Mind Over Sports

Archive for March 2007

Coaches who yell at and verbally abuse referees during a game are not only creating a distraction, but are also providing their teams with a reason to lose: “the ref (expletive) us.” Coaches (and owners) need to remember not to let their emotions get the best of them. They need to control themselves, especially when the game is on the line. Here are two examples. One good, one not so good:

markcubanThe good one: Remember last year how Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks, was constantly yelling and screaming about the refereeing? Even running out on the court during a game? Well, times have changed. This year he’s kept a much lower profile, never complaining publicly, and it’s showing up in a positive way in the Mav’s won/lost column. At the time of this writing, they are leading the Western Conference.

coachtimfloydThe bad one: When USC was playing North Carolina in the NCAA tournament, USC was down by 6 points with not much time left on the clock, but still enough time to win. That is, until USC’s Coach Tim Floyd, to show his anger at what he perceived to be a bad call by one of the refs, tore up a program he was holding in his hand and threw the pieces onto the floor, causing a technical foul that literally put the game out of reach.

Coaches should remember that the negative emotions they exhibit in front of their teams during a game not only provide a distraction, but also give their teams “a reason to lose.” The best coaches are those who control their emotions, on and off the court. And though they may show some unhappiness with a call by a ref, just to let the team know they are there for them, they should never explode in anger. Like Tim Floyd did. And like Mark Cuban used to do.

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Visualization is a technique that is both ancient and powerful. Visualization is one of the most important skills you can learn, and can have a lasting effect on your health.

Success in the medical use of visualization has been documented by the Menninger Clinic in Topeka, Kansas. A young boy with an inoperable malignant brain tumor visualized Star Wars space ships attacking the tumor within his head, blowing it to bits. Over a period of time, the tumor disappeared. Today, a tape recording of the young man’s visualization exercise is used by other young cancer patients world-wide.

I know a family where an 8-year-old girl, also with an inoperable brain tumor, visualized a “bunny rabbit” visiting her tumor daily, nibbling on the tumor. The tumor disappeared.

Once when working with members of the Crips gang, I told them of a program I had heard about in California where the facilitator, working with young people who were addicted to drugs, was able — through the use of visualization — to have participants create the same sensations of being on drugs without actually using drugs. This was a first step in their rehabilitation program. When I told this story, one of the gang members spoke up and said he knew all about the research and mentioned the facilitator by name. When I asked how he knew, he replied: “My brother is in the program.” Even streetwise gang members acknowledge the power of visualization.

When I began working with sickle-cell patients many years ago, I was one of the first to use visualization with them. I encouraged them to deal with stress in their lives first, to bring their unresolved issues to completion, and then visualize their sickle-shaped cells becoming whole and round and moving effortlessly through their arteries and veins. They also visualized a “log-jam” in their veins breaking up, as the sickle-shaped cells became disentangled and began to flow smoothly through their bodies. Whether or not their sickle-shaped cells did, in fact, become whole and round was unimportant; what was important was their belief that the new formations were taking place and, subsequently, their bodies responded to that belief.

In his book Shaman’s Path, Frank Lawlis discusses the use of imagery to control pain. For most, he says, this use of imagery takes the form of learning to increase blood flow to painful areas and to tense muscles. The result is less pain and more control of stress-related concerns

Dr. Dean Ornish, in his book Reversing Heart Disease, writes about emotional stress causing arteries throughout our bodies to constrict:

When this occurs in the heart it is known as coronary artery spasm. We also know from research on visualization that having a mental image of blood flowing to your hands can actually cause blood flow to increase to your hands. An erection is another example of how thoughts can increase blood flow, in this case to the penis. Other studies have demonstrated that visualization can decrease blood flow to your heart if you imagine terrible things happening. So it seems reasonable to assume that visualizing more healing images may improve coronary blood flow by dilating your coronary arteries to some degree. Other evidence suggests that visualization may reduce the number and severity of irregular heartbeats. And while there is not yet scientific evidence that visualization can affect coronary artery blockages, it is possible that visualization may help those as well.

