Ep. 22: Dr. Maya Novak – Navigating the Healing Process with 4 Spaces

There are behavioral patterns that hold people back in their healing process.

There were times, many years ago, when I didn’t completely understand why some injured people struggle and others don’t. I was wondering why sometimes the healing process feels like torture and other times as something that is completely doable. I became really curious how to help people by understanding the state they were in in those moments.

So throughout my years as a healing coach, as I tuned in and listened to countless women and men with physical trauma, I began identifying behavioral patterns that held people back in their healing process.

Based on these observations I created my model, The Mindful Injury Recovery Design.

It helps you understand where you are in your healing journey and also what you need to do to arrive at your destination – it’s kind of a clear map of how to get from pain and suffering at point A to abundance and complete recovery at point Z.

My model consists of 4 spaces/rooms and in today’s episode, I explain in detail the characteristics of each space and in what kind of state – mental/emotional/physical – people are in when they’re in each of these spaces. This model has shown to be very helpful not just for individuals, but also for medical professionals who want to understand their patients/clients better so that they can help them enhance their healing.  

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Show notes & links

The show notes are written in chronological order.

0:00 – excerpt from the episode
1:20 – intro (listen to discover a little more about your host. Martin will tell you a new lesser-known fact about Dr. Maya)

Dr. Maya Novak:
Have you ever wondered why some people get better after an injury with almost no problems and others struggle? Does this have something to do with being born under a lucky star? Because even though this might sound funny, it does feel this way when you’re on the ‘struggling’ part of the equation, right? All these questions in your mind: “Why can others do it and I can’t?”, or “What do they have or know that I don’t?”, or “Why is this patient of mine progressing so well and that other one doesn’t at all?”, you know thoughts like “I’m trying so hard and yet, I can’t get over it.” (Whatever it is – xyz.) This really is a complex topic and in this episode we’ll cover all those things that are important for you to understand your journey or that you also understand your clients, your patients better. I mean, this is the whole reason why I created this podcast - The Mindful Injury Recovery Talks - to give you the tools, for you to have aha moments, for you to discover more about yourself, and also to really implement what you’re uncovering so that you really start experiencing the changes you desire and deserve.

And now before we dive deep, just a quick reminder that ‘sharing is caring’ 🙂 So share this episode with your loved ones or your clients – people who will benefit from hearing about the holistic healing of physical trauma. There’s a jungle out there and every bit of helpful information can make a huge difference in someone’s journey and it can literally change someone’s life. So feel free to share and help others as well.

Now let’s start at the beginning. What is happening in your healing journey, how your body acts and reacts might have actually started in your childhood. The things that you learned, the things that you were exposed to, the beliefs that were planted in your mind, the way you’ve continued your life… all of this and more has created what you are today. For me, I gathered many limiting beliefs that have been affecting my life, such as “not being good enough,” or “not needing anyone, because I can handle everything myself”. This one was especially strong and I’ve been transforming my limiting beliefs so that they don’t affect my life or they don’t affect it that much. But speaking of beliefs - there’s one thing that I learned very early on and that is how much my body is capable of – just from a physical standpoint. o as you may know I’ve been dancing my whole life, being very good at sports, expressing myself with the body. So when the doctors in the hospital, after my rock-climbing accident, said to me: “This is probably the end of life that you’ve known so far because there’s a chance of avascular necrosis and chronic pain and limping for the rest of your life,” I very quickly dismissed this with the thought in my mind “But you don’t know what my body is capable of!” And they didn’t. And honestly, I wasn’t aware of the whole extent either because it was a new territory – I’d never experienced such a serious injury before, and there was also a part of me saying “But what if they’re right?” I think that all of us, at least in our darkest moments, have these doubts, and fears, and worries. But what matters is how we mould them, how we process them, what we do about them. That’s why I’m a firm believer that any physical trauma is the most special gift you can get. Because it forces you to look inside of your soul and discover what serves you and what doesn’t. What’s good for you and for your body, and what is not. This truly is what I call the time of shedding, of letting go, of surrendering, of figuring out how to live your life in a better way. Of course, many people don’t approach their healing in this particular way and at least among the hundreds of people that I’ve been in personal contact over the last decade, those who dismiss the mind-body connection, and to go even further, the mind-body-spirit connection, on average they struggle the most. Not everybody but many – and how I see it, too many.

