Monthly Archives: June 2010

Messages From Pain

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I usually try to be upbeat in these blog posts, but today I need to rant about a frustrating ongoing challenge…  As I write this, I am suffering from my ninth migraine headache this month! I just had a migraine on Wednesday and I am so frustrated that I am afflicted with yet another one just two days later.

I track my migraines and have found that my monthly average is seven to eight headaches.  They vary in terms of severity, so I am not always completely debilitated by the pain, but it does adversely affect my life in a multitude of ways.  Since I’ve been living with migraines for 25 years now, I’ve learned to adapt and do as much as I can through the pain.  Yet, although I am able to “grin and bear it” for much of the time, I am more than ready to release this dreaded condition.

Many Potential Remedies, No Lasting Solution

Over the years, I’ve tried many, many potential remedies to become free of these devastating, throbbing headaches.  I’ve taken numerous prescriptions and over-the-counter drugs, tried bottle after bottle of supplements, eliminated various foods from my diet, and visited a long list of medical professionals, both traditional and alternative.  There have been pockets of relief along the way, but these reprieves have been short-lived at best.  My migraines are like a broken record that keeps playing its tired song over and over again, month after month, and year after year.

I’ve mentioned a “laundry list” of health issues that I am working to heal through my healing project.  Some of these challenges have cycled in and out of my life, while others plague me for only a short time period before miraculously disappearing just as quickly and mysteriously as they materialized.  But the one problem which has accompanied me on my life path since the age of eighteen has been the migraines.  So I’m guessing that the lesson I need to learn from this tired and tireless ailment is the most important one of all!  The Universe keeps literally rapping me over the head because I continue to fail to get the message!

Louise Hay’s Views on Migraines

What does the abundantly wise Louise Hay say about migraines?  When I read these excerpts from “You Can Heal Your Life”, I wonder how she could know me so well when we haven’t even met:

“Migraine headaches are created by people who want to be perfect and who create a lot of pressure on themselves.”

“Dislike of being driven.  Resisting the flow of life.”

If you were to look up “perfectionist” and “control freak” in the dictionary, you would see… my picture!  I’m kidding, of course, but that’s not far from the truth.  I have tried to relax and go with the flow more in life, but I’ve found it difficult to change this aspect of my personality.  I’m the type of person who writes a lot of lists and tries to pack as many tasks as possible into a given day.  Despite these practices, I never feel I accomplish enough and am riddled with self-doubt and fears of failure.  I often speak of myself in derogatory terms and find it hard to let myself off the hook when I don’t live up to my self-defined expectations.

My healing project is helping me to become more aware of my thoughts and my self-talk.  It is now clear to me that not only am I extremely hard on myself; it comes with a very high price – my health.  I realize that my migraines and other health challenges are a type of spiritual “kick in the pants” to show me how important it is for me to change.

Headaches and Invalidating the Self

When writing about headaches in general, Louise Hay states the following:

“Headaches come from invalidating the self.  The next time you get a headache, stop and ask yourself where and how you have just made yourself wrong.  Forgive yourself, let it go, and the headache will dissolve back into the nothingness from where it came.”

My problem is that I make myself wrong for the same “offenses” over and over again.  I beat myself up for the lack of material success in my life, for not living up to my potential, for not being a good wife (or family member or friend), and for a number of other affronts I’ve committed toward those in my life, myself, and even God.  I often feel that I’ve wasted my God-given talents by being indecisive and not sticking with a singular career path.  I also feel guilty for not being sufficiently grateful for the many blessings in my life and for continuing to dwell on insignificant things like the size of my thighs and the frizziness of my hair.

The Inner Tyrant…

My critical inner voice is like an unrelenting tyrant.  I once had a school assignment to keep track of negative self-talk for a day.  I’m sure I didn’t capture all of it, but what I did write down was mind-boggling.  My ratio of positive to negative messages is abysmal.  Once in a while, a compliment manages to make its way into my mind, but it is quickly drowned by the sea of criticism surrounding it.

