By Steven E. Hodes, M.D.
Physician to Meta-Physician
If sadness can be the source of enlightened healing, then surely happiness can.
In STUMBLING ON HAPPINESS by Daniel Gilbert, a popular professor of psychology at Harvard , Gilbert describes a plethora of ways and means by which the average person creates their own sense of reality from amongst the fragments of their lives.
This form of ‘spinning’ can take a series of circumstances which might appear to an outsider as extremely negative and demoralizing. Yet the affected individual might just choose to regard these events as temporary road blocks which may very well serve to inspire them to 1] re-empower their skills, 2] direct them along a somewhat different path, 3] totally alter their life’s journey. Any one of these options can leave the individual full of energy and hope for the future. A similar set of circumstances, however, could totally depress and demoralize a different individual.
Tailoring our reaction to life’s events is a theme of the NLP [neurolinquistic programming] group. Although I am far from an expert on their positions and methods, I do know that they also emphasize changing the language by which we characterize events in our lives. Words and phrases are powerful signals to our conscious as well as unconscious minds. Seeing ourselves as failures, victims, or losers in life’s game merely reinforces and exacerbates the negative energy which can only cripple us further. It is unproductive, to say the least.
Depressives may believe that their reaction to life’s events are more ‘rational’ than the deluded optimist. Yet ultimately, who is correct? It may very well be that all personal impressions of ourselves and our lives are fabricated anyway. Have you met individuals who regard themselves as unattractive or uninteresting yet who you have found to be the opposite? Even more common are those who project an impression of self-confidence that may seem disproportionate or even unwarranted. You may have noticed that the self-confident individual usually attains their goals more often than the ‘underachiever’.
Also be cognizant of the fact that we may or may not share the goals and aspirations of our fellow man. A series of life circumstances might be regarded as an abject failure to someone driven to accumulate money and fame. To another, these same set of circumstances perhaps associated with a loving family and friends but with less material success may be viewed as highly successful and joyous.
I have noted previously that self-awareness precedes self-repair . And by that statement I mean that we have to become familiar with the nature of reality and our role within the spiritual universe before we can assist in our own healing. In the context of this particular blog it should become obvious that a joyous, positive self-awareness will be far more effective in healing than the opposite. Joy is a positive stimulant of our body’s inherent healing properties. We will likewise attract more enriching human emotional responses from others as well.
Is there a point, however, where self-delusion is harmful and counterproductive to healing? Clearly, someone who has outrageous, irrational and unwarranted opinions of themselves will be regarded as a fool by those around them. Declaring oneself a candidate for the Olympic games with no reasonable chance of success is clearly a waste of time. Declaring oneself on the path to a Nobel Prize in physics for a high school dropout may be equally delusional. Reality checks and periodic feedback from others is crucial in order to validate our highest opinions of ourselves. This does not mean that we rely soley on the opinion of others. Obviously, that contradicts the strong self-reliance and self-awareness concept.
So perhaps the most reasonable approach to life is this: seek the highest level of optimism which allows us to heal our wounds. Choose happiness whenever possible since this is clearly the state of being which fills our hearts and minds with healing energy. Be aware of our chosen path and if there is a persistent lack of progress towards whatever our self-proclaimed goals, be willing to modify and re-visit those goals. Altering or re-directing our energies does not have to be seen as failure.
Gilbert seems to regard unhappy people as having ‘a more accurate view of reality’. I disagree. Afterall, whose opinion is that anyway? Yours, mine or his?
© Steven E. Hodes, MD., 2006
Steven E. Hodes, M.D. is a board certified gastroenterologist with over 25 years private practice based in Edison and Old Bridge New Jersey. He also has a degree in Religious Studies and teaches Contemporary Metaphysics at Brookdale College as well as lecturing and writing on Kabbalah and Healing, the Jewish View of Afterlife and on Near-Death Experience. Visit him at his daily Blog, Physician to Meta-Physician at www.meta-md.com.