Multiple sclerosis, also called MS, can be dealt with in a variety of psychological fashions. For instance, attitude management is a critical factor when it comes to MS. So is situational management where you manage MS by taking responsibility and being accountable for your situation. Another way to deal with MS can be achieved through insight management, which is based on a statement by the renowned spiritual healer, author, and motivational speaker Louise Hay, who alleges, “we create every so-called illness in our body.”
Insight management is the willingness to ask one’s self tough questions in an effort to unearth unconscious reasons for a disorder. For instance, stress may exacerbate, or, as some preliminary studies have shown, may create MS, and MS may create stress. This makes sense as there are often underlying reasons for health circumstances. If you can understand these reasons, healing may occur, not necessarily in terms of physical healing but in terms of psychological issues. However, as beneficial as insight management may be, it can also be very threatening.
If you look further at what Hay says, she notes probable causes for multiple sclerosis include “hard heartedness, mental hardness, iron will, inflexibility, and fear.” Based on the Hay theory that we create our illnesses, I suggest three practices: 1) ask yourself tough questions, 2) talk to the symptoms, and, 3) employ self-love. Be very clear. This is NOT about blaming yourself. That will not help. It’s about figuring out possible “whys” and remedies, which, in turn, may alleviate some symptoms.
You need to ask tough questions as a way of figuring out why the illness might have been created in the first place. The key is to be totally honest with yourself, and questions can include the following:
- Are there secondary gains for this illness? If so what might they be? Possible answers: “I can’t work sixty hours a week any longer; now that I’m sick, I won’t have to” or “I’m so tired of taking care of my mother; now that I have MS, I can’t.”
- Am I hard hearted, iron-willed, or inflexible in any way? If so, how does that affect your health?
- Do I experience fear? If your answer is yes, examine what problems that might create. For example, are you tense all of the time?
- How am I contributing to this illness? Possible answers may include thoughts such as: “I didn’t take care of myself very well” or “I really pushed myself to get that PhD, raise a family, and work fifty hours a week all at the same time.”
- MS has been identified with type A personality, which is characterized by perfectionism and a high degree of stress, impatience, and inappropriate expressions of anger or frustration. These in turn can exacerbate MS symptoms. If you are Type A, find ways to soften those attributes through such things as yoga or meditation.
Talking to Symptoms
Talking to the symptoms is another way of getting to the underlying reasons for an illness. There are three ways to accomplish this.
- Ask the symptom or symptoms what is needed. For instance, if your right leg is aching ask, “Right leg, what do you need from me?” Wait for an answer, which could come in various forms. Answers could be words, pictures, or ideas that come to mind unexpectedly. Possible answers may include things that make you stop and appreciate life, such as “slow down” or “say no once in awhile.”
- Ask the symptom what gift it has to give to you. Possible answers may indicate you have to be “forced” to take care of yourself or that you need to make yourself be a higher priority.
- A third way to get at the underlying reason for symptoms is to ask the symptom if it has a message for you.
Creating Self Love
Besides asking questions and talking to symptoms, you also have to promote self-love and acceptance. On the January 5, 2009, Oprah Winfrey Show, Oprah discussed her weight. Two points in her monologue stood out for me: First, was her intention to love her body no matter how fat she was because it served her in so many ways, and, second, she brought up the lesson she learned came from author Marianne Williamson. Apparently, Williamson said at one point, “Your overweight self does not stand before you craving food. It’s craving love.”
I see a correlation between weight issues and the issues of a chronic illness, such as MS. In other words, no matter what illness you have, love your body and yourself. I also believe Williamson’s ideas correlate to Hay’s idea that the greatest cause of disease is not loving one’s self. Based on that, generally speaking the “Serenity Prayer” seems to offer the best advice:
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.
Accept your limitations, do what you can, and be clear about the differences. I am in no way claiming that you can cure yourself of MS, but I do think there are ways to alleviate the psychological issues by using these multiple MS insights related to asking questions, talking to your symptoms, and creating self love. If you want to learn about attitude and MS, read MS Psychology: The Right Attitude, and if your interested in learning how a situational approach may also help, read MS Management. If in the end, you find these ideas don’t seem to help, consider finding a therapist who has the proper expertise and can support you in your MS journey.