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that if you think about something hard and long enough that it can/will happen? negative things?


Hm. I usually tell myself it's the opposite - if I ruminate long enough on something

Murphy's Law will kick in and hit me with something completely unexpected.

There ARE of course times when it hits you (for example) - "A burglar is going

to come in from *that* side of the house and head straight for the alarm panel

in an attempt to blindside it."  Within 48 hours I was replacing a window on

that side of the house ... 

But usually it's the stuff I don't think about or tell myself can't happen.

for those of you who know me, i am a hypochondriac. a horrible one at that. i had a disturbing discussion with my bf's mother who is a spiritualist...believes in body energy, that you can heal terminal illnesses eating properly, deep meditation...etc.

she believes that people acquire illness - whether its small things like allergies or big things like cancer because of emotional distress.

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Guest billycat

I have to agree that eating better, meditation, exercise, etc. all are things that will reduce stress and possibily keep you in better health. however to say that these things and body energy  will heal terminal illness, I think can be harmful and could cause someone serious health risks. Science is proven. If what your BF mother is saying is true would it be possible that we (or you) could cure our MI?

  Would you go to a spritualist if you had a broken arm? Don't get me wrong

I think positive thinking can be very helpful in the way a person deals with heath issues, but the reality is people are live long and more productive lives because of sceince.

    By the way I do have a grandmother who is 104 years old who has never really been sick with a serious illness or had to have any type of operation and I think

she is healthy because of wine!    she still has one glass of wine every day with her dinner.  And her mind is still sharp.    Sorry I had to add that. She was born in Italy and that was what that culture was. And they ate healthy. I know that

goes against what I said about sceince but I think she is an unusual example of a human being.

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...if you think about something hard and long enough that it can/will happen?

If this is true, when is Sandra Bullock going to walk through my door? When? How much longer do I have to think about it?

The human brain didn't evolve as a cosmic conduit of magic, all-powerful healing energy; it evolved to help us compete with other critters in the Big Game of life. It's "designed" to find food and mates. The rest of its features are secondary. 

I suppose it's comforting to believe we have special powers: everything is in our control, that way.

If you're a hypochondriac, your brain is telling you lies about your body. Stress isn't healthy, but visualizing X (whether X is cancer or Sandra Bullock) isn't going to create it.

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Visualizing things does cause them to arise. Even most medical doctors will tell you about the power of positive vs negative thinking, if you ask them. Doesn't mean all illness can be treated simply by thinking about it, but it's a part of the picture.

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Visualizing things does cause them to arise.

This disagreement may be semantic. The terms "things" and "cause" beg to be disambiguated. I'm assuming that by "things" you don't mean physical, solid things like Sandra B, but states of mind.

Major problem: How do we know that the visualizing caused the desired (or undesired) state of mind? Maybe it was part of the effect. The causal boundaries between mental events are nebulous (when not arbitrary).

For example: suppose I've been worrying about having a panic attack and then BOOM! I have a doozy. Did I bring it into existence by worrying about it or did the anxiety that produced the panic attack cause the initial worry?


There's strong anecdotal evidence against the statement quoted above. At least one variety of optimism is a function of expecting the worst but rarely encountering it. If one goes through life envisaging catastrophes at every step, life will continually delight him. On this view, life is good insofar as it exceeds expectations.

But if visualizing things creates them, this should be impossible. Life should be one long and grim self-fulfilling prophecy for everyone with modest expectations. 

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There is actually a lot of non-anecdotal evidence to show that those who go through life envisioning catastrophe at every step (which is a far cry from having modest expectations) are not continually delighted, but suffer from severe depression and other maladies.

I can't answer the causality question right now, not because it's a bad question, and not because I don't have things to say, but because I'm really tired. I can say, quite briefly, that my own experience bears out the wisdom of the Buddhists (or if you prefer, Shakespeare), that the things that occupy my mind do become more real over time, and that while envisioning Sandra Bullock hopping in bed with you won't make it so, it helps.

Panic attacks are actually a prime example, incedentally, of things that arise because of our fears. Research shows that extinguising negative thoughts and dismissing irrational fears with rational awareness is very effective in treating panic attacks. And again, it worked for me.

Now, as a Buddhist, I feel obliged to also say that it is not effective to simply banish thoughts of things you don't want or like. This is aversion aka avoidance aka repression aka escapism and it does not prevent things from happening that were going to happen anyway. I also will acknowledge that some very clever studies have shown that depressed people are empirically more objective about reality than non-depressed people, and these studies have been extrapolated to mean that normal mental health relies somewhat on a distortion of reality. But this may just go to show, it is possible to out-think reality and cause something better to arise. Indeed it seems to show that this is something people learn to do as a part of being mentally healthy.

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A lot of people, from professional athletes to people going into surgery practice the art of positive visualization. If you need to get over a symptom, you can help yourself by calming your mind (the biggest challenge) and seeing yourself happy, content, and in charge of your situation. There are a lot of nice guided relaxation CDs out there that can help with this. I do it all the time. I managed to kick GAD's ass and my pdoc even agreed, it is off my list of DXes. Next I'm attempting to control the anxiety. Best luck to you (and to me too!) -0----Loon

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Tallulah's concern is that she might develop cancer simply by worrying about it. Let's look at another example:

Generations of people worried that masturbation would cause blindness. Did any of them go blind? Here we have an example of visualization conjoined with severe apprehension  in a multitude of people. What came of it? Guilt, certainly. A few ulcers, I suppose. Blindness? No, definately not. Their fretting and fussing did not create the ailment they feared. What became of all this mental energy they expended? In some cases it may have poisoned a simple pleasure, but nothing arose on its behalf.

Reality is quite stubborn in the face of our longings and fears. It doesn't have to conform to them. To the contrary...

The utility of positive thinking is one thing (there are no lackadaisical olympians), moving mountains is another.

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Are you saying none of the people who went blind in the last century masturbated?

OK, I don't believe worrying about cancer causes cancer. But it will cause other negative effects and lower immunity and, well, could make it more likely to develop cancer, for that matter. Just very indirectly. Point is, constant worry will have negative effects, whereas constant positive thinking will have beneficial effects. But this was not my point when I said thinking makes things arise (or however I said that).

If you spend a lot of your life thinking about money, money will arise as a central aspect of your life. This doesn't mean you will acquire more money or owe more money, simply that it will become a more real aspect of your situation. To pick a less seemlingly subjective example, if you think a lot of time about nature, you will eventually find that you are spending more time in nature (or out, as the case may be), which will in turn lead to its own effects. Nature will arise as part of your non-subjective reality. It will change the people you meet and have an impact on the people you know. It will alter your reality. It will affect your real (not just in your head) life and you'll diverge from the person you might have been had you spent the same mental energy focusing on money, or cancer, or building a better mousetrap, or painting, or whatever. This is what I meant that what we visualize arises in reality. The comment is meant as a rebuttal to the often unspoken assumption that life is just happening to us and our minds merely allow us to react to it. Our minds are constructing our realities to a much larger extent than we tend to notice.

And incedentally, the person who is out in nature a lot, likes to live in their body, learns to adjust their diet to support this lifestyle and to deal with bodily repairs to environmental stressors is actually changing a whole host of factors known to be correlated to cancer. Seek whatever meta-truth in this you like.

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