Talking to Yourself
Charley Cropley, ND
A Powerful Way to Heal Your Body
Vis Medicatrix Naturae
Each of us longs deeply and authentically for a way to decrease our anxiety and misery. We constantly yearn for ways to benefit ourselves. Even my patients steeped in self-loathing will readily acknowledge that their greatest longing is to be free of their self-hatred and to experience themselves as a good person, worthy of admiration, love, and respect. They simply don’t know how to accomplish this.
You have a primal passion for goodness that is burning within you right this minute. Is it not partly your desire to do good for yourself that is motivating you right now to read this article? Our passion for goodness is the very essence of who we are. As naturopathic doctors, we know this as Vis Medicatrix Naturae – the healing power of nature. Vis is our innate capacity to self-heal – our passionate desire to not suffer, to soothe our angst, and to find real health and happiness.
The human mind can easily turn Vis into a concept, causing it to appear as something mystical – a mysterious power separate from the self, unknowable and inaccessible. However, the Vis is real and directly knowable. And the more successfully we can come to know our own essence, or nature, the more successfully we can guide our patients toward health and happiness.
You are probably aware of experiencing yourself as a variety of different and often conflicting “selves.” The self you most commonly recognize is the ordinary “you” – a struggling human being, doing her best to avoid pain and suffering and to experience health and happiness. That self is constantly searching, desiring this and fearing that, ever grasping and avoiding. Your ordinary self contains all of your finest qualities and all of your worst. She is strong, loving, wise, and courageous. She is also weak, imperfect, and even “bad.” Both aspects of yourself are dissatisfied, unfulfilled, and discontented. Like hamsters on a spinning wheel, each self endlessly chases after what it desires and flees from what it fears.
This ongoing struggle between these 2 aspects of ourselves is commonly portrayed as having an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other, with the 2 “selves” battling for control of our actions. Our body reveals the devastation wrought by the eternal war waged between these 2 “selves.”
At the same time, we know that through our actions we create our own suffering, our own joy, and our state of health. Put another way, our health and happiness depend on our ability to determine our own actions. If we can win this inner war for control of our actions, we can heal from almost any illness and bring about any blessing we desire.
But how do we master our behavior? How do we stop ourselves from doing what we know harms us? How do we get ourselves to do what will promote healing? How do we find the real power to govern our own behavior? Does such power even exist? I feel this is the central question of life and of healing.
There is a third and less commonly recognized self, which can be called your Self-Healer (aka True Self, Authentic Self, or Higher Self). Your Self-Healer is the silent witness of every thought, emotion, and sensation that your ordinary self experiences, including those conflicting selves warring constantly for governance of your actions. Your Self-Healer is the immortal, unchanging knower of the mortal and ever-changing ordinary “you” living in the ordinary world. The nature of your Self-Healer is absolute love, kindness, and compassion; it is the very self-caring instinct that is motivating you to read this article. Because the innate instinct of the Self-Healer is to protect, nourish, and strengthen yourself, it can heal your anxiety and suffering and bring you genuine happiness.
I have thus pointed out 3 distinct selves: your “devil” and “angel,” who war incessantly for control of your behavior, and the silent, caring witness of these 2 warriors.
When working with patients, I teach them first how to become conscious of these 3 selves. I then have them develop a conscious dialogue, particularly between their Self-Healer and their 2 warring selves. It is also possible to become more aware of the largely unconscious dialogue between the 2 warriors, or between either warrior and one’s Self-Healer. I will use my own experience to illustrate here how I engage in dialogue between my Self-Healer and what I’ll call my “Warrior for Health.”
Talking to My Self-Healer
As my Warrior for Health, I converse with my Self-Healer as I would with a normal guy. I call him “dude,” I use my normal language, and I indulge all my moods and emotions. I am as real and unpretentious with him as I can be. After all, he knows everything I think and feel. He is me. I am Him.
I adore him, love him, and tell him so. I say to him, “You are my beloved, the source of all goodness that has ever come to me. You give me my health, my virtue, everything that I most love. You are precious to me beyond all else. You are my true savior. You save me from eating compulsively, being afraid, doing what destroys body and mind. I could not possibly love you more. In this instant, right now, I feel you with me. Though my mind, addicted to materialism, may not get it, I know you are right here with me, invisibly present.”
This is exactly how I talk to Him. In these dialogues I am doing my most creative work. I am working on the cutting edge of calling forth my innate goodness, self-love, and guiding wisdom. I am speaking the highest truth I can possibly conceive of. This is a creative act. I am convincing my own mind that my authentic self, my innate goodness, is actually real. I am becoming a better person through this process of self-dialogue.
I continue, perhaps like this:
“You, you perfectly good and wise being, you are me. I am your servant and your son. Your character, nature, and spirit are my own. I am realizing this more and more. You give me everything worth having. You give me health, happiness, caring relationships, prosperity, dignity, and peace. You are pure Goodness itself, the wisdom and desire to bring forth what is truly beneficial. You are my own Spirit of Goodness. I know you to be real.”
Again I repeat this to deepen my own understanding, “You are my spirit of goodness. Mine. My own. You actually are me and I am you. What we both are is pure goodness.”
Here is how I make this process absolutely real. I say, “I know you hear me. I want right now, in this moment, to invite you into me and to make my present action your present action, an expression of you and your goodness. I want you to become me. I want to be you. So, since there is no other you who is going to mysteriously take over my actions, I now fill this present action with all my power of goodness.”
