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Breaking Old Agreements 

Breaking Old Agreements 
by Justine Calderwood, PT, MSPT

​      I started reading (again) The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz.  I’m working my way through this incredible book slowly, one agreement at a time, in order to take the time to sit with the information and implement it.  I’m re-reading it because the first time around I read the information and may have even used part of it, but now I’m trying to absorb it on a deeper level and really put it into practice. 

​         The First Agreement is “Be Impeccable with your Word”.  In the words of the author, “what you dream, what you feel, and what you really are, will all be manifested through the word”.  He likens the word to magic….white magic or black magic…..depending on if your words come from a space of love or fear. 


​It got me thinking of all the “black magic words” I’ve told myself over the years.  Perceptions I had of myself.  It doesn’t matter if these words were said aloud or just thought in my mind….they have the same impact.  Words have the power to lock us in a self-contained prison or set us free.  These are some of the words I used to tell myself:  “You’re stubborn”, “You’re not good enough”, “Your needs aren’t as important as others’ are”, “You’re hard to love”, “You’re too sensitive”, “You’re awkward when it comes to talking in small groups”….and the list goes on.  For the longest time I didn’t even know I was telling myself these things, or, more importantly, that I had the power to change it.


​     Some of these agreements I made were based on experiences I had and I just needed to update things based on new experiences.  For instance, I was shy and awkward in Junior High.  I wanted to be able to interact gracefully with my peers during the time we gathered after lunch, but the truth was I just wasn’t confident in myself and I felt that I didn’t have anything interesting to contribute to the conversation.  I hid my “true self” because I didn’t think she would measure up.  Luckily I moved just before I started high school and at my new, smaller school I felt like I could come out of my shell and start to be myself.  I soon made friends and those years ended up being some of my best.  When I graduated Physical Therapy school and started my first job I again felt awkward talking with patients during their appointments, but I learned over time that I could break that agreement that I had made with myself that I was “awkward” or that I didn’t have anything interesting to talk about.  The thing that helped me most during that time was talking with my grandma, whom everyone adores and whom is very comfortable talking with anyone.  She shared that when she was younger she was extremely shy and had a hard time talking with others and that she eventually grew out of it.  Well, that gave me hope that if she could do it then I could, too.

          Some of the agreements I made with myself came from so long ago that I can’t even track them down.  The good news, though, is that we can choose to change these agreements; the things we tell ourselves day in and day out can be sort of re-programmed.  It wasn’t until I started to slow down and begin to treat my chronic pain that I became aware of some of these self-defeating agreements I had made so long ago.  Around this time is when I started studying John F. Barnes’ Myofascial Release Approach.  I took my first seminar in May of 2013.  My pain came to a head in Nov of that year, and I was forced to try another round of treatment to relieve my chronic daily headaches.  I started putting into practice what I had learned in that first seminar and got treated by an expert Myofascial Release therapist, and boy did I have a huge breakthrough!  

      Another thing I did around that time was begin meditating; I just sat quietly with the thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations coming from my mind and body.  I gave myself permission to truly feel and process the things that I had “stuffed down” or tried running from.  I took the time to see myself, and an awareness came over me that perhaps I had made a mistake in believing some of the things I told myself.  This was before I even knew of Ruiz’ book, so when I finally come across his book I already had a deep knowing that his words held some truth.

​      One of the exercises I learned in John F. Barnes’ seminars is a self-reflecting exercise where he had us sit quietly with our eyes closed.  We clenched our stomach (solar plexus) in as hard as we could, like a fist pulling in tightly.  Then we asked ourselves “What feelings or thoughts are holding me back from getting better?” and we took a breath and let whatever thoughts come to us.   Afterwards we softened the “fist”, allowing it to melt open and soften our solar plexus area.  Then we asked ourselves another question: “What’s a more healthy way to think, feel and act now?”  For me, during that exercise the thought came up “You’re not enough”.  Wow!  Yes, I have often felt that I’m not [social] enough, not [understanding] enough, not [flexible] enough, not [loved] enough….the list goes on.  But what if I AM enough?  Well, that could change everything, couldn’t it?  

        To change my negative self-talk I set up reminders all around my house.  I took little drawings that my children had done and I wrote on them “Only Love Today”, and then I proceeded to tape these slips of paper in prominent areas of my house (mirrors, the kitchen window where I washed dishes, on the washer, my end table, stuffed into books I was reading…).  This was a visual reminder to me that I needed to speak to myself and others with love, and by writing it on my daughters’ drawings it reminded me that my goal was bigger than myself.  
       I knew I needed to stop beating myself up all day, but I also wanted to make sure I was a positive role model for them as they developed their own self-talk.  I was going to “break the mold”, so to speak.  If I caught myself picking apart my image in the mirror then I would stop and force myself to pick out one positive thing instead.  It took persistence to break years of negativity, but I can say that I am much more positive these days, and I cringe inside when I hear others talk bad about themselves, even flippant remarks like “I’m such a klutz”.   
     ​    Nowadays when I’m feeling down or not [BLANK] enough, I know I have the power to change it.  For instance, I can repeat to myself “I am {blank} enough”, “I am flexible”, “I am safe”, “I am loved”, “I am courageous” etc. and it begins to shift my thoughts and feelings from that of fear and shame to love and peacefulness.  I have learned to love and accept myself.  And the beauty in that is that it allows me to love and accept others as well.  It becomes easier to share words of love and encouragement to those around me, instead of being in a judgmental or critical state of being.  Physically that feels like a warm blanket, peaceful and calm.
​What, you may ask, does this have to do with physical therapy?  Everything!  You see, there is one body system, call the fascial system, that acts like an internal web that connects everything and makes us whole, including the thoughts, feelings, and emotions that we experience.  Fascia covers and surrounds every.single.cell.in.our.body; muscles, nerves, blood vessels, bone, and organs such as our brain and heart.  The mind is not a separate entity from the body, but rather intertwined with it.   
       Skilled hands-on therapy such as Myofascial Release is a wonderful facilitator to access the messages, emotions, feelings, and physical sensations that we may be unaware of, bringing it to our consciousness where we can begin to change and adopt healthier ways to think, feel, act, and move.  Myofascial Release helps free up restricted fascial tissue that may be dehydrated from holding and bracing patterns that were developed as a result of the things we told ourselves many years ago, or postures we held because we were trying to “hide” from others.  If we just address the mind, well, we’ve missed the bigger picture.  And if we just address the body and physical symptoms, then we’ve also ignored the other aspect of our being.  Either way, by not addressing the WHOLE system, it leads to temporary results in the path toward optimum health. 

Justine Calderwood is a physical therapist at The Healing Spot Physical Therapy, LLC in Woodland Park, CO.  She has trained with John F. Barnes and is a skilled provider of Myofascial Release.  If you suffer from chronic pain, tension or constant stress, Myofascial Release may help you find freedom in movement and lead you to a healthier you.  

The Healing Spot Physical Therapy, LLC serves the communities of Woodland Park, Divide, Florissant, Lake George, Green Mountain Falls, Cascade, and Manitou Springs, Colorado.  If you are interested in specialist physical therapy care, we’d love to help you move easier and feel better.  To inquire about cost and availability, call us at 719-270-1123 or fill out an inquiry form here.


Justine Calderwood

The Healing Spot Physical Therapy

"We Help Individuals Overcome Pelvic Floor Issues, And Heal Bowel & Bladder Conditions So They Can Be Active and Pain Free Again, Regardless of How Long It's Been"