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Internal Voices: Understanding The Messages We’ve Received About Health

6724566_sYesterday, following Wednesday night’s World War III argument about money, my husband suggested we very amicably sit down and discuss the theoretical issues behind how we handle our money. My husband, the excellent communicator and excessively articulate man that he is(drives me crazy), started the conversation with two questions. What does money mean to us and what messages have we received over the years about money?

This morning, after a very successful conversation, (ie I never lost my temper) I am astonished at how much was revealed.  I am so astonished that I am thinking about the importance of subtle messages in all parts of life. Being the healer in all other hours of the day, I have taken this idea of messages and brought it into the world of health.

  • What messages do we receive about our health during childhood?
  • What messages do we learn from our peers in primary and secondary school?
  • What messages does college or graduate school add to this list?
  • What messages about health are in conflict with our family’s messages?
  • What messages about health are in conflict with our partner’s messages?

I grew up in a household where we did Jane Fonda aerobics tapes as a family. The four of us would go to the YMCA in the afternoons after school and have our freedom in whatever realm of the Y we wanted. My parents went on the machines and did weights. My sister and I ran on the track and gossiped in the locker room. Health was a big deal, but it was never out of reach. It was routine and could be fun and social.

In high school I was on the crew team and the cross-country ski team. The two most cardiovascular demanding sports I could find that didn’t have try-outs. The reason they never needed try-outs was because most people didn’t want to work that hard. It wasn’t just a “no pain, no gain” mentality. It was a bunch of masochistic people adoring the time shared experiencing physical pain. I remember the amount of food I brought with me while I was rowing. I may never eat that much on a regular basis again.

In college I was one of five or six athletes in the wash of an anti-athletic arts school. We did have a co-ed soccer team, which I played on miserably for the first semester, but we mostly played enormous Europeans at the local international school and I couldn’t take the African, Australian and German giants barreling down the field at me. So instead I took to running at night and swimming in the morning. While other students were pulling all-nighters and drinking too much beer, I was in bed before midnight most nights and up by six to drive to the local community center for some swimming with the senior citizens in town.  I also started dancing in college. After years of pushing my body and trying to prove power and strength, I learned how to relax muscles and melt into the floor. I learned how to wiggle and ease into yoga stretches and how to rest.

After college I learned that health is more than being in shape and eating well. Health is also emotional and mental well-being. Health is also self-forgiveness and knowing ahead of time what the body and mind will need. Health to me is knowing when talk therapy could make a physical issue go away and when a massage is not a luxury, but a better call than popping an aspirin.

My twenties were about learning I was an introvert and I don’t want to push myself to pain. I learned that the body grips when pushed too hard and the result is increased weakness not increased strength. I learned about different levels of support other than muscles and bones and discovered where my true power rests in my body.

But even though I do this for a living, I still bump up against those old messages and have the internal struggle before the present me wins out or the 14 year old me wins out.

You know what I am talking about, don’t pretend you don’t. Close your eyes and listen for your mother’s voice or your father’s or another family member’s voice. Listen for the voice of your best friend growing up or a coach or a teacher. Listen for the voice of your doctor, your dentist, your herbalist or acupuncturist. Listen for the voice of all the yoga teachers. What messages have you received? Own up to them and decide which of them are true. What validity is there for the ones you are ready to part with at this point in your life?

Knowledge in this life is power. The more self-knowledge the more control you have over the irrational self within each of us. We all walk around with these messages, but only you can decide which messages are worth keeping.

Copyright: nejron / 123RF Stock Photo

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