I invalidate myself all of the time – and it’s killing me.  As I write this, I am fully present to the cost of my “stinkin’ thinking.”  Something’s gotta give!  I need to forgive myself, start talking much more nicely to myself (I’ve improved in recent months, but I’ve done some backsliding as of late), and treat myself with more respect and kindness.  I wouldn’t wish my internal negativity on my worst enemy!

Resisting Meditation and Silence

I’ve recently been reading the best-selling memoir “Eat, Pray, Love” by Elizabeth Gilbert.  I loved reading about her indulgence and enjoyment in Italy, but found myself less enthralled by her time of reflection, meditation, and silence in India.  I could in no way picture myself meditating for hours and hours each day or scrubbing floors as part of a “retreat.”  Although she was striving for inner peace and connection with the Divine, my thought was that it wasn’t worth the price of admission, especially without an iron-clad guarantee for results.

As I reached the end of the India section of the book, however, I experienced a change of heart.  I wondered what it would be like to live even one day (heck, even one hour) of my life without the constant inner chatter and self-recrimination.  I decided that I want that!  I know that there are many paths to peace and many roads to salvation.  My path may not be the same as Elizabeth Gilbert’s.  My path may not take me to an ashram in India.  I know that I may not even have to leave my hometown to reach the state of freedom I so profoundly desire.

Claiming my Freedom

It’s been said that the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.  Perhaps my throwing my hands up in desperation tonight at yet another migraine is that step.  It’s possible that I am ready to forgive myself and let go of the need to be perfect – from this moment on.   Peace and freedom for me lie within, not without.  I just need to claim it…

Releasing Health Issues

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Release and Freedom...This post is based upon the first two exercises in Chapter 3 (pg. 45-49) of “You Can Heal Your Life Companion Book” by Louise Hay.   I will share some of my responses to the questions, as well as some of the insights I gained from completing the exercises.

Over the course of my “healing project,” I plan to complete all of the exercises in this book and the original “You Can Heal Your Life” book, but I won’t necessarily do them in order (being the rebel that I am…).

The chapter begins with an affirmation (“I restore and maintain my body at optimum health”), as well as a health issue checklist consisting of eleven items, of which I checked eight.  Clearly, addressing my health concerns is a major issue for me in terms of healing my life.

Core Health Principles from Louise Hay

At this point, it is helpful to remind myself and my readers of some of Louise Hay’s core principles surrounding health (click here for a comprehensive review of the key principles of “You Can Heal Your Life”):

  • Our bodies are always trying to maintain a state of optimum health, no matter how badly we treat them.
  • We contribute to every illness we have, as our bodies mirror our inner thoughts and beliefs.
  • Every disease we experience is a teacher, and our illnesses signal false ideas within our consciousness.
  • Illness may unconsciously serve as a “legitimate” way of avoiding responsibility or unpleasant situations.
  • True healing involves body, mind, and spirit.

Connections to Our Parents’ Illnesses

The first exercise involves listing our parents’ illnesses and our own illnesses and looking for connections which may exist between them.  For me, the connections were not difficult to find.  With my mother, I share foot problems, migraines, knee problems, allergies, depression, and varicose veins. My father and I have both suffered from knee problems and bursitis.

One thing that struck me is that both of my parents have been and continue to be in better health than me.  Since my parents are now senior citizens and I am more “middle-aged” (I don’t care for that term, but I really can’t deny it…), shouldn’t my health be better than theirs?  What is it in me that has led me to create so many health challenges?

“I Am Willing to Release the Need…”

Louise Hay suggests that the first step for healing a health condition is to affirm, “I am willing to release the need in me that has created this condition.”  It is helpful to repeat this affirmation often and it is even more powerful when said in front of a mirror.  Internalizing this affirmation and repeating it frequently is a powerful first step to creating positive changes in the state of our health.  I am aware that since I have a number of ongoing conditions, I have many associated needs that are being met in maladaptive ways through my illnesses.  I am definitely willing to either release these needs or learn to meet them in a more productive and affirming manner.

