Keep a good attitude and stay positive - those words are probably heard by every cancer patient throughout this country. I hear it. I read it on blogs and on forums. Those words are not merely words of hopefulness, though. They are words that promise a power beyond our simple thoughts.
I am guilty of being influenced by the possibility of my mind’s power. I have chanted the mantra "kill the cancer, kill the cancer" in hopes of giving power to the drugs entering my body. My rational mind knew it really wouldn’t work, but I did it anyway.
Perhaps the idea of the healing power of the mind began when people first believed they could communicate with their god(s) by sending their thoughts through prayer. Then somewhere along the way people bypassed the deity and went straight to using mind-over-matter thoughts sent directly to whatever the person desired to change. Sometimes it seemed to work so the possibility indeed seemed possible. To present day, this belief still persists despite any scientific evidence of proof.
Stories of people living longer with claims their positive thoughts played a part likely lead many people to believe being positive is synonymous with living longer. But, curmudgeons with life-threatening diseases can and do live as long as positive people with the same disease. It is quite evident to me that in our think-positive-thoughts only society, no one wants to hear the stories with any type of negativity. Therefore, why wouldn't people believe that positive thoughts could actually give us the ability to produce physical changes within our body if the good-outcome tales were the only ones people heard or wanted to hear. Think thoughts of eradicating cancer, and we can heal ourselves. It gives us so much control over our individual circumstances.
Unfortunately for all of us, cancer does not have a brain. It doesn't care how strongly we desire to live. Plus, we can't command our white blood cells to attack something it can't detect. Even if we could, cancer cells are our own cells, not a foreign invader, so the immune system wouldn't know what we were telling it to attack. Instead of actually healing us, I believe the stay positive philosophy simply makes everyone involved feel better. That alone is one reason this myth continues since no one I know wants to be around someone who is sad, angry and miserable.
I think it is a shame that our society deems it not ok to be sad. I know what it is like to see the end of my life and to face having to leave everything and everyone I love sooner than I had imagined. I have been angry, depressed and sad beyond consolation. It was necessary for me to go through all those emotions. If I had stifled them I may not have come to the happier me of today. Besides, what is wrong with some good mad as hell negativity anyway? Yeah, it makes people uncomfortable. Cancer is uncomfortable. If more people were freer to express their emotional distress, perhaps there would be less people on anxiety medications. I did take Ativan in the beginning of my diagnosis because I was told to do so by my oncologist. I did stop crying, but it made me numb emotionally. Actually, I really didn't feel much of anything including pain when I fell in the middle of the night. Had I kept taking it, I don't believe I would have come to terms with reality.
Obviously, if our mind is able to control our insides, it can control our external circumstances as well. Engage the mind to visualize what we desire, and we can have great wealth, a great job, and great friends. This idea is so powerful. Simply go into a bookstore and you can see how taken people are with this potential. There are numerous self-help books to guide people to tap into their minds and get what they want- all at a price of course. That $20,000 a year job could become a $100,000 a year job just by thinking it. Are you having trouble finding someone to spend your life with? - change your attitude. And, that incurable disease you have, simply visualize the cancer disappearing and it will. Or, maybe if you thought about it the right way you could win the lottery. Anything is possible with our minds. If it doesn’t work . . . well, you must not have thought the right thoughts, and you should try again.
I believe positive thinking can allow for hopeful thoughts to enter the mind, but it cannot make cancer go away nor can it change life circumstances. Action is necessary for those kinds of changes. The mind just does not have that kind of power. If it did, my life would be a lot different because I sure have wished hard enough to be free of this horrendous disease. Certainly there are millions of people like me that have wished for the same freedom for themselves and their loved ones. But, they still died sooner than they would have without the disease.
I am not opposed to hopeful thoughts or even cheerfulness. Laughter does indeed initiate smiling causing the release of feel-good hormones that just - well . . . makes us feel good. This could be the reason why we have the saying "laughter is the best medicine". What I am opposed to is someone trying to convince another person that they can beat their cancer by having a good attitude and staying positive. Or, a person telling someone that good things don't happen to them because they didn't think the right thoughts. As long as no one can prove or disprove the mind has such an ability, this kind of thinking will continue. None of us, no matter how hard we wish it to be true, is capable of performing that kind of magic.