I’m always amazed at the power of the mind. It’s one of the most meaningful things in our lives that we can conquer. It is the very reason that “placebo effect” exists. There are so many things in life that are out of our control, but our thoughts? We can actually learn to control them.
Our minds are often invaded with negative thoughts and emotions. This negativity is actually an innate survival skill. We remember negative thoughts as a protective feature. This goes back to the days of hunter gatherers. Imagine if we were gathering berries and we became really sick after eating a specific berry. If we forgot that experience or the look of the berry, we risk becoming sick again. Our brains are wired to remember these negative experiences for our very survival. So it is no wonder that we struggle to overcome our negative thoughts.
Overcoming Negative Thoughts
I recently had an experience that demonstrated just how powerful our minds (and therefore we) can be. I know a woman who has stage 3 brain cancer. Her tumor is inoperable. When I saw her after chemotherapy and radiation treatments around 4 years ago, she wasn’t in the best shape due to the side effects from the treatments. She decided to forgo further treatment since she had no quality of life and the risks were outweighing the benefits. The reality she faced was that the treatments would claim her life before the cancer would.
I have been joyfully amazed to see her every year since and notice that she is still living symptom free. She shared with me the tools she has used to help her cope with facing a terminal illness every day while raising 2 young daughters with her husband.
As a foreword, she did go through experiencing the emotions of her diagnosis. She let all of that emotion out over the course of days and weeks until she was finally able to process it.This is an important step in learning to overcome our thoughts. To express the emotion sets it free. Emotions travel faster than thoughts do. Therefore, the emotion naturally comes first. Facing the emotion and expressing it allows us to think clearly again.
The woman came to the realization that the diagnosis and the tumor itself are beyond her control. She decided that she must learn to let go. If she focused on her symptoms, her fears, or her internet fed knowledge about what lies ahead, she would be frozen in fear. She decided she had to do something and felt she had no other choice.
She decided to use visualization techniques since that is was came quite naturally for her as an artist. She decided to imagine herself as something fierce. For her, she imagined herself as a ninja. She imagined herself as a ninja fighting off the negative thoughts that would enter her mind. “Brain cancer has a life expectancy of 1-5 years?”: in comes the ninja and kicks that thought away. “What will happen to my family without me?”: the ninja steps in and fights that thought away.
It worked. She was able to pull herself up, take care of her children and carry on day after day after day. She was able to live in the moment of now and today.
She also use another tool. She imagined a lion pacing back and forth in front of her bedroom door guarding her from her own thoughts while she tried to fade into sleep. The thoughts couldn’t even enter the room in which she slept.
The Power of Visualization
When undergoing difficult tests such as an MRI, she imagined holding the hand of Jesus or a dear friend every time. This visualization provided a peace and clarity that normally would have been reserved for fearful thoughts.
It is important to note that in this case, she was not visualizing the cancer going away. She visualized the negative thoughts going away. She decided to have control over the only thing that she felt she could control: her own thoughts.
The result? Not only is she enjoying living her life, but she is LIVING nearly 5 years later without treatments. This is remarkable for the diagnosis. How is that possible? It is possible that the lack of fear is actually helping her live. Whether we have a REAL threat or a PERCEIVED threat, our bodies will react the same way. For instance, when we are under threat, our stress hormones reduce blood flow to certain systems of our bodies including the blood flow to our immune system. The blood flow would be better served circulating to our heart and brain in order to escape whatever threat we are trying to escape (whether real or perceived) rather than fighting off a virus at that moment in time. Our body’s stress response is identical to that which occurred when we were under constant threat from saber tooth tigers and has not evolved to cope with today’s fears or threats.
Since our immune system is our defender, it can control and even destroy wayward cells such as cancer cells. It is possible that the the techniques this woman is using is actually contributing to the control and lack of growth of her cancerous tumor by supporting her immune system.
Overcoming our mind is one of the most powerful things we can do for not only our health, but our happiness. Imagine if we could stop living in constant fear of things that we cannot control. Imagine if we can overcome the thoughts and fears that keep us from truly living our life? Must we have to deal with a life-threatening illness to realize just how important LIVING is?
If you are finding yourself stuck and not getting better despite dietary changes, supplements, exercising, etc, could it be that fear is getting in the way of healing? I often have clients who are fearful to eat the wrong food or be exposed to toxins that are completely out of their control.
When exposed to either the food or toxin, they immediately feel a reaction. The problem is: is it the actual toxin or the FEAR of the toxin that made the difference? Unless there is a REAL threat such as a grizzly bear chasing you on a hike, it is time to start thinking of fear AS a toxin just as much as mold or DDT are toxins.
If you are fearful, how can you help with that? Sometimes, just accepting that we don’t have control of certain things simply forces us to let it go. Are there things that you worry about that are completely out of your control?
Here are some tips to help when you feel you are struggling:
-Visualization such as the ones described above
-Simply ask yourself “Is this in my control?” when you think something that is causing you anxiety or worry. If it isn’t in your control, consider how to let it go.
–Emotional Freedom Technique also known as “tapping.”
-Meditation. There are many apps available for meditations.
-Practice TRUSTING the path that life provides for you. You cannot always control the barriers in the path, but you can find your way around them.