I remember being ill as a child and having a day off school

I remember getting lots of attention and enjoying it

I remember that I learned how to throw a sickie

I remember throwing one occasionally on purpose…

This was MY experience and my PERCEPTION of events; it doesn’t mean it was my parents!

MY experience, MY perspective, MY perception of events. To ME it was positive learning; an effective strategy that had gotten me what I wanted i.e. it made me successful.

I’m not alone.

Throwing a sickie to get a day off school, or a day at home (they’re not the same thing), is something most children learn to do and that many go on to repeat in adulthood.

Whilst some do it occasionally, for convenience, others pursue it as a sub-conscious strategy for living. 

Using health/ill-health to get what we want is something we LEARN but in a bigger sense, what we actually learn is how to control situations and other people.

Imagine you’re a child feeling lonely and unloved; one day you fall ill and life changes. Imagine the scenario: attention, affection, doctors coming to the house, people concerned about you, buying you presents, letting you sleep on the sofa and so on. As a child it’s a massive, comparative high that ends when the illness ends. 

Under these circumstances, childish logic might say: I like this! I feel good, I feel loved, I don’t want it to end. If I don’t get well it won’t end; life won’t go back to the way it was. Logical isn’t it? 

Children are positively hard-wired to drive life forward not backwards. To set goals, solve problems and succeed in the positive. Setting out to succeed in the negative (i.e. what you don’t want), is something that’s learned not natural because it interferes with survival.

The problem is, that when a child stumbles across a ‘solution’ to a problem, they repeat it. By repeating it they re-enforce and it becomes ‘conditioned in’ (the same way other things get conditioned in, for example, walking, using the toilet or riding a bike).

Conditioning is like brain-washing. It’s ‘virtual’, which means even though it’s a big part of you, you can’t see it and once it’s there it becomes normal. Something you feel you have to defend that you simply can’t live without. Logic doesn’t come into it.

It’s normal to learn how to use health/illness as a tool for succeeding but if you’ve taken it a step further and conditioned it in, adulthood could be a nightmare.

The starting point is becoming aware and recognising if you’ve done so. Take a quiet moment (when you won’t be interrupted), take your time and ask yourself these questions, one at a time. Answer the first before moving on to the next:

What would happen if I WASN’T ill / anxious ?

How would life change?

What would I lose?

What would I be forced to do as a consequence?

Would I want to?

What would happen to me if I was healthy?

These questions are simple to answer on the surface; not so easy if you use them as an exercise  in self-awareness. The more brutally honest you are, the more you’ll get out of the exercise and once you get started, you’ll probably find it’s easier and more rewarding than you think!

Helen Wingstedt

Freeing you From Fear

The Native American Way

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