Much has been written about the visualization process for use in the treatment of cancer. But the process is only effective once stress is reduced by bringing unresolved conflict to completion. In other words, we must deal with the issues that are producing the stress before visualization will work. And, if there are lingering feelings about an issue, those feelings also must be identified and resolved. You can do this by directly dealing with the person or issues that may be the source of the stress, or perhaps just write a letter and never mail it. How you deal with it is entirely up to you.

Goal Setting And The Visualization Process

Before reviewing the first visualization script, you should take a pencil and paper and write down goals you have set for yourself regarding your health. For example, your goal may be to put your cancer into remission; another person’s goal — someone who may be suffering from Multiple Sclerosis — may be to create the remylination process, regenerating the mylin sheath covering their nerve fibers. Or someone may want to reduce the size of his prostate gland.

After you’ve identified (and put on paper) the goals you want to achieve, you will then be ready to begin visualizing. I also recommend the use of special video tapes and soundtracks. The soundtracks can be converted to audio tapes, recreating the visuals previously implanted in your mind by the video. This process is called Image Transference. As discussed earlier, to successfully implement the visualization process, there are six basic steps:

Step Number One: See a process taking place within your body creating the changes you want to have happen. (Many cancer patients have successfully visualized T-cells attacking cancer cells.)

Step Number Two: See with you someone you idolize, someone you want to emulate. This may be a friend or acquaintance who has helped you with your illness . . . perhaps someone who, themselves, put their illness into remission.

Step Number Three: See people with you who care about you and love you.

Step Number Four: See that special someone in your life for whom you want to get well . . . this might consist of your children, or your mother . . . or a grandfather or a spouse.

Step Number Five: See yourself achieving your goal . . . see yourself completely healthy . . . even being pronounced healthy by your doctor . . . acknowledging that your illness has disappeared.

Step Number Six: See yourself enjoying the reward you promised yourself for having achieved your goal of getting well.

It’s important to see yourself in the most minute detail possible; leave nothing out, include every detail you can imagine. The exercise presented is generic in format, but keep in mind: the process can be applied to any type of illness. Multiple Sclerosis patients can begin to visualize the remeylination process. There are cases on record where people have regenerated the myelin sheath covering their nerve fibers, and recovered from the illness. One of the images that can be used by people who have been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis is to visualize flocks of birds landing on a telephone wire. The birds represent the myelin; the telephone wire the nerve fiber.

People with an enlarged prostate can visualize their prostate gland becoming smaller, thus relieving pressure on their bladder. People with a diabetic condition can visualize normal insulin production by their pancreas, with glucose molecules entering cells as they open, and they would see sugar going into the cells where it is metabolized and burned. To make your visualization program effective, you should obtain graphic drawings of portions of the human body you plan to visualize. These can be obtained from any public library or from your physician. Use the drawings to create an image of exactly what it is you want to achieve.

Here, now, is the script…

Visualization Script — Generic

I invite you to sit comfortably in a chair, or on the floor, in an upright position, with your spine straight. Now close your eyes, breathe slowly and deeply . . . and begin to count down slowly from ten to one . . . relaxing more and more deeply with each count. 10 . . . 9. . . 8. . . feel yourself going deeper and deeper. . . into a quieter, more relaxed state of mind. . . 7. . .6. . . 5 . . . deeper and more relaxed. . . 4. . . 3?2. . . 1. . . you are now in a very deep, very calm state of mind.

Now see yourself relaxed. . . totally and completely relaxed . . . and see, in your mind’s eye, within your body . . . you can see the illness you have . . . you can see the problem . . . and you’ll now begin to visualize what you want to happen to make yourself well . . . see the process happening within your body . . . (PAUSE) see it happen, over and over again . . . (PAUSE).

See with you people who care about you . . . and love you (PAUSE).

And see those in your life who you want to get well for . . . it may be one person . . . or many persons . . . these are the people who mean so much to you, and have stood by you . . . see them clearly, and vividly (PAUSE).

Now see yourself achieving the goal you set for yourself . . . see yourself healthy . . . totally and completely healthy . . . and see your doctor acknowledging your achievement . . . (PAUSE).

And finally, see yourself enjoying the reward you promised yourself once your health has been restored . . . it may be a trip to a far-off land . . . or a new car . . . or a new home . . . see yourself enjoying your reward . . . (PAUSE).

