You are more capable than you know!
I am sitting with my mom at the hospital, ready to pass out, having fasted for 24 hours for a colonoscopy exam. Good times. I am thinking of my dad, who, just over two months ago passed away from cancer. It was the most atrocious thing that I have had to watch and experience in my life, affecting me so deeply that it’s unbearable at times to even think about. I thought about him just then while waiting for my colonoscopy exam. I thought about our last days together, when I would take him to the multitude of doctor’s appointments at various hospitals, the tremendous amount of suffering that he must have gone through and the courage that it took to fight until the very end. He will always be my hero. These are the thoughts swirling around in my head as I am being gently placed into a hospital bed, covered with a warm blanket, IV in hand with the gentle voice of the nurse urging me to ‘take a deep breath’, dozing off from the sedation, ready for a tube to be strategically placed…. well, you know.
The tragedy of my father’s passing has befallen our lives recently and very rapidly. On top of the wound, without going into too much detail, in 2014 I was abused by a ‘healer’ who damaged me on all accounts of my being. The whole self; bruised and afraid, petrified actually. I was hospitalized with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD); a condition where an incident triggers a mental health disorder (anxiety, panic, nightmares, flashbacks and more) due to its traumatic nature. I had numerous injuries, not to mention the mental and psychological stress that ensued after.
Four years later, I find myself to be a 37-year-old woman on disability, with multiple chronic conditions, trying to piece her life back together. Now, all of this has been said not to garner sympathy, pity nor the wrong kind of attention, but because time and time again, friends, acquaintances and loved ones have told me that I am an incredibly strong woman. Normally, and up until that day at the hospital, I would shrug these comments off, brush them aside into the enormous pile of messiness that my life had become, just not letting it through to my heart; the place where it needed to be the most.
But that day at the hospital, prior to the sedation kicking in, something clicked inside of me. While waiting for the nurse to wheel me into the procedure room I found myself reflecting upon this phrase and actually, accepted it. Wow. Imagine that. Starved, dehydrated, full of medications with a long list of complex problems trailing me and a deceased father on my mind, I actually felt it. I felt strong inside! And I said to myself, “Yes, I am a strong woman!” And, even more incredulous is the fact that I believed it, deep within, despite where I was, despite my circumstances, I believed it and I recognized it to be the truth.
It felt good, it felt real, it felt like it was the real, honest truth. And it dawned on me, just how many people must be experiencing the same mental fallacies that I have been because of something that has happened to them or some status they lost, or a relationship that broke down. Whatever the reason, there was a reason for them to feel this way, except, that the reason wasn’t real. It wasn’t the truth. It isn’t the truth! You are a survivor, and you must know it!
If you feel like less than a success, I urge you to read my article on“Redefining Success”: https://medium.com/publishous/redefining-success-31e93247d5a6 . But this isn’t a story about success, though one’s perceptions about themselves may be tied to their ideas and societal ideals about success, too. This is a trap that we all have to be careful not to fall into. Coming back to my epiphany, how many times have you doubted your own abilities and strength to overcome, to persevere, to even survive? I can guarantee that it’s at the very least in the double digit range, but for most of us it’s hundreds of times if not more because a lot of the doubts that have been ingrained in us happen at the subconscious level. In fact, many of the world’s leading thinkers and philosophers have studied the subconscious and conscious mind as being in the driver’s seat to many of our thoughts, beliefs, emotions, even the execution of actions.
A primary example that immediately comes to mind is the work of Carl Jung, a Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst who founded analytical psychology and worked with Sigmund Freud. His work was light years ahead of his time. Jung saw repressions as one element of the unconscious, but also as a storehouse of forgotten information. The personal unconscious included ‘complexes;’ a collection of thoughts, feelings, attitudes, and memories that focus on a single concept. The subconscious had a role that played out in the individual’s conscious life. Therefore, it reasons that if one is imbued with bad memories or influences that they have suppressed from the past, or even feelings and attitudes that they have internalized, without a doubt they could influence one into thinking that they are not strong, unworthy, or for example, undesirable. Circumstances too can do the same.
Marcus Aurelius, called ‘the Philosopher’, Roman emperor from 161 to 180 AD was thought to be one of the most important Stoic philosophers of his time. His book on “Meditations” is considered to be one of the most quintessential reads of philosophy to date. Even in ancient times, Aurelius understood that the power of the mind was tremendously important in understanding an individual and society as a whole. Therefore, the mind, whether subconsciously or consciously can create thoughts that create beliefs, even attitudes, that represent one’s beliefs that they are not strong, for example, because of x, y and z.
