Can you heal with positive thinking?

While you are trying to heal from any chronic illness, you might have encountered or tried the positive thinking approach. Chances are it didn’t work when you are reading this. Before I got ill, I mastered the positive thinking lifestyle, and truth be told, I have had some amazing results with it. Unfortunately it didn’t bring me the peace, connection, safety and love that I craved for most. Instead I have felt loneliness and unsafety my whole life. Even when I was in amazing circumstances with lots of people around me, I still felt lonely. To avoid all these “negative” feelings  it caused me to make strategies to achieve it somewhere in the near future. The day before I got sick however I realised that all my approaches of achieving love and connection didn’t work that way, and I was ready to give up on the successful positive character, not that I would have formulated it that way back then.

What I also didn’t realise was that all my tactics to achieve my desires were coping mechanisms. My parents were very demanding to me as a child and in lots of other ways my family was very dysfunctional. The pressure that I had felt as a child, I was still applying it to myself as an adult. This is called the “demanding parent coping mechanism.” As a child I never experienced unconditional love. It was something that both my parents were not able to give, as they had also never experienced unconditional love themselves. There was a lot of violence and emotional neglect at home, and when I cried or became angry, the message always was: “There is no reason to cry!” “There is no reason to be angry!” In order to be accepted by the family, I had to suppress my emotions and commit to the conditions of their love. As an adult I have suppressed my feelings of loneliness, unsafety and unworthiness. I have even felt ashamed for my feelings and I buried them deep down, where I thought I would never feel them again. Although I rationally understood that these feelings were not true, my emotional body kept feeling this way, and I have used every tactic to ignore these feelings.

Positive thinking is a coping strategy, putting the head in the sand and pretending nothing is wrong. Meanwhile I adopted the demanding parent strategy on myself and looked for love, peace of mind and connection in the world. My inner child learned that to receive a form of these needs, it needed to excel at everything I was doing. I have asked a lot of myself in my life. The skills that I have forced myself to learn are incredible, people often say I am talented, but in reality I have just been very demanding of myself.

In 2016 I watched a YouTube movie from Teal Swan, who said that the reason for having ME/CFS is chronically doing things you don’t want to do. Back then I experienced anger from this video. It felt like she didn’t take me seriously. Now I realise that she was absolutely right.

Many people with ME/CFS have had similar experiences to my own experience in life. Adopting the positive thinking lifestyle is in my eyes making our suffering even greater. For many the original message from the movie “The secret”, which talks about positive thinking and the law of attraction, is a good step in the early stages of spirituality. But after a while it’s just another coping mechanism, and we became ill because of coping mechanisms! Every person with ME/CFS is pleased to receive any form of protocol that will heal us, usually though we are looking in the wrong direction. We have to accept that we are ill because of our demanding coping mechanisms not from a virus or a fatty liver. Groggy fatigue is caused by stress as a psychosomatic symptom. Decreasing stress should be our goal, decreasing it by becoming aware of coping mechanisms. Our bodies literally can’t take it anymore. But when I was bed-bound I felt guilty for not being able to do my coping mechanisms. I was thinking about the things I should be doing. This is still too stressful for the body, we need to let it go.

Some people seem to focus on the negative instead of the positive, this is as well a coping strategy, as these people usually had parents who were only able to give them “negative attention”. The child who needs attention has learned this strategy over time and still applies this in adult life. The parents of these children have often learned the same strategy during their youth. If someone becomes aware of these patterns of looking for negativity, they might judge their own behaviour and try to suppress it. This is unfortunately counterproductive and even more stressful to the body. The behaviour itself is a coping mechanism to suppress feelings of lack, by suppressing a suppression technique, we add more stress on the nervous system. Too much accumulated stress causes symptoms and auto-immune conditions.

We are ready to leave the early spiritual stages behind and go on a deeper journey. In the beginning we judge. negativity and we try to attract positivity. But who decides what positive and negative is? Probably still the memory of our parents who wanted us to conform and were not able to connect with us emotionally.  To decide on what is positive and negative is, we have to leave the state of oneness behind and are by definition a stressed identity. In reality there is no  such thing as positivity nor is there negativity. There is no right and there is no wrong. This is the dualistic and stressful view.  An easier example would be hot and cold or day and night.  As black and white as these labels might seem, they leave no space for transitions, or the grey area. In reality everything is grey and nuanced. I have found people with ME/CFS to be having a lot of black and white thoughts. Whenever you find yourself doing this, try to be more nuanced in your opinions. Black and white or all or nothing thinking patterns are a sign of being stressed or traumatised.

The negative feelings in my emotional body came from a phase in my life when I was very young. I am a twin and was born premature, in my first month of life I was put in an incubator away from my mum and my twin sister. From being with 3 in the womb to being alone for weeks within a few hours. My feelings of loneliness and abandonment originate in this period. What do you do to a crying premature baby? Do you try to make sense of it? Or do you pick it up and comfort it, give it love and acceptance? For the emotional body I have been a premature baby most of my life in the area of loneliness. I couldn’t move on as the needs of the baby hadn’t been met. Only since I am able to work on this, I have been able to grow a little bit emotionally. I have used Teal Swans “The completion process” to self-help me with this issue. There are of course other ways to deal with it. Personally I find EFT tapping not efficient enough to deal with these traumas.

In the world of real spirituality we don’t condemn anything anymore, instead we try to embrace the two opposing sides of a duality and create a feeling of oneness again. Oneness is the place where the opposites meet each other and dissolve. Oneness is the foundation of the universe and of who we are.

Whenever a so-called spiritual teacher tells you to heal a chronic illness with a positive thinking mind-set, it makes me angry. Not only have they no idea about what is going on nor do they know oneness. They also make you feel worthless and like shit, like it is your own fault that you are ill. Looking to the world we see this approach a lot. We condemn homeless people for being lazy, sick people aren’t positive enough, poor people have a lack of character, it’s all so easy. What advice to a chronically ill person to let them focus even more on gratitude and positive thinking, really! Instead of following the self-help gurus who have never experienced ME/CFS themselves, we should learn from recovery stories. They are usually pretty nuanced. Dan from CFS Unravelled has made it his life’s work to gather recovery stories. I recommend checking them out regularly.

Instead of being demanding to ourselves, we need to learn to be playful and have fun. Take care of the emotionally abandoned child inside, release our stress and learn to think and label less!