Louise L. Hay's name has become synonymous with self-healing and self-respect. While her beliefs and methods have not pleased everyone, they have helped millions of others overcome negative self-talk, and many have claimed that physical ailments have also been healed through the use of Hay's affirmations, positive statements meant to gradually take hold in one's mind and replace negative statements. Hay has become one of the leading figures in the self-help world; it is no surprise that she offers strategies that many have found to work because she has tested them on herself to overcome personal battles that many would find insurmountable.
Louise Hay was born in 1926 in Southern California. Her family was not one that you would think of when you hear the word “success”; abuse was rife, including an episode of childhood sexual assault that would later play a pivotal role in Hay's ability to use the metaphysical to heal the physical. Her life seemed to be one that was heading for not-great things, including teen pregnancy and a lack of schooling.
This changed after she headed to the East Coast; after California and Chicago did nothing for her, New York provided her with lucrative modeling jobs. Her life was on the upswing, and after marrying, she lived what seemed to be a happy, cosmopolitan life, until, sadly, her husband left her.
Like many people, this change in such a fundamental aspect of her life sent Hay searching, and she ended up developing an interest in Religious Science, a branch of New Thought. While most people are familiar with Christianity through the lenses of Catholicism, Baptism, and other denominations, New Thought is a metaphysical version. Rather than relying on salvation as some reward for following a bunch of rules set down in an old book, and treating God as an external force that awards or restricts the good things in your life, the various schools within New Thought treat salvation as something you can arrive at yourself, with God being a force in and around everyone and everything, lovingly supporting you and bringing those things that your mind is in tune with. In other words, if you're radiating those good vibes, you get good things in return.
One aspect of Religious Science that intrigued many people, including Hay, was the use of positive thinking to overcome physical ailments. While Hay is now known for popularizing this type of work, she was not the first; New Thought schools have long held that your thoughts and beliefs are key in your physical health. It should be noted here that New Thought does not include Christian Science, despite the similarity in name to Religious Science and Science of Mind, another New Thought school.
Christian Science rests all recovery on thought and prayer, while New Thought includes the use of conventional medicine and going to the doctor as appropriate treatments if you want them, especially if your beliefs are strongly tilted toward Western medicine holding the solutions for a lot of health problems. New Thought does not prohibit anyone from seeing a doctor, and Hay's own book, You Can Heal Your Life, includes examples of people having doctors and nurses speak positively about a patient and that patient's recovery — while those people underwent conventional surgery in a regular hospital.
Hay eventually became deeply involved in Religious Science and began advocating affirmations, which are those positive statements that you formulate based on what you want. She continued to help people through workshops, and one of her crowning achievements was her support — open, loving support, when not many people were doing this — of AIDS patients, particularly gay men. She had moved back to Los Angeles and was providing some much-needed spiritual support to the gay community affected by AIDS, and her meetings, eventually called “Hay Rides,” grew until she was leading meetings with hundreds of attendees.
Her attitude, since taking up Religious Science, has always been that “Life loves you.” Her perspective is that life can be positive and loving for anyone, and it is just old stories that people keep telling themselves that holds them back. These stories stem from old information given to them subconsciously as children, and once these stories are changed, life can change for the better, and quite drastically.
Her devotion to the idea that thoughts and beliefs cause health problems underwent a major test in the late 1970s when she was diagnosed with cancer. Because of the cancer's reproductive-system location, she eventually connected it to anger based on the assault she was subject to as a child. Rather than rely on conventional treatments, she claims she healed herself through healthy eating and a lot of affirming and inner work to soothe the anger and basically put it to rest. Whether these claims are true is not known, but she did become cancer-free and has continued to lead a healthy, happy life in the decades since.
Hay is likely best-known for her book, You Can Heal Your Life, which looks at affirmations and how they can change all aspects of life once they sink in. Her method is, as she notes, like planting a seed, with the seed being the new, positive statement. She admits that it can take work; sometimes you have to repeat an affirmation — planting that seed — hundreds of times for it to even begin to take hold in your life. The book resonated with many people searching for ways to break out of unhelpful, negative patterns, and it became a best seller. It continues to be one of the most widely known self-help books in the world today.
Hay House, the publishing company that Hay started, has also grown into an international powerhouse, spotlighting authors from many branches of the metaphysical world. Hay has become known for her “I Can Do It” seminars that help people further improve their lives, and she continues to be very active. Her loving, calm attitude seems unflappable, even though she has openly said that even she has her bad days. The difference, though, is that she knows the bad days will pass, and that positive beliefs and self-love will triumph over negativity always.