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Alternatives For Healing

Common Illnesses and Their Hidden Meanings

Excerpt from "Healing Happens With your Help"

by Carol Ritberger, PhD

The following excerpt is taken from the book Healing Happens with Your help, by Carol Ritberger, Ph.D. It is published by Hay House (February 1, 2008) and available at all bookstores or online at: www.hayhouse.com.

There are three basic needs we all have in common no matter what our gender, age, conditioning, or personality type:

1. To grow and express ourselves

2. To connect with other people and feel loved

3. To feel secure and in control of our lives

Whenever any of these needs aren’t being met, either individually or collectively, illness is the outcome. It’s that simple.

Yet uncovering why there’s a lack takes time, and when we’re dealing with an illness, just aren’t feeling well, or are mentally overwhelmed, we don’t always feel we have the time to stop and try to figure out the reasons. This is when a doctor, therapist, medical intuitive, or holistic practitioner can help. However, as we’ve discussed throughout this book, these individuals really can’t heal us. The best they can do is to help us understand why we aren’t getting what we should and offer suggestions for how we can. It’s then up to us to do the work.

Knowing that illness is the result of any of these three needs not being met makes it easier to hone in on what we need to do in order to heal ourselves. In fact, it takes everything in this book to the next level. How? First of all, it reduces illness to three categories:

1. The needs of the soul: to grow and express itself

2. The needs of the body: to connect with other people and to feel loved

3. The needs of the mind: to feel secure and in control of life

Second, it provides a much needed short-term reprieve when the mind is overwhelmed and fixated on the symptoms of the body.

Sure, at some point in time we’ll still need to dig into our psychological coffers to clean up the remnants of our past thoughts, perceptions, emotions, attitudes, beliefs, and core themes that are the root cause of illness to ensure they won’t continue to resurface and affect our health and lives. However, classifying illnesses into one of these three categories not only shifts how we approach healing, but actually accelerates the process. Instead of having to spend time dredging up the past, now we can focus on discovering what we need to give to our soul, mind, and body so that all three will once again work in a cooperative healthy manner and homeostasis can be restored.

Here’s a clue to help you expedite the process of uncovering the needs: Be in the present moment, because only then will you become aware of what you need to change in order to give the soul, mind, and body what they need.

What Illness Reveals

The illnesses listed here focus on the negatives in emotions, attitudes, beliefs, and core themes. These are the psychological contributors behind illness and are responsible for the three needs not being met. If the positives outweighed the negatives then our well-being wouldn’t be compromised. Having stated that, a few disclaimers are in order.

It’s important to note there’s an element of illness that I haven’t addressed here: genetics and how that factor increases the potential for illness, especially specific conditions such as diabetes, thyroid disorders, heart disease, strokes, and cancer. As you’re looking at the contributors of illness, this certainly needs to be a top consideration. However, I believe that a family history of illnesses doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll develop them. With the right preventive measures—both physical and mental—it’s possible to not experience the same ailments as your relatives.

The following descriptions of illnesses and their psychological interpretations are general in nature and should be considered as a basic understanding of the hidden meanings behind the associated condition. Consequently, their descriptions may not directly match a symptom or a disorder that you’re currently experiencing. Keep in mind that everyone is unique, so considerations have been taken to preserve and honor that. Rather than seeing the information as being inclusive and an absolute representation, see it as a starting place instead.

The descriptions aren’t intended to define why we become ill or make us feel bad about ourselves. We all have dysfunctions because they’re the nature of conditioning. In fact, I heard a quote once that summed it up perfectly: “Anytime we have interaction with anyone other than ourselves, there’s bound to be dysfunction.”

My intention behind presenting this information is to shift the perception of illness and help open the doorways of the mind so that we can catch a glimpse of what we’re holding in our psychological coffers. Once those portals are open, it’s up to each of us to decide what to do with the knowledge.

To do this, the following pages offer a general description of each illness, the psychological implications, the associated emotions, the needs behind the condition, and the changes necessary to remove the hidden meanings. The descriptions are written in a way that speaks to the inner healer within each of us. Just reading the information will connect us with the needs of the soul, mind, and body. Amazingly, sometimes that’s all it takes to heal.


General description: Asthma is an inflammation in the bronchial tubes triggered by allergens such as smoke, chemical toxins, animal dander, molds, and food additives. It can be activated by a cold, flu, stress, adrenal exhaustion, hypoglycemia, low thyroid, or high salt intake. It can also be set off by food allergies to wheat, corn, and dairy products.

