I was first introduced to Louise Hay’s work when I was still a busy doctor in a conventional medical practice, and a patient handed me a little book that led me to raise my eyebrow. It was called You Can Heal Your Life. The premise of the book, which has now sold over 40 million copies, is that every physical ailment results from disordered thinking and can be cured by replacing negative thought patterns with positive ones.

For example, if you have a fever, the probable cause is “Anger. Burning up.” And the cure is a new thought pattern: “I am the cool, calm expression of peace and love.”

With all due respect to the wonderful, generous, brilliant, pioneering Louise Hay, whose company Hay House is now the publisher of my upcoming book Mind Over Medicine: Scientific Proof You Can Heal Yourself, my first thought when I skimmed her book a few years back was “Bullsh*t.”

After all, anyone with a medical degree knows that fever is caused by cytokines and other pyrogens in the bloodstream that release prostaglandins and trigger the hypothalamus to turn up the heat, most commonly in response to infection. Who ever heard of anger causing a fever? Hogwash.

But in spite of my critical inner voice, something drove me to keep reading. According to Louise Hay, cancer, on the other hand, represents “Deep hurt. Long-standing resentment. Deep secret or grief eating away at the self. Carrying hatreds. ‘What’s the use?’” According to Louise, the cure is the affirmation “I lovingly forgive and release all of the past. I choose to fill my world with joy. I love and approve of myself.”

And here I thought cancer was caused by cellular mutations that lead to unregulated growth of abnormal cells, usually because of environmental factors!

Just for giggles, I looked up the probable cause of my high blood pressure.  When I read the probable cause – “Long-standing emotional problem not solved” and the solution – “I joyously release the past. I am at peace,” I shook my head. Nope. Not my problem. I closed the book and stuck in on a shelf, where it sat untouched, for six more years. 

Louise Hay’s Cancer 

Not until I was deep in the midst of my research into what really makes us healthy and what predisposes us to illness did I pick up You Can Heal Your Life again. This time, I read the whole book, cover to cover. I found myself riveted.

When Louise Hay found out she had cervical cancer, she questioned how her thinking might have affected her health and caused her cancer. She had been studying the metaphysical philosophies of 1920’s-era teachers like Francis Scovel Schinn, author of The Game of Life And How To Play It, who taught that you could change your life and attract positive life outcomes by repeating affirmations meant to alter your thinking.

Louise concluded that her cervical cancer was caused by her unwillingness to let go of resentment over her childhood abuse and rape, and believing she could cure herself, she chose to refuse medical treatment.  Instead of pursuing conventional treatment for cancer, she treated herself with a regimen of forgiveness, therapy, nutrition, reflexology and occasional enemas.

She used what she learned in her own self-healing journey to write You Can Heal Your Life, in which Louise Hay provides a complete list of physical symptoms and illnesses, along with the disordered thinking she believes causes these health conditions. She then offers a new thought pattern affirmation meant to be adopted as healing treatment. 

How Our Beliefs Affect Our Health

After researching Mind Over Medicine and interviewing people like Dr. Bruce Lipton, author of The Biology of Belief, I discovered the truly powerful link between our beliefs and our physiology. Placebo effect data demonstrates that if bald men believe they’re getting Rogaine, a percentage of them will grow hair. If we believe we’re getting a drug for irritable bowel syndrome, our symptoms will improve. If we believe we got real knee surgery when we only got a little incision with a scalpel, we’re just as likely to experience resolution of the knee pain than if we got the real surgery.

Placebo’s opposite twin – the nocebo – demonstrates that negative beliefs are just as powerful. If you inject people with saline and tell them it’s chemotherapy, they throw up and lose their hair. For real. I’m not making this sh*t up.

One patient with multiple personality disorder was diabetic with one of her personalities and not diabetic with her others. When she switched to the diabetic personality, her blood sugars shot up. Clinically, she was diabetic. When she switched back, her blood sugars dropped. I’m serious, y’all…. 

What Do You Believe About Your Health?

You know what that means, right? What you believe about your health manifests in real life. Do you believe you’re a sickly person? That you’ll get breast cancer because your mother did?  That you’ll always have this “chronic” disease that is “incurable?” That you’ll never lose the weight/be free from depression/kick the habit/recover from the eating disorder/achieve optimal health?

What you believe comes true, at least a percentage of the time. Don’t you want to be careful what you think?

I don’t believe it’s just your negative beliefs that set you up for illness or your positive beliefs that cure you. I think illness is much more complicated and multi-factorial than that. I believe illness is also caused by your work stress, your loneliness, your environment, your DNA, your diet, how much you exercise, and a whole host of other factors.

But, without a doubt, diagnosing the root causes that might be underlying your illness and using affirmations and other belief-shifting practices to heal your mind of negative beliefs is a critical part of the healing process.

What do you think? What are your beliefs about your health? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

Focusing on positive beliefs,


Lissa Rankin, MD: Creator of the health and wellness communities LissaRankin.com and OwningPink.com,author of Mind Over Medicine: Scientific Proof You Can Heal Yourself (Hay House, 2013), TEDx speaker, and Health Care Evolutionary.

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