The above is what my dialogue sounds like coming from Charley to my Self-Healer. I could be working out, talking to a patient, or drying off from a shower as I dialogue.
Listening to My Self-Healer
I also listen for the response of my Self-Healer, knowing that the one responding is none other than me. Here is an example of my Self-Healer speaking to me:
“Charley, thank you for your prayers and for being open to me right now. I love you. I am real and I want above all else for you to feel my love. Feel it. Feel me. Right now. My love has the power to deliver. My greatest joy is in healing your suffering and restoring you to health and happiness. Just as you seek me, I seek you. I am always with you. Before you became aware of me, I was here yearning for you. It is your destiny to be with me and to find healing in becoming one with me.
“I am not imaginary, despite the fact that I speak as your own voice. There is no other voice you can hear inside yourself but your own. Every voice is yours. Likewise, every voice is Mine. Yes, even your coward, lecher, and liar are all Me. But for now, stay open to Me as your own goodness and love. Feel how wonderfully good I am, feel my love for you, and open yourself that I might infuse into you the goodness you long to experience. You can only know Me by accepting Me, by being Me.
“Relax. Accept me now. You need do nothing but accept your own self-healing power. Don’t fall back into being Charley, this historical creature of memory and imagination, this story of strengths and weaknesses, skills and ineptness. Let this old identity go! Do good now. Whatever that looks like, whatever you are doing, offer it, do it, infuse it with goodness. I give you, Charley, the power to do good. You need change nothing you are doing, only allow me to do it. It may be easy. It may be a struggle. I love whatever you do with good intent, with even the most feeble hope of doing good. And, hey, if you are able, why not make it incredibly good? Fabulously good? Great?”
Recognizing My Innate Goodness
I keep going in this dialogue, back and forth. I doubt that there really is such a source of good, and yet I simultaneously know with certainty that there is. Certainty eventually prevails because goodness – my own goodness – is provable beyond any possible doubt, in my direct experience. My desire for goodness is always with me. In the same way as I know that I exist, I know that I am good, that my only desire is to care for myself.
My goodness is innate, inherent, always and already present. Goodness is my nature; it is who I am. In any moment I can check in and discover anew that I am hoping and yearning for good for myself in some way. I am wanting to experience benefit, to feel better, to taste, think, feel something that feels caring, kind, and beneficial to me.
Thus, this dialogue deepens my understanding of my own goodness. I experience that I genuinely do want to do good for myself and that I genuinely do not want to do what harms me. This more accurate perception of myself leads naturally and infallibly to beneficial actions. I am strengthened in my desire, intention, and – in a word – my power to do good. And my power to do good is my power to self-heal.
The Work of Self-Healing
This is exactly what my patients come to me for. They want to heal their very real maladies, whether it’s their colitis, diabetes, or heart problems. I help them understand that the causes of their disease often lie in their unhealthy ways of eating, moving, thinking, and relating. As they engage the work of mastering their self-harming behaviors, they face what feels like insurmountable challenges. They try and fail repeatedly. This is not because they’re weak, lazy, or incapable, and certainly not because they don’t criticize themselves enough. Rather, they have not yet learned how to access their own power to do good, their innate power to self-heal.
The essential work of healing comes down to this work of finding and increasing your power to do good and to do it in the most practical of ways: to eat this and stop eating that; to move your body in this manner and not that; to think these thoughts and not those; to desire this and not that; to speak this and not that; to allow love to be made manifest in the actions of your own flesh and blood. You unite God and Man; your Self-Healer, and your ordinary, struggling self. This is Healing.
Trace back your own power to do good to its very source, and you find that the source is none other than you, yourself. You want to do good for yourself. You want to heal your suffering. Goodness is your very own nature. You are self-healing. You yourself are the power to do good, to bring forth real health and happiness, to free yourself from suffering, to give yourself every good thing you desire. You are your own self-healer.
I want to leave you with some final questions: Who is the self that is aware of both the ordinary self and the authentic self? Are you really 2 or 3 distinct selves? Is it even possible to be more than 1 self? Who are you, really?
This core question, “Who am I?” cannot be answered intellectually; it confounds the mind. It can only be answered by you, the knower of your mind. “Who am I?” is a living question. You live this question. Who is asking this question? Who is saying right now that he is confused and doesn’t know the answer? Your attempts to answer these questions take you beyond your mind.
Pause from time to time amid these dialogues between your authentic self and your ordinary self and ask yourself, “Who am I?” Am I my ordinary self? My authentic self? Neither? Both? Am I the witness?
Don’t expect an answer. Allow the questioning to enrich your life by deepening your understanding of yourself. The more you understand yourself, the better you understand how good you are. Your quest for self-understanding will help you realize how sincerely and authentically you long to care for yourself, and how enormous is your power to do the unique kind of good that you want to do for yourself and others.
Charley Cropley, ND, graduated from National College of Naturopathic Medicine in 1979. He has been a practicing naturopathic doctor, teacher, and author in the Boulder/Denver area for the last 35 years. Dr Cropley has trained hundreds of doctors in his methods of nutrition and Self-Healing. He is the author of numerous articles, several books, and courses. Dr Cropley frequently lectures at the colleges of naturopathic medicine, and is widely regarded as one of today’s leading thinkers and teachers in the philosophy and practice of Self-Healing. His methods of Self-Healing are complementary and strengthen all forms of medicine and therapy.