The Power of your Mind
“The sign of intelligence is the ability to carry opposed thoughts at the same time.”
: F Scott Fitzgerald
This article is inspired by a story I read. The story was based on the research done Masaru Emoto, the author of The Hidden Messages in Water. He is renowned for his work which focused on the influence of feelings, words and thoughts on water molecules. The story I read stated that when water placed in a vial was exposed to positive words, it crystallized into beautiful and colourful patterns, whereas when exposed to negative words it appeared in incomplete and dull patterns.
It got me thinking that although most of us are not conscious of the words we use, what a profound effect they seemed to have. Further, as human beings, we are constantly talking to ourselves- in our mind. These thoughts were referred to as ‘automatic thoughts’ by Aaron Beck. If there is the possibility that negative words can affect water in such as manner, what would be its effect on human beings? This is the concept that will be explored in this article- The Power of your Mind.
The Cambridge Dictionary defines mind as “the part of a person that makes it possible for him or her to think, feel emotions and understand things”. It is known to be a very powerful entity, which has the power to both boosts the individual as well as to drag him/her down to failure. Most often we see quotes promoting positive thinking, letting go of negativity as well as staying hopeful- but is this really possible at all times? As human beings, we all face various ups and downs in life, which can neither be compared to another person’s experience nor be repressed into our unconscious mind. It is at these junctures in life that our mind plays a major role- do we survive or do we give up?
A study done by Matel-Anderson, Bekhet and Garnier-Villarreal (2018) explored the effects of positive thinking and social support on suicide resilience- the perceived ability, resources or competence to regulate suicide-related thoughts, feelings and attitudes. When examining the relationship, they found that an increase in self-esteem promoted both positive thinking as well as social support, thereby indirectly increasing suicide resilience. Further, there was also a direct relationship between the variables. This indicated that developing self-esteem, positive thinking and/or social support, increased suicide resilience.
Positive thinking is associated with the ability to take control, be strong and brave as well as adopt a fighting spirit. When people complain or share their negative feelings, sometimes they are shut off and they are asked to be positive. They are encouraged to be grateful for what they have or go out and resolve their problems; simply-‘think positive’ is what they are told.
A meta-analysis was done by Tod et al (2011), critically examined the role of positive thinking in the care and recovery of patients with cancer. There were contradictory views as to whether the patient adopting a positive outlook promoted the quality of life and survival from cancer. After reviewing the studies the authors concluded that there was little robust evidence to support the concept that positive thinking had a beneficial effect of survival and other patient outcomes. Some of the studies also pointed out that patients found it difficult to share their fears and negative feelings with the health care professionals due to the value attached to being positive. Thereby the authors brought out the key message that the care should be patient-centred and based on their individual needs.
In view of contradicting evidence of the effects of positive thinking, what should we as individuals do? It is most idealistic to believe that an individual should always be happy, smile and be cheerful as well as spread love wherever they go, but we all know that it is impossible. All the same, we are the individuals who prompt others to stay positive. Easier said than done! Now that it is known that we strive to stay positive but is not always practical- what do we do? What can be done to overcome this phase and move on to our positive selves? Or is it just okay to be low for a while?
Based on my personal opinion, sometimes "It’s okay, to not be okay”. In the pressure to be positive always, we may rush ourselves through experiences and suppress our negative emotions. However, this need not always be successful in the long-term, as it could lead to various other complications both physically and psychologically. It also prevents us from completing experiencing our life.
Returning to the question-what best can we do as human beings? We can take time to be low-angry, upset, scared, hurt, jealous - as these emotions too are our body’s way of communicating to us. However, abundant caution must be exercised to ensure that we do not fall into the vicious cycle of maintaining these thoughts in our mind. Further, if you or someone you know are unable to break this chain of thoughts or these thoughts hamper yours/someone’s daily life- you need to recognize this and seek for help as well.