By: Patty Murray, Chairwoman and Co-founder of Hope for Two…The Pregnant with Cancer Network
ALL of our negative “What if…” thoughts are personal thieves, stealing our peace of mind and ability to live in and enjoy the present. You know them on an intimate level. Thoughts such as, “What if I can’t take my next chemo session if my white blood cell count is too low?”; “What if my teenage child gets lost and gets into a car accident?”; “What if my company is downsized, and I lose my job?”; “What if my cancer comes back?”; “What if I do not heal?”; or, the ultimate thief, “What if I’m not here anymore- what will happen to my loved ones?” I use the word “negative” because we generally don’t obsess over the positive thoughts such as, “What if I win the lottery?”, or “What if I kick the butt out of this disease?” to our psyche. The positive ones are not problematic. Perversely, however, our mind appears to be so singularly drawn to the negative like a magnet.
Therefore, a strategy must be formulated to combat those thoughts that rob our peace of mind. If we don’t, we can become figuratively and literally paralyzed by fear. It begins with mental stagnation when all you can concentrate on is the “what if” scenario. This obsession rewires your brain causing a mental fog in which you become unproductive; a feeling of “paralysis” sets in. Each one of us will have to personalize our plan of attack since we are all, as my daughter likes to say, “special snowflakes.”
First, we must be reminded that, as human beings, we possess free will and the ability to think intelligently. When these negative thoughts appear, realize that we put them there, consciously or not. That same YOU that placed them at the forefront of your mind can eliminate them. Use the mental imagery that works for you-whether it be an image of Pac Man gobbling up all the negativity or a strong wind gust which effectively forces the “what ifs” out of your mind.
However, old habits die hard and we must continually guard against returning to our negative fixations. The most effective defense is replacing our destructive musings with positive thoughts. For instance, replace, “What if my cancer metastasizes,” with “I am cancer free now and am going to enjoy my life with my family until my next medical appointment.”
Then substitute every other negative “what if” with a positive affirmation. If you don’t, your entire life may be defined by misery. Why would you do that to yourself if you possess the ability to positively change your outlook? That is insanity! It is worth emphasizing, once again, that this alleged hell-hole that we are living in is a creation of our mind. As such, once we rid ourselves of these negative mental constructions, we are free to enjoy the beautiful lives that we have been given. Dig yourself out and see the sheer wonder of life. Take a walk in the crisp fall air; breathe it in as if for the very first time. Go outdoors just as the sun is setting and be awed by the golden hue the sun casts over the bronze and russet autumn trees.
Until next time, let’s banish our invisible “what if” thieves so that we can live in peace and truly appreciate how fortunate we are to be alive. ✿