Everything happens for a reason, including health challenges of the mind and body.
Although this may be difficult to accept, my view is that we make ourselves sick and miserable looking for love and attention outside ourselves. We learn from a young age to seek Mom and Dad’s conditional love in order to survive, but it is often at the expense of being true to ourselves and causes us harm.
If we never wake up to this unhealthy internal dynamic, it eventually leads to depression and disease. The suffering in our body and mind is cries from our soul, from God and the Universe, calling us back home to ourselves and to the source of peace and strength within.
As adults, we’ve become accustomed to living with fears of losing love, attention, approval and security.
We learned to feel guilty early in life about expressing what we need to be healthy and happy, because this is somehow too selfish or criticized as wrong, when in reality everyone is actually selfish whether they’re aware of it or not. Now, after years of pleasing others and not taking care of ourselves, we often find ourselves unhappy, unwell and full of resentment, anger and regret.
Confused, we wonder, How did I get here?
No one is a bad person for wanting to live a deeply fulfilling and authentic life. Yet we feel shame for having this desire. Entrapped in a web of our own weaving, we have yet to realize that we are waiting for a wholehearted commitment to our own wellbeing and that our suffering is simply asking us to speak and act based on what we truly feel in each situation and relationship.
I cannot help but point out the fact here that modern medicine has not discovered cures for ailments like cancer, auto-immune disease and clinical depression. Is it because we have been viewing these extreme symptoms from a limited perspective and completely missing the purpose of these challenges?
I believe so.
Although it can be hard to swallow, I have found that our mental and emotional relationship to ourselves is both the cause of and the solution to most forms of personal suffering. Our ability to express what we feel effectively and act in alignment with this inner truth directly determines the quality of our mental and physical wellbeing.
In most cases, deep unhappiness and chronic illness are simply the result of the self-destructive, critical, judgmental and fear-based relationship many of us developed toward ourselves in childhood. Because we tend to be so lost in this harmful way of thinking and acting, it’s very easy to overlook the simple fact that transforming this mental and emotional dis-ease can bring the long-term relief and peace we’re seeking.
I have heard it said that life will take away anything or anyone we take for granted. Our life itself and our health fall into this category. In my work with thousands of people I have witnessed time and again how individuals ignore and disregard their mental and emotional life because they do not know how to navigate it, talk about it or respect it. The natural progression of this sentiment is a deep feeling of worthlessness, where one believes their feelings, needs and desires do not matter. They feel their inner self or soul has no value or is not appreciated by those around them, and the byproduct is a body that does not matter or feel worthy of attention.
In other words, a heart not cared for or honored by ourselves becomes a body that does not feel good to inhabit.
What’s the point of being alive if our soul feels trapped, misunderstood and valueless? What sentient being would ever want to continue to live a mentally tortured, emotionally anxious and overwhelmingly stressful life? Yet we as human beings feel so unworthy of creating a lifestyle, career and relationship that make us feel good, alive and well on a daily basis.
Although objectively it seems natural to desire a healthy and happy life, the guilt, fear and underlying hurt inside us persistently hold us back. They leave us feeling disconnected and trickle down inside like acid slowly eating us alive from within.
Addiction and suicide can be understood in this light.
No one wants to live believing they must always be more, do more, or have more to find happiness, health, peace or love. But this is a psychological symptom of past internalized hurt caused by others and ourselves, which when left unresolved leads us to live in our head in an attempt to protect our heart from further pain. It also leaves us feeling alone and insecure.
As children we learned our feelings, needs and desires were wrong, and for years we’ve endured a limited life of poor self-care and toxic self-talk. We need to swing the pendulum of attention toward transforming our dysfunctional mental and emotional life if we want our body to reflect a healthy internal environment moving forward.
Traditional Chinese Medicine offers one of the most practical and logical insights into how our thoughts and emotions can lead either to health and happiness or to depression and disease. From this worldview the causes of physical disease directly correlate to the flow of energy and blood in the body. In simple terms, when energy and blood are free-flowing daily, we experience health and happiness. But when they stagnate, we will eventually encounter pain, tiredness, depression and the toxic buildups that cause illness.
The belief is that blood in the body follows the flow of life force energy.
The best example of this is the energetic beat or pulse of the heart that causes blood to flow within our veins and carries our immune cells, hormones, vitamins, minerals and other nutrients to all corners of the body. What is often overlooked in western medicine is the link between internalized thoughts and emotions that, coupled with fear and the resulting inaction, lead to a decrease in the healthy flow of energy first, and then of blood.
A 40-year-old person, who has on average been awake for 16 hours every day, has lived 840,960,000 moments or seconds. That’s 14,016,000 minutes of life experience, where this person is feeling and thinking something directly connected to their deeper wounds, needs and desires. Objectively, much of this inner process is made up of unresolved emotional pain and negative thoughts, which constantly circle the mind and body and are rarely expressed or addressed in a way we’re at peace with.
