Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Mind over matter (by anon)

People get sick. We get viruses, infections, diseases, injuries, etc. of all sorts.

To an extent, we cannot control what happens to our bodies. We get sick and many times, we just can't avoid it and we can't control what the sickness does to our bodies. However, I would bet money on the claim that we can certainly significantly affect our illness, after we've contracted it, through means other than pills or any other kind of physical medical treatment. I'm talking about using our minds.

I think a lot of people have this notion (as I used to have) that when we get sick, our only options are to obtain some kind of medication to get rid of the illness/treat symptoms until it goes away and/or passively let it run its course. Furthermore, people get upset (as I used to) that they're sick and they become frustrated because they believe they can't do anything other than consume medicine, be patient, and (at best) "look up", because they are under the impression that they don't have any other real effective means to gain control of the sickness that has manifested in their bodies.

This is dualistic thinking - it's the idea that somehow, our mind is separate from our body so much that even though in our minds, we would like to be well again, our thinking can't do much for our body when it is unwell, because our bodies are material, and our minds cannot control the material world. But, if you consider the mind and material brain to be one apparatus, then we can begin to see how utilizing our mind in a certain way can effectively change how our body functions. Note - I'm not saying that if you just think hard enough, you won't have cancer anymore, or if you get a big gash on your leg, you can think about it and you won’t need stitches. Of course there are physical limits to what our minds can do for our bodies. Having said that, our mind can have a significant effect on our bodies, and we seem to be unaware of this most, if not all, of the time. It kills me that when people are struck with any kind of ailment whatsoever, it is as though they find themselves helpless, and they rely wholly on medication and physical treatments, and they are completely ignorant of how real the mind's effects can be on the body.

Visualization and meditation are examples of ways one can self medicate using just the mind, and I dare anyone to try it. But one MUST believe in it in order for it to work. So seriously - next time you get sick, even if it is just a minor cold, take time each day (even just 5 or 10 minutes) and sit quietly and comfortably, with your eyes closed, and envision to the best of your ability your body healing. Imagine your body producing white blood cells and sending them to fight the bad bacteria or virus. Imagine new skin cells forming on a wound. Or just imagine whatever it is that would constitute the healing of whatever part of your body needs healing. (As a disclaimer, let me just say that I'm not a wacko who says if you're sick, meditation will cure you and you never need to go to the doctor, because like I said, there is a limit to what we can do with the mind. So if you have a serious illness, relying on your mind alone to cure you is not what I would recommend).

You may find that treating your illness this way works to a significant degree. I've tried it myself with various ailments that I've had in the past, and I believe it works. Like I said though, just thinking about your body healing isn't going to necessarily be the cure - however, it can and will, I believe, promote faster healing as well as slow down, or possibly even prevent, the worsening of an illness. And this goes both ways - if thinking of healing can improve the illness, thinking of being ill can just make it worse.

So next time you come down with something, be aware of your mental state and at least try to control the illness in some way using your mind, and believe in it. You may be pleasantly surprised.


  1. Agree with what you're saying but there are, like you said, limitations on what you can do. Pain is solely in your nervous system and therefore controlled by your brain. But there's a difference between a monk withstanding the pain of being burned alive and a regular person with the pain of, say, a bullet in the leg, I'd say that they still need pain medication to take the edge off or else they won't function til the actual, physical problem is gone.

  2. Consciousness is just a byproduct of our brains. It doesn't have any causal influence on us. Think what you want about an illness or pain, but in the end you need physical remedies. That's the only causation that works. Causation doesn't flow in both directions.

  3. Ok 9:05 I get what you're saying. However, how would you account for those who can actually withstand extreme pain or bodily harm without any negative repercussions?

    While consciousness may just be a byproduct of our brains, I still feel that as consciousness gives us the ability to reflect on and change our mental states, it can be used to actually control our brains to an extent, and thus it can control our bodies to an extent.

    I think if anything, numerous accounts of persons' mental states affecting their bodily states would warrant a belief in the fact that as conscious beings, we have the ability to control our own mental states, and thus, through psychological processes, our bodies will react a certain way to our mental states. I don't buy that it is a one way street - just like bodily states cause mental states, mental states cause bodily states. And I'd say there's good evidence to support the fact that through consciousness, we can control our mental states, and consequently, our bodily states.

  4. Can what you're saying make my eyesight get better? Because if you know some secret, please let me know.

  5. Probably not 10:20... although I have heard of people who actually improve their poor eyesight by doing eye exercises or taking away their glasses for a period of time and in a way forcing their eyes to adapt to the change, thus improving their vision... but unfortunately I'm thinking that improving eyesight by meditating might be just as effective as fixing a crooked nose by meditating.

  6. I believe in what you're saying to an extent.

    We've probably all at one point heard about a person who succumbs to despair or loses the will to go on (often after the death of a significant other) only to succumb to illness soon after. Positive, happy people seem to live longer than those who get down on themselves, or stressed, and I believe this is where the benefit of positive thinking comes in - visualization and meditation work for relieving stress and anxiety which are two conditions proven to be bad for our health.

    The thing is that, like you said, one must believe completely in the power of visualization or meditation for it be really effective.

    I've tried some visualization to help reduce anxiety in certain social situations. It really works best if you focus on a situation you've been somewhat successful at that is also a source of anxiety. Only think about the positive aspects. Realize things that went right and what was good - things you did not realize earlier due to the anxiety. For example, if you get nervous about talking to a certain person, visualize the successes you've had talking to them and accentuate the positives of that experience. If you regularly converse and if they don't blow you off, that means they must enjoy your company well enough. There is joy and good and love derived from each interaction.

    The point is not to simply play a scenario in your head, but to feel and experience the power of your awesomeness while visualizing yourself winning in a situation which sounds ridiculous but try it and do it right and you'll know what I mean. You can carry that power into the rest of your day. However, it is very important to try hard not to allow any doubts or fears to enter your mind.

  7. You're willing to bet money? You DARE me? BELIEVE!? How emotional! I swear I can already sense it affecting me and that's a fact — I believe it.