Importance of Self Image
I recently finished up a book called Psycho-Cybernetics by Dr. Maxwell Maltz. Dr. Maltz was a plastic surgeon who discovered an important connection between contentment and happiness and the perception of ourselves — our self image.
Many of the patients he saw believed that their lives would be better after cosmetically enhancing a physical part of themselves — be it a smaller nose or the removal of a scar. Sometimes with his patient’s outward appearance changes, he noticed positive personality changes, while others he did not — their self images were still negative.
Dr. Maltz noticed that a lot of the people who came to see him were looking for bigger changes from what could be fixed externally. Instead they were looking to heal a piece of their internal mechanisms succumbed by unhappiness or discontentment — emotional scars.
Check out an old school interview with him below 🙂
According to Dr. Maltz, for a satisfying life one must have an acceptable, realistic self image and “wholesome self esteem”. This perceived self image prescribes an “area of the possible”. You will act like the person you conceive yourself to be.
Dr. Maltz relates self image to what he calls our creative mechanism, which makes up mental images and imagination. This creative imagination formulates a variety of goals to direct internal success mechanisms.
If we feed into our creative mechanism that we are unworthy, inferior, undeserving, incapable (all components of a negative self image) then this data is processed and acted upon within the body.
If you have a victim mentality, and thoughts that you are meant to suffer — then you most likely will. If you view your scars as symbols of strength and pride, then they will not hold you down. They only make you stronger.
Positive Use of Imagination
Imagination plays a far more important role in our lives than most of us realize.
– Dr. Maxwell Maltz
Imagination sets the goal “picture” which our automatic mechanism works on. Human beings act, feel and perform in accordance with what they imagine to be true about themselves and their environment.
According to Dr. Maltz, “Your nervous system cannot tell the difference between an imagined experience and a ‘real’ experience. In either case, it reacts automatically to information which you give it from your forebrain. Your nervous system reacts appropriately to what ‘you’ think or imagine to be true.”
Every human being is engineered for success and has access to a power greater than themselves — a built in success mechanism. But in order for the success mechanism to thrive it must have a goal or target — an end result and the means to get there.
This mechanism learns by making mistakes, which help it to get back on track. It is important to remember these failures for growth, but not to dwell on them.
Dr. Maltz expresses the importance of trusting this creative mechanism to do its work and not to “jam” it with anxious feelings that things will not work out. You must let it work, rather than make it work.
So why not imagine happiness? Or a life with no pain? 🙂
Setting Goals and Believing in Them
According to Dr. Maltz, our internal mechanisms are designed to go after a goal — a goal we must truly believe in. It must be important and mean something to us, so that we seek out true information about ourselves and our current situation to correct mistakes and move forward.
For me, a big goal has been to rid my body of the pain from endometriosis. I’ve made it a goal to get better — both mentally and physically. This is something that is very important to me and I know that the belief that I WILL eventually get better definitely helps 🙂
You’ve got the resources. But you never know you’ve got them until you act — and give them a chance to work for you.
-Dr. Maxwell Maltz
In order to succeed, we must bet on our ideas and then act. Our automatic internal guidance systems will not work if we do not move forward. By standing still or failing to act, we will likely feel trapped — bringing about a host of additional physical symptoms.
We cannot be afraid of making mistakes or of failing. Once moving forward, we can correct the direction as we go.
By moving forward, small daily changes can be implemented — whether it be a diet shift, a decision to sit for five or ten minutes in meditation, refraining from speaking a negative statement but rather shifting thoughts and words to something positive.
Small changes really do add up to big changes. Take time to pause and look back for a moment to really see how far you come 🙂
Healing Through Positive Thinking
I know that living with the chronic pain and its related effects on all areas of the body, makes it easy to convey a mental image of being defeated. It is easy to fall into a state of pity and injustice.
Self acceptance starts with the act of loving ourselves as we are — negatives and all. These negatives belong to us, but they are not us. We must forgive our past mistakes. Healing comes through learning and it takes time — so don’t give up 🙂
Negative feelings are sure to arise. When they do, we must recognize them as such and correct course. If we dwell on failures and continue to picture ourselves in negative connotations then it becomes “real” to our nervous system. These feelings arise from the mind.
By keeping a positive goal in mind — picturing it so vividly — we can make it “real” too 🙂
In Psycho-Cybernetics, Dr. Maltz explains how mental thoughts can influence the body’s healing mechanisms. Optimistic, positive thinkers or those who have a compelling reason or need to get well quick — something to look forward to, something to get well for — actually do get better quicker 🙂
On the flip side, emotional stress only adds to physical injury. Constantly thinking about the pain only gives it power.
Happiness is a Mental Habit
The very word disease means a state of unhappiness — “dis-ease”. Psychosomatic medicine proves that our stomach, liver, heart and all our internal organs work better when we are happy. According to Dr. Maltz, happiness is a state of mind in which thinking is positive most of the time.
Happiness is a mental habit and attitude that must be practiced in the present moment. The creative mechanism does not operate in the tomorrow or yesterday — all attention should be given to the present moment with reaction to what is happening right NOW. If happiness is not practiced in the present, then it will not be experienced.
The happiness habit of deliberately thinking positive thoughts must be cultivated into a habit. Just as we’ve developed a habit of bitching about things. It takes only a moment to turn our minds around to find a positive in the situation. Pause. Breath. Reflect. Positively 🙂
We cannot be happy by adding in self pity or resentment for our “dis-ease”.
These positive thought habits relate back to self image as these two work together — change one and you change the other 🙂
Have you heard the phrase “21 days makes a habit”? (I used to have a relatable saying above my desk at work when I was in sales). The jist of it is just as it’s titled — 21 days makes a habit. Once it becomes a habit actions are automatic — we don’t have to think or decide — they just happen.
Why not try to shift your thoughts for 21 days to a positive light? There is a positive every situation. Sometimes you have to look harder for it — but it is there 🙂
On the Positive Side?
I agree with Dr. Maltz that positive thinking and a positive self image are key components to healing and to happiness 🙂 In the book, he provides exercises on how to improve this happiness “habit”. It is tricky to develop, but like anything else, practice makes perfect.
I’ve committed to including a “positive side” to each of my blog posts, because I believe it is good practice to reflect on the positives within an experience or learning. This is a small practice to help keep me positive — to record for you and me to see and perhaps re-read later 🙂
In review of things like the placebo effect, there is an undeniable power within the mind to heal the body. We must believe that we can get better, set a goal to get there, learn from our mistakes and keep moving forward. Our creative, success mechanism will get us there (long as we continue to believe).
Please do not stop believing that you can feel better too and we can kick this “dis-ease” called endo. Because we can.
Why not commit to changing your thoughts for at least 21 days — and see how you “feel”? If you decide to do this, then I’d love to hear about it! Please feel free to share in the comment section below.
What an amazing world it would be if we all shifted our thoughts, submitting rays and rays of positive energy 🙂