Beliefs about Health and Disease

The second exercise explores beliefs we have regarding health and disease.  It begins with a few questions regarding how illness was dealt with during childhood and how early beliefs on this topic are impacting us today.  I actually don’t remember being sick much as a child, at least not any more than average.   When I was sick, however, I remember enjoying the attention and nurturing I received from my mother and being able to stay home from school and watch television all day.  Although I didn’t like being sick, I think I welcomed the break from the pressures of school and the social challenges of being a shy and insecure child in the sea of judgment and conformity that was middle school and high school.

Illness as a “Good Excuse”

It is likely that during my childhood, I internalized the belief that illness can serve as a good excuse for avoiding responsibility and for not having to do things we don’t want to do.  I also learned that sickness can earn one the attention and sympathy of others.  I don’t believe that I consciously create illnesses so that I don’t have to do certain things, but I acknowledge that my health conditions have served as valid excuses for bowing out of commitments.

One change I would like to make is to become more adept at being assertive and speaking up for myself and my needs with others.  If I can more adequately voice my needs and wants, I won’t need to generate illnesses to speak for me.  I have written a lot more about this topic in my post titled “Illness as Avoidance.”

Two Powerful Health Inquiries

The exercise ends with two powerful inquiries concerning how we have contributed to the state of our health and how we would like our health to change.  I acknowledged that I often don’t take care of myself as well as I should in terms of getting enough sleep and eating nutritious foods.  Although I have made definite improvements on both fronts, I know that I still need to work on improving my rest and nutrition.

I also need to change my inner dialogue about my body, as my poor body image adversely affects my health.  Body image is such a large issue for me that I started a second blog called Body Image Rehab, which deals exclusively with this topic.  I invite anyone who suffers from body image issues to visit this blog and work on healing your negative body image along with me.

There are many ways in which I would like my health to change.  Basically, I am looking for close to a 180 degree shift in this area.  I feel that I have far too many health challenges and although I’m grateful that none of them are life-threatening, they do adversely affect my life.  I feel sick in some way (and often multiple ways…) each and every day and this impinges upon my life and decreases my happiness and well-being.  I strive to remain positive and upbeat, but that can be challenging in the face of ongoing physical pain and discomfort.  I’m definitely in need of some major healing and transformation!

No Longer a Victim

I no longer feel that I’m a victim to my illnesses.  I realize that I have more power than I previously acknowledged.  I am definitely willing to release the need in me that has created my various health conditions.  I am also willing to do the work necessary to turn things around for the better, and to involve my body, mind, and spirit in the healing process.  I know that I will be in a much better place by the time 2011 rolls around.  My healing project will be a success!

Enough Already!

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Enough Already!A few weeks ago, I went to see a specialist about the throat discomfort and swallowing problems I’d been experiencing (see my “It’s Always Something” post for more about this). As usual, I had to spend quite a bit of time in the waiting room, and this particular waiting room was more crowded than usual.  In addition, the phone was ringing off the hook and the environment was far from peaceful.

To combat my internal frustration, I decided to journal about my feelings in that moment.  Here is an excerpt of what I wrote:

“Waiting to see specialist, room full of people…  I don’t want to be here! I don’t want the medical model with all of its procedures and medications.  I am tired of identifying as a sick person!  I need to heal myself spiritually. I can do it, and I will!”

A Moment of Clarity

In that moment, I felt absolute clarity about what I did and did not want.  I was clear in my desire to focus on my “healing project” rather than pursue medical procedures and prescription drugs. I didn’t have much time to reflect, however, as I was quickly whisked back into the examining room to see the doctor.  Almost immediately, she spoke of my having an endoscopy and taking twice-daily medications.  These things were exactly what I didn’t want!

