New Age Guilt

Why are you choosing to create your illness? Why are YOU choosing to create your illness? Why are you CHOOSING to create your illness? Do I have you irritated yet? If you are suffering from any long-standing illness, you've probably heard these words before. I can't stand those words and I think they are a great disservice to people in need. As a healer or a patient you may already be beating yourself up for being sick or running at anything less than 100%. For the common cold, some health practitioners are afraid to do the simple things they ask their patients or clients to do, like get plenty of rest and drink lots of fluids. Many of us don't heed our own advice.

It is the intention of The Gersten Institute to put illness and suffering into a broader context than we are used to. This is not a how-to-do-it article. This is a how-to-live-it article.

It is one of the blessings of this age that there are so many ways of looking at illness...and so many ways to go about getting better. There are dozens of major health care systems beyond traditional Allopathic medicine. There is Homeopathic medicine, Ayurvedic medicine, Chinese Medicine, Chiropractic Medicine, ElectroMagnetic Medicine, Native American Herbal Medicine, MegaVitamin-Amino Acid-Mineral Therapy, to name a few -each of which is complete unto itself. And of course, we now have many treatments which facilitate healing no matter which overall "system" is being applied. Tools like mental imagery, meditation, acupuncture, nutrition and exercise are going to enhance health no matter which major health care system you are using.

One of the more enlightened views of this age is that we can take more responsibility for our health. A simple question like, "Are you 100% behind your own recovery?" goes a long way in clarifying whether one is ready for health and whether one is putting obstacles in the way.

Mental Imagery is one of the tools used at The Gersten Institute to help patients become more responsible. Bernie Seigel, M.D. dislikes the term patient and prefers a word he coined called "Respant," which means Responsible Participant. Imagery helps one to be a Respant. No matter what illness someone has I ask them to allow an image to emerge which represents their illness. A patient with lung cancer immediately "saw" a huge black spider in his chest. This information allowed him to have a clearer experience of the cancer and provided the direction for future imageries. For more information about symbolic imagery, please read "Listening to Your Symptom" by Martin Rossman, M.D., at the Atlantis The Imagery Newsletter part of this site.

It is important to provide as many reasonable alternatives as possible (appropriate to the given situation)..but it is a dangerous step to say to oneself or to a patient, "Why are you choosing to create your illness?" This statement is a great value judgment. It implies that you really and truly know the effort someone else is making...and of course, it implies that they are not trying hard enough. The result of this communication is that many people go away feeling worse about themselves; they feel in less control of their lives; they feel they have let down their health practitioners; and they feel guilty. Worst of all, there is no doubt that many a terminal cancer patient has died "knowing he chose his illness and chose his death."

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