ILLNESS as CHOICE – Part 1

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TO BE OR NOT TO BE — SICK 

Putting forth the premise that illness is a choice may sound harsh. But think about it this way: Long before you get sick, you are entrenched in hundreds of little habits–habits of eating, exercise, work, lifestyle, smoking, drinking, and habits of how you handle stress, conflict and negative emotions. Even how you think is largely a matter of habit. And because thoughts determine emotions, emotional states and attitude are a result of habits of mind.

All habits come about through choice–little decisions made again and again, perhaps multiple times daily until they become automatic and start to run your life. Thoughts are a choice as are attitude, beliefs, judgments, and decisions about how to interpret events and experiences.

There are consequences to your choices, consequences that include your health, mental and emotional well-being, or lack of same. However, at the time that the choices were made, you may have been unaware of those consequences or you lived in denial. After all, when you picked up your first cigarette were you really paying attention to the health risks? Did you think you could outrun the bullet, and that the health warnings didn’t apply to you? Did you just figure on having just a few, and quitting tomorrow? Were you bargaining, “please, God, just let me have this one ___ (cigarette/drink/ice cream sunday) and then I’ll stop and be good!

Now, years later you may become aware that it has come time to pay the piper. What do you do when you don’t like the negative consequences of your choices? How do you unravel bad habits, bad decisions, limiting beliefs or judgments for which you are now paying dearly?

Healing requires change, and change can be scary.

If a health problem is a result of long standing habits and patterns, healing will always require changing those habits and patterns. The necessary changes may be all pervasive, even drastic, and can be just as scary as the illness itself.  Carolyn Myss in Why People Don’t Heal and How They Can, says that “many of us are almost as afraid of healing as we are of illness.”2 

Even though a person may be aware of the risks, and their doctor may have recommended dietary, habit or lifestyle changes over the years, only when there is a clear cause and effect relationship of certain habits and choices with the negative consequences do most people begin to make even the smallest, yet alone big changes, that may be necessary. This follows the Law of Inertia, a body at rest tends to stay at rest, and a body in motion tends to stay in motion. It takes more energy to shift direction than to continue to do what you have always done.

How committed are you to heal? Are you willing to do whatever it takes? And if you aren’t, can we then say that you are choosing to remain sick?

Myss asks the following. If healing required moving to another part of the country, changing your attitudes toward others and yourself, changing all your physical habits, such as diet and exercise, being alone for a long period of time, or going on a retreat to confront your shadow, experiencing illness as a way of healing mentally, emotionally and spiritually, or losing everything familiar to you — home, spouse, job–would you do it?3

John Harrison, MD, in Love Your Disease–It’s Keeping You Healthy says that “Anybody prepared to make fearless decisions in their best interests will avoid all major illness and most minor ones as well.” 4 

Illness provides benefits called secondary gains

There may be positive payoffs to being sick. For example, illness may get you out of a job, activity, situation, relationship, or a responsibility that you hate. It can provide an excuse not to do, or not to go where you don’t want, or to do something that you do, for example, to stay home and watch television. It may provide financial awards, temporary or ongoing income, medical benefits, and time off from work.

Illness may get people off your back. It may provide an excuse, and special considerations or privileges such as handicapped parking. It may allow you to avoid responsibility for yourself or others. It may cast the die–letting the disease or condition make a decision for you when you are too indecisive or weak to do it on your own.

Illness may pull a family or relationship together, or provide a way to check on the feelings of others. It may let others know that you need them, providing them with an important role, and helping them to feel good about themself for helping you. Illness can be a way to get people to come to visit, and to obtain desired attention, emotional assistance, concern, sympathy, demonstrations of caring or love. It can be a way to get people to do things for you, even getting waited on hand and foot as in hospitalization.

Finally, a health problem can be a form of self-punishment, a way to atone or pay yourself back for guilty thoughts, feelings, behavior. As Myss says,  Illness can…become a powerful way to get attention you might not otherwise receive”, and “as a form of leverage, illness can seem almost attractive.”

Benefits to illness can be secondary or primary to the condition. They can be conscious or unconscious (below the level of awareness). As in which came first, the chicken or the egg, did the person get sick in order to get his needs met? Or did he get sick as a result of bad habits or some other reason, and then notice that there were some payoffs in being ill?

Harrison says that “The person is needy, rather than sick….People get ill to get what they want… People do not get what they want…so they become ill.”5 Basic needs,  such as attention, solitude, caring, must be met one way or the other. And if illness is providing those needs, the person must feel secure in meeting those same needs, just as easily as before, but now in a healthy, constructive way. Otherwise, he will resist getting well, or he will get sick again to get his needs met.

