Tuesday, April 3, 2007

The Pain of Positive Thinking

At some point in a person’s life, they usually stumble upon the allure of The Power of Positive Thinking. While this concept is certainly valuable and useful, taken to extremes it can also be destructive.

Example 1:

When I was in my mid-twenties I moved to California and became deeply immersed in my spirituality. Part of that included a mentorship with a well-known female guru I will call Tisha. She had a good size following and I was always honored when I was able to get face time with her alone. I respected her tremendously and was an eager student.

I was being trained that nothing in this world is a coincidence and that we have control of our own lives. I learned how to pray for things and they would happen. I learned to value myself as an important child of God. I worked hard to believe in myself and in my future.

The one thing that I wasn’t able to “transform” was my health. I would still get sick and continued coming and going from inpatient hospital care.

Tisha told me that I could be well if only I wanted it enough and believed that it could happen. At first this was an inspiring concept and one that I embraced fully. I visualized my healing and trusted that God would provide me with a way out of my physical ailments. Time passed and my health continued to deteriorate despite my prayers and affirmations. Tisha’s words rang in my ears: “You can be well if you only want it enough and believe it can be so”. I thought I wanted it. I thought I believed it could be so. I assumed I merely had not dug deep enough and had hidden resistance to health in my unconscious self.

My failure to heal slowly led to a failure to believe in my own spiritual depth. I told myself that if I only prayed harder, loved God more or believed more strongly, then I would be free of this disease. I began to feel bad about myself and my connection to God. I beat myself up for my perceived spiritual inadequacies. Eventually, I became depressed. All the while, my disease kept on progressing without a hint of it recognizing my spiritual journey.

Example 2:

Before my first transplant, I had a great teacher in acting school. He was from Russia and taught an exciting movement class. He taught us a movement ritual that he called “Form” every day. When he would hear me coughing he would assure me that if I just did Form enough, I would be cured. I thought he was out of his mind but secretly tried it anyway. He was wrong.


So many people have the magic bullet; that thing they know about that will fix any problem. From self-help gurus to alternative treatments to spiritual teachers, they have the right recommendations and advice. There is nothing wrong with embracing these ideas. When it becomes a problem is when you do not allow the possibility for them not to solve everything.

What I have come to realize is that we are all made of matter and are earthbound creatures. Because of this, we must abide by the rules of earth. Sometimes miracles happen. Often, they don’t. Why isn’t it ever considered God’s will for a person to be sick? Are we so narrow in thought that we think we should all be taught lessons the happy way? My disease, no my diseases, have been hard but I wouldn’t trade them for the world. They are my ticket to learning what I am here to know.

Please don’t ever tell me someone “lost their battle” to a disease. This is not a war and there is no one to blame. I have friends that I have lost and some I never got to meet. I would never tell them that they died because they didn’t think more positively. Feed your spirit with love and compassion but beware of the Pain of Positive Thinking.


Sebastien said...

Oh, this rings so true. I know in my email I said we need to think positively and be strong, but it is very true that there are earthly laws, and our health is sometimes outside of our control, no matter how much we will something it cannot always happen. I think it's egotistical sometimes on the part of people who are claiming that their methodology will help you, so long as you keep doing it, and if it doesn't work, then it's YOUR fault. Ridiculous.

Anyways, it's great to read your thoughts.

Jen! said...

With the book "The Secret" becoming increasingly popular, I fear that many people will experience the self doubt and depression you went through - it's just as bad as a TV evangelist yelling at you through your TV that if you aren't well, you don't have enough faith. I have a friend who is very into the Power of Positive Thinking and I have learned a lot from her and do beleive it can change a lot of things in our lives (I tend to be a pessimist), but when she starts talking about willing a nice car or a new set of lungs, I just tell her that's not "me."