I requested that the endoscopy be postponed for a month.  I agreed to take the medication, but I never ended up filling the prescription due to my worries about potential side effects.  Instead, I’ve been focusing on lifestyle changes such as eating more digestible foods in smaller portions and chewing my food more thoroughly.  I also take small doses of over-the-counter medication, which seems to be sufficient at this point. Although my throat problem (medical term = Laryngopharyngeal Reflux) has not gone away, it’s definitely less severe than it was a month ago.

Different Paths Toward Healing

I don’t feel any animosity toward doctors or other medical professionals.  I truly believe that most of them have pure intentions and that they can and do help many people.  But their methods are not the only methods that work.   I firmly believe that spiritual healing can be as effective – or even more effective – than medical healing in some cases.

I feel that for me, spiritual healing is the right path to follow.  I have several reasons for this assertion.  First, I have tried the medical model many times over and have experienced only limited success.  Second, the fact that I have new illnesses cropping up on a regular basis, with most of them being difficult to diagnose and treat, points to a spiritual crisis.  It’s as if the Universe is trying to get my attention and the messages keep getting louder and louder as time goes on.

A Powerful Epiphany

You might think that I had an epiphany in that moment in the doctor’s waiting room a few weeks ago.  Although it was a time of keen awareness, I wouldn’t exactly classify it as an epiphany.  The epiphany came several days later, as I was preparing to have surgery for the painful varicose veins in my left leg.  Shortly before walking into the surgical room, I stared at my reflection in the ladies room.  I was feeling intense trepidation about the surgery and the potential complications which could occur.  I affirmed to myself that I would be okay, and then it hit me…

I said to myself, “God has plans for me. I have a purpose.” It wasn’t so strange for me to say that, but the strange thing was that I actually believed it, so much so that it brought me to tears.  I knew that my purpose was to heal myself and to inspire others to do the same.  “The Healing Project” is my purpose and it came about through divine inspiration. The fact that I am overcome by emotion as I type this affirms this even more.

We Have the Power to Heal Ourselves

I need to fully believe that I have the power to heal myself.  I have to embody that belief and live from it. Yes, I did a medical procedure for my varicose veins, but as I move forward, I will focus on healing the thought patterns which created that condition.  I do not need to shun medical procedures, but I choose not to make them my first choice or to rely upon them.  I can use what is known as an “integrated” approach, but my primary focus will be on the spiritual forms of healing.

Putting “The Healing Project” Into High Gear

I started my healing project and this blog just over four months ago.  While I have made some progress and have been learning a lot about myself in the process, I don’t feel that I’ve dedicated enough time and attention to this effort.  I feel the need to launch “The Healing Project” into a higher gear so that I really do heal myself and my life in the course of one year.

My “amped up” healing project for the remainder of the year will involve the following (may be revised based upon my needs and experiences):

  • At least one hour per day writing and/or doing exercises from “You Can Heal Your Life” (YCHYL) and related texts.
  • Completion of the “You Can Heal Your Life” exercises by the end of 2010.
  • Healing Project writing/exercises will be done first thing in my “work day” except on the rare occasions when there is a schedule conflict.
  • Journal daily about my healing project – observations, concerns, wins, challenges (blog posts will be inspired by these journal entries as well as by the YCHYL and related exercises).
  • Blog at least twice per week in “The Healing Project” (to include some shorter posts on my insights, wins, and challenges).
  • Create a “cheat sheet” of affirmations from YCHYL for my health challenges and carry this page with me at all times.  Affirm new thought patterns regularly to break through blocks and limitations.
  • Carry a voice recorder with me so I can capture my thoughts as they occur.

Self-Expression and Possibility

I have been given the gift of self-expression, and I will use this gift (for writing and speaking) to inspire others.  I want to provide others with hope and empowerment. I remember when I did a seminar through Landmark Education called the Self-Expression and Leadership Program (SELP for short).  As part of that program, we all declared powerful possibilities for our lives.  I affirmed myself to be the possibility of empowerment, freedom, self-expression and unconditional love.

