figure out exactly what the formula for health was. I had Excel spreadsheets and binders outlining my options, each complete with pages of printed-off-the-internet information. Eventually, though, I found my “magic bullet” and my health again. I traveled to Delhi, India for an experimental stem cell transplant that saved my desperately failing life. However, years after that, I started to hit some health speed bumps again and that’s when I threw in the towel—and my spreadsheet.
I suddenly realized while I was looking so closely at the disease, I wasn’t looking at myself. And I used all I had learned in India, a country and culture of mind-body medicine, to pave a new path for myself.
When I finally healed to the core and began helping others heal too, I was shocked to see those pesky patterns of mine weren’t only mine. Over and over, the same health- and happiness-killers proved to be culprits behind other awesome people struggling to get their lives together.
Why Letting Go of These Patterns Is Essential
Unresolved emotional issues and negative emotional patterns can make you feel miserable and put a huge stress on the immune system. Stress hormones have been found to inhibit the production of cytokines, the agents of the immune system that responds to danger. This causes these cells to overreact and create an inflammatory response that is over the top, often creating a greater problem than the original danger.
Our systems cannot distinguish the difference between a negative emotional pattern, trauma, or wound; and an actual threat to our physical health. If the emotional issue or trauma does not get released, our bodies can remain in a perpetual state of stress.
The only way our body has to communicate with us is with symptoms, and it does a very good job using them to get our attention. This can be anything from panic and unease to back pain.
Is your body trying to tell you something?
Common Patterns That Lead to Stress and Misery
1. Being an Expert in Personal Battery
Are you incessantly hard on yourself? Do you hold grudges against yourself for every seemingly imperfect move you make? If so, you’re a self-battery expert. This process of self-criticism is so unconscious that many people don’t realize it.
You forget to take the trash cans out to the curb for pickup. Do you…
a) Decide you’re the worst suburban housewife or husband on the block and berate yourself all day for forgetting? Do you feel like the trash gods hate you? Like you’ll never get your life together if you can’t even remember the trash?
b) Stop making trash for an entire week to punish yourself?
c) Throw the trash bags in your trunk and take them to an illegal dumpster behind a supermarket so you can move on with your day?
If you didn’t choose choice c, you are both ethical and way too hard on yourself. This can translate into big trouble in many parts of your life.
I often remember something a friend used to tell me when I was struggling with chronic health issues: The mind leads and the body follows. If we are constantly telling ourselves we aren’t good enough, criticizing every little thing–why do we think the body has any reason to feel deserving of health or be cooperative in achieving it?
If you’re telling yourself you suck a million times a day, whether it’s for forgetting to throw the trash out or something else, let me remind you that your body is always listening. Yep, there’s something new to focus on.
2. Not Being Able to Trust Life
The inability to trust the process of life can lead to skyscraper-size feelings of being unsafe in the world. A person who believes trust is a bad word wants to control EVERYTHING. While this ambition is super commendable (go you for trying!), it is always an impossible and exhausting task.
We tend to think that our analytic selves know better than anything or anyone how to run our lives. But, it’s not always true. Shocker. We are not as perfect as we’ve been thinking. We over-plan, over-research, and kill ourselves getting every perspective we can, often to end up stressed out and feeling out of control. Not where you were trying to go, was it, Geronimo?
How would things be different if just for a while, we considered there was some Universal system (call it God, the Universe, or whatever you wish) that knew just a tad bit more than us? What if we stopped over-researching, over-controlling, over-analyzing everything and just followed what felt right? Would we get somewhere better, and faster maybe?
I learned the hard way that there is an absolute flow to life and by trying to control the path using logic, we often steer ourselves away from the very place we are meant to go. It’s like always trying to paddle a canoe upstream despite the water trying to help you flow effortlessly downstream. The river is already going there and it’s trying to give you a free ride.
But you want to do it your way, right? You want to control every single stroke. How long can you keep it up? And also, what if that elusive pot of gold you’re paddling for is actually downstream?
Your life can be easier. You just have to…let…go…of…the…freaking…oars.
3. “I Can Do It Best” Syndrome
You know who you are—the only one who can take care of the kids, write the report at work, siphon your mother’s pain out of her, make dinner so it tastes good, and complain about it with passion at the end of the day. You’ve made mistakes before and you are just trying to “help” other people not make the same ones or hurt in the same ways you did, right?
This syndrome can show up in a few ways: feeling responsible for other people’s feelings, feeling like you have the responsibility to make sure other’s lives are hunky-dory, thinking you know better for someone else than they do for themselves, and feeling like you have to save people from their own pain or possible mistakes.
Not only are you draining your own energy by doing this, but you’re probably making the “helped” person feel pretty useless as a human being. We each walk on our own and you are interfering when you can’t allow someone else to fully be themselves and be on their own path. Your syndrome is making you a spirit squasher and that’s definitely not helpful.
Do any of these resonate with you?
Now, write a plan for the ways you’re going to let go of these patterns. You can do it slowly, but make sure you do it. You won’t need a therapist, but you will need to be honest with yourself.
You’ll have to admit you’re not perfect, let others experience their own pain (I promise you’ll see the world doesn’t end), and you’ll have to be open to the idea of trusting life. You might even see it can lead to some major happiness in your world.
Now, what will you do with all your free time?