Why I Disagree With Louise Hay

I often get clients coming through to me with a backache who lift an eyebrow meaningfully at me and say, "financial stress at the moment". Or who come with a bladder infection and shrug resignedly saying, "I know this is because of my fear of letting go" (obviously after having dutifully gone to page 154 of their copy of 'You Can Heal Your Life' by Louis Hay and looked their ailment up in the book's long list of emotional correspondences).

I know that these clients are trying to take some responsibility for their disease and this is understandable, since the popular view is that physical disease has its root in negative emotions and assumes that true healing starts at an emotional level.

The problem with this philosophy is that it tends to place the client under undue stress; logic dictates that if your emotions are causing your disease, you need to change them before full healing can take effect. But emotions are not something that we do. They are something we feel, they are our natural responses to our environment and as such, provide a healthy yardstick for assessing events in our lives.

We only know that we are being mistreated when we start to feel bad in an unhealthy business or personal relationship. We only know that we have mistreated someone else when we get that creeping sense of guilt. Balanced positive and negative emotions are a valuable, valid part of our being; they teach us how to live.

Coming from a New-Agey background in healing, I struggled terribly with this concept of emotional causality while I was studying acupuncture and repeatedly *ahem* needled my teacher with questions such as "Will acupuncture help if the cause of disease is emotional?" and "What if someone has relevant grief - should they receive acupuncture to balance it?" I just couldn't seem to put it all together in my head.

In his ineffable patience, he would give me the same answer every time. "Everything comes from chi (energy)". Eventually I understood, but it took me damn near my whole acupuncture course to truly grasp it.

Which is why I was quite amused to find that another healer had also butted heads with this idea. The healer in question is one Dr David Servan-Schreiber, clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and author of the fascinating book, 'Healing without Freud or Prozac' in which he explores alternative ways of overcoming depression without psychoanalysis or drugs. In the book, he tells the story of how, in his process of discovery, he visited a Tibetan acupuncturist in Dharamsala to ask how depression and anxiety are treated with acupuncture.

"You Westerners," (said the Tibetan healer) "have a vision of emotional problems that's all topsy-turvy. You're always surprised to see that what you call depression or anxiety or stress has physical symptoms. You talk about fatigue, weight gain or loss and irregular heartbeats as if they were physical manifestations of an emotional problem. To us, the opposite is true. Sadness, loss of self-esteem, guilt feelings and the absence of pleasure can be mental manifestations of a physical problem. In truth, both of these views are wrong. Emotional symptoms and physical ones are simply two sides of the same thing: an imbalance in the circulation of energy, the chi."

This is why acupuncture is so effective in treating anxiety, depression and a host of other psycho-emotional disorders. In treating the chi, you bring the whole being into balance - physical, emotional and mental.

As I read this, I thought of how often my teacher had repeated his minimalistic version of that same answer to me. We always want to find some kind of reason for disease - much as we do in an office where some process has gone wrong. We want to know who didn't send the fax, who spilt the coffee on the contract or who took the call that lost the business. But when we think in this way, we develop a false sense of a division in ourselves. It's not one part of the being that makes the other sick; it is the whole being that lives in a state of harmony or becomes disharmonized. The Buddha explained it eloquently and gracefully when he said: "In the sky, there is no distinction of east and west; people create distinctions out of their own minds and then believe them to be true."