Negative thinking is like a self-induced autoimmune disease that can make life miserable
I need to preface this article by saying that I am not equating an autoimmune disease with how we think. What I am saying is that the way we use our mind has a very powerful impact on the way we feel, and too many of us verbally attack our bodies when it is in pain or otherwise compromised. In this context, I am using autoimmune as an analogy to discuss the impact our thoughts and words have on our health.
An autoimmune disease occurs when a person’s immune system mistakenly attacks their own body. In other words, it happens when the body’s natural defense system can’t tell the difference between healthy and unhealthy cells, causing the body to mistakenly attack itself.
Please now think of your mind as an army. Or, to use the terminology of autoimmune disease, a defense system. Are your thoughts generating a defense system protecting you, or has that defense system, your thoughts and words, turned into an attacker or enemy? Do you belittle yourself or think poorly of yourself or think frequent negative thoughts about various aspects of your life, other people, and the world at large?
Do you live your life in ways that keeps your mind overly stimulated and active and overly stressed, or do you praise yourself and pat yourself on the back for the efforts you make despite tremendous challenges in your life? In addition, do you put your mind at ease with meditation, prayer, breathing, gratitude, forgiveness and other nervous system calming techniques?
I think most of us would answer with the former, which means that we have created a voluntary “autoimmune disease” within the body where we have allowed our mind to attack our body and impact how we feel. Of course it isn’t a real autoimmune disease, but if your thoughts are filled with anger, resentment, judgement, etc., the mind is attacking the health of every cell in your body by the way you think and how you characterize life events. And as we all know, how we perceive, characterize, and respond to life events is what creates stress which has an undeniable impact on our health.
If you are physically unwell, it doesn’t help to berate yourself OR your health problem. Why punish yourself more than you already feel punished for having to live a life with pain? For those of you who do berate your problem or talk about how much you hate it, does it make you feel better? If it does, I truly would love to hear from you because I have yet to meet a person who has less pain when they are actively in hatred of it.
Some people have gotten furious with me for suggesting that we choose to think about our pain differently than hating it or as an enemy, yet no one has ever told me that this approach has helped them, whereas I have heard the opposite countless times. The opposite being that we develop a more friendly relationship with it and work with it versus resisting it.
I am not in any way suggesting that if we stop thinking negatively about pain it will heal us or that the problem will go away, or that the problem is in all our head. How we think is only part of the puzzle, but it’s a REALLY big part of the puzzle (think of the power of the placebo). It’s why I frequently discuss this topic because it is neglected far too much from my perspective, especially considering that this is the main topic that most of my health coaching clients frequently want to focus because they often say that they are their own worst enemy and it makes them feel more physically unwell.
I think we should absolutely, 100%, express all of the negative emotions within us. But, do it for the sake of getting them out of your system so you don’t live in a constant state of negativity. That’s the important thing. Expressing negative emotions is actually very helpful when done in a purging type fashion.
Consider this…when we judge anything (good or bad) we define it (‘this stupid pain’, ‘that damn surgery’, ‘I hate that I can’t run anymore! You damn neck pain!’, ‘my rotten doctor’, etc.). When we define something with an adjective, we give it life because of the emotion attached to the word before the “thing.” That thing then begins to define us, which can either lift us up or tear us down.
If your neck or back hurts, leave out the words “damn” or “stupid” pain and JUST call it pain. Perhaps this is a better way of thinking about it…the adjective and feeling we give to pain can raise its volume or help mute, to varying degrees, the pain we perceive and how we feel overall.
If you have never tried a friendlier, co-habitual approach to dealing with pain and made a daily practice of it, you’ll never know if it will help. For those who want to argue with me about this approach, that’s fine. It’s your life to live how you want, but if you have never tried it, there is no need to get angry with me for suggesting a different approach that might help. None of us knows enough about anything to ever be a cynic.
Speaking strictly for myself, when I work to find peace of mind in the present moment no matter what I am going through, it helps me deal with the dramatic life changes that come with my health challenges (dystonia and pain), and better roll with the punches of life in general. To learn more about this mind/body connection, I hope you will check out my books, Diagnosis Dystonia: Navigating the Journey and/or my new book, Beyond Pain and Suffering: Adapting to Adversity and Life Challenges.
Tom Seaman is a Certified Professional Life Coach in the area of health and wellness, and the author of 2 books: Diagnosis Dystonia: Navigating the Journey and Beyond Pain and Suffering: Adapting to Adversity and Life Challenges. He is also a motivational speaker, chronic pain and dystonia awareness advocate, health blogger, volunteer for the Dystonia Medical Research Foundation (DMRF) as a support group leader, and is a member and volunteer writer for Chronic Illness Bloggers Network, The Mighty, Brain & Life Magazine, and Patient Worthy. To learn more about Tom, get a copy of his books (also on Amazon), or schedule a free life coaching consult, visit www.tomseamancoaching.com. Follow him on Twitter @Dystoniabook1 and Instagram.