Psychological implications: There’s a tendency to worry and live with a low-grade level of anxiety that something bad is going to happen. When not fretting about the future, asthmatics tend to dwell in the past with all of the failures, bad times, and negative events that happened to them—and that support their need to worry. They tend to bury their emotions and are unwilling to express their needs. They create codependent relationships, yet become resentful and feel stifled—even feel smothered—by their partners. They look to others to make their decisions for fear of making bad ones, and then they resent the same people for trying to control them. They’re sullen and feel guilty about almost everything. That’s because they believe it’s their fault when things go wrong.

Associated emotions: Grief, disappointment, resentment, anger, guilt, and shame

The needs behind the illness: Soul—to grow and to express ourselves

What to change: Attitudes

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)

General description: Once considered primarily caused by the general fatigue that comes from overworking or prolonged bouts of stress, research now shows that this syndrome is actually the result of an autoimmune system disorder that interestingly affects more women than men. While not conclusive, it’s believed that the cause is the Epstein-Barr virus, which is responsible for mononucleosis, as both share many of the same symptoms.

Psychological implications: The most common underlying cause associated with chronic fatigue syndrome is the frustration that comes from being mentally overloaded and never having the time to do what’s important. Sufferers experience what Dr. Stephen Covey, the author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, calls the “urgency addiction,” meaning they’re driven by the need to do what’s pressing rather than doing what’s important. Those with CFS consistently expressed that before their illness they felt that their lives were out of control, they were overscheduled, they experienced emotional numbness, and they seemed to run from one thing to another without ever having the time to enjoy life. They complained that people drained them of energy, always taking and never giving back. They didn’t have the time to do what they loved. Instead, they spent their time responding to the demands of others. They suffer from what I call the “NO Syndrome,” meaning the inability to say no when someone needs their help. They seem to have difficulty delegating tasks and responsibilities and believe that if they don’t do things personally, nothing will be done right or on time.

Associated emotions: Anger, resentment, frustration, anxiety, irritability, fear of betrayal

The needs behind the illness: Mind—to feel secure and in control of our lives

What to change: Thoughts


General description: Depression usually occurs when there’s a disruption in life’s normal balance, a loss, conflict, or trauma, and rather than being a single illness or condition, it’s believed to be the result of group of mood disorders that strike with varying intensity. The medical cause is difficult to pinpoint, however if looked at psychologically, there are specific predictable thoughts and emotions.

Psychological implications: Sufferers’ perception of the world is that people and life have let them down, and they have no one to support them emotionally. They feel alone and abandoned and display the behavior of being a victim of circumstances. They feel that they have no control over what happens to them. They are reactionary rather than being in charge of their journeys. They harbor the perceptions that everything is against them and being alive isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Their world shrinks as they pull inward and their enthusiasm to engage in life may become nonexistent. Everything is a hassle, too difficult, or not worth the effort. They feel empty inside and void of emotions.

Associated emotions: Grief, sadness, sorrow, despair, helplessness, hopelessness

The needs behind the illness: Body—to connect with other people and feel loved

What to change: Patterns

Diabetes Mellitus

General description: This is a disorder in which the blood levels of glucose (sugar) are abnormally high because the body doesn’t release or use insulin adequately. There are two types: type 1 and type 2, the most common. People with type 1 produce little or no insulin at all. In type 2, the pancreas continues to manufacture insulin, but the body develops a resistance to its effects, resulting in a deficiency. Obesity and family genetics increase the risk of type 2 diabetes.

Psychological implications: These individuals have a feeling that the sweetness of life is slipping away and their burdens are overriding their ability to enjoy it. This causes a tendency to look to other things to feed the discontentment they feel inside, which is food in many cases. Yet the foods that fill their psychological cravings aren’t necessarily those that support the health of the body. The psychological roots underlying diabetes are associated with the feelings of lack—of passion, love, happiness, joy, abundance, hope, and the ability to find and enjoy simple pleasures. They tend to long for what was and live in the past. They express a deep dissatisfaction with life. In many cases, they believe that they don’t deserve to have their needs met and see themselves as not being worthy of the pleasures that life offers. They feel bitter and unhappy, causing them to suffer from low self-worth and self-esteem.

Associated emotions: Grief, sadness, sorrow, guilt, worry, apathy, bitterness, hopelessness

The needs behind the illness: Soul—to grow and express ourselves; body—to connect with other people and feel loved

What to change: Attitudes and patterns

High Cholesterol

General description: Cholesterol is a fat-related substance that’s naturally produced by the body and is essential for normal functions such as creating new cells, insulating nerves, and manufacturing hormones. The liver is responsible for making all of the cholesterol the body needs. Genetics, poor metabolism, chronic inflammation, and overindulgence in artery-clogging foods contribute to elevated levels. There are two kinds of cholesterol: HDL or good cholesterol and LDL/ VLDL or bad cholesterol. VLDL is responsible for transporting triglycerides—sugar-related blood fats which usually appear on the thighs and hips.

