My son has been ‘snotty’ and ‘stuffed up’ for about 6 weeks. This is extremely unusual for my family and I always face my ego with illness, I take that ‘wound’ very deeply as a Naturopathic mother and when illness lingers I punish myself with internal dialogue like:
What are you missing?
What are you not doing?
Where are you failing and 'dropping balls'?
I am also aware that this punishing 'old programming' of mine is designed to bring me back into alignment with a top value of mine; Health.
Often, when health has 'taken a back seat', illness arrises and I re-prioritise my life to get back into alignment with it. So Illness serves, I know this, it's all feedback, and beyond my value realignment it serves to get other needs met within my family dynamic.
So I’ve been focused on rest, supplementation and diet; good quality, nutritionally dense foods, meeting possible nutritional deficiencies that lead to these symptoms and reducing sugar – all of which I discuss with my son. Still his illness wasn’t moving. DAMN IT!
When my 'old toolkit' of health isn't enough to shift illness, I begin seeking for other emotional causes, the perfection in this situation:
What is the unmet need?
What is it trying to wake me and him up to?
What is our dynamic here?
This week my son was ‘caught’ at 9.30pm playing on his iPod – 2 hours past his bedtime. I was at a kinder meeting, so it was his dad who discovered it and with frustration said we would discuss it when I was home. Everyone went to sleep.
Heath woke the next morning sicker, snottier and more tired than ever before.
By Wednesday it had moved to his left ear and he was now fighting an ear infection. Despite having spent Wednesday home resting, by Thursday it had moved to both ears.
“OKAY! THAT’S ENOUGH!” I stated defiantly over breakfast Thursday morning. Time to take the bull by the horns….so I opened up a conversation that, as yet, I haven’t really introduced to my kids, assuming they wouldn’t understand...
“You know Heath, illness and symptoms can be caused by physical stuff, like we don’t have the right nutrients or body function, and sometimes illness and symptoms can be caused by how we feel.
How we feel can be so powerful, it manifests in different ways in our physical body.
For instance, blocked ears would tend to indicate that person doesn’t want to hear something….”
“Is that really ‘a thing’?” he asked me.
“Yes, it really is” I said. He looked me in the eyes and smiled cheekily. It was the look of recognition, I knew there was something here resonating with him so I continued.
“So Heath, I’m wondering what you don’t want to hear?”
Without hesitation he answered “I don’t want to hear about my iPod and the consequences”.
I smiled. Yes. Unfortunately, we hadn’t managed all three of us together for this iPod chat as yet, so we hadn’t addressed it, and here he was with it hanging over his head, giving him a legitimate headache and the more he stewed over it and built it up and ran from it, the less he wanted to hear about it, to the point of blocking out his ability to.
“Okay, how about we talk about it now, even though dad’s not here, so its not hanging over your head creating blockages and headaches?” I suggested. “Ugh, okay” he replied somewhat reluctantly.
We discussed what had happened, we discussed the choices he’d made and we discussed the ownership of ‘the fallout’; the impact and damage it had caused to those around him.
Knowing this drill so well, he knew the answers, he just really didn’t want to own the impact of his choices on his relationship with his dad and their trust, he didn’t know how to repair it and he wasn’t willing to ‘own it’ with his dad and ask what he needed to feel better about it.
He wanted me to create the consequence. He wanted me to come up with the repair ideas. He wanted me to create the ‘pay back’ so he didn't have to, and in doing this he would avoid deep vulnerability. He wanted to run from the pain of really feeling into the impact of his actions. The vulnerability of owning the 'natural consequences' of his choices was so painful for him, he wanted to do anything except go there, so he began shutting down.
I answered all of this unspoken emotional need for him with this:
“You know mate, I will never ground you.
I won’t punish you through consequence.
Because you are already punishing yourself enough.
You know the pain you’re feeling inside, you know those funky feelings, the dread in your heart and stomach, the story you’ve played in your head that you don’t like?
That’s all you punishing yourself for something you don’t feel in alignment with.
I don’t need to add to your punishment.
BUT. I WILL make sure you own your choices. I don’t really care if you make a bad choice, but if you do, you have to be willing to fully own up to those people your choice affected and repair the damage you’ve created. No different to a house needing repairs, so do relationships.”
Still he didn’t want to ring his dad and he didn’t want to come up with how to repair the damage. So it ended in a stale-mate. I knew he'd shut down enough he was no longer active in the conversation, so I was talking to a brick wall. I needed now to give him time to 'go into his cave' and come back into alignment before he'd come back to me. To his credit, this is exactly what he did; he went outside and shot some hoops, I went and read (my way back to balance).
Before bed he came to me and said “my throat hurts now”, but I was irritated, so I responded with “I don’t’ want to hear about it Heath, I don’t want to hear how you’re getting worse because you wont’ take ownership of what’s making you worse”….not my finest parenting moment, but he did understand that connection.
What I wish I’d responded with is “Well, what aren’t you speaking about that’s making your throat hurt?”….it would have been yet another opportunity in teaching him to link his emotional self to his physical self.
The next morning he woke up with one ear unblocked. “We’re half way there Heath!” I exclaimed, “we’ve half-had the conversation so one of your ears in unblocked. Would you like to finish the conversation so you can unblock your other ear?”
We sat down together and continued the conversation, this time his dad was there.
It was hard, it was slow, but eventually Heath looked at his dad and said through tears “dad, I’m really sorry I snuck my iPod and played it after bedtime, I know I’ve hurt our relationship and our trust and I don’t know how to make it up to you…”.
Ahhhh, overwhelming compassion and love flooded my body. I could see his dad’s body soften and open up to his son. I met Heath with his tears “you know mate, the fact that you’re crying says to us that you’re really speaking from your heart and that you feel the full weight of owning your choices. We love that you can face your discomfort and pain enough to speak from your heart. When you do this the person you’ve hurt feels heard and open-hearted towards you”.
It was then his dad’s turn. With immense softness he said thank you to Heath for his apology and then he chose not to offer an act of service. He chose to explain to Heath that what he wanted most of all was for Heath to show up in their relationship with acts that inspire trust, not those that break it. If they can maintain a relationship like that, where they’re honest with each other, even when they muck up, that’s all he wants.
So after all this running from consequence, in the end there was none, other than those self-imposed ones of avoidance and ownership.
The next day Heath was infinitely better. His energy back, his ears unblocked, his headache and sore throat gone.
Our body is always working FOR us, not against us, even when ‘common sense’ suggests that the very presence of illness is dysfunctional. There is absolute function in our dysfunction. Our body is constantly talking to us and for us. There are benefits in our evolution, in our growth, in the function of our relationships and family dynamics, there are conversations and moments that illness exposes us to that otherwise we wouldn’t have. It’s all love.
What is yours revealing to you?
If you're ready to really understand the function within your 'dysfunction' come and join us for 5 interactive weeks in June for our Loathing to Loving Program.
Julie Tenner is Co-founder of Nourishing The Mother and is The Pleasure Nutritionist. Julie is a Naturopath, specialising in women’s and children's health, with specific focus on awakening women to their full potential – health for the mind, body and soul – creating lasting life change for you and your family by “coming home” to your magnificence.