The Book: You Can Heal Your Life. Louise Hay. Hay House Publishing, 1984.
The meaty part of the book is structured like a series of sessions you might have had with Louise Hay, who, besides being the fairy godmother of self-help, wrote in a voice that sounds like your sweet great auntie who would pinch you on the cheek and give you chocolates.
Then she smacks you upside the head with exercises and affirmations. Why? Because you don’t love yourself enough. They’re gentle, loving smacks, though, and probably necessary.
Each chapter has as its epigraph an affirmation that you’re supposed to use as you work through that chapter. I may need to unearth my Post-Its and add some of these to the affirmations already stuck in random places around my apartment.
The first chapter of this section, “What Is the Problem” starts with the affirmation that “It is safe to look within.” Then there are some “things that don’t work,” : “My Body Doesn’t Work,” “My Relationships Don’t Work,” “My Finances Don’t Work,” “My Life Doesn’t Work” (pp. 13-14). Well, that resonates!
The whole point of this chapter is that to solve a problem, you must first identify the problem, which, incidentally, I firmly believe. So, how do you do that?
The very first one is called, “I should…” You write that on a piece of paper and then write 5-6 ways you could finish that sentence. NOTE: I didn’t actually read the instructions very carefully when I did the exercise, because I wrote down 28. There or some real gems on this list, like these:
- …have a six-pack.
- …live in a big house.
- …have life/career/love/money all figured out and taken care of by now.
- …read the classics.
- …be perfect.
The second part is to say each one and ask yourself, “Why?”. Here are some of my answers.
- …because that’s the societal definition of male attractiveness.
- …because “happy” people live in big houses.
- …because 40 is on the horizon and getting closer with alarming speed.
- …because smart people have read the classics and I want to be a smart person.
- …because…because…well, I don’t really have a good answer for that except that somewhere, very early in my life, I picked up the notion that less than perfect = not good enough.
Next, you say, “If I really wanted to, I could [fill in the blank with a should].” In a real session, Louise would have asked, “Why don’t you?” It’s not explicit, but you’re meant to do that for yourself. So, why don’t I:
- have a six-pack? I’m still figuring out how to get there (I haven’t given up on this one yet!)
- live in a big house? It seems insane to me to go hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars into debt to live in a big house, and I don’t at present have the kind of balance in my bank account to just go out and buy one (I haven’t entirely given up on this one yet, either).
- have life/career/love/money all figured out by now? I’m pretty sure I couldn’t have these things figured out by now, without having lived an entirely different life up until this point. But I’m working on figuring them out (and lucky you, you get to hear aaaallllll about it!). I’m not giving up on this one.
- read the classics? Uhm…I realized that I’m not really all that interested in reading them just because they’re classics. I’ll read the ones I want to, like the Divine Comedy, and skip over the ones I don’t, like War and Peace.
- be perfect? This one I have to give up on, probably grudgingly, after some struggle. I know it’s not possible, despite what my brain tells me.
After doing the exercise, Louise talks more about loving the self and how that’s really the cure for what ails you.
The chapter ends with another exercise: “Pick up a small mirror, look into [your] own eyes, and say [your] name and ‘I love you and accept you exactly as you are'” (19).
As a very vain person, I happen to have several mirrors, including one of those double-sided ones with a regular mirror and a magnifying mirror. I dutifully brought it to the sofa where I like to do stuff, looked in my eyes and said, “Oh dear God it’s time for botox.” Perhaps this exercise is better not done late in the evening, in strange side light, on a day when you feel and look particularly haggard.
I tried again. I picked up the mirror, looked in my eyes, and then looked around to make sure no one was watching me. In my apartment, where I live alone and there are very few places to hide.
I tried yet again. This time I got through it, but it was grudgingly done, and quite frankly, felt ridiculous. I kept going until I was able to be serious, if not fully believe myself. This mirror exercise is hard. I’ll have to keep doing it until it feels natural.
“It is safe to look within.” Probably true, but damn it’s uncomfortable.
Next Time: Another session with Louise and You Can Heal Your Life!