You see, most days, it is out circumstances that get to dictate our emotions. To go into more detail, it is our thoughts about the circumstances that produce further thoughts, emotions, even drive our actions. For example, let’s say that you broke up with your boyfriend of 8 years. Your life is over. You will never find anyone like him. How will you survive? You start replaying the events leading up to and including the breakup in your mind, over and over again like a broken record, wishing that things had gone differently (again your thoughts about the circumstances are driving your crazy). You then turn this event and the associated emotions, thoughts and feelings into unhealthy patterns of binge eating Ben & Jerry’s at midnight, alone in the kitchen, and in extreme cases turning to substance abuse, gambling, shopping like a mad man, whatever it is, alcohol or not, Ben & Jerry’s or not, I am not one to judge. Just recall what I told you about myself at the beginning.
Back at the hospital, the pivotal moment comes while I am half drugged in a hospital bed, brewing in trepidation over my dad and his experience, then, thinking about myself at that very moment and everything that I have gone through, and wow! Where did that thought come from? “I AM A STRONG WOMAN!?” I felt it so deeply inside that I shook. Now, what if, you, the one who broke up with her boyfriend of 8 years, or you, the one who continues to have financial troubles or too many kids to take care of, what if you are to one to stand in front of the mirror, internalize what the good people around you have been saying; and recognize that you are a strong man or a strong woman! No question marks involved. All circumstances and life history aside. We are talking about everything that you have been through, and the fact that you are still standing, and we are talking about your inherent value which you never lost in the first place.
This of course doesn’t meant that the mind won’t revert back to it’s ‘original’ or programmed thinking, but for that moment in the hospital room I actually felt strong and I believed it. Isn’t that a success? Does that not count? Lao Tzu, an ancient Chinese philosopher and writer, also the founder of philosophical Taoism, was quoted as saying that “If you correct your mind, the rest of your life will fall into place.” What he was saying was that our mind is so powerful that our thoughts, or the negating of thoughts (for example that I was a strong woman (but no longer am) because….), can actually produce our reality. And it has. And it will. This is why so many people fail to believe in themselves, myself included, even if for brief periods of time, which I would call periods of emptiness or negating the whole self. The mind has evolved for thousands of years and our complex brains are hard wired to think, think, and think, whereas before, the reptilian brain was mainly concerned about survival and reproduction. But we have evolved, and how so!
When you pile on top of the brain-evolved-to-think the wrong influences, thoughts, upbringing, circumstances, you name it, then we have a wage of war inside our heads telling us that we are not strong enough, not pretty enough, we can’t survive this, we will be beat by another, we won’t succeed for this and that reason. The list goes on and the list is very real and very complicated, just like us! This is partially the reason for the growing popularity of ancient practices such as those of mindfulness, yoga, Ta Chi, meditation, Reiki and more. All of these attempt to retrain our brains away from not only overthinking but also from negative thinking and self-sabotage. This falls into an intricate and sophisticated process of neuroplasticity; in which the brain re-wires itself over the course of an individual’s lifespan. For all we know, we could be influencing the subconscious levels too.
And we are not to blame. Often, we are or have been the product of circumstances beyond our control. However, we can at the very least attempt to understand our influences, think in different ways and see if that very process of retraining the brain produces a different emotional response or even a different kind of day, perhaps one where things go your way. Because, leading edge thinkers are saying YES! I would add to the list the likes of Dr. Joe Dispenza, a neuroscientist and leading author and lecturer, who was hit by a car at a young age and given a bleak chance of ever walking again. Dr. Dispenza was able to fully recover from his nearly fatal back injury, mainly, through the power of his mind! After months of intensive inner work (visualization, meditation and applying the principles of quantum physics), and physical therapy, he began walking and returned daily life. Therefore, we have seen how the power of the mind can heal, as well as hurt, going back to my own experience in the hospital bed.
But I would like to take it one step further, because I don’t believe that it is just the mind that can produce a negative reality. In fact, I believe that the mind has the potential to produce both positive and negative realities, and even stillness where no judgement on the person, situation or thought occurs. Above all of this however, I believe in the person as a whole; mind, body, Spirit and heart. Therefore, to separate the mind as a culprit is folly. The body can harm and heal you. The mind too, so can the heart. The Spirit; not so much, but if we are discussing the person’s Spirit in terms of mood or spiritual acuity, then absolutely the Spirit can be affected by all of the above and vice versa. So, for example, in my instance, the thought of “I am a strong woman!” produced an incredibly powerful effect on my body’s energy (I shook), and it resonated deeply in my heart (where I felt good), and I believed it because my Spirit told me (perhaps in silence) that it was the truth. Negativity and even numbness work in the same way on the individual as positivism and movement do.
Thus, let us be wise my friends. Knowing what we know, witnessing what we have witnessed, let us be wise with our thoughts, actions, behaviors and overall our being. Because, if I can produce such a powerful thought amidst the hunger and sedation and despondency in the hospital room, one that literally shook me, think of what we can do for ourselves and to ourselves by turning our thoughts (and more of ourselves) around. And think of what we can collectively do, if we just realize how strong we really are!