So in this moment, I’ll invite you to dive deep and journal on these 3 questions. And if you tuned into the previous episode with Dr. David Schechter where we talked about chronic pain and also journaling, you’ll recall that just thinking about something is not enough. We really have to do something with the questions – whether this is writing/journaling or recording yourself and talking out loud while doing it. Ok? So explore these 3 questions; either now (just press pause and then continue) or write them down and do it after you stop listening to this episode. Question #1: “What do you truly believe about your physical condition?” The emphasis here is truly. Question #2: “What is your family story about health and healing? What did you learn as a child about your body and its capabilities?” And when you’re exploring these questions I invite you to look into this with curiosity. We’re not looking for someone to blame or to feel bad. We’re just exploring these questions so that you know what you’re dealing with. Because only when we know this, we can then start to mould it, change it, and grow from it and out of it. Yes? And the 3rd questions is: “Where do you know or suspect that you fall short when it comes to being proactive in your healing? So things that you know that would be really good to do or change but you kinda don’t do or you’re pushing them aside. Why do you think that is?” And the reason why it’s good for you to look into this question is because I truly believe, and it’s also what my experience with clients is showing, is that ALL of us already know what we need to do but often we either a) don’t know how to do it or b) don’t have the courage to do it, so we need some encouragement and guidance. A bit of a push, if you will. But if right now you’re going “But, Maya, I don’t know. I really don’t know what needs to change or what I need to do,” know that it’s ok. You’re in the part of your journey where you’re standing too close to a wall to see the big picture. You know in my book, Heal Beyond Expectations, I’m talking about this: how we often stand too close to a problem and it’s hard for us to see the whole thing. We’re so used to zooming in and looking very closely at the problem – I mean the medical system works this way, right? Let’s look into this one very specific problem and forget about the whole body and the whole person. But how can you see a beautiful meadow, full of incredible flowers and animals, if your gaze is focused on only one blade of grass? You can’t, right? So perhaps you can’t see the whole problem because you’re standing too close. And that’s ok. Take your time and make some steps back… and also know that it’s ok and sometimes very beneficial if you ask for help so that you can do this much faster. Now, in regard to this proactivity and also responsibility. When it comes to healing, being proactive is crucial because as you know sitting, waiting, and hoping rarely works, especially with more serious physical trauma. And it absolutely doesn’t work with injuries that aren’t getting better or when healing is progressing more slowly than expected. Now, being proactive isn’t restricted to the physical elements of your recovery plan, like physical therapy, working with a therapist, doing exercises at home. It requires more. It’s about resolving any fears you might have around your injury and your healing. It’s about creating a plan of how to deal with every day external stress, as well as internal stress – so thoughts that you’re having, which are creating a whole biochemical cascade in your body and by that effecting your healing. There’s also anxiety after an injury, and if that is not dealt with, it can affect the way the body heals as well. Being proactive in changing negative thought patterns, or learning how to put yourself first, ask for help and then allow yourself to receive it, is important. Working on forgiveness and acceptance, practicing gratitude, and resolving other negative emotions all have an impact on your body’s biochemistry and the way it reacts. In my book Heal Beyond Expectations that you can get on Amazon you can read about the 4 spaces / 4 rooms where injured people spend the most time. So my model The Mindful Injury Recovery Design was created because throughout my years as a healing coach, as I tuned in and listened to women and men with physical trauma, I began identifying behavioral patterns that held people back in their healing process. So the model helps you understand where you are in your healing journey and also what you need to do to arrive at your destination – it’s kind of a clear map of how to get from point A to abundance and recovery, complete recovery at point Z.

And the beauty of this ‘interior design’ model, if you will, is that it’s not static - it’s possible to move from space to space. And actually, you may not realize it, but you’ve already been doing this. And you’ve been doing this for a long time. But what’s important is to bring this into your awareness because this then helps you gravitate toward and also remain in a space where healing is abundant. And we all want this, right? Abundant healing. And because we all want this, let’s talk about these rooms and help you identify your current or preferred space. So these 4 rooms I named as the Dungeon, the Study, the Bathroom, and the Garden. There are two reasons I chose rooms in a house for this model. First, the house represents your body and your life. And second, the rooms represent your internal perception. And also the ability to move and change. You know, in the same way you physically move from one part of your home to another, you’re moving internally between these spaces. So know that you’re never stuck, and you have the choice of moving to another room. You can do this if the one you’re in right now doesn’t feel like a good fit for what you want to achieve in your healing and your life in general.

