By Jenny Peterson
(For an audio version of this blog, listen to episode #47 of my podcast)
Healing has always been a great mystery, especially when something works for one person but perhaps not for another. I know one thing for sure is that the body was designed to heal.
After 4 years of working with those that have chronic symptoms, I have seen some commonalities between those that achieve their healing goals and those that don’t. Today I cover those insights.
We are all capable of healing. Our body design tells us that.
But why is it that some people reach their healing goals and others don’t when it comes to doing mind body work?
Approaching your healing from a mind body perspective is completely different to how we have been programmed to view healing. Its a paradigm shift. Its learning to listen rather than ignore. Its being willing to be uncomfortable rather than in comfort. Its choosing to be conscious instead of unconscious. Its everything we have not been taught.
From the outside looking in, I can see some differences between those that reach their healing goals and those that don’t. It's like I’m looking at 2 different people. There are significant differences between the two and I have compiled them down to a list of 7 requirements.
Lets dive into each of them.
1. The sole focus is personal growth rather than getting rid of symptoms.
While I understand that your symptoms may be uncomfortable and possibly disrupting your life, if all you focus on is for it to go away, then your body will continue to find ways of trying to communicate to you.
Your symptoms are here as messages.
Rather than trying to make them go away, it needs to be your goal to listen to them. We are not taught to listen to our symptoms. Instead we are taught to run away from them, avoid them, make them stop, etc.
Talking, thinking, obsessing, etc. about your symptoms isn’t going to make them go away, in fact, it causes nothing but more stress. It's a pattern that has been programmed over years of having symptoms. Your brain is on autopilot to do this now.
Rather than focusing on fixing or getting rid of symptoms, there is a better place to focus if you want to heal. Those that reach their healing goals, focus on what I call creating a 2.0 version of themselves. This involves having a desire to let go of the “old you” that responded to life with old survival programs that don’t provide safety in your mind or body. Those survival programs brought you to your symptoms. In fact your symptoms are a window into what survival patterns you need to work on.
What message is your symptom telling you? Is it telling you to stop worrying so much? Is it telling you to stop being a people pleaser? Is it telling you to stop being so critical of yourself and instead start loving you? Is it telling you to let go of all the anger you have been suppressing?
So the only way to “get rid” of your symptoms is to let go of those old patterns. The survival patterns are the root cause, that is what needs your focus. When you let go of those patterns, your body will no longer need to adapt for its survival.
Healing requires that there be a desire to be a better person than yesterday. A better version of yourself, your authentic you. An excitement about wanting to shed all that is blocking the life and health that you desire. An inner desire to be able to respond to life in a healthier way. Illness is a catalyst to transformation. If you don’t see it that way, your body will keep talking.
2. They are disciplined with making small changes daily.
Everything about your day is a habit in your brain. From the moment you wake up, you are on autopilot. Ever say to yourself, tomorrow I’m going to wake up and instead of going to my phone, I’m going to meditate/exercise/etc.?
The next morning comes and the first thing on your mind is that fucking phone. You go grab it and tell yourself just a few minutes then I will go meditate. Before you know it an hour goes by. Just like yesterday and the day before. Nothing has changed.
The rest of your day is no different. The things you wished you would’ve done don’t get done because your brain was too busy running on autopilot. Your brain was determining your day instead of you.
When you have chronic symptoms most likely your day is focused on your symptoms. Whether its thinking about them, fearing them, doing treatments for them, finding NEW treatments for them, or complaining about them. Like I mentioned, focusing on your symptoms is not the way to healing. When you train your brain to be focused on your symptoms all day long, eventually it will do it for you automatically.
Becoming a 2.0 version of yourself requires you to take DAILY action to change. Change isn’t once a week with a therapist that helps you work on old memories. Yes that may be helpful but I can guarantee you that therapist isn’t sending you home with a list of things for you to start working on daily to shift your old patterns. You're going to go back home and do the same old things. Change doesn’t happen having a few sessions with a practitioner, it starts with small daily actions of shifting old patterns.
Patience is one of the biggest lessons you will learn from healing.