You did it . . . you made it happen . . . you . . . are in excellent health.

(MUSIC UP AND END)

Now take 30 seconds to slowly open your eyes. 30 seconds.

As long ago as the Fifth Century B.C., Greek physicians believed whatever happened in the mind influenced the body. Later, in the Second Century A.D., anatomists and physiologists were beginning to identify a connection between disposition and disease. The mind-body connection and its relationship to health also date back to the Buddha. In Tibetan Buddhist Medicine and Psychiatry, Terry Clifford wrote:

The essence of his (the Buddha’s) teaching is to tame the mind and transmute the negative emotions. The Buddha taught that mind is the basis of all phenomena. Mind creates matter and mind creates illness and wellness. And herein lies the fundamental psychosomatic assumption of Buddhist medicine.

In an article entitled “The Will to Stay Well,” in The New York Times Magazine, the author observed that science has little explanation for the idea the “people can use thoughts and attitudes to regulate what would seem to be involuntary reactions to pressure, and that such control can affect physical health.”

A movie on CBS television recounted the true story of a woman who had cancer and her battle to overcome it. When her cancer was first diagnosed, she made drastic changes in her diet, began exercising and even practiced visualization. It didn’t appear to help. Then, her family doctor recommended she consult a psychiatrist who suggested she had some unresolved issues with her mother who had died that past year and that these issues were a source of great stress for her. At her psychiatrist’s suggestion, she visited her mother’s grave and spent an uninterrupted 24-hour period talking with her mother at graveside, discussing issues between them that had gone unresolved before her death. She then returned home, and began her program to put her illness into remission and this time was successful. She had brought an important unresolved issue in her life to completion and was on the road to recovery.

Richard Bloch, founder of the R.A. Bloch Cancer Support Center in Kansas City, Missouri, once stated that he thought in the next 20 or 30 years, when someone was diagnosed as having cancer, they would immediately see a psychiatrist or other therapist to assist them in probing issues in their lives that may be the source of significant stress.

Much current research also shows that suppressed anger can have a powerful effect on health. Dr. Harriet Goldhor Lerner, a practicing psychotherapist, wrote:

Some people avoid anger and conflict at all cost to protect the security of a relationship. They give in, they go along, they accommodate. Too much of the self becomes compromised under the relationship pressures.
Then, there are men and women who get angry with ease, but the anger leads to no resolution because in each case the real issues are not identified and addressed.

Dr. Lerner is describing individuals with low self-images who fear the consequences of confronting important issues in their lives.

There is a stereotype of persons with high blood pressure as fuming volcanoes that erupt at the slightest irritation. But according to Dr. Samuel Mann of New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center, adults suffering from hypertension often fall at the opposite end of the spectrum. He maintains many people bury past traumas, and that eliciting the trauma and getting patients to deal with them can dramatically lower blood pressure. “Their emotions,” says Mann, “are being expressed through their bodies rather than consciously or verbally.”

An 18-year study conducted by the University of Michigan revealed how harmful suppressed anger is to women. The study found that the death rate was three times higher for those who suppress their feelings. Women who hold in their anger may think they are being polite, but they are also risking their lives.

Dr. Redford Williams, a researcher in behavioral medicine at Duke University also found:

People who often explode in hostile rages or who sit around fuming over every perceived slight may be doing more than making themselves unpleasant. The may be killing themselves. Researchers have gathered a wealth of data suggesting that chronic anger hurts the body so badly that it ranks with, or even exceeds, cigarette smoking, obesity and a high-fat diet as a powerful risk factor for early death.

Many Native Americans have a perceived susceptibility to alcoholism. But a number of studies have concluded that heavy drinking is not a trait that is genetically transferred.

A paper published in the Journal of Alcohol Studies reported that Ernest Harburg, a Senior Research Associate at the University of Michigan, conducted a 31-year research project with four other scientists. Harburg’s conclusion:

Children of heavy drinkers were not more likely than children of abstainers or near-abstainers to become heavy drinkers . . . the results suggest there cannot be a simple genetic or biological-disease explanation for alcoholism. In the case of alcohol, there’s enough evidence that habits are acquired and can be changed. The research findings went against the widespread impression that heavy drinkers produce heavy drinkers.

