People in the helping professions often confront difficult situations. One of the major frustrations most of us encounter in our work is trying to help people who for various reasons do not really want help. Medical doctors, nurses, reflexologists, chiropractors, naturopaths, massage therapists, physiotherapists and others all confront “the inner saboteur” that dwells in each person at a deep, subconscious level. I call this inner saboteur “Babalui” (pronounced “Ba-ba-loo-ee”).
People are said to consciously use only 10% of the brain. This could mean that 90% of motivations and feelings are subconscious or unconscious. One could logically assume that the beginnings of human behavior originate below the level of conscious awareness; this is the level where Babalui resides. I believe this is why most people say they want good health, success, and happiness, yet behave otherwise.
Perhaps a better understanding of how Babalui functions will help to identify and deal with the Babalui in each of us, and to move past the barriers to health and happiness placed in our path by Babalui. Babalui grew up with all of us right from childhood. It learned from our parents and other adults how to avoid pain, whether by avoiding truth, hiding in a bottle, or otherwise. Babalui heard our thoughts when we believed that we didn’t deserve to be happy. It absorbed all of our humiliations and hurts. It remembers the earliest negative, dismal details of our lives, from the time we were born to the present. Babalui truly wants us to feel pleasure, love, and happiness, but with the negative beliefs held about our value, it is confused about how to get it without hurting us in the process. Babalui even tries to negotiate around pain and unpleasantness in any possible way.
Getting sick to avoid pain
Let me share one of my experiences with Babalui. I remember being sick often as a child with the flu or a cold. I didn’t have to attend school when I was sick, nor did I have to do any homework. Everyone was extra nice to me. I was even allowed to drink more ginger ale and eat more ice cream if my throat was sore. I was given comic books to read. My Babalui has always remembered this in every detail.
During my first year of chiropractic college, my senior intern pointed out to me that every time I had a major exam to write, I developed the flu or a cold. Although I always forced myself to write the exams, I was often not in the best shape. I realized then that some inner saboteur was trying to help me to escape from disagreeable situations, just as I had learned to do when I was a child. I reacted to my early emotional programming (i.e., I could escape from unpleasantness in life by being sick). When this realization came into my conscious awareness, this unhealthy pattern diminished considerably.
You can probably think of circumstances in your life in which your Babalui tried to help you avoid some bothersome situation. It is my hope that by alerting you, dear reader, to behavior patterns your Babalui may have set up for you, these unhealthy patterns can diminish for you as well.
Be warned: if Babalui doesn’t make you sick, you might have an “accident” instead. I have seen people hurt themselves badly through carelessness to avoid an anticipated painful experience.
When Babalui helps you escape something by being sick, doctors call this “secondary gain.” Some people produce a cold to give them a short break from work, to play hooky for a day. Others hold onto the pain in their backs and don’t return to work for weeks because they hate their jobs. Many people can’t get well because their Babalui revels in the attention lavished upon them while they’re sick.
This doesn’t mean that our sicknesses and pain aren’t real. They are indeed genuine. Babalui gives us what it thinks we really want — to be emotionally free of hurt and frustration. However, we need to let Babalui know that we can find love, peace, happiness, and attention in more productive and healthy ways. When doctors refer to cases of “functional overlay,” they simply mean that there is some hidden reason behind an illness or injury. They might be talking about Babalui. (In medical parlance, “functional overlay” can also include conscious malingering, so the phrase is not always a reference to genuine illness.)
You must try to recognize and fulfill your personal Babalui. How much control does he or she have in your life? If you are not able to identify and fulfill your own deep yearnings, your Babalui may try to do so for you — but not in the way you want and not under the most pleasant circumstances. If it feels good, Babalui wants to do it
Babalui is that little voice that speaks to you, saying things like “Go ahead: have that beer/cigarette/piece of cake. One won’t hurt!” But that one can hurt. If you’re addicted to chocolate, for instance, that one chocolate bar will lead to two or three or four. Babalui isn’t your enemy, though: it’s just been programmed to make sure you’re not deprived in life.
Your Babalui doesn’t want you to be physically sick. It wants you to feel emotionally well and loved, though possibly at the expense of your body. For example, your body says that it really needs quality carbohydrates and Babalui immediately jumps in with comfort food and says, “chocolate bar.” Your body wants water and Babalui says “beer.” Your body needs sodium and Babalui prompts you to buy salted pretzels. You want love and attention and Babalui commands “get sick!”
Another example of how Babalui can work is found in a story about a woman who came to see me many years ago. Marcia had liver cancer. Her medical doctor told her that she had only three months to live. Medicine had apparently done everything possible for her. (I personally believe there is no wisdom in “death sentences,” because doctors’ words can grow into self-fulfilling prophesy — there always should be some measure of hope of recovery given to a patient. It is the only way that a miracle can happen — and they do happen, as we know.)
My job was to make her healthier by increasing the communication between her body and her vital force. As part of this communication, Marcia learned about nutrition and natural medicines. I also spoke to her positively about Babalui. I related that in my experience, people with chronic disease manifest the inner saboteur frequently and that Babalui was someone we would have to deal with in order to begin the process of healing. (Chronic illness, by definition, resists change. I personally believe that the presence of Babalui may also have something to do with such resistance).
I told Marcia that from time to time, she might unconsciously obstruct our efforts to make her well. I also said that it was OK if she did react this way, and we would need to work harder to understand Babalui’s reasons to be in control. She was a woman in her thirties and just recently married, so I felt that she had good reasons to live and to come to terms with her Babalui.
I sent her to a holistically oriented M.D. for some lab tests and his opinion. A few days later at her next appointment with me, I discovered that she had missed her appointment with the other doctor because she “had” to go shopping.