What this means to me now is that I will love myself unconditionally;  I will free myself from both my physical and psychological bondage.  Then I will use my gift for self-expression to empower others to do the same.

Who would have thought that the frustration of sitting in a doctor’s waiting room could lead to clarity about my life’s path?  Isn’t it interesting how these things work?  We never know where inspiration will hit us and the impact we have on others. Maybe I should thank that doctor and her staff for the gift of clarity that they inadvertently gave to me…

Self-Acceptance

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I had intended to post much earlier in the week, but you know what they say about good intentions… This has been a difficult week for me, which probably means I should have been devoting more attention to my healing project, instead of virtually ignoring it for a number of days. In getting back on track today, I searched for an exercise from “You Can Heal Your Life” to complete and write about.  I was quickly drawn to the most appropriate exercise for me at this particularly point in time, the “Mirror Exercise” on page 35.

Simple Yet Not Easy…

The Mirror Exercise is extremely simple, yet not at all easy.  The straightforward instructions are:  look in a mirror and into your own eyes, speak your name, and say, “I love and accept you exactly as you are.”

Louise Hay asks each of her clients to do this exercise during their initial session with her.   She states that she has rarely had a calm reaction to her simple request.  On the contrary, some clients were brought to tears, while others became angry and refused to do the exercise.  One client even threw the mirror across the room!  Needless to say, it isn’t easy to proclaim love and acceptance for ourselves.

My Experience with the Mirror Exercise

During the height of beating myself up for what I felt was an unproductive week and an overall stagnation in my life, I decided to do this powerful exercise.  As I walked up to the mirror, I felt my heart pound loudly and a tingling sensation crawled up the sides of my body.  I also felt flushed despite the relatively cool temperature in the room.  My eyes welled up with tears before I even opened my mouth to speak the requisite words.   However, when I actually spoke the words, I did not feel sad or angry.  Instead, I felt a sense of peace and calm wash over my body.

It was a relief to affirm my acceptance and love for myself today and it really felt good for me to do it.  I know that in the past, it would have been very difficult for me to speak Louise Hay’s simple statement. I used to be far more invested in making myself wrong than in wanting to feel good about myself and my life. Although I still have a long way to go in terms of self-esteem and acceptance, I have made some definite progress in these areas.  It’s taken a lot of hard work and self-examination for me to get to the point where I am ready to accept and love myself.

Self-Acceptance is Empowering

Why is it empowering to declare love and acceptance toward ourselves?  Louise Hay asserts that the root of all human problems lies in not loving ourselves. Even if we can give ourselves a tiny bit of love during a brief mirror exercise, this can go a long way toward counteracting the negative messages we send ourselves on a regular basis.

Positive messages are far more powerful than negative messages, and even irregular empowering messages can serve to inoculate us against an onslaught of self-effacing thoughts.  I know this is true because I’ve been inwardly affirming “I approve of myself” as often as I remember to do so in recent months.  This simple action has helped me to become stronger and I am finding myself less compromised by sadness and depression than before I began this practice.

Acceptance Doesn’t Mean We Don’t Want to Change

To clarify, stating that we love and accept ourselves exactly as we are in a given moment does not mean that we don’t want to change anything about our circumstances. We may have a number of things we wish to change, as well as some powerful goals for the future.  The truth is that we are far more likely to achieve our goals and make successful changes when we begin from a space of self-acceptance.

Lasting transformation cannot be accomplished through brow-beating and self-effacement. A good example of this relates to weight loss.  I can remember many times when I would look at myself in the mirror, pinch my stomach and thighs, and use colorful adjectives like disgusting, ugly, and weak to describe myself. These debasements only served to make me feel much worse about myself and propel me to comfort myself with food, an action that was counterproductive for my weight loss goals.