Archie Brodsky, a Senior Research Associate at the Massachusetts Mental Health Center and co-author of The Truth About Addiction and Recovery, writes “the belief that alcoholism is hereditary stems from the untested observations of clinicians who treat alcoholics from flawed studies.”

Alcohol abuse is not necessarily transferred from one generation to another. Though it may be true that some people may be genetically pre-disposed toward substance abuse, what is transferable is not measurable by standard research practice: that is, how parents transfer feelings of inferiority (low self-esteem) to their children.

Youths whose parents abuse alcohol, and who believe (because of genetics) they also will inherit their parents’ behavior, often fulfill that prophecy by living out those expectations.

Drug and alcohol abuse are symptomatic of an issue — or issues — that have yet to be addressed and resolved in an individual’s life.

People who avoid addressing their issues — people who withhold — lower their self-esteem and create stress for themselves based on how they view life. Many turn to drugs and alcohol for relief.

There?s a quote from Hemingway’s book For Whom The Bell Tolls. Anselmo, the old gypsy, takes a drink of whiskey and says . . . “That is what kills the worm that haunts us.” But Anselmo — and Hemingway — were wrong. Whiskey doesn’t kill the worm, it merely douses it and immerses it in alcohol. When the effect of the alcohol subsides, the worm is still there, waiting to be doused again.

One of the reasons the AA program can be effective is because it provides members with the opportunity to not only acknowledge the presence of the worm, but to also eliminate it. In addition, AA members are encouraged to call upon a higher power to assist them in their recovery. However, I was surprised to read in a national publication that more than 18 million Americans are alcoholics, and according to studies by Alcoholics Anonymous, nine out of ten suffer relapses. Very often, people who enter the program are forewarned of this high failure rate. I believe this information should be kept confidential and not shared with someone who has just entered the program since it creates a negative expectation that is almost certain to become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

If you’re an alcoholic, I believe once you resolve the underlying issue or issues in your life which cause your excessive behavior, you can then return to a normal lifestyle that could even include moderate drinking. This is why many former alcoholics are able to drink moderately after their rehabilitation. They have confronted their issue — or issues — and resolved them. And, of course, they possess a strong belief in their ability to do so.

There are many doctors, therapists, and counselors who will disagree with this point of view, but I believe it’s valid. Excessive behavior of any kind is usually symptomatic of unresolved issues in a person’s life. Even excessive religious beliefs.

A few years ago, an article appeared in a national magazine that reviewed a book entitled Breaking The Chains, written by Episcopal priest Leo Booth. The review, which was titled “Praise the Lord, But Not Too Much,” pointed out that for most people, religion is a source of joy and comfort. For millions of others, it’s more like a harmful drug.

According to the author:

People hooked on religion experience the same powerlessness in trying to control their relationship with God as other addicts do concerning any chemical . . . Therapists say those vulnerable usually have very low self-esteem. Don Barmettler, Director of Colorado Spring’s Institute for Integral Development, a school for professionals who treat addicts, found that a punitive, shame-based religious background can hamper a person’s sense of self and his ability to experience the love of God and others. Many religious addicts also were physically or emotionally abused as children, and exposed to alcohol or drug abuse.

The repressed feelings of religious addicts can create other destructive behavior. For example, food is one substance permitted in religious circles, and many addicts stuff their feelings behind it. Some religious clubs and TV evangelists particularly prey on infirm, lonely women, encouraging them to focus on a relationship with Jesus cemented with financial contributions.

By the way, those young Pima boys mentioned earlier also revealed how their public school teacher had them (together with some black and Hispanic teenagers) sign contracts that they would not cause trouble in class. This teacher was an excellent example of someone creating a negative expectation in a school environment. In Marilyn Ferguson’s book The Aquarian Conspiracy, she wrote:

Teachers unintentionally communicate their expectations of what a student can do, thus setting in motion a self-fulfilling prophecy. Those youngsters expected to do well usually thrive, even if the teacher’s expectations are based on bogus information.