As well, her husband informed me that she had actually increased her meat consumption after I had told her the detriments of red meat and recommended that she refrain from it altogether, because of the serious nature of her condition. He was fraught with anxiety. It was clear to me that her old subconscious tapes were rolling and Babalui the saboteur was still in command. She subsequently missed other appointments with me and the medical doctor, and then died soon after.
She appeared to have had some deep emotional blockage; some scar preventing us from helping her to survive. What emotional pain was her Babalui trying to avoid? We will never know.
Dr. Bernie Siegel in his book, Love, Medicine, & Miracles, tells a story about a woman who had cancer and was bedridden by the disease. She controlled her family with her illness. It made them wait on her hand and foot. Dr. Siegel saw this unhealthy interplay between family members and consulted with them about this. He knew that it would be hard to help her unless she could connect with the emotional part of herself that felt incapable of asking for love. Her Babalui had obviously been taught that she needed to manipulate others to get love and attention. Dr. Siegel revealed to her family that he was going to tell her that there was a cure for her kind of cancer, but that she needed to come into the office for a “shot.” She didn’t show up, and she missed all subsequent appointments.
These are examples of behavior that occurs commonly in cases of chronic illness. I see similar situations happening frequently with less dangerous illnesses. Most of us are unaware of Babalui the saboteur.
Immediate gratification, long-term suffering
You can see that disease can be sustained by unconscious, self-disempowering behavior. You want to feel loved, secure, and happy. Babalui wants this for you too, and will get it one way or another. It just doesn’t know that there are more self-empowering approaches.
The way to bounce Babalui out of the driver’s seat and to put yourself back in control is through consistent, conscious awareness of its presence. Love your Babalui. Thank it for being such a wonderful guide to your real needs. Listen to your Babalui. If you deny or ignore your Babalui, you can be sure that you’ll be hearing from it soon!
I believe that there is a purpose to illness, just as there is a reason for everything, because life is a learning experience. I suggest that you always participate actively in life. Avoid acting like a victim. Perceiving yourself as a victim or its ultimate, a martyr, will allow Babalui to be in control and perhaps lead you to or keep you in a state of illness — physical or emotional. You must try to disown and break any past conditioning that may be contributing to secondary gain. Ask yourself if you are unknowingly seeking any “reward” from being sick. Answering this question will require tremendous self-honesty. Empower yourself. Every resource that you need to make peace with Babalui is within you right now! The instant you acknowledge Babalui’s presence and help it to manifest the real essence of what you need — without harming yourself — you’re on the road to wellness.
Remember that Babalui exists in everyone to some degree. You can see it clearly in the addicted smoker, or in the alcoholic. You see Babalui in control of the heart surgery patient who knows better than to eat cholesterol-laden beef steak five times in a week, but does so anyway. You can even see Babalui in control of someone who hangs on to the emotional pain of his or her divorce 10 years after the event. He or she may rehash every rotten thing his or her ex ever said or did, fully aware that although it may feel good in the moment to deprecate another, in the long run, this behavior proves to be unproductive.
Such people share secondary gain factors in their behavior. They’re really seeking peace, love, happiness, and freedom from emotional pain — goals that we all seek. They gain only harmful and temporary substitutes for the real thing if they don’t recognize their own Babalui.
Look for the Babalui in you. Try to recognize its blind or frightened appeal for love in self-victimizing behavior. Recognize also that Babalui numbs your emotional suffering by substituting behavior that will be destructive to you in the long run, if you let it have control. Don’t you really, truly want to experience optimum health and lasting happiness? Don’t pass over this question too quickly. Think about your answer.
How to speak to Babalui
Now that you’ve identified the Babalui within you, you have to learn how to talk to it effectively to short-circuit the negative behaviors it’s advocating. If it helps, create a mental picture of your Babalui so that you can talk “face to face.” The first thing is to realize that Babalui’s pretty stupid — it doesn’t think, doesn’t rationalize — so it’s fairly easy to trick Babalui into submission. When Babalui tries to get you to do something you know is self-destructive, tell that little voice to be quiet and promise it whatever it needs to hear to make it subside. You’re not going to keep this promise, but it’s a healthy ploy — and it works.
Here’s an example of how to speak so that Babalui will listen. About six months ago, I went to a blues club with some friends. The first thing that hit me when I walked through the door was the smell of beer and cigarettes (I used to smoke and drink), but the thing that finished me off was the sight and smell of a corned-beef sandwich. Then Babalui jumped up and said, “Don’t be such a health nut! You’ve been pure for so many years — why don’t you have just one beer/sandwich/cigarette? One isn’t going to hurt! And nobody’s going to know!” So I replied, “Babalui, be quiet!” (I said this in my head, of course: if you talk out loud to Babalui, people are going to think you’re a bit strange!) Then I promised Babalui that I’d have that smoke/drink/sandwich next Saturday. And because Babalui is stupid, it said, “OK, next Saturday’s great!” and quieted down for the rest of the evening. Then next Saturday came along, and Babalui said to me, “Now’s the time to buy that pack of cigarettes, some beer, and that corned-beef sandwich!” Once again, I replied, “Babalui, be quiet! I’ll do it next Saturday…” And if you keep putting it off, eventually Babalui wears itself out.
This article has been edited and excerpted from The 80*10*10 Vitality Program: The Art of Moderation… In Excess by Dr. Randall Hardy. In this book, Dr. Hardy offers effective health strategies he developed and successfully utilized with hundreds of patients over the last 17 years. Dr. Hardy is a seminar leader, health consultant, and therapist who uses lifestyle education to help people heal the physical, psychological, and spiritual roots of the disease process. To order a copy of the book, e-mail Dr. Hardy at firstname.lastname@example.org.