I have had far better luck when I’ve treated myself with kindness.  If I start with self-acceptance and then move forward toward change, I am much more likely to be successful. If, instead of beating myself up and calling myself awful names, I dress in flattering clothing and do my best to look and feel attractive, the likelihood of my exercising and making good food choices is much greater.

Power in the Present Moment

One of the key principles of Louise Hay and many other spiritual teachers is that the point of power is always in the present moment.  In the here and now, we have a choice.  We can criticize ourselves or we can love and accept ourselves. One choice will lead us to feel weak and dis-empowered; the other choice will uplift and empower us.

As I stared into my eyes in the mirror and proclaimed my acceptance of myself, I experienced an energetic boost.  I was infused with power and strength to face the challenges of the day, along with a sense of calm and assurance that I can accomplish my goals for the future. This is far better than the metaphorical “air out of the tires” feeling I encountered each time I criticized myself for not meeting my impossibly high standards for acceptability.

My Challenge Moving Forward

My challenge now is to show myself more love and compassion than disdain and criticism. My task is to stop myself mid-criticism and switch to affirming self- acceptance and love.  My commitment is to know that I am enough, that I don’t have to be perfect in order to be loved by others – or by myself.

I close with a portion of a “spiritual treatment” from Louise Hay:

“In the infinity of life where I am, all is perfect, whole and complete.  I am always divinely protected and guided… It is safe for me to enlarge my viewpoint of life.  I am far more than my personality – past, present, or future.  I now choose to rise above my personality problems to recognize the magnificence of my being.  I am totally willing to learn to love myself.  All is well in my world.”

The Tyranny of Shoulds

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We all have a voice inside of our heads which tries to tell us what to do, how to act, and who to be.   Sometimes this voice is productive, such as when it moves us out of inertia and into action. The voice can also help us to do the right thing, even when the right thing is not the easiest or fastest thing to do.  That is the positive side of the voice…

The Dark Side of Our Inner Voice

However, the voice can also be counterproductive or even destructive. It can be so ubiquitous in its presence that we are unable to experience even a moment of peace.  It can relentlessly order us to be productive in each and every moment, to always put the needs and wants of others above our own needs, and to prove our worthiness through action many times each day.

The dark side of the voice is where “should” often resides. Have you ever heard the expression, to “should” on yourself?  The mental imagery evoked is apropos in that this application of should is akin to showering ourselves with garbage (or worse…).

A War Within…

I’ve often spoken of the war inside of myself between the “Warden” and the “Unruly Child.” These two archetypes represent two distinct aspects of my personality.  The Unruly Child desires complete freedom and carte blanche to do whatever she wants in any given moment, even if that includes watching TV and eating bonbons (that’s what many people who know me think I do, anyway, since I haven’t had a “real job” in a number of years).   The Unruly Child doesn’t want to be told what to do by anyone, at any time.

On the flip side, there is the Warden… The Warden is like a drill sergeant. He (I always see the Warden as a man) orders me around continuously and won’t let me rest until there are no tasks left on my to-do list.  Of course, since no one ever really has a completed to-do list, there is no rest for the wicked – or the weary.

The Warden thrives on “shoulds” and believes that if I do not live a regimented existence, nothing will ever get done and all will be chaos.

When the Unruly Child is running the show, I am incredibly unproductive and I don’t feel very good about myself.  Deep down, we all want to get things done and enjoy the fruits of our labor.  Just as children thrive on structure, so do adults.  However, the realm of the Warden is like structure on steroids.  While I may be industrious under the Warden’s regime, I am not happy and I definitely don’t feel free.

Struggling To Find a Happy Medium

For many years, I have vacillated between the chaotic world of the Unruly Child and the prison sentence of the Warden’s control.  I am still struggling to find a happy medium.  I envision the happy medium as a place where peace and productivity can co-exist and thrive together. My “healing product” is not just about healing my body; it’s also about transforming my soul.  One aspect of my inner healing has to do with releasing the “tyranny of the shoulds” and breaking the Warden’s stronghold that saps my vitality and aliveness.

