Our Psychological Immune System
A nutritionist I worked with some years ago, had this to say about the immune system: “It is a highly specialized front-line defense that identifies, and destroys disease-causing invaders.” Her description was quite compelling; it sounded like the latest high tech missile, capable of not only identifying, but also destroying the enemy.
I couldn’t help but see the mind-body connection. I had learned that our mind is also capable of identifying the enemy; or to put it another way: we can know our own thoughts and we are quite capable of thinking thoughts that can hurt us. In other words, we can be our own worst enemies; the choice is ours because we are equipped with free-will. We can use our free-will to accept our negative thoughts about ourselves and the world around us or we can choose to reconsider our long held beliefs. Since we are capable of thinking about our thoughts, you might say that nature provides our psyches with an immune system as well, capable of identifying and destroying hurtful thinking.
But just as many of us ignore the warning signs from our physical immune system, such as weight gain when we eat too much, or sluggishness when we don’t sleep enough, we often ignore the psychological signs that try to tell us we’re putting our attention on thoughts that can hurt us. We are built with an arsenal of psychological defenses that can aid us. If we learn to spot the psychological warning signs and use our awareness, we can turn away from hurtful thinking.
Here are the warning signs:
A bad feeling like anger or blame will alert us to the fact that our thinking is off track. Contrary to what we might believe, the bad feeling is not telling us to delve more deeply into what we’re thinking, any more than stomach pain during a meal is telling us to go ahead and eat more. It is best to slow down and quiet the mind. Just as a stomach ache tells us to stop eating; a bad feeling tells us to stop ruminating, stop over-thinking, stop analyzing.
A person you are speaking with gets a bad feeling. Some things are better left alone – it won’t be productive to bring up something that was troublesome in the past; the past is over and done with, it can only exist in the form of a memory – why would you want to remember something that was useless and hurtful in the past? It was bad enough you had to contend with it back then.
Most of us know it is not a good idea to pick a scab (even though it may feel good in the moment) At some point we learn that the scab allows the wound to heal, so it’s best to just let it do it’s job. A scab is a natural Band-Aid that is quickly provided and free of charge, compliments of mother nature; we don’t even have to lift a finger because it is automatically applied. The natural formation of a scab to protect and heal physical wounds is a wonderful metaphor for the innate health of the mind; and if you know of it’s existence, you can maximize it’s benefits.
Our innate health is like an immune system for the mind, though few know about it. Knowing something about it will keep you from picking your emotional scabs, so to speak, and shorten the distress time, while encouraging the healing process.
Let me explain what I mean and how I know that we all have access to innate health. I was part of a group of healing professionals who were interested in hearing what Sydney Banks had uncovered about the psychological functioning of humanity. He spoke often about the innate health of the individual and that it is automatically accessed when our minds are clear of personal thoughts.
We’re so lucky that we are quite capable of dropping non-productive thoughts. Have you ever left an umbrella or scarf at a restaurant because you didn’t have it on your mind to hang on to it. That’s how easy it is to forget something. If you’re not holding on to something, it’s easy to forget. In fact, it’s only the things that interest us that will stick with us. My advice is to lose interest in things that are hurtful and not helpful to hang onto. When I wanted to do well in a test in school but I was not interested in the material I would have to go over and over it until it stuck. It wasn’t fun but that was the only way to remember something in which I lacked interest.
I say, question the things in life that interest you. Anything you ruminate about – question it’s importance. If you are honest with yourself it probably will do little good to go over and over it in your mind. First of all, the only thing you’ll come up with is something you have thought about already. The mind acts a lot like a computer, it will only respond with what was programmed into it. If you want a fresh new thought, you have to let it go, take it off your mind and then something has a chance of hitting you from out of the blue. Have you had the experience of running into a familiar person but you can’t recall the name no matter how hard you try? Have you then given up and some time later, while doing something unrelated, not even thinking about the person and then all of a sudden the name pops into your mind? That is an example of a deeper wisdom (innate health) coming through when the mind is clear of forced thinking.
In his book, “Maximum Healing: Improve Your Immune System,” H. Robert Silverstein states that your behavior, how you live your life, interacts with your genetics and affects your susceptibility to illness. Your behaviors can help boost the body’s own healing powers – namely the immune system. Do you have any idea what precedes our behavior? Give up? It is our THOUGHTS. Try raising your arm without the thought of raise arm. Try hugging someone when you’re really angry with them. Try staying in bed when you’re thinking how much you can’t wait to get in the car to begin your vacation. Try staying at work when three of your friends just called one after the other to say they are waiting for you at Happy Hour.
What we think will always translate to a behavior and an outcome. If we think we can get away with one more piece of cake and convince ourselves that it’s just in celebration of our grandmothers’ birthday, then don’t be surprised when the scale registers a weight gain in the morning. What we think is what we get. There is a one-to-one relationship. Lucky for us, we are naturally built to change our minds. If you want a good outcome, you have the free-will to change your mind or to drop your unhealthy thoughts. It’s the best way I know to watch over your innate health; a precious jewel. You will automatically boost your psychological immune system when you take care of your innate health and wisdom. Get out of it’s way and let it do what it does naturally – bring you fresh thoughts of health, love, and gratitude.