09/14/2009 05:12 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

Heal Yourself


If your ear gets clogged does it mean that you are trying to avoid hearing something that you don't want to hear? If you have a cough that won't quit, could it be that you are "barking" for the world to pay attention?

Everybody knows that illnesses come from "germs" that we "catch." You fly on a plane with a hundred other people and breathe their exhaust. You hang around a kid with green stuff coming out of his nose and soon you have green stuff coming out of your nose. But then, strangely enough, one day you go for a run in the rain, jump on a plane and later stop to wipe a few runny noses of strangers in the airport and come through just fine. What's going on? Why do illnesses show up at certain times and not at others?

Could be that your mind is playing a role in the illness drama.

The term psychosomatic was coined in 1860 to define a disorder having physical symptoms, but originating from mental or emotional causes. This sounds like the illness I used make up to stay home from school. The symptoms included sore throat, dizziness and dementia and the cause was usually an upcoming test.

Can the same be said of a "real" illness? Can you heal with a shift in attitude? Consider this: If you think the same thought again and again it becomes a feedback loop in your mind. What if that feedback loop was not limited to your mind? What if you are programming your body as well without realizing it?

Louise Hay, a writer and lecturer, believes we're programming ourselves to be ill or well. We have a choice. She claims to have cured her own cervical cancer by using affirmations and concluded that the cause of the cancer was her unwillingness to let go of resentment over a tragic childhood.

Hang on, before I lose you here, we need to track back to where Hay originally got her ideas. She read metaphysical essays by 1920s-era authors like Frances Scovel Shinn, who said that positive thinking could change people's outward world. She also read the founder of the Religious Science movement, Ernest Holmes, who taught that positive thinking could heal the body.

At the time of these writings doctors were still administering whiskey as a painkiller. Medicine has changed a lot since then. But people haven't evolved much. (Whiskey still works as a painkiller.) It's intriguing to consider what attitudes Hay says contribute to illness. A sampling:

* Abdominal cramps, she says, are about fear, and "stopping the process."
* Knee troubles are expressions of pride and ego.
* Post-nasal drip represents "Inner crying. Childish tears. Victim."
* Stiff neck is the expression of unbending bullheadedness.

She even says that you might catch poison ivy when feeling defenseless and open to attack. My personal "BS" meter hits the red zone on that one, but I have to admit that Hay is giving us a tool to take control of our own wellness. She and others like medical intuitive Dr. Mona Lisa do not offer cures, but they suggest that the ability to heal has a lot to do with the way your mind interacts with your body. Could it be that the metaphysical religious thinkers of the 1920s may have pointed to a healthier future for everyone?