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Fake Positivity Does Not Fight Cancer – Stick With Your Authentic Self

20 Feb

Hello there, everyone.

Not so long ago, people in treatment for cancer were encouraged to put up a good, optimistic front, stay “positive” (whatever that means), and be “fighters” in their “battle” to “defeat” their disease. Now, this fits naturally for some personalities, but certainly not for everyone. And it raises more questions than it answers.

Luckily, we’ve gotten smarter since those days. Putting on a “happy face” doesn’t make cancer go away any more than feeling scared, sad, angry or discouraged makes it worse. 

This simplistic idea was popularized in the 80s, when we were under the spell of the “new” idea that there was a mind-body connection (doh!). And yes, there is indeed.. But imposing a childlike cause and effect relationship between “good” feelings and healing cancer, and “bad” feelings and getting sicker, is just plain misguided and incorrect.  And it’s scary, too, because it means that every time you feel worried or upset, you think you could be making yourself sicker.

The truth is, feelings are just feelings, neither good nor bad. Denying them is never a good idea, because that’s the same as lying to yourself – and that can subvert strength, resilience, focus and internal coherence. 

We need to know what’s going on inside of us. Then we can acknowledge the truth of our experience - at least to ourselves - and decide to either work with it or consciously set it aside and focus elsewhere (which is not the same as making believe it’s not going on – this is the proactive technique of conscious distraction. This week’s Hot Research shows how effective that can be on worriers.)

Besides, making believe we're not feeling what we’re feeling takes up extra energy that could be better used for living our lives. 

Feelings need to be recognized, acknowledged and allowed to move on through us. We don’t want to be bogging them down inside of us by attaching the heavy baggage of judgments to them. 

This is why mindfulness is so effective. The practice of mindfulness is all about noticing, acknowledging and releasing thoughts, feelings and sensations, without judgment. (And when you find yourself judging anyway, noticing, acknowledging and releasing the judgment, too.) And this has a wonderful way of clearing the mind, freeing up energy and creating internal balance, resilience and perspective… Good for your health, too!

So, if it’s in your nature to be optimistic, focused, motivated and energized by challenge, great. But the most important thing is to be authentic and honest with yourself

Okay, take care,

All best,

br signature

Belleruth 

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Belleruth Naparstek

Psychotherapist, author and guided imagery pioneer Belleruth Naparstek is the creator of the popular Health Journeys guided imagery audio series. Her latest book on imagery and posttraumatic stress, Invisible Heroes: Survivors of Trauma and How They Heal (Bantam Dell), won the Spirituality & Health Top 50 Books Award