I have a new monthly blog series over at the Rewiring your Wellness website called Excavating your Essence. It focuses on separating identity from illness, which can become muddied when you experience chronic health conditions. My goal is to offer tips to create more separation and destinction between the two, the support the unfolding of healing. I will be archiving the entries here as well, so you can expect more on that topic here each month.
Below is the first segment of this exploration. I’d love your thoughts and feedback in the comments if any information here resonates or is of benefit to you!
The path that leads others into the world of brain retraining isn’t always the same, but it tends to be similar.
When you receive a diagnosis, it is a natural response to seek support. One such outlet are support groups that focus on the condition. That was my primary support base for dealing with the things that eventually led me to brain retraining. However, something I noticed about these spaces was that they really weren’t solutions-focused, but more problem-based. I felt validated finally knowing I wasn’t alone, but I didn’t feel like I was being led anywhere else—more often just walking in circles, still lost, and still reinforcing the idea that I was broken.
The support groups were not typically sources of the kind of support that promoted healing.
It felt more like a communal identity around the condition. The diagnoses on their own were dehumanizing— and the environment of the support groups also felt that way as the condition was the primary focus, and I felt stripped of myself and everything else my life could be.
When you build an identity around a condition or symptom, it reinforces to the brain that it’s important.
Likewise, if you use possessive pronouns such as “my” to reference symptoms, it also makes a subsconcious link to your identity. These seemingly subtle things can hold emotional weight when it comes to rewiring or promoting neuroplasticity and healing, pulling closer towards the condition.
This is why it’s common practice within brain retraining programs to dehumanize the condition, rather than yourself—you’re taught to step into empowerment already with the simple adjustment of word choices. Words hold a lot of power in our thoughts and in the chemistry that is produced from the emotional attachment to our thoughts.
The brain may be resistant to change or detach from the condition, because it still perceives it as a part of you.
You are not the symptoms. Symptoms are merely messengers. They are a part of the experience, not the identity. If the system is dysregulated, they can be false messages or disorganized attempts to signal for restoration. Restoration, in this sense, means restorative neurochemistry—not necessarily rest, but something that will counter any stress chemistry that may be exceeding what the body is able to effectively counter or regulate.
Mood elevating or grounding practices can be a great way to achieve this—plus they shift the focus back on your essence, returning to the body as a safe container that houses a soul that finds joy in hobbies or other favored interests.
Remembering or finding that person unlocks a greater capacity to heal.
If you’ve experienced health conditions longer than you’ve experienced health or wellness, you may not be aware of an identity separate from them.
Here are some journal prompts that might bring more clarity and focus in that direction.
Who are you without limitations?
Who do you desire to be?
What does recovery look like to you?
What does it feel like?
Where will it take you?
What lifestyle or dreams do you seek as reality?
What is the destination, beyond recovery itself?
You may not have all the answers for these yet—that’s okay! I encourage you to simply focus your attention on developing that part of the story. I know when I first got to the path of brain retraining, my only concern was getting rid of the symptoms. The truth is, that’s only part of the process. Finding who you are without them and stepping into the power of possibility is the larger part of the journey.
Until next time. 💗
Well said, Alina. I had a similar experience with diagnosis-based support groups that were very symptom-focused, and in fact resistant to the idea of recovery. And with some medical personnel who define people by their condition. I was unwilling to take on and be reduced to the labels I was given, and there were many! This is a great topic and I look forward to the rest of the series.
I can’t wait to start answering these questions!
Alina, I’ve been doing DNRS for 10 months to rewire my brain, and it’s been so helpful. I’ve definitely experienced limbic system resistance as I become THE REAL ME (apart from my symptoms). It’s not an easy journey, but it’s been wonderfully life-changing. The journal prompts you provide here are AWESOME. These really capture the larger goal of brain retraining — BECOMING THE REAL YOU. I can’t wait to answer these prompts in my journal! Thanks!