Christiane Northrup, M.D.
If you watched my newest PBS special, Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom, you heard me talk about the power of naming your needs. Here’s an excerpt from the revised edition of my book Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom that gives you a little bit more information on this important topic.
A first step toward making a positive change in your life or your health is to name your current experience and allow yourself to feel it fully—that means emotionally, spiritually, and physically. Back in the 1980s, it was crucial for me to see how often I used the caretaker and rescuer role as a way to get my need for recognition and reward met. It was crucial for me to name this behavior “relationship addiction.” Before I did this, I looked to others to affirm me and tell me that I was okay. I took their cues for how to act, feel, and look; I was always seeing myself in terms of other people. I believed that if I said no to someone who needed me, I wouldn’t be valued and loved. Looking back over my life, I see not only how persistent this pattern has been but also how much it has improved through insight and behavior change. My own life and health have improved enormously as a result of naming and changing this behavior. Simple. Not easy.
I came to see that my tendency to rescue people in need, my acquiescence to others, and my saying yes to everyone came out of my attempt to exercise a form of control: I believed that if I said yes, I would earn their love and approval. This wasn’t good either for me or for them, since by putting myself in the position of being other people’s rescuer, a substitute for their own higher power or inner guidance, I allowed them to remain out of touch with their own strengths. My behavior actually helped to create victims who needed me. Now when someone says he or she needs me, a red ﬂag immediately goes up. I wait, check out the situation, and see what my inner guidance tells me before I decide how to respond. I’ve learned that if my answer is not an immediate and joyful yes, then almost always it should be a no.
Christiane Northrup, M.D.
One Sunday morning I was watching CBS This Morning, one of my favorite programs, and learned that Greg Mortenson, the author of the bestselling book Three Cups of Tea and the more recent Stones into Schools, was going to be a guest on Face the Nation, a show I rarely watch. (I find that watching politicians on television is not particularly good for my health.) I decided to stay tuned. And I was completely uplifted.
You probably know Mortenson’s story. After climbing (the mountain) K2 in Pakistan 17 years ago, he was resting up in a local village and was inspired to do something to help educate the local children. He has since started 150 schools, some in Taliban areas, and has helped thousands of children get an education, most of them girls. Along the way, he has also been kidnapped, threatened, and vilified even by individuals in the United States, following the terrorist attacks of 9/11.
The moment that really got my attention during the interview was the fact that Mortenson’s book, which is all about establishing relationships, is now required reading for all senior military commanders (and other military personnel). Mortenson said this came about because the wives of the some of the top generals had read the book and then asked their husbands to read it. (That’s how I got my very first PBS special. My producer’s wife read Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom and asked her husband to contact me to get the information on television.) I was reminded of the line in My Big Fat Greek Wedding when the wife says, “The man may be the head of the household, but the woman is the neck, and she can turn the head anyway she wants.”
As I listened to Mortenson, I was struck by the fact that his effectiveness, over the long haul, came first from his absolute commitment to his goal and second from his knowledge of what it takes to establish relationships that work. Before we do anything, he says, we need to have those relationships in place. He also said, “It’s not about helping people. It’s about empowering them. You need local buy in. You’ve got to get the elders involved.”
I couldn’t help but see how this same approach also applies to improving the health of a community or your family. You set a goal and then, over time, work toward relationships with schools, restaurants, and grocery stores to help you reach your goals. We’re so much more effective when we work as a team than when we are as a voice crying in the wilderness.
As Bob Schieffer interviewed Mortenson, he shared this statistic: Ten years ago, there were 800,000 children in school in Afghanistan; now over 8 million children are in school in Afghanistan, including 2.8 million females. The way I see it, if Mortenson can help thousands and thousands of girls in Pakistan and Afghanistan get an education, imagine what we can do in our own back yards? My mind reels with the possibilities.
Christiane Northrup, M.D.
For many, many years, I have said affirmations every day. They work along with the Law of Attraction and help to change your vibrational output. Because of the Law of Attraction, this vibrational output draws the people and circumstances into your life based on your thoughts and beliefs. They can be used for every area of your life. So if you are about to embark on a new career, if you want to begin to live a healthier lifestyle, or if you want to update or upgrade your relationships, and so forth, I suggest saying affirmations. It’s a subtle but powerful way to receive support from the universe—plus it feels good. And that is the beginning of all positive changes! When you can hold the feeling that an affirmation brings, it will change your point of attraction for the better.
Here are some of my favorite affirmations to encourage new beginnings, happiness, joy, and prosperity.
I am health, strength, peace, happiness, and prosperity.
Divine love, expressing through me, now draws to me all that is needed to make me happy and my life complete.
My life is unfolding perfectly, in ways that are enchanting, exciting, and uplifting.
I love taking care of my body. My body responds so beautifully to this care.
I am magnetic to wealth and health.
When I say YES to myself and my needs, my energy always increases and I feel wonderful.
I awaken each morning feeling the promise of a new day and a new beginning.
I love moving my body. I love getting stronger and more flexible every day.
Christiane Northrup, M.D.
The holidays are a crucible for relationship meltdowns. Loved ones with differing expectations, familial patterns, and needs get together to create a “Hallmark moment.” Even in the best of circumstances, this can be a set up for dysfunction and stress. At midlife, it can be even tougher. I wrote about this in the newly revised edition of The Wisdom of Menopause, which will be available in January 2012.
“It is no secret that relationship crises are a common side effect of menopause. Usually this is attributed to the crazy-making effects of the hormonal shifts occurring in a woman’s body at this time of transition. What is rarely acknowledged or understood is that as these hormone-driven changes affect the brain, they give a woman a sharper eye for inequity and injustice, and a voice that insists on speaking up about them. In other words, they uncover hidden wisdom—and the courage to voice it. As the vision-obscuring veil created by the hormones of reproduction begins to lift, a woman’s youthful fire and spirit are often rekindled, together with long-sublimated desires and creative drives. Midlife fuels those drives with a volcanic energy that demands an outlet.
“If it does not find an outlet—if the woman remains silent for the sake of keeping the peace at home or work, or if she holds herself back from pursuing her creative urges and desires—the result is equivalent to plugging the vent on a pressure cooker: Something has to give. Very often what gives is the woman’s health, and the result will be one or more of the “big three” diseases of postmenopausal women: heart disease, depression, and breast cancer. On the other hand, for those of us who choose to honor the body’s wisdom and to express what lies within us, it’s a good idea to get ready for some boat rocking, which may put long-established relationships in upheaval. Marriage is not immune to this effect.”
And neither are your relationships with other family members.
Your family and friends are bound to respond differently to you as you grow and change. When it comes to these dynamics, change makes people uncomfortable—how will your newly adopted lifestyle affect them? Even changing your hairstyle is enough to stir the pot, sometimes.
So what can you do? Here are some ideas:
- See it for the Petri dish it is. Expect resistance!
- Remind yourself that it’s OK not to be the good girl who sees to everyone’s needs except her own. This goes for any pattern you’re trying to break.
- As you end or update some relationships, you may feel a little sad. That’s OK. Grieve and let go. By doing so, you’ll be protecting your health for years to come.
- Laugh. Bringing humor into a situation almost always eases tension.
- Distance yourself—even if it means skipping the traditional family get together—so you don’t become emotional or stressed by others’ behavior.
I would love to hear about how you’ve established new boundaries as you have grown through the years. Please leave a comment below! Note: Comments are not posted immediately, but often show up in 24 hours or less.