Escaping the Tyranny – A Few Tips

How can we break the hold which “shoulds” have over us?

  • The “I Should…” exercise from Louise Hay which I wrote about in my last post is a good first step.   Sometimes increasing our awareness about the origin of our self-imposed musts can help us to either release or re-frame them.

We can also invent games to play with ourselves to at least place boundaries around our “shoulds.”

  • One thing I do is to select a maximum of three “most important tasks” (MITs) which I will need to complete on any given day. I learned this technique from “The Power of Less” by Leo Babauta, a book which is focused on helping people to simplify their lives.  I’ve found that if I contain my obligations, I can achieve more of a sense of accomplishment from completion.
  • Another “game” I play with myself as a self-employed person is to make deals with myself. I think of something that the “Unruly Child” really wants to do, such as watch TV or read a magazine.  Instead of either doing that thing right away or postponing it until that mythical time when everything is done, I negotiate an agreement with the Warden.  If I spend a certain amount of time on a critical task or complete one of my MITs, I can watch a show or spend a predetermined time frame reading a magazine or surfing the internet.  It’s kind of like time off for good behavior…
  • Something else which has been helpful for me in achieving balance is to track my successes. I wrote about this in one of my earlier posts, “The Practice of Gratitude.”  Including a short list of the things I did well on any given day helps me to realize that despite my perfectionist protests to the contrary, I am getting a lot done and moving forward in my life.

Freedom Lives in the Center

We all have a tendency to be too hard on ourselves. We can be so quick to admonish ourselves for our failings while simultaneously neglecting to give ourselves credit for our successes.  I believe we all have a “Warden” inside of ourselves.  Freud called this facet of our personalities the Superego, but there are many other names for it.  I also feel that each of our personalities includes an “Unruly Child” of sorts (Freud’s concept of the Id).

Our power doesn’t rest in either of these personas.  Our power is seated within our Higher Selves, the part of us that desperately craves balance, fulfillment, and self-expression.

How can we access our Higher Self on a more regular basis? Well, that is a topic for a future post!  If you have any tips or suggestions, or if you would like to comment on what I’ve written in this post, I am open to feedback.  We can definitely help each other to escape the “tyranny of the shoulds” and move forward more freely and powerfully.

“I Should…”

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I Should...This post discusses the concept of “should,” as well as my insights from completing the “I Should” exercise from “You Can Heal Your Life.”

It is my intention to complete at least one exercise from Louise Hay each week and to share my experience and what I learn in this blog.   These posts may be combined with the weekly lesson, or they may stand on their own.

Louise Hay presents an exercise in “You Can Heal Your Life” which is focused on examining our internal “shoulds” and how we can create a more empowering inner dialogue.  The exercise begins with writing or typing “I Should…” and completing the sentence in as many ways as come to mind.  Here are a few of my “shoulds”:

  1. I should be more productive.
  2. I should make more money.
  3. I should get a real job.
  4. I should get up earlier.
  5. I should dress nicely more often.

Why Should I?

The next step of the exercise involves reading each “should” aloud and then asking, “Why?”  The responses to this question reveal where a person is stuck in his or her beliefs and self-imposed limitations. Here are my responses for the statements above:

  1. To get more done, to make myself useful, to justify my existence (re: productivity).
  2. That’s what a person is supposed to do, especially if she’s not a mother; it’s the right thing to do; to take the burden off of my husband (re: making more money).
  3. To make steady and good money, to feel more worthy and necessary, to feel more grounded (re: “real job”).
  4. Most people get up early, to get more done, to feel like less of a “slacker” (re: getting up early).
  5. I have lots of clothes in my closet, to look better, to take more pride in my appearance (re: dressing better).