So the first room we’ll talk about is the Dungeon and if you’re having a very hard time healing this might be the space you’re spending most of your time in. Life here is very lonely. Also when challenges arise it really feels like no one understands you or has any sympathy. And you may be feeling tortured and hopeless, you know, like you don’t have control over most situations in your life, which includes your healing as well. So people who spend their time here, we say that they have victim mentality. They also have a lot of limiting beliefs. They don’t take or don’t like to take responsibility for their action. So they are also the kind of people who like to blame others for their misfortune. Do you know anyone like this? So when we talk about healing, they might comply with what their doctor, therapist, coach, physiotherapist say but if something goes wrong they very quickly point their finger to that person. They are the one to blame, not them. The Dungeon people like to complain. And what is interesting is that when they’re offered solutions they don’t take them because either a) they think nothing can change, and/or b) they don’t want to leave their comfort zone. It’s nice, it’s comfy. But honestly, there’s not a lot of Dungeon people coming to me and asking for help. And I think its mostly because I’m very clear that my clients need to be willing to deal with things. That they are willing to take steps, take responsibility. That they’re willing to deal with their emotions, and being open to change their limiting beliefs. And those who prefer pointing fingers are in the mindset of “things are happening to me”. And they’re not really looking forward to changing that.
Now, let’s be honest - we all slip into this space from time to time. It’s normal. I mean, I find myself sometimes playing victim in a situation because it’s in a way easier. It is – we can’t deny this. But when we do slip into the Dungeon, what we very often need is a wakeup call. And I like to play with this questions: “What will happen with your recovery and life if nothing changes and you continue thinking, feeling, and acting as you have been so far?” Because sometimes this can actually be enough to get us to another room.

Speaking of another room - the second room to mention is the Study. Those who gravitate here are researchers. They explore. They want to know what can happen to them as the result of their injury or diagnosis. Also what could go wrong afterward. And how many people went through the same thing they’re going through right now. They spend a lot of time on the internet, trying to find another beneficial information that would help them on this journey. What’s interesting is that very often medical professionals fall into this category. So people in the Study are proactive and they usually take responsibility but on the other hand, they don’t really believe that a lot can change. They have hope but a lot of information that they find is not so positive. So no wonder that they often think “I’m doing everything humanly possible but nothing changes.” You’ve been doing everything - following doctor’s instructions, faithfully performing your physical therapy exercises, searching online, reading articles, research, trying to locate that missing piece of the puzzle - but it feels like something isn’t quite right. And you can feel defeated, right? But that’s not completely on you. Often what you can find either on the internet or when you talk with some medical professionals is negative. And It’s negative because they stem primarily from data of the average person approaching their healing in a conventional way. But you, listening to this podcast, know that the conventional medical approach is not enough. Because it doesn’t include all the things that are important in healing – the 4 pillars which are physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. All of these are important.
You know, when I start working with a client whose preferred space is the Study, we make a pact that spending time on the internet, reading about their condition, searching for data, reading other people’s stories, and any other type of research is off the table - at least for the duration of our work together. And sometimes, yes, it’s challenging for them, but directing your energy away from endless searching and toward taking action that truly can help you is so important. Because whatever you focus on and feed your mind with affects your body, how your body reacts, and by that also your future.

