Peeling the Wellness Onion
As holistic practitioners, we are wellness investigators who must use who, what, where, when, why and how to help clear a path for optimal wellness to emerge from a client’s story. In training, we are often cautioned against going to the “why” well, but I find that most information comes from asking such questions. It’s the hardest question to answer, because it is a statement of interpretation rather than of fact. I find, however, that how we interpret events creates our habits more than the events themselves.
My clients inform me about human nature, holding up a mirror in which I can see where in my own life I have exhibited similar behavior. If a client tells me he wants to change and then comes up with excuses, I ask where in my life I have done the same. I am in the tenth year of my wellness journey, and it reminds me that I have hit similar pitfalls as I’ve moved through the world.
In my personal and clinical experience, the whys that prevent progress in health become deeply revelatory. Peeling the onion from the outside in, they are:
It’s too hard. My biggest mistake as a clinician is assuming that people who come to see me are motivated to change on the spot. When I embarked on self-discovery, I collected a ton of theories without trying any out. I knew in my head that things should be different— yet I did not implement anything. After 25 years of forming habits, the mountain seemed too big. I needed more messaging to contradict the lifetime of information I had already ingested before I could enact changes. Otherwise, it was “too hard.”
I have no willpower. Once we get past the “too hard” stage, we discover that the few things we’re trying to change call to us louder than before. Ask my parents how long I lived in this conversation. Ask my wife, too! If something unhealthy was nearby, I was drawn to it even though it would make me sick. To me, this part of the conversation is not about willpower, but about the pervasive messages we receive via advertising. Most advertised food products have health-negative results— processed foods, fast foods, sodas, candies, snacks and sugary cereals. Repeated ads passively assault our brains for years, starting when we’re really young. It isn’t our willpower that keeps us from change, but the constant messaging.
I’m not worth it. If we make the effort to enact small changes, something might keep us from going all the way. Maybe we fall back into old habits or see an ad— which we now know is geared toward sabotaging our wellness goals—that triggers an old craving. The difference between following the less-trod path and heading in the opposite direction comes down to feeling worthwhile. The “I’m not worth it” conversation is one we might live in for months. Throughout our lives, someone might have contributed a spirit wound that made us feel “less than.” Enough spirit wounds can convince us that indeed we have little value. If we don’t see ourselves as worthy, then why make beneficial changes? Upon hitting this revelation, through the use of the other W’s and the H, we can get down to answering why this is so, and hopefully find ways to repair that damage and advance toward greater well-being.
Nothing makes me happier as a clinician than the moment the client sees how they have come to view themselves as unworthy. Often so ingrained into our beingness, these feelings of unworthiness need a bright light cast upon them. Upon revelation, a person’s healing begins, because we cannot return to not knowing this characterization exists. It no longer invisibly haunts us; it has a name, and can be addressed. The rate of change varies after the revelation, depending on how deeply the spirit wounds cut. But change does happen.
Although I’ve been studying holistic health and improving my wellness for a decade, my unworthiness discovery emerged this year. After introspection, I understood why I felt that way, addressed the spirit wounds, and began to make changes that asserted my worthiness. I have felt grounded and at peace ever since, simply because I decided I am worthwhile.
We all are.
This article appeared in Pathways to Family Wellness magazine, Issue #36.
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