Now, I’m not going to name any names. Let’s just say that There are Those Out There who will tell you, with great fluidity and earnestness, that you are what you think. That “your attitude determines your altitude.” That changing your mind will change your life. They will tell you this in a spiritual context, in a relationship context, in a financial context, in a healing context.
And without naming names, or going into detail, I will allow that they are partly correct. The mind is an amazing thing. Recent research into the placebo effect indicates that the brain releases endorphins that alleviate pain even when youknow you’re taking a placebo. Your thoughts can actually program your body for health or destruction, as well as for many things in between.
However, many New Age healers take this paradigm a step too far. They will kindly, earnestly and abusively tell a sick person that they ‘created their illness,’ and, by implication, that they can cure themselves by will alone. This is the kind of thing that generates much antipathy toward New Age healers in certain circles.
“Heart,” oil on canvas, 36″x 48″, Stephanie Lee Jackson 2007.
Two things. First of all, the mind-body connection is not a one-way street. It is a feedback loop. As much as your state of mind can affect your body (psycho-somatic), the state of your body certainly affects your mind (somato-psychic). There are a few people with such naturally sunny dispositions that their minds carry their bodies on an effortless wave of health and prosperity, but those aren’t most of us. Most of us get crabby when we have a headache, let alone a major illness, and we’re not going to think our way out of it.
Second of all–and this is something I’ve only discovered after years of giving and receiving both thought-based therapy and bodywork–your body locks in thought patterns that can only be accessed somatically. The reason you can’t will your way out of an injury or illness (besides the obvious) is that most somatic memory lies beneath the level of conscious awareness. Trying to ‘change your thoughts to attract health and abundance’ when you have oodles of trauma locked in your tissues only creates guilt, frustration, rage and misery.
In my experience, undertaking a healing path is a continuous, spiraling journey. Entertaining a new way of thinking can help a lot. I have undergone surges of positive thinking which performed as advertised–they attract health, joy, abundance and fabulous new friends. However, I have just as often fought my own thoughts for decades, only to have an expert bodyworker fiddle with my arm, my solar plexus or my big toe and trigger an unforeseen breakthrough, both physically and psychologically.