The myriad of different personal/spiritual growth books and self-help programs available today all concur on at least one primary tenet – that our thoughts are far more powerful than we realize. Thoughts do indeed have the ability to create form, and if one doubts this to be true, they simply need to look around them and acknowledge that literally any man-made thing in existence had to first begin with a thought. And thought, coupled with strong emotion, leads to even faster manifestations.
The power of thought to create form also applies to our bodies. Through our thoughts and the emotions that emerge from them, we can either create healthy bodies, or we can develop illnesses and diseases. Anyone who has read the alternative healing information I’ve shared on this blog is aware that I am totally convinced that negative thinking/emotions are at the foundation of all physical problems.
The fact is our amazing bodies were expertly designed to protect us from legitimate, physical threats. As you probably know, whenever we are presented with one, such an impending attack from a lion or other wild animal, the hypothalamus area of our brain initiates a sequence of nerve cell firing and chemical release that prepares our body for running or fighting (i.e., the infamous fight or flight reaction with its accompanying rush of adrenaline, noradrenaline, and cortisol, as well as other physical reactions, such as the temporary suppression of the immune system).
This hard-wired reaction has obviously been a key to the survival of our species, however, these days the vast majority of us rarely have to face such life-threatening situations. And yet, our bodies continue to generate such aggressive responses to far less alarming circumstances, including traffic jams, disagreements with others, financial stresses, work pressures, etc. In the end, the events themselves don’t actually cause our body to generate stress hormones; it is our thoughts about them that do so. As such, just a thought held in our consciousness for more than a passing moment is enough to cause physical reactions within our bodies. And, these reactions, if repeated frequently, often lead to the manifestation of illnesses and diseases due to the immune system suppression referenced earlier.
The reality is we unconsciously create our physical dysfunctions by thinking thoughts that automatically trigger fight or flight reactions. It’s therefore clearly in our best interests to develop the ability to remain truly “conscious” in all circumstances by swiftly assuming the perspective a “witness” to our life, rather than solely being the participant. In my book Spirituality Simplified, I quote Fr. Anthony DeMello, who described this as the ability to “step outside of yourself and literally observe whatever is going on in you, and around you as if it were happening to someone else.” In essence, this means the higher part of you (i.e., the “I” in DeMello’s teachings) observes “me” (i.e., the ego).
Over a period of years, and with a lot of practice, I’ve developed the ability to shift into that witness perspective, however, there are times when negative (e.g., fearful) thoughts manifest the fight or flight response almost instantaneously in me. Under such circumstances, it almost feels as if I am “being thought” by an outside force rather than it being any type of conscious decision on my part. In such instances, it can be extremely challenging to shut down the fight or flight response once it’s initiated, and that nasty feeling in the pit of my stomach takes hold followed by even more negative thoughts additional stress hormones. To address these types of situations, I’ve found that applying the following steps have been of great value to me:
Begin taking slow, deliberate, and very deep breaths down into the abdomen (as opposed to breathing into the chest).
Next, start asking questions of yourself either silently or out loud (e.g., Am I safe right now? Is what I am afraid of actually affecting me now? Are my basic needs being met at this moment? Do I have a money problem right this minute? These are just examples, as you obviously need to determine the questions that best suit what you are experiencing.) The answers will usually serve to bring some peace to you, as in most instances the only threat you’re actually facing is the lion in your own mind! If necessary, repeat the questions and keep answering them until you feel your body calm down.
If after completing steps one and two the stress response continues to trouble you, then try repeating a mantra such as, “no thought, no thought, no thought, no thought” for at least one and half minutes, or until the calm comes. You also can close your eyes and picture a large movie screen with in front of you with nothing displayed on it and repeat “blank screen, blank screen, blank screen” for a comparable amount of time.
It may take a couple of minutes, but eventually the physical symptoms of stress do taper off for me when I apply this technique. It is important to note, however, that although this process can be very helpful, it does not solve the source of the problem; rather, it’s more of a “coping” mechanism. In the end, to get to the heart of the matter and release whatever lies at the foundation of the stress response requires some type of energy healing modality. In this regard, I recommend you consider the following two tools, each of which I have used and found value in:
Emotional Freedom Technique [EFT]