Both thought and emotion are subtle forms of atomic energy, which when repressed constantly over time cause internal stress, limited oxygen intake and imbalances in molecular and cellular processes.
It also causes the flow of life force energy and blood to slow down and become severely blocked.
Due primarily to the various manifestations of survival fear, most people don’t act based on instinct, intuition and what the heart communicates, which creates further disruptions to the healthy flow of energy and blood in the organs and circulatory system. Symptoms like anxiety, shallow breathing, chronic fatigue, lethargy, digestive disorders, depression, bi-polar and sleeplessness set in, and we, and often our doctors, are not quite sure what the underlying cause is.
Eventually, over days, weeks, months and years of this process guiding our lives and behavior, the blood and fluid in our bodies begin to coagulate to such a large degree that nodules, masses, growths and tumors begin to form. This then leads to toxins building up in the blood stream and organs, resulting in chronic pain and disease. In simple terms, our body becomes at war with itself on a cellular level (like in auto-immune conditions) because we are at war with ourselves mentally and emotionally, living with a constant tear between what we really feel, want and need, and the fears that stop us from speaking and acting completely honestly.
From this viewpoint, it’s easy to see how living a stressful life compounded by unfulfilling work or staying in relationships where one is not true to deeper emotions, needs and desires can create significant inner pressure on our major organs and central nervous system. If we are constantly fighting ourselves in this way, the inevitable result is our self-destruction.
This does not even account for excessive consumption of alcohol, food, recreational drugs and pharmaceutical drugs, which are merely unhealthy habits motivated by an unconscious desire to numb our deeper mental and emotional pain in a misguided quest for short-term superficial relief that only makes health concerns worse in the long run.
Most people understand that eating natural whole foods and adopting a healthy lifestyle will support health and prevent illness.
What most don’t know, though, is that complete honesty and vulnerability in every situation is just as vital to our long-term mental and physical health.
We are so used to hiding our true feelings in order to survive and keep the peace, protecting ourselves from judgment, criticism, rejection, abandonment and aggression, that we remain unaware we’re relating to ourselves in such a harmful way—until of course we are forced to figure out why we’ve become so depressed or ill.
Deep down we all know we were not born to suffer. But no one can save, heal or free us beside ourselves. This is precisely why the purpose of mental, emotional and physical symptoms is to show us where and how we are not caring for ourselves well enough to thrive and flourish fully before we die.
When we can understand the simple but profound truth that all suffering is the result of a constant rejection of the true self—a self that we never learned how to love, accept or value fully—we can begin transforming whatever struggles we’re faced with and find deeper peace and health immediately.
There will never be a better time than today to begin practicing this.
Depression and disease are our body’s practical and logical way of alerting us to the life or death importance of giving ourselves permission to be fully who we are now, because it’s the only path to lasting happiness and vitality. We are given a choice in life between feeling sorry for ourselves and respecting ourselves, but we cannot have both. I have witnessed countless people stop being victims to their fearful and insecure thoughts and move beyond suffering into enjoying life daily. Once they wholeheartedly committed to speaking and acting in a way that values their thoughts and feelings in every situation as the priority, even when scared, they were able to heal and forgive their past, and finally stop hurting and betraying themselves in the present.
The key, then, to letting go of depression and disease is to stop running from yourself and to start breathing in life and oxygen as deeply as possible—right now.
By staying open to yourself in each moment, you will finally welcome your inner truth and feel deeply again, even if it’s scary or painful at first, which is the only way to truly heal. Then you can get clear about what you actually want in life, what feels good to you and what makes you feel alive and well.
When we focus primarily on these things daily, even when criticized for doing so, while speaking and acting with complete honesty and respect for ourselves, we support the healthy flow of energy, blood and emotion in the body and we naturally move away from any person, situation or habit that is no longer healthy for us.
Anything else that we need to address will naturally surface to be felt and liberated as we move forward.
Each person is one with what we term God, or the Loving Universal Intelligence, and until we open to this power within (until we believe in our inherent capacity to heal ourselves and find lasting happiness) there will always remain aspects of our body and mind that are closed and thus will not heal. It doesn’t matter how many doctors we visit or how great a practitioner we might be.
The walls of the ego and the small separate self must come down by bringing our own loving attention and acceptance to all the parts of us we’ve rejected over the years.
It’s only through taking 100 percent responsibility for the depression and disease we’re experiencing now, regardless of how hard life has been to date, that we can finally see the purpose this suffering has served in bringing us home to our true selves and to the ocean of strength and peace that’s always existed beneath our mental and emotional struggles. Blaming anyone or anything external only wastes the time and energy we need to heal and free ourselves now.
And choosing pride over honest vulnerability will only keep us trapped.
Author: Blake D. Bauer
Volunteer Editor: Kim Haas / Editor: Toby Israel