WHAT’S  “IN” YOUR MIND ??

by Louise B. Lubin, Ph.D.

We all know that our physical brain is a three pound pinkish grey complex organ. In fact, I think the brain is the last frontier. Science continues to evolve and learn more about the hundred trillion neural connections that communicate electrically and neutrally with each other at sites called synapses and how your brain impacts your physical as well as emotional health.

So, what do I mean when I speak of the MIND? The dictionary states the mind is

the element of a person that enables them to be aware of the world and their experiences, to think, and to feel; the faculty of consciousness and thought.

Countless philosopher have attempted to understand the nature of the mind. This  particular chart attempts to break down the different aspects of your mind .

What are THOUGHTS?  Your thoughts are a continuous flow of messages that you give yourself every moment you are awake. Consider that your mind is to your thoughts as your ears are to sound.  Your mind produces thoughts and never stops- like a puppy- always moving around and at times not being able to focus in one specific direction.

Do you remember your first thought when you got your diagnosis of Cancer?  Your mental stream probably went off into a new direction and the thoughts went to a single preoccupation- the intrusive thought was CANCER.. Although our thoughts are involuntary, we have the power to observe, challenge and if necessary change them. I do not believe that anyone should judge your thoughts as good or bad, but we do know that certain kinds of thinking can lead to  greater distress that can impact your behavior and health. I am not suggesting that you or anyone can always have positive thoughts. Negative thoughts will NOT cause your Cancer to return .Consider subscribing to the website and receive the video, Taming the Dragon of Fear for some useful tools to manage the runaway thoughts of reoccurence.

Looking at the chart, you can see another segment of your MIND is your BELIEFS. They also arise without your conscious intention or consent and involve an even higher level of commitment than your thoughts. Beliefs are your thoughts that you have elevated to the LEVEL OF TRUTH. Your beliefs  about your life and the world influence every aspect of your experience and decisions . Although your beliefs may not necessarily be the same as mine, we all hold on to our beliefs as the TRUTH.

So, where do your beliefs come from? Generally they come from your life experience- your childhood, your culture,or your authority figures.

So, what are your beliefs about Cancer?  What are your beliefs about Doctors? Medicine? Do you have any specific beliefs about how you got Cancer? Examining your beliefs can provide you an opportunity to perhaps challenge some of the beliefs that cause you painful emotions. Can you stretch and  risk challenging  some of these beliefs?

Your FEELINGS are another part of your mind. For example, if you believe that you got Cancer as punishment for doing something wrong in your life, the guilt will impact your daily life. You will deal with your treatment and your cancer journey with more stress and fear and anger than someone who believes otherwise. If you believe that you do not have the internal strength to manage this  challenge, you will feel more vulnerable and overwhelmed and possibly depressed.

If your beliefs are the “truths” that you attach to your ideas and experiences, then the MEANING  is the significance you give to those ideas. Remember – IT IS NOT THE EVENT THAT DETERMINES YOUR EXPERIENCE, BUT THE MEANING AND SIGNIFICANCE YOU GIVE TO IT. What is the meaning of cancer in your life?

All these thoughts, beliefs, and the meaning you assign  greatly impact your PERCEPTIONS AND ATTITUDES TOWARDS WHAT IS HAPPENING TO YOU.

It is also important to remember that how you experience events in your life are influenced by WHAT YOU FOCUS  ON.

You may have noticed that as time has gone by, you don’t focus on your illness all the time like you did when you first got diagnosed. As you progress down the Survivorship Road, your focus on Cancer will hopefully take up less space in your mind and life. The awareness that you have had Cancer does not completely go away and different triggers bring up the Cancer thoughts. With time and hopefully good health, the thoughts move more to the background of your mind and less in the direct line of your daily thinking.  Read my blog  What is Your Cancerversary? to better understand some of these triggers that focus you back to thinking about cancer.

Take a few minutes and ask yourself some of the questions  brought up in this article.

  1. What beliefs did you have about Cancer before you were diagnosed?
  2. Do you still hold these same beliefs or have they changed?
  3. What are your beliefs about your medical team?
  4. What are your thoughts about why you became a cancer survivor?
  5. How much do you now focus on Cancer?  When do those thoughts occur? What are some other ways you can redirect your attention to aid in your healing?

There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so.

William Shakespeare

It is the mark of an educated man to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.

Aristotle

Your attitude  not your aptitude will determine your altitude.

Zig Zigler

Believe that life is worth living and your belief will help create the fact.

William James

Dr. Louise Lubin is a licensed clinical psychologist in private practice in Norfolk, Virginia since 1981. She is on the Community Faculty at the Eastern Virginia Medical School and practices adult psychotherapy and marital and family therapy. A major focus of her work over the last thirty years has been in Health Psychology with an emphasis on Cancer as a chronic illness. She has developed programs “Many Paths to Healing” for hospital systems and physician groups to provide patients with the tools necessary to cope and manage the emotional challenges of illness. These programs focus on harnessing the knowledge of the body, the power of the mind, and the wisdom of the spirit.

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