I am convinced, more now than ever before, of how much impact our thinking – known or unknown – can alter how we perceive and experience our bodies and lives.
Deepak Chopra discusses the provable affect of how we think, our level of awareness and our perception of the world around us, impacts on our physical health. In his book ‘Ageless Body, Timeless Mind’, he explains the impact of negative connotations and the direct correlation with negative health experiences. Deepak Chopra refers to a study specifically designed by psychiatrist David Spiegel to disprove the mind-body connection and the unexpected and startling results.
“One of the most publicized medical studies in recent years was conducted by Stanford psychiatrist David Spiegel, who set out to prove that the mental state of patients did not influence whether they survived cancer. He felt, as many clinicians do, that assigning importance to a patient’s beliefs and attitude would do more harm than good, because the thought ‘I cause my cancer’ would cause feelings of guilt and self-recrimination.
Spiegel took eighty-six women with advanced breast cancer (their disease was basically beyond help with conventional treatment) and gave half of them weekly psychotherapy combined with lessons in self-hypnosis. By any measure this represents minimal intervention – what could a woman do in an hour’s therapy per week, time she must share with several other patients, to combat a disease that is inevitably fatal in advanced stages? The answer seemed obvious.
However, after following his subjects for ten years, Spiegel was stunned to find that the group receiving therapy survived on average twice as long as the group that received none. It was doubly telling that only three women were alive by this late date, all of them from the therapy group. This study is startling because the researcher expected no effect at all.”
To further support the mind-body connection Deepak Chopra’s book refers to another study of women with aggressive breast cancer. “What’s even more startling and telling is a study in 1987 from Yale, where M.R. Jenson reported in his research results that breast cancer spread fastest – most aggressively in women who had repressed personalities, felt hopeless, and were unable to express anger, fear, and other negative emotions.”
We know that the body can be ‘tricked’ by creating a belief, telling the patient that they are being given a medicine that will cure them. The simple version is underpinned by the hypothesis that there is a mind-body connection and the mind can alter the sensations and experience of the body by simply ‘tricking’ it.
“By giving a placebo, or dummy, drug, 30 percent of patients will experience the same pain relief as if a real painkiller has been administered. But the mind-body affect is much more holistic. The same dummy pill can be used to kill pain, to stop excessive gastric secretions in ulcer patients, to lower blood pressure, or to fight tumors. (All the side effects of chemotherapy, including hair loss and nausea, can be induced by giving cancer patients a sugar pill while assuring them that it is a powerful anti-cancer drug, and there have been instances where injections of sterile saline solution have actually led to remissions of advanced Malignancy.)”
So, what we think affects our physical health? And if that is the case, as is predominantly represented in the noted studies above, then where to from here? Reading and absorbing the potential impact of how I think about myself and the consequential impact my thoughts, awareness and perception of the world impacts my physical wellbeing sent me in to quite a spiral of fear.
The fear was the realization that I wasn’t quite sure what I thought about myself, and my body to start with, and what negative thinking I had been conjuring up? I do know I have moments of dysfunctional negative thoughts and opinions about certain facets of myself – body shape in particular – but really – is it possible I could create physical un-wellness in my body?
And what about physical aspects of my body, the parts that I don’t like the shape of? For instance, I would like more shapely legs. I would like legs that look fabulous, and don’t swell up at the end of the day. Do I have less shapely legs because of my negative thinking about my body shape?
Is there a cause and affect that relates as the studies above do? If I think negatively, perceive hopelessly, have a distorted and dysfunctional view of the world – will my legs become less shapely???
“When someone’s interpretation changes, a change in his reality also takes place. In the case of children suffering from psychosocial dwarfism, putting them into a loving environment proves more effective than administering growth hormone (their belief in being unwanted and unworthy can be so strong that their bodies will not grow even when hormones are injected into them). However, if loving foster parents can transform the children’s core belief about being unlovable, they can respond with bursts of naturally produced growth hormone, which sometimes brings them back to normal height, weight, and development.”
So, according to the above segment from Deepak Chopra’s book, my thoughts and perception of myself – of my legs not being as good as I want or ‘normal’ in the cultural realm of the accepted leg shape – may have altered at a physiological level the shape of my physical self!
My thoughts and perceptions are based on what I beleive – my core beliefs about myself, life and the world around me. A core belief is defined as something you assume is true about reality, and as long as you hold on to it, your belief will hold you and your body within certain parameters. You identify or perceive something as likeable or un-likeble, distressing or enjoyable, according to how it fits your expectations – expectations that you have learned by your experiences in the environment you grew up in and currently reside in.
As babies we do not have core beliefs, at all. That’s astounding to consider, knowing that every moment we are awake, we are processing thought and discerning what our reality is. I know my reality (my perception) is different to the next person’s. I know this because I have a different opinion and experience of the same factual situation. I have learned responses to the situation and have core beliefs about those situations that create my ‘reality’ of the situation and how I experience it.
In the situation where a car stops suddenly in front of me, I may react in a number of ways depending on my beliefs and the parameters of my expectations. I may acknowledge the sudden stopping logically and be able to explain that the person driving the vehicle in front of me failed to slow down gradually, or I might perceive that the driver is having a medical emergency of some type, or more commonly I might think the driver’s an idiot and doesn’t know how to drive.
Regardless of what is factual about the sudden stop, I will have already interpreted my reality, which is limited to the parameters of my core beliefs.
I’ve known for a long time, and more so in my work as a Life Coach, that a core belief is life changing – or life damaging – if it’s negative, to an individuals existence. Knowing that we have core beliefs to start with, and then uncovering them and identifying what they are, how they feel, and what impact they have is imperative to at least a functioning existence.
The ultimate outcome is a body that I accept, rather than label with core beliefs, that is operating at optimum levels due to a sense of fulfillment, positivity, joyfulness and exuberance for the life I am experiencing as my reality.
I’m still reading ‘Ageless Body, Timeless Mind’, and have begun to note more deeply my understanding of my reality and the level of my thinking and its possible impact on my body (shape) and health. The greatest gift this book has given me is a level of self-awareness that I have not experienced before. The awareness of my thoughts, that are automatic and often not what I would have expected.
Knowing more about how I perceive my world, and my body, and how I am ultimately shaping it based on my core beliefs – which are results of my thoughts, has created a brighter moment by moment experience of life for me.
If you would like to uncover your Core Beliefs then head on over to my Website for more information www.lifecoachtasman.co.nz