It’s our responsibility to choose how we want to perceive our life, the secret to feeling good is to stop feeling bad.” – Gabby Bernstein
Can you use positive thinking to get rid of your chronic illness? Can you will your pain or fatigue to go away? Or just decide one day that to stop feeling bad and that’s the end of your illness? Not everyone reading this will agree on this answer. Some will say yes they can and they really believe it. While others will say that just not possible. Here’s what I know from my medical background, no, it is just not physiologically possible. No amount of positive thinking or manifesting will cure you of a long term, chronic illness.
While listening to one of my normal weekly podcasts this morning, I heard the motivational speaker and author of Super Attractor: Methods for Manifesting a Life Beyond Your Wildest Dreams, Gabby Bernstein interviewed about her new book.** This is not someone I am familiar with or know anything about. But I decided to listen despite that fact. During the interview, she was asked to speak about what we can do spiritually to improve our lives. Or what we can do when life gets tough. It wasn’t until a few minutes into the interview (approximately 26:28 – 28:30) that she starts speaking about how she was able to decide to stop feeling bad by deciding to feel good after a diagnosis of postpartum anxiety and depression. While it may be true for her, I feel that this statement can be extremely misleading because while positive thinking can be very beneficial to one’s health it can not eliminate an illness all on its own.
I will give her credit where credit is due, she did state that by “deciding” to feel better it didn’t mean she would feel better overnight. What it did mean was that it made her open to doing whatever it takes to feel good. My problem is not with her or her book, it with this thought that is so popular these days. That if we think positively we can rule the world. Okay, that may be a little dramatic. But I am sure you know the trend I am talking about.
Don’t get me wrong, I am in no way against positive thinking or manifesting. But everything has its time and place. When you live with a chronic illness there isn’t enough positivity in the whole world to cure us. Research has shown that positive thinking can improve overall well-being by reducing stress and promote better-coping skills which can improve our overall health. But there has been no research done to prove that it will ever make us “stop feeling bad!” The NY Times reported that having a positive outlook can enhance belief in one’s abilities, decrease perceived stress and foster healthful behaviors.
Chronic illness is a strange monster in the fact that people don’t get it, they can’t understand why we can’t just will ourselves to get better. But it doesn’t work that way. When you have a chronic illness, many will agree that there are times in life when you are at the mercy of your body. Times, when all the western, and eastern medicine approaches in the world, don’t seem to help and you just have to ride the current wave all the way to the shoreline. Ya, it’s not ideal, but those living this life have just come to understand it and accept it. It’s getting those around us to understand that can be the problem.
I can tell you from almost 10 years of living with chronic health issues if I just “decided” I was going to stop feeling bad, my body would essentially laugh at me. Sure, I can think positively and do positive things to improve the negative self-talk that often goes along with chronic illness. But just deciding one day that I am going to “feel good” isn’t going to take away the physiological issues happening inside my body. I may have a better attitude and feel better mentally. But by just “deciding” to be better, that will not make the physical manifestations of the conditions go away. I can sit here all day long and tell myself and others how good I feel, but when I have a migraine, or I am in the midst of a lupus flare my positive thoughts won’t take that pain away. Which can be hard for those who don’t live with it to understand. It can be hard to understand why we can’t just power through the pain or fatigue, or why having a better attitude and manifesting a cure won’t help. It’s hard to explain, I guess it’s one of those things that you can’t truly understand until you live it.
As I’ve said several times positive thinking is great, but has its time and place in life. Does it belong in the mix of western medicine as a way people plan to improve their health? That’s not for me to say. That has to be left to each and every individual. I do think though that we all have to be careful what we believe so we don’t get our hearts crushed when things don’t work. I will never discount something that has worked for someone else. But I don’t think you’ll ever convince most of the chronically ill patient population that positive thinking alone is the cure we’ve been waiting for.
**Full Interview with Gabby Bernstein can be found at 23:30-36:20 In the podcast