Understanding that little steps compounded do make a difference. The small things you do everyday that don’t feel like they matter, matter. Its like walking into a gym and thinking that just because you spent a week there that you should have a rocking body. Its what everyone wants but the ones that achieve it, work every day at it until 3-4 months later, boom, the results are clear. The day you plant the seeds is not the day you see the flowers.
In MBR we know how important it is to have this daily discipline and its a reason why we have daily accountability and small daily actions assigned to students. Even when students do this, we will see those old patterns of impatience showing up. Students will say I’ve been doing this for 30 days and why are there no shifts. Now in the eyes of a student that may feel long, but to us as coaches its such a small period of time. To your brain, its literally a blink of a second. Those 30 days of work are nothing to a brain that has been wired with strong thinking patterns for years.
We live in a world where we can get anything with the push of a button. But that is not how healing is achieved. Healing success is a daily process, not a one time destination. Believing in having a big break, waking up and having it all gone from doing just one thing is dangerous because it can keep you from taking the actions you need to take to create the results you want.
We look for the breakthrough, the magic pill, but the solution already exists, it always did. Is it magic? kind of. Its the same magic that created your problems, the power of daily repetitive actions and thoughts.
Unconsciously for years you have repeated the same things over and over. Your brain is now programmed to continue repeating those same patterns over and over. The answer to your healing is in this repetition as well. You just need to change the program that you want running. This requires discipline that most people are not willing to have due to the discomfort it brings.
But those that reach their healing goals are willing to have that discipline for a short period of discomfort and long lasting healing.
3. They do deep level work, not just surface level work.
In the mind body healing world, you will find many different types of work. But if you separated that work into 2 different areas, it would be surface level work and deep level work.
The surface work only takes you so far. Its the work that helps to calm your nervous system like meditation, visualization, smiling, singing, etc. in the moment. This kind of work trains your brain to safely move into the parasympathetic nervous system but it doesn’t keep it there long term. Its not to say that surface level work is bad. Its just that it doesn’t give long term results. It doesn’t shift old subconscious patterns on a deep enough level. Its helpful for in the moment situations and its very much needed when healing but you have to also include the deep level work.
Long term results come from doing the deep work. The deep work forces you to face the subconscious patterns that are wreaking havoc in your life. This includes working on core beliefs and coping patterns that have been with you your entire life. This is where you find the subconscious patterns that are connected to your symptoms. No matter if you come in with the same symptoms as another person, your deep patterns will not be the same. This is where targeted work specific to you is very important.
A sign that I often see when someone hasn’t done the deep work is when someone has followed a protocol that does surface level work and they say that they got great results. They felt great, some of their symptoms may have gone away as well. But then they start to go back into the “normal” world. Maybe they start working again or they get into a relationship. When they take this step, symptoms come back and they get knocked back to where they were before they started the surface level work and they are back to square one again.
This is an example of where deep level work was missed. Deep level work addresses fears, core beliefs and old survival patterns which bleed into everything in your life. If you have a core belief of not feeling good enough for example, it will show up in all areas of your life. So if this core belief never gets worked on from its roots, when you get back to living life “normally” again it will continue popping up. Surface level work doesn’t work on this programming and unfortunately that programming is running your life.
Those that reach their healing goals go to the roots, the programming where it all started. You will see it in the actions that they take. They will be willing to do new things, they may even completely change their career and their relationships even change. These are all signs that the old programming has been changed.
4. They don’t give up
When do most people stop or give up on doing mind body work? When they don’t see results fast enough and when resistance kicks in.
Like I already mentioned, healing is a journey. Its literally doing brain surgery, weakening old pathways and creating new ones. The downside is that when you do this work, you can’t see inside your brain and all the changes that are being made daily. All you can see is what is on the outside.
Doing small actions daily eventually add up to big results but oftentimes people don’t give it long enough. They quit because of not understanding the brain and also because of unrealistic expectations. You have to ensure what you are doing sticks.
Nothing sticks and stays in your brain from only doing it a couple times. You keep working on it little by little.
A great example of this is with triggers. Triggers are great healing helpers. But they don’t go away with working on them once. You have to keep chiseling at it. You first have to identify them, find the root cause to them, then create a plan of how you're going to respond next time. Then when that next time comes you respond differently but not the way you wanted, so you try again next time.
