Creating a life beyond migraines – The Mental / Emotional Dimension

After introducing the topic – Creating a life beyond migraines, I promised elaborations in 3 dimensions: physical, mental/emotional and spiritual. Last week I posted on The Physical Dimension, and here is an elaboration on The Mental/Emotional Dimension. (Most of the guidelines offered below can activate and promote healing in ailments or conditions other than migraine, so I hope that these benefit everyone who is reading, in some way or another.)

To meet the overarching goal for removing all toxicity and allowing yourself to heal from within, the following are some guidelines in the mental/emotional dimension.

This, of course, is easier said than done (and merits a separate, detailed piece of writing). I cannot, however, emphasize the importance of this enough. When we are in unhappy relationships and circumstances (work, home, social, educational…) we are doing the emotional equivalent of consuming toxic chemicals.

At first it may be difficult to identify which, if any, of our relationships are co-dependent or toxic – but it is more common to have them than not. An easy indicator of co-dependence is when one puts compulsive energy into changing the other person (or the situation) rather than focusing on taking the necessary steps for one’s own needs and betterment. Also, any relationship or situation in which you are feeling low self-esteem, riding highs and lows, feeling overly responsible for all the ongoings, or feeling exhausted and depleted, is probably toxic for you. While the toxicity often lies in our reaction to people and relationships rather than the people themselves, the first step may be to eliminate the people and relationships, to create space for examining our reactivity. By doing this, existing relationships can be changed, and one can “break up with the negativity” without breaking up with the person!

Co-dependence results in our becoming addicted to the very toxic relationships that are destroying us (just like we do with allergic foods)! In a co-dependent relationship we become so used to the dynamics that we unconsciously become party to their propagation. Several wonderful books by Melody Beattie shed incredible light on co-dependence and the path to recovery.

The opposite of harboring toxic and co-dependent relationships is to generate a network of healthy relationships that create a nurturing, trustworthy support system. (Beware – what seems like a nurturing, supportive relationship could easily be co-dependence in disguise!) It is important to remember that a nurturing relationship is one in which two equals can exercise their independence (including in beliefs and attitudes) but choose to come together for mutually fulfilling interactions. Healthy boundaries are maintained, and identities are not fused. No one indulges in caretaking, but all parties offer caregiving and support. Truly nurturing relationships have an incredibly healing impact.

It is impossible to observe and assess something from all sides – in all its dimensions – if it is not first placed outside us, and given some perspective. This is the main benefit of counseling – a neutral party becomes an interactive tool to help externalize what is happening in our conscious or unconscious mind.

Many people still consider “getting help” a sign of weakness, citing the objection, “But why can I not do this on my own?” My answer is – you ARE doing this on your own. All your actions for change will only be generated from your own insights. But it is impossible to gain insight when one is still fused with one’s problems, inside one’s mind. To gain insight, one must use other people and situations in life to externalize what is lodged within. The advantage of a therapist is not only in his or her specialized training, but also in the fact that s/he has no personal stake in your life and decisions (unlike friends or relatives).

Counseling can benefit migraines by helping to get at underlying mental/emotional factors, or to process the debilitating impact of migraines on your life. Many migraneurs become severely depressed from the fallout of migraine without being aware of it. Counseling helps to alleviate further complications with depression and isolation as a result of migraines.

Animals (and nature in general) have a tremendously healing impact. They remind us of nature’s rhythm. Their unconditional love, playfulness and living in the present are great teachers as well as stress-reducers. If you cannot have a pet yourself, consider spending time with friends’ pets or volunteering in an animal shelter. (I was so fortunate to recently adopt an animal again; see: Introducing Lailah!)

Meditation done on a regular basis can produce immense health benefits. There are several kinds of meditation taught by many masters. My experience is with Vipassana (in S.N Goenka’s Vipassana centers), thought to be taught originally by The Buddha several thousand years ago. The practice of Vipassana – observation of the way things are – is powerful, and assists in implementing all the spiritual guidelines that I will write about in a later post. (See: This too will change, for a post I made after my first Vipassana experience.)

All of us have a desire for things, accomplishments and people. Desire is healthy, but when we begin to identify ourselves with, or measure our self-worth through these elements, we cause toxic build-up. This is because things, accomplishments and people are transient in nature – something is bound to change in all these areas of our lives and disappoint us. Real, natural self-worth comes from within, and is as independent of external circumstances as possible. Deriving self-worth from external circumstances is a formula for unhappiness.

Many migraineurs were either over-achievers to begin with, or become so as a way to counter their debilitating condition (I think I was both!). This causes an unhealthy attachment, especially to accomplishments. (Over the last year, I have made some big changes in this area; See In Pursuit of Being (something)) And when the constant effort for perfection or achievement is thwarted by a migraine attack, a downward spiral of lowering self-esteem is activated. Instead, detaching from material possessions, accomplishments and relationships creates inner peace and joy, and activates natural healing.

Every single one of us was born with creative power. (Creativity is not to be confused with with artistic ability.) I have found that accessing, nurturing and exercising one’s creativity constantly is the key to personal evolution. Being creative in one’s work, play, relationships, life situations allows access to an innate joy and peace consistently. Few things feel like a struggle. Being creative is regenerative, and therefore, a strong antidote to illness and an expediter of natural healing.

Finally, get in touch with yourself and what holds most meaning to you. What purpose overlaps with your innate gifts and skills? Identifying this and acting on this will enable your creative energy to be constantly engaged. Work will not seem like a chore – it will simply be a part of your complete life’s natural trajectory. When you are acting on your life purpose, you are in harmony with your true nature as well as the needs of the universe. This easy, natural flow prevents toxic build-up and powerfully activates healing and regeneration. (Reference the amazing work of Dave Pollard: Finding the Sweet Spot: The Natural Entrepreneur’s Guide to Responsible, Sustainable, Joyful Work.)

Last 5 posts by Shahana Dattagupta


  1. Khushi

    well researched. Thank you.

  2. Anonymous

    Good one there.

  3. Asha

    Tana, long time you have not written about your life. Any trips? Any news? How is everything?

  4. Tana

    Thanks, all! Asha – thank you for inquiring. I just returned from a road trip – this time 3100 miles – and will write more about it sometime soon!

  5. nikki

    Your article indeed goes beyond migraines. Points 7 and 8 resonate particularly well with me.

  6. Indrani

    Thanks Tana for such a well researched post. I particularly liked the points meditation and attaching one’s worth to material possessions.

  7. Tana

    Thanks for writing, Nikki and Indrani, and for referencing the points that resonate with you.

  8. Tana

    Hilarious! This is why it is said, count your blessings (even when they seem like curses)!:-) And then again, things are always in balance – perhaps susceptibility to stroke (as suggested in Sarmila’s post on “Shadow Disease”) balances out the protection offered to breasts? 🙂

  9. Anonymous

    Boobs forever I say.

  10. Tana

    Yep, rather have them gorgeous darlings flourishing even if eyes roll back into head!

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