The Shadow of Health

A few years ago I went to a Debbie Ford workshop on her book Dark Side of the Light Chasers. I found it one of the best workshops I’ve ever attended on personal growth.

As I’ve looked at what I want to say about health and wellness in the United States, I really have to focus on the fact that I think sickness is the dark side of health. It is, as it were the shadow. Of course Jung was the person who talked about shadows and shadow imagery. Most of Ford’s information is based on work by Jung. What Ford does is bring that work to relevance in our personal life. It is no longer shadow theory but shadow living. Ford’s exercises in both the book and the workshop are designed to make us use our shadows instead of disowning. If we fear being called a bitch, we might get an exercise that insists we be a bitch once a day for a week. We must go out and find situations that require us to be a bitch. Part of learning to accept the bitch energy is that the bitch isn’t just nasty–she’s powerful. She can get things gone when that has to happen. We no longer have to be nice at the expense of our power. The irony is that when we use our bitch power wisely, we are far less likely to be perceived as “such a bitch” when we aren’t expecting it.

Sickness then is the thing we all try and deny. No one wants to look at it. Yet, in the same way we can’t have thin without fat, we can’t have health without sickness. It’s a continuum and sickness has ended up on the dark side. If we realize that sometimes sickness happens and let it happen, realizing that it’s not a punishment or something we “did” or anything else, we may find that we have less to worry about from sickness.

Unlike many of our internal issues, sickness doesn’t seem to have much to recommend it in the way of strength. It does, however, have a lot to recommend it in the way of making us think about our lives. What is sickness really keeping us from? When we work so hard for health, why aren’t we having fun? Are we living when we work towards health or are we forcing sickness on ourselves by ignoring joy in life? How do we balance our life so that we are not rigidly forcing ourselves away from those things we think are bad for us but give us such pleasure. If we have given up chocolate desserts because they are bad for us, is our life really better after several months without them? Do we still crave them? Is there a way we can have that flavor from time to time to satisfy that longing without making our body sick?

Sickness can bring these questions to the fore and make us re examine our life. It doesn’t feel good but then the examination of life often doesn’t. If we take the time to look at how we live, and really focused on the enjoyment in our life and the balance in our life, maybe our moments of sickness would be less intense.

Certainly that’s not the only reason we get sick, but this is one possible reason. For those with longer term illness, I submit that they are the shadows outside ourselves. They are showing us what we are doing to ourselves as we live this constant fast paced lifestyle.

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Bonnie Koenig has been a licensed acupuncturist since 1999. She is passionate about helping people find real healing and real health. In the process she keeps asking about our attitudes towards sickness and health. Only by being clear on what sickness is, can we ever find health.

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