You keep doing this until eventually that trigger no longer bothers you. Too many people quit after the first attempt to respond differently to the trigger.
Resistance is another sneaky one. It likes to creep in when on the other side of taking an action, there is fear. Its the brain trying to stay in comfort. I see resistance in MBR students sometimes when it comes to their first symptoms project. They get scared that they might not do it right, which causes them to freeze and delay doing the work. This is when having a coach is so important because we don’t let the resistance win, we help you through it. The student may think that the worksheet that we give them is the problem but on a deeper level, its the old patterns of fear of failure that is driving the resistance.
The great thing about resistance though, is that it means big changes are coming. Consider it a little tantrum that your brain is throwing because it doesn’t like change. It says, I don’t like this feeling, I want to stay in this place of comfort because change means I have to exert more energy.
The brain wants to avoid exerting as much energy as possible for the sake of survival.
But this is the time to ask yourself, am I happy with where I am right now? If the answer is no, then moving through the resistance is necessary. This can mean that you take one little baby step towards what you are resisting to do. This little baby step will be enough for the brain to want more and start building trust with yourself.
Moving through the resistance means that you will need to debunk those old beliefs and fears underneath it. When you do that, its another step towards the 2.0 version of you.
5. They focus on what they want
Our brains are designed to look for the negative because that is how they survive. But this can be taken too far. Rather than just looking for a bear that may be behind the bush, we can train our brains to look at everything as a threat, including what we want in our life.
How often do you visually see yourself doing what you want if your symptoms were to go away? Let say for example, you have food sensitivities. How often do you see yourself eating all the food that you want, going out with family and friends, traveling etc.? I can guarantee that this doesn’t come to your mind often.
Most likely you instead think about having this condition forever, see yourself not being able to eat at your daughters wedding, etc.
Having this kind of focus, the kind that focuses on what you don’t want, will continue to bring you what you don’t want. Its how your brain works. And it also creates fear within your mind which reflects in your body.
Professional sport players visualize themselves playing and reaching their goal. This is the type of person you need to be to heal.
Your brain doesn’t know the difference between something that is real or isn’t real. It encodes it as a memory regardless. And because your brain continues to produce in your life what is encoded in your brain, you can either continue attracting what you don’t want or you can change it to what you DO want.
Those that reach their healing goals, keep their focus on what they want to have in their life. They act as if its already there. This will help you to attract the skills and action you need to take to reach your goal and also provide a picture of the future that feels safe rather than scary to the mind. Moving forward is no longer a threat.
Visualizing my future self was something that I used very often in my healing journey. When I woke up, I visually saw and felt what I wanted in my life and who I wanted to be. It was one of the most powerful daily disciplines I had. It wasn’t long before those visualizations came true. Not because it magically happened but because I took the action steps everyday that I needed to get closer to my goal. The vision was my focus and my actions naturally came because that was the goal I was working towards.
What are you focusing on? What you want or what you don’t want?
6. Choose to be the driver of their own bus
Did you know that computers were designed based on the design of our brains? If you think about it, our brains are like little computers. We are the engineers of our own brains. Everything it does is based on how we programmed it. That is actually really good news because you have the power to de-program it if you want to.
Every student that I’ve seen go through MBR hits a light bulb moment somewhere in their journey. For some, it happens in the first few weeks of the program, for others it happens sometimes the last week! This light bulb moment is when they realize that they have the power to change their life and also create one that they desire. Its all in their hands.
They realize that they don’t need to give into those old thoughts anymore, the fears and old beliefs. They choose to be the driver of their own bus. They literally de-program their computer and start fresh with a new one.
Healing happens when you don’t give into those old survival patterns anymore. You become conscious in all that you do. You de-bunk those old beliefs that show up, you don’t give attention to the symptoms that are shouting at you, you shift your perception in situations, you become aware when you are triggered, and you notice how your body responds to certain situations. Your eyes are open.
Those that don’t reach their healing goals, continue to be a passenger to their programming. Never taking control. Letting the stories from their past control their future. It's coming from a place of powerlessness, and healing can’t happen from that place.