In many instances, doctors not only interpret our symptoms but also create them. A friend who was diagnosed with ALS — often referred to as Lou Gehrig’s disease ? recounted how, when he was first diagnosed, he was invited to attend a support group with other ALS patients. He was not told that these were patients with advanced ALS. When he entered the room, he was confronted with people in wheelchairs unable to function, many unable to sit upright and some drooling on themselves. It was a terrifying experience that very clearly established a nocebo effect, or a strong negative expectation. He ended up taking his own life rather than allowing his body to deteriorate, based on his expectations created by his being exposed to other patients. The ALS program would be better served by placing newly diagnosed patients in support groups with others who were also newly diagnosed. After all, Stephen Hawking, the professor of mathematics at Cambridge who has ALS and a wonderfully full career, was once told by doctors he had less than 30 months to live. That was 30 years ago.

We can also, unknowingly, create negative expectations for our loved ones who may be in the hospital recovering from major surgery. When doctors predict that patients may not live through the night, too often we say our last “goodbyes,” letting them know that we don’t expect them to pull through their ordeal. Our loved ones would be better off if we wrote our feelings on a piece of paper and put it in a dresser drawer, because the feelings we are expressing are more for ourselves than for the patient. Better we should give them a hug and kiss and tell them we’ll see them in the morning.

Now there are those who are fatalistic about death. They believe: when it’s your time to go, it’s your time to go. But you can hasten your own death by what you eat, by what you believe, by unknowingly lowering your own self-esteem creating stress for yourself. And others who may convey to us that we’re dying also contribute to the process. Of course, those who are fatalistic believe that even the actions you take to hasten your own death are pre-ordained.

Many negative expectations are associated with advancing age, such as diminishing brain power and a deterioration in the immune system. But medical research has provided scientific verification that neither premise is true. Yet, we tend to follow paths created by our own expectations.

One exception involves an older man who is considered to be about 90% blind. He has his own radio call-in talk show, featuring guests who are authorities in their respective fields, so he must stay current on all the new research and political events happening around the world — and he does this by memorizing all the data — even though he’s well into his 70’s. His brain power hasn’t diminished. In fact, it may have become even more acute. The adage of “use it or lose it” not only applies to physical skills, but to our brains as well.

Beliefs and expectations can have a powerful effect on our lives. Here’s a sampling of some of those encountered in the past:

“Alcoholism runs in my family, so it’s just a matter of time before I become an alcoholic.”

“My grandfather and father both died young, so the chances are good I will, too.”

“I will not get cancer because I have strong genes that will repel it.”

“I will live to a ripe old age because all the men in my family did.”

“I drink fresh carrot juice every day and it’s helping to keep my cancer in remission.”

“I had cancer once and I know distancing myself from any reminder regarding the disease is crucial for me.”

“I know that, by strengthening my immune system, I will put my cancer into remission.”

It’s important to remember that in matters of health (as in life) the key word is: Moderation.

You can eat what you want, drink what you want, do what you want, as long as you practice moderation.

But, unfortunately, those who resort to excessive behavior are usually the ones who are saddled with feelings of low self-esteem. They are often over-zealous fanatical sports fans who abandon their favorite team for another as soon as it starts losing, because they lack the ego strength to be identified with failure. They are animal rights fanatics who throw human urine on other people who happen to be wearing fur coats, or they are pro-life advocates who see nothing wrong with taking a doctor’s life to show their strong religious beliefs regarding abortion. They talk excessively, even pray excessively.

In contrast, individuals with some degree of high self-esteem keep their lives in harmony and balance, and practice moderation. Over time, as you track your own behavior, it will become clear to you how you feel about yourself as you observe any excesses. Excessive behavior should set off an alarm within each of us that we are following a path that is not in our own best interest.

In his book, Many Lives, Many Masters, Dr. Brian Weiss, quoting a past master, wrote: “Happiness is really rooted in simplicity. The tendency to excessiveness in thought and action diminishes happiness. Excesses cloud basic values. Happiness comes from filling one’s heart with love, from faith and hope, from practicing charity and dispensing kindness. Given those attitudes, balance and harmony usually follow.”

