Worrying and then realizing that your concern was silly produces a phenomenon called extinction, and the worry eventually stops. On the other hand, persistently avoiding what you feel makes you believe these things are real and that fearing them is the right thing to do. This is what you call reinforcement and it only strengthens the worry. Be careful with techniques like past-life regression or regression to the womb–anything where you’d be retrieving memories you did not have before. Tricking your mind to feel less pain is good sense. Tricking your mind to quit smoking is a great way to prolong your life. But tricking your mind to see something that you’re not sure happened is playing with fire. As we have seen, suggestibility can have a hell of an effect on a hell of a lot of medical conditions. But not all of them. This is the most fascinating part of the story. Although Parkinson’s responds well to placebos, Alzheimer’s does not. And although the pain and nausea of cancer can be eased with placebos, the tumors themselves do not budge. But spontaneous regression is not a product of suggestion (at least not that we know of). Whenever your mind signals you to avoid a certain situation, recall that this is wrong. Allow yourself to appreciate the moment by considering it a chance to fight your fear and get away from your worries. Move your focus from the disturbing thoughts to the real world. Now you know about the most important thing to avoid, let’s move on to the one that you should be doing. Do you at times look back at a moment of worry and think, wow that really freaked me out? This is because you failed to realize this at the moment it occurred. Worries tend to sneak up on a person, and as you undergo cognitive fusion, the worries overtake you.
This urges you to go and make bad decisions. The best way to bypass this problem and all the fuss it creates is by identifying the increasing anxiety before it is too late. By now, you will have made your own canaries list. Contemplating the elaborate powers of expectation on the body and its history over thousands of years can be overwhelming. The reach of expectation is vast: 2,000 years of traditional Chinese medicine, the millions who buy into homeopathy and acupuncture, the trillions of dollars spent by pharmaceutical companies trying to beat the placebo effect. When you step into a televangelist’s megachurch and notice he is relying on hypnotic techniques, or when you hear stories of cathartic experiences that sound suspiciously like false memories, you can feel crushed under the weight of the uncertainty between who we are and who we think we are. And yet suggestibility is also terribly small and intimate. As small as a young boy closing his eyes and listening intently for the voice of God. As simple as a caring healer making eye contact and touching his hand. It’s the silence between sleep and pain as you lie in the acupuncturist’s office with needles up and down your arm. And it’s two young people, desperate and alone for one terrible moment, fighting the panic that their infant is dying. Over the course of writing this article, a part of me genuinely hoped I would find something so odd, so impressive as to be truly unexplainable. An honest-to-God miracle cure. Now what you should do is begin identifying these things as soon as they happen. The sooner you identify these thoughts, the action impulses, and the accompanying physical manifestations, the quicker you will be able to quell them. It is easy to identify your problem once you understand what you are looking for. This enables you to control it or handle it, at least. Have you ever found yourself swamped by troubling thoughts about a certain problem and a bigger trouble strikes you? This newly emerged problem forces you to forget about your past tensions and use whatever energy you have left in worrying about it. Notice how you are able to shift your attention.
Doing it on purpose is, however, the tricky part. The aim of this skill is to help you develop a connection with your feelings and experiences. It will help you learn how to remain in the current moment and establish a better connection with your life instead of wasting your energy on troubling thoughts. I never found it. Most recoveries I came across were, in the end, either completely explainable through science or impossible to verify. Are you disappointed? After all, what is a miracle but an event that’s completely unexplainable? And I ask you: Where’s the fun in an event that can’t be explained? What is there to learn? Don’t get me wrong; I’m not out to prove that magic and healings and God are all dead. Are miracles real? I have no idea. So, whenever you get stuck in a stressful or worrying situation, remember to focus only on the problem at hand while avoiding any worrying thoughts which may distract you. Channel all your attention to living the current experience. If the worry is making you distracted, remember this point, and think only about the actual problem and make efforts to deal with it only. Tend to Your Emotions The first thing to do to tend to your emotions is to learn how to identify worry. Once you have recognized that you are stuck in troubling circumstances, observe your body closely. Look for any signs related to your heightened emotions.
You may notice your heart pounding, your muscles tensing up, or your stomach sinking. Whatever you feel, pay close attention to it. It is possible for your mind to divert its attention to any other topic. Science is incapable of proving a negative, so there’s no way to say that miracles never happen. But the most exciting kinds of questions don’t prove a negative; When the Catholic Church investigates miracle healing, the first thing it does is exclude those things that can be explained by science–in other words, by the normal operations in the body. But from my perspective, those are the most fascinating ones. The healings that don’t rise to the level of miracle–the miracle-like cures that can be explained, understood, and, who knows, maybe used by all of us–are far more interesting than the unexplainable or supernatural. That’s exactly where expectation and suggestibility come in. These are the miracles of placebos and hypnosis and tricks of the prediction machines in our skulls. These are not the miracles of saints and gurus; And although I never encountered an unexplainable miracle, I did find a trace of what might drive the other kind. A similar theme that comes up again and again in the world of faith healing. You may also feel like drowning in the pool of worries, which diverts your attention far from the actual problem. As soon as you find yourself in this situation, get yourself together. Try diverting all of your attention back to the body and focusing on the actual problem. Do not get involved in thoughts which are troublesome. You only need to notice them and keep returning your mind back to the body over and over again. Label your emotions, whether they are fear, anxiety, irritation, sadness, or shame. Remind yourself it is normal to feel how you are feeling right now, and your emotions are not going to kill you.
In short, examine, admit, and mark. The worrisome feelings will eventually dissipate. It is a skill, and it takes some time. The words faith, belief, and even expectation suggest a vision toward something that hasn’t happened but will. And yet the most successful healings I investigated took the view that the healing had already happened. Mike Pauletich said this when he thought back on his recovery from Parkinson’s, and so do many Christian healing ministries and even Christian Science. It’s one thing to expect that healing will happen, but it seems far more effective to expect that it already has. Placebos might be a promise for the future, but they work only once you’ve ingested them, convinced that they have done their job. And more power to them. After years of research, I’ve come to see suggestibility as Mark Jensen did when he called hypnotizable people talented. If you can truly find relief in treatments that are no more effective than a placebo, if you can cast out fear and depression with just words, then you are lucky indeed. If you are highly hypnotizable and can treat your illness through trance, pat yourself on the back. For decades, the world has seen you as too easily influenced and pharmaceutical companies have been aggravated by you. But it definitely works. When you get good at it, it will be your superpower against worry. Use Opposite Action This may seem like advanced Kung Fu, so take it slow. In the end, this skill is what’s going to take you from being a chronically worried individual to being a person who seldom worries. It is a mild form of exposure therapy and revolves around the concept of facing your fears. Opposite action helps your brain figure out which people and places are not dangerous, hence, do not need to be avoided.