REDWOOD: What are some of other symbolic meanings of particular symptoms or illnesses that you’ve seen?
NORTHRUP: Thyroid disease, which many women have, as you know, is about not having a say or being with somebody who doesn’t want to hear what you have to say. Very often women are censored with partners, or in jobs, where someone is telling them to keep their voice down or please say it in a different way. Breast issues are always about giving and receiving, generally giving more than you receive. Or at least having the perception that you’re giving more than you’re getting back and then feeling resentment under the surface. Because breasts are symbolic, obviously, of nurturing others, and to nurture others well one must be fulfilled in the nurturance department. So many women are giving from an empty cup, literally.
Heart disease is all about whether you live passionately and feel the flow of joy in your life. Basically, every different chakra of the body has different meaning. Hips and knees are about moving forward in one's life. I had plantar fasciitis very severely at the age of 13 and also developed severe astigmatism around the same time. The plantar fascia and the eyes are all on the liver meridian in Chinese acupuncture theory, and the liver meridian is always about anger. Obviously, as an adolescent girl, there were many things I was seeing in my family, in my life, that I didn't like to see and was angry about, but didn’t have a suitable outlet for it. So it came out as menstrual cramps, losing my ability to see clearly, and also the foot problem.
Each time in my life that I've had something like this, I've simply followed my own advice and worked on the emotions behind the symptom so that the symptom eventually goes away when you heed the message. I had classical migraines and was hospitalized for those when I was 14. Eventually those went away when I stopped driving myself relentlessly. I also had a big old skin rash around my throat and chest fairly recently that went away. That was about stuff that I needed to say that I couldn’t say, that I needed to get off my chest. I talk about that in my latest book, which is Mother-Daughter Wisdom. What I find is that the most personal things in our lives, if we can approach them objectively and realize that we’re just part of humanity, part of the human race, we can learn so much about ourselves that also can be used to help others. Because the deal is not to judge our symptoms or judge ourselves as wrong or bad, but to see what is this symptom leading us toward, what is the greater fulfillment that the symptom is talking to us about, and that we’re blocking. So it’s never a judgment or a "you’re doing it wrong or you wouldn’t have this." The sort of New Age approach to illness that was very prevalent in the 1970s was all about that awful judgment. If you were doing it right, you’d never get cancer, you’d never get a fibroid, you’d never get anything. That's simply not the case at all.
REDWOOD: What kinds of behaviors constitute a healthy lifestyle for women at different stages of the life cycle? How does it change as you move through the seasons of life?
NORTHRUP: This is really interesting. I find that we are given by our genetic heritage, as it were, about 35 to 40, maximum 50, years of health potential. And then after the age of 50, your health stays good only to the degree that you've earned that health. In general, you can get away with some pretty unhealthy behaviors through your 20s. In your 30s, that’s the time when PMS is at its peak, and for a woman in her 30s it simply means that the cyclic wisdom that is her birthright has to be attended to. In other words, she has to have periods of reflection and rest every month. Otherwise, that will turn into PMS, and the same holds true with diet. Ideally, one would exercise and follow a healthy diet throughout life, but from 35 on, it is absolutely crucial that you clean up your act because you are then setting the stage for the rest of your life. And it really doesn’t matter what your health has been like for the first 35 years, you can completely transform it in the second half of your life with information that you might not have known as a child or young adult. But by the time you are 28, at least, you should be able to be responsible for your choices. And then, your state of health is pretty much up to you.