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Chronic Illness Q&A with Dr. B.

larryB&W@300This question & answer column is for people living with chronic health challenges and their family caregivers, who want to learn to increase the odds of improving their health by learning to live with mastery & wellbeing.

I invite you to post your questions in the comments box below. When I get a certain number of related questions, I pick one that covers them all and I answer that one.

I post to this blog three times per week. Monday posts are relevant published articles. Wednesday posts are interviews—mostly video. Friday posts consist of questions about living better with chronic health challenges, and my answers to them.

Someone recently asked me this question during one of my presentations:

QUESTION:  You showed several slides to demonstrate the power of the mind to move us closer or farther away from health. Now I’m afraid to think unhealthy thoughts for fear they’ll ruin my health.  Is there a way to stop negative or unhealthy thoughts?  

ANSWER: Although thinking certain thoughts is not conducive to your health or your happiness, trying not to have certain thoughts and trying to get rid of certain thoughts paradoxically reinforces them. Therefore, instead of trying not to have unwanted thoughts or trying to get rid of them, accept and acknowledge them. They can’t do any harm if you acknowledge them, accept them, and then let them go. The big challenge is in how to let them go. Instinctively, we try to get rid of what we don’t want, and that struggle only exacerbates the problem.  

A few years ago, in presenting my work to an audience of peers (other psychotherapists) I experienced severe anxiety in the hour just before my presentation. None of my techniques for reducing anxiety worked. Finally, just before being called onto the stage, in desperation, I gave up all hope of feeling calm and confident. Amazingly, in that moment, the level of my anxiety dropped precipitously. It was a great lesson. As soon as I stopped trying not to feel anxiety and instead accepted my anxiety, I felt relatively calm and confident. I had accepted myself with the anxiety. Fighting against it was a rejection of myself.

This website is offered as a free public service, supplying information that has been found helpful to certain people living with chronic health challenges. No treatment is offered on this website. The advice is general, and may or may not apply to your individual situation, and is not a substitute for psychotherapy or medical treatment.

What questions do you have about how to live better with chronic health challenges that are related to the relationship between states of mind and health? 

Just scroll down and type your question in the comment box. I will post a reply to your comment, but your question may not appear in this column. 

1 reply
  1. Larry Berkelhammer says:

    Thank you for writing. One of the vitally important experiences that increase the odds of getting well for those of us living with chronic or with life-threatening illness is the experience of being in a healthy relationship. Love, acceptance, and empathy have been found in numerous studies to make a real difference. For that reason, I highly recommend that the two of you find a couples therapist who you are both comfortable with. You may have to meet with a few of them before finding the right match. It is essential that you are in sessions together. Going to separate appointments will not do much.

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