Now, the third room. If you’re tirelessly looking for that ‘magic pill’, if you will, that will help you get better, and every time you find something that looks promising you feel optimistic and you say “Yes, finally! This must be it. So many people are raving about this so it has to work.” But then you realize that the results or side effects are less than desirable, and you’re defeated once again. If this sounds familiar then you’re spending your time in the Bathroom in front of that medicine cabinet where all the lotions and potions live. People in this space are the magic pill hunters. They’ve tried a lot of stuff but nothing really helped them much. It’s actually heartbreaking to see how they start full of enthusiasm and they try the latest supplement, or buy a device, or go through a procedure, or anything else that they’ve heard their aunt Becky, or brother Jacob, or friend Kim, or you know that one ‘a friend of a friend of a colleague’ that mentions it all the time and swears by, but only to be defeated yet again. And yet another unsuccessful attempt goes by or perhaps it works a bit but not as much as they hope. So they believe that they could get better but only with the solutions that are outside of them, and they could get better if only other people or situations weren’t holding them back. They’re hoping for a miracle and believe someone else has that magic solution but they haven’t found it yet. Advertisers LOVE these kinds of people because they can sell them anything. I mean, just think of all the advertisement and what they’re selling, and also how many people are buying that. So people in the Bathroom frequently send me emails or post questions on social media, and they say: “Just tell me what one thing I should do that will help me.” Well… I wish I could do that and actually I will - there is a magic pill, but only one true magic pill. And that is YOU. True healing doesn’t consist of a single step or one secret element. It’s a combination of multiple things and when people say “I tried everything, and nothing worked,” and what it usually means in that they were trying one thing at a time, and each of those things promised a solution that existed outside of them. But in most cases the real solution lies inside of them. And just a note – there’re some procedures and such things that can absolutely be beneficial but this shouldn’t be the main focus. Can we agree on that?

And then there’s the Garden – a place of rejuvenation and growth. So once you enter the Garden, you notice that your perception of your situation begins to evolve. People here understand that their injury, as well as their life, are happening for them (not to them). So the complete opposite of the Dungeon people. People in the Garden leave the victim mentality behind and take complete responsibility for their healing. What they’re doing is transforming limiting beliefs and nurture empowering ones. They also know that they’re responsible for creating their own best-case scenario. A very important thing - they’re willing to look inside of them. They are unafraid to observe and explore their inner world. Because as you already know, things that are happing internally with you have a huge impact on your healing. And that’s why people in the Garden are willing to go beyond the conventional medical approach and heal on every level as I discuss this in my book Heal Beyond Expectations. The Garden is a space of endless possibilities. And when you’re here, you’re consciously creating that healing environment and nurture yourself from moment to moment. This is also where you’re willing to forgive yourself for anything that you’ve done in the past. You’re also willing to forgive others because this sets you free. You also honor yourself and your needs. You’re not on the 10th place anymore because you understand that when you take care of yourself first, you can take care of others way better. So you’re courageously putting yourself first. You also allow yourself to be vulnerable because you understand that vulnerability is your power and not your weakness. In the Garden, you support yourself in every possible way, which also means that you ask for help when you need it and more importantly you allow yourself to receive it. This is how this works. The Garden is where I’m guiding my clients and holding space for them so that they can heal holistically and completely. How we do this is just a few words is that we go through different techniques when necessary to help you change that internal environment, we explore things together, and you’re courageously taking steps forward. I really love this part of my work because it’s truly amazing to see how people transform in front of my eyes. I love it.

So these are the 4 rooms of my model and as I mentioned before, this is not static and you’re constantly moving from one room to another (as we all). What matters is that when you become aware of this, you can choose what you want to nurture and where you want to flourish. It’s important to know that we cannot be responsible for unwise decisions in the past when we were not aware of something or we didn’t have insight, knowledge… But with knowledge comes responsibility and this is a good thing because now you have options, and now you can choose where to go and what to do.

So your homework for today, if you will, is to first journal on the questions that I asked you during this episode in the last 30 minutes or so. And then also think of your everyday situations (whether this is connected to your physical trauma or not) and write down where in these 4 rooms you’re spending your time when in these situations and how you can move to another room where things are way more promising. Sounds like fun? Yes! Great.

So, my dear, I’m rooting for you and I know that a bright future awaits you. You have options and you have everything you need to heal. And know that if you need any help, ask for it and allow yourself to receive it.

Dr. Maya Novak
Oh, that was so much fun! I really enjoyed it and I hope that you now understand your journey better or your clients, your patients better. So quickly I wanted to thank you for tuning into today’s episode with yours truly, Dr. Maya Novak. If you haven’t done it yet, subscribe to the podcast on whatever platform you’re using to tune in, and as we discussed at the beginning – sharing is caring. So share this episode and podcast with your loved ones and help them out. To access show notes, links, transcript, and video of today’s episode go to mayanovak.com/podcast and click on episode 22. To learn more about The Mindful Injury Recovery Method visit my website mayanovak.com and find my book Heal Beyond Expectations on Amazon. Until next time – keep evolving, blooming, and healing.

Love and gratitude xx
Dr. Maya

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