To break the negative cycle, both the pain of the illness needs to be great enough for the person to be motivated to change, and the person must have hope that making changes will make a positive difference in their health. Without hope or positive expectancy, why bother to even try?

Harrison further states that “Disease is both self-created and self-cured…. Illness is the physical and psychological result of unresolved needs, not a malfunction of a machine caused by unknown or external factors….We give ourselves illnesses in order to ‘take care of ourselves’ psychologically.”

Harrison and Stephen Parkhill, author of Answer Cancer, refer to an unspoken contract between doctor and patient that says the following. The doctor, in exchange for money, will remove unpleasant symptoms for the patient without upsetting the patient’s chosen lifestyle or habits, attitudes or feelings, judgments or beliefs. The doctor will participate in the illusion that the patient is a victim and not responsible for either the disease or its removal and return to health. The doctor will take over responsibility for the patient’s health and all decisions relevant to his health care.

Harrison puts it this way: “I have consulted you to have my need recognized, my suffering validated, my pain removed and my disease retained. In return, I will support you financially and give you status commensurate with the powers I ask you to exercise.”6 

As Harrison further states,“It’s this need to be taken care of by people more powerful than ourselves that leads us into taking some decisions that are damaging to us in the long term.” This agreement between doctor and patient may eradicate symptoms, but miss the cure. It has all the dysfunctional psychodynamics of the Victim-Rescuer-Persecutor Triangle7 –the patient being the Victim, the doctor/therapist being the Rescuer, and the disease/condition being the Persecutor. Roles can switch if compliance in the game is unsatisfactory. Patients need to get out of the game and take back responsibility for their illness, and take back their power to heal.

Parkhill believes that cancer is created because of an unconscious need for self-mutilation and self-punishment. He believes that ailments in general come from an unconscious need for self-punishment, self-mutilation, or limitation. Guilt, blame, criticism, fears, such as the fear of abandonment, or the fear of not surviving because essential needs are not well met, set up later illness.

Unraveling Bad Choices

Postulating that illness is a choice, implies that there is a different choice or choices that can be made that will leadi to a different outcome–one of potential health, vitality, and overall well-being. Once clear about the negative consequences of what you have been doing in diet, lifestyle, holding onto negative emtions, etc., you may be motivated to change.

Make a commitment to take positive action, start with making the most obvious and the most doable changes, and the changes most likely to make the most difference. There are many ways of tackling this. Self-hypnosis really helps to focus on priorities, increase motivation to do what you need to do, change negative thinking, and to release stress. Thought Stopping and Switching is a powerful tool to mental and, therefore, emotional control. Emotional Freedom Technique, Emotion Code, and Tapas Acupressure Technique also are invaluable in releasing stress, self-sabotage, and healing issues. Hypnosis, Neural Linguistic Programming, dowsing, my own Infinite Intelligence Process, are powerful in both locating and resolving issues.

Through hypnosis you can go back in time to a choice point and make a healthier, more constructive choice that leads to health. You can imagine traveling into the future to a time when the problem has been satisfactorily resolved, find out how that was done, and bring that solution back to the present moment along with the resources to do it. And with hypnosis, you can imagine going into a parallel universe in order to change direction to an alternate reality more of your liking.

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FOOTNOTES:

1. First published in 5/2007

2. Why People Don’t Heal and How They Can, page i x.

3. Ibid, page 138-139.

4. John Harrison, M.D., Love Your Disease, page 51

5. page 46-7

6. Love Your Disease, page 59

7. The Victim-Rescuer-Persecutor Triangle is typically seen with alcoholics, drug addicts, gamblers, and many of the chronically ill. The Victim uses his problem to manipulate and control others into taking over responsibility for him, bailing him out of problems, and meeting his emotional and perhaps financial needs. The Rescuer initially feels good to be of help, but later comes to feel as if he, himself, is being victimized by the very person he is trying to help, who has takes on the role of Persecutor. Rescuers are caught in this trap because they do not feel good about themselves unless they are helping those they consider more unfortunate than they. Most people in the helping profession as well as nurses and others in the healing arts start out as Rescuers. Hence, they are vulnerable to being used and abused by others. Awareness helps, but the biggest cure for this is high self-esteem and healthy boundaries.

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“Illness as Choice – Part 1” Copyright by Roxanne Louise. However, this article may be shared in other free online sources only if this copyright notice and link to http://www.roxannelouise.com and http://unlimitedpotentialhealingcenter.com are included with the content.

FOR MORE INFORMATION: see our main website: http://www.roxannelouise.com or call 434-263-4337

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