The first place to start when deciding to be the driver of your own bus is to stop blaming. Blaming makes us victims. Whether its blaming your parents, certain situations, your illness, etc for the way that your life is right now. Its time to put big girl panties on and take some personal responsibility. That doesn’t mean that those bad things that happened to you didn’t happen or that what people may have done to you is ok. It just means that you no longer let those things continue to control your life.
Becoming the driver of your own bus is exciting! You get to decide the destination rather than your old patterns doing that for you.
7. They don’t force healing
When students sign up to work with us, its an 8 month partnership. Never during that time do we tell any of our students that they will be completely symptom free by the end of that time. Is that something that we hope for, sure, but its not an expectation. What is our expectation as a team is to make sure that students clean up all their core subconscious patterns by the time they reach the end and they have been given the tools and action steps to step into their 2.0 self. That is our goal. Having the student be symptom free by the end is just a cherry on top.
If we were to do the opposite, where we would have expectations that they would be symptom free by the end, there would be a lot of forcing being done during our time together. We would be looking at the 3 month mark, 5 month mark, etc and determining where they SHOULD be. It would create a lot of tension for both us and the student, which ultimately would delay healing even more.
The truth is that forcing healing or even forcing yourself to clean up all your old patterns in a certain period of time means on a deeper level that you don’t trust. Its all about control, which on a subconscious level feels like safety. But there is one thing that we can’t control for sure and its how fast our body heals. It's out of our hands. Control is a way of making you feel safe, its an old pattern that was formed based on experiences in your life. Or it could even have been modeled to you.
Those that reach their healing goals, let go of the need to control the healing process in their body. They realize the only thing that they can control is how they respond to life and their symptoms, their thoughts and actions. The rest is up to the body because it knows exactly what to do.
Years ago when I was a supplement junky, when I would get the “flu” or any type of symptom, the first thing I would do would be to run to my supplement cabinet. I would pull out as many supplements that I could to try and “fix” whatever was happening to me at the time. I thought, The more I had the better . But doing the work that I do now, I see that I simply didn’t trust my body. I thought I had to interfere with its process in order to heal because I knew better.
Now when I get acute symptoms, I practically take nothing. I support my body with fluids, good food and rest. My healing phases are short verses going on for weeks because I don’t interrupt them with doubts, fear and unnecessary supplements.
Forced healing doesn’t work. It feels shitty. Allowing healing to happen in your body’s own time builds trust between you and your body. Are you willing to commit to becoming someone that trusts this process? Thats what is required in order to reach your healing goals.
Alright, so lets recap the list of 7 requirements again. The difference between those that reach their healing goals and those that don’t are:
The sole focus is personal growth rather than getting rid of symptoms.
They are disciplined with making small changes daily.
They do deep level work, not just surface level work
They don’t give up
They focus on what they want instead of what they don’t want
They choose to be the driver of their own bus
They don’t force healing
Now I’m not saying that the reason why some people reach their healing goals and others don't is only confined to this list. There are many other factors that could be at play, depending on your situation. But I encourage you to be honest with yourself with this list.
Where are you falling short? It doesn’t mean you need to beat yourself up about it. It just means what are you going to do to change it? Don’t just think about it, take action. Action is the only thing that creates change.
These are just my observations of what I see. You can replace any goal that you want to reach with this list because its really what is needed in order to achieve what you want. When it comes down to it, healing really is no different than trying to reach your goal of being a professional athlete, a famous artist or having your own business. All these pieces are essential to reaching your goal.
Doing the easy things in life and staying comfortable will keep you where you are at. If you want your life to change, then you have to change because you are the creator of your life. Its that simple. You will never get what you want staying comfortable.
Your symptoms are here to help you create the change that deep down your soul has been crying for. What an amazing gift from your body! My wish is that you are able to accept that gift and see it for what it is.
If you're ready to identify and resolve the unconscious patterns connected to your symptoms so you can finally heal for good, fill out an MBR application to see if you're a good fit for MBR.
You can also Download my free healing guide, “Why Can’t I Heal” where you will learn the 5 reasons that you haven't healed despite everything you've tried. These are the missing pieces to your healing and the key to resolving your symptoms for good.
Jenny Peterson is the founder and CEO of Mind Body Rewire (MBR). She teaches those with chronic symptoms how to stop fearing their body, identify the root cause to their symptoms and how to be their own healer. Learn more about MBR here.