Psychological implications: These individuals are angry inside and have trust issues. They believe that people don’t care about them and are just using them. They have insecurity issues about loss—of money, jobs, material items, and health. There’s a tendency for cynicism, suspicion, prejudice, and paranoia. They’re overly critical, judgmental, opinionated, and unrealistic in their expectations. They easily become angry, frustrated, and disgusted when others don’t listen to their suggestions or do what they think is right. They’re slow to forgive and tend to stew inside rather than expressing their emotions. They’re prone to melancholy and bouts of depression. When in these states, they’re “doom and gloom” people and have difficulty saying anything positive or see any goodness in the world. They focus on problems and dwell on them to the point of exaggeration. They have difficulty finding joy in life. They’re high-strung, overly ambitious, overindulgent, overloaded, and overworked. They’re rarely satisfied with where they are.

Associated emotions: Anger, guilt, shame, resentment

The needs behind the illness: Mind—to feel secure and in control of life

What to change: Thoughts


General description: Insomnia encompasses a variety of sleep disturbances such as difficulty drifting off, frequent awakenings, difficulty going back to sleep, and waking up too early.

Psychological implications: There are three major fears that contribute to insomnia:

1. Fear of the unknown (lack of control)

2. Fear about survival (safety and security)

3. Fear of abandonment (not feeling loved)

People with insomnia tend to struggle with trust issues, although more so with themselves than others. This creates an attitude of discontentment and unhappiness. Things are never right or the way they should be, or they never have enough, whether it’s time or money. They’re emotionally frazzled and easily become overwhelmed with details. They have a never-ending task list, and no matter how hard they try, they can never seem to get a handle on all that needs to be done. This monumental to-do list eats them up, which in turn weakens their immune system, leaving them vulnerable to chronic stress-related illnesses. Their common complaint is that they don’t have balance in their life. Stress is the norm, and when they do have any discretionary time, they fill it up with chores rather than relaxation.

Associated emotions: Grief, fear, worry, resentment

The needs behind the illness: Mind—to feel secure and in control of our lives

What to change: Thoughts

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

General description: This is a chronic inflammation where the membranes of the colon become irritated, causing abdominal cramps; sharp stabbing pains; or problems with constipation, diarrhea, indigestion, gas, bloating, belching, or nausea. Dietary changes are the best treatment.

Psychological implications: Stress is a major contributor to IBS, as is chronic worrying. Sufferers tend to be nervous and anxious about life. They have high expectations of themselves that they can never seem to meet, so there’s always the element of disappointment. They’re self-critical and have trouble digesting change. Fear of failure is paramount, and control is a big issue for them. They micromanage time, tasks, other people’s activities, and even their own schedules because they’re afraid that things will fall apart if they relinquish control. They’re bossy, domineering, irritable, and difficult to please and can suffer from obsessive-compulsive behavior. Emotionally, they’re unpredictable and can be moody, pensive, and volatile. It’s difficult for other people to know what’s going on with them because they’re unwilling to share how they’re feeling or what they’re thinking. They push and push and can never seem to leave well enough alone. They can be confrontational and aggressive when unhappy with themselves.

Associated emotions: Frustration, worry, guilt, rage, anger, disappointment

The needs behind the illness: Body—to connect with other people and feel loved; mind—to feel secure and in control of our lives

What to change: Patterns and thoughts


General description: A migraine is a headache that’s characterized by throbbing, aching pain on one side of the head coupled with nausea, chills, vomiting, weakness, visual disturbances, and dizziness. They can be genetic or caused by food allergies, MSG, artificial sweeteners, hormone imbalances, weather changes, or a deficiency of serotonin.

Psychological implications: Sufferers tend to be overly ambitious, hard charging, self-critical, sensitive to criticism, continually anxious, and likely to suppress their emotions. It’s as though they’re pots that are ready to boil over and always in a state of tension. They get overwhelmed with the responsibilities of life and at times just want to disassociate themselves from everyone. They’re easily blindsided by other people’s actions and feel left in the dark about what’s happening around them. They live with the fear of rejection and abandonment. They’re perfectionists and believe they have to prove themselves so that they’ll be needed and liked. They’re easily frustrated and get angry almost to the point of rage when anyone expects them to do something without giving them the information or tools needed to make it happen. They dislike others telling them what to do or how to do it or bossing them around.

Associated emotions: Anger, rage, resentment, frustration, disdain, disgust, dread, shame

The needs behind the illness: Soul—to grow and express ourselves; mind—to feel secure and in control of our lives

What to change: Attitudes and thoughts

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