Should – A Damaging Word…

Louise Hay feels that “should” is one of the most damaging words in the English language.  Every time we say “should,” we are in essence telling ourselves that we were, are, or are going to be wrong. Louise doesn’t believe we need more wrongs in our lives and that, instead, we need more freedom of choice.  She recommends that we replace the word “should” with “could,” as “could” gives us choice instead of making ourselves wrong.

I Could… Why Haven’t I?

The final step in the “I Should” exercise is to go back to each “should” statement and re-write the sentence, this time starting off with “If I really wanted to, I could…” and then asking, “Why haven’t I?” Here are my responses to that follow-on question:

  1. In truth, I am quite productive.  I have some days that are better than others, but so does everyone. I tend to be too “all over the map” and that impinges upon my productivity.  I need to focus more on what matters most and then I will be more productive.
  2. The main truth is that I don’t have to make more money.   My needs are met, so I don’t have to take on work that I don’t want to do.  I have very high standards for the work I will do and will likely need to lower them in order to make more money.
  3. I want to be passionate about what I’m doing.  I want to like what I do.   I also enjoy having variety in my work and many “real jobs” don’t allow for the variety – or the freedom – that I so greatly desire.  I think that instead of focusing on a job, I need to focus on pursuing my passions and working through the fears that hold me back from doing that which most lights me up.
  4. I don’t like to go to bed early and I do better on 7 or more hours of sleep per night.  If I get up by 7 a.m. each day, that is early enough.
  5. I do dress nicely when it matters.  If I am working at home, it’s fine to wear what’s most comfortable.  When I go out, I dress appropriately for my lifestyle.  I don’t usually go out dressed like a slob unless I’m going to the gym (and even then, I’m dressed suitably for the activity at hand).

From Should to Choice

The responses to “Why haven’t you?” often reveal that we’ve been beating ourselves up for something we never really wanted to do or that wasn’t our idea in the first place.  In many instances, the “should” originated with someone else, such as a parent or other powerful adult.  Alternatively, it may be based upon a firmly entrenched societal belief.  My belief that I should get up early is in line with the standard 8-5 job concept which is prevalent in our society.  Since I worked in the corporate world for so many years, I came to associate getting up early with being productive or worthwhile.

One of the benefits of examining our internal “shoulds” is that once we become aware that our “shoulds” originated elsewhere and they aren’t serving us in the present time, we can choose to release them.  As Louise Hay says, the power is always in the present moment.  Awareness can lead to power and choice.

Releasing or Reframing My “Shoulds”

In examining the “shoulds” which I presented in this post, I have chosen to release two and reframe the other three. I decided to release “I should get up earlier” and “I should dress nicely more often” because I realized that I was basing these edicts upon the beliefs of others.  For my life and what I’m up to, I get up early enough and I dress sufficiently well.

For the belief, “I should be more productive,” my reframe is to focus more on what matters most in my life and to center my productivity efforts on those items.  I don’t need to do more; I just need to do the critical few things which will make the greatest difference in my life.

In terms of “I should make more money,” I have decided that I do want to earn a higher level of income, but that I am committed to having that income be derived from work that matters to me.  My empowered action will be to pursue income sources in writing and designing websites for businesses and causes which inspire me.   I don’t need to “get a real job,” but I would like to determine a way to make a reasonably steady income while engaging in interesting and challenging work.

Valuable Insights Lead to Empowering Possibilities!

The “I Should…” exercise provided some valuable insights for me and enabled me to release some long-held limiting beliefs.  I can now move forward with some empowering possibilities for the things I could do.   I’m sure that I will still be confronted by the “tyranny of shoulds” from time to time.  In fact, this subject is of such great interest to me that it will be the topic for another upcoming post…

I encourage you to look at the ways in which “should” adversely impacts your life and to determine if there are any “shoulds” that you might wish to release. I look forward to embracing life from the space of “could” and enjoying more choice and freedom!