Any discussion of self-image and health would be incomplete without including the aging process. As Leroy Satchel Paige, the great baseball player, once said: “How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you were?” Paige, for example, didn’t know the year of his birth, yet pitched in professional baseball well into his 60s. When writing about the secrets of the world’s longest-living people, Dan Georgakas wrote, in his book The Methuselah Factor:

People who live longer are likely to be unusually opinionated and strong willed. They like to break their work into doable segments of relatively short duration, allowing for periodic plateaus of accomplishment as well as vantage points from which to judge overall progress. They generally place a premium on quality of performance over speed or appeals to passing fashions.

The preceding passage clearly describes individuals with high self-images. Georgakas also says that “the antithesis of people who live longer lives is the so-called ‘Type A’ personality, characterized by a chronic sense of time urgency brought on by factors such as unrealistic schedules and constant deadlines, often self-imposed.”

As discussed earlier, it is not unusual to find these types of individuals in a business climate. They have such low images of themselves that they believe the only way they can retain clients is to perform Herculean tasks, a belief which usually produces heavy burdens for their support staff. To make matters worse, after fulfilling these tasks by working many extra hours, they refuse to bill the clients for their time.

Self-esteem has a powerful impact on longevity. My own opinion is that high self-esteem and a strong belief in the Almighty make for longevity.
An increase in self-perception brought about by advanced education also has a great influence. Statistics show white American males who were 22 years of age in 1900 and graduated with honors from universities enjoyed a life span seven years longer than average.

Mr. Georgakas also discussed the land of Hunza, located in Northwest Kashmir, an isolated region noted for longevity of its inhabitants. According to Georgakas, it is not unusual for people in Hunza to live well past 100, and in many instances they live to be 130. Some maintain it’s the climate, some their diet. But most importantly, they are not programmed for early death by society’s expectations. And of course, their lifestyle is generally stress-free. They also practice meditation. I highly recommend a program of meditation and suggest you follow the format outlined in Chapter Two. Based on his research, Georgakas recommends a diet that is predominantly or exclusively vegetarian, consisting of as many raw foods and as wide a variety of foods as possible, with freshness and quality of paramount importance. This overall diet should be low in fat, sugar, salt and calories. If followed regularly, it protects the body from a number of degenerative diseases, not the least of which are arterial conditions associated with accumulation of cellular garbage. He also makes the observation that many people find it hard to accept that one of the best ways to prevent premature aging is the simple act of walking. And finally, he points out that biographies of people who live long lives indicate they have strong ideas about health and have much less contact with physicians than most other individuals.

Research also suggests individuals are able to postpone their deaths until they reach a meaningful occasion, such as a religious holiday. In a study of Jewish deaths from natural causes, sociologists found significantly fewer than they expected in the week before the Passover Seder and significantly more than expected during the week after. This so-called “Passover Effect” appears to be caused by people who wish to survive through the holiday. Communal social events can also benefit the course of disease, and can help restore health through attitude.

New studies indicate treatment with human growth hormones can significantly reverse many effects of aging. This opens the possibility of a new role for the mind: stimulating the pituitary gland with a visualization process to produce growth hormones.

In conclusion, consider what Georgakas points out: “It is clear that psychologically depressed people are not likely candidates for long life and that people who set low expectation levels for themselves are programming premature aging.”

We always tend to view issues from the outside-in, rather than inside-out. For example, researchers have studied elderly people owning pets, and have concluded that owning a pet can be beneficial to health and could extend life expectancy. Perhaps we should examine types of people who choose to own a pet and evaluate their feelings of self-worth, because those who have high self-esteem are more empathetic and would be more inclined to become pet owners.

Mary Louise, a competent registered nurse working at a major metropolitan hospital, had recently gone through a trying divorce and was the sole means of support for herself and her two-year-old son. She felt as if she were constantly living on the edge.

At work Mary Louise had a nursing supervisor who was making her life miserable. She wanted to speak out, but decided against it. She thought about leaving her job, but had convinced herself that she would never be able to find another, despite a demand for nurses with her credentials. She felt she was holding on by her fingernails.

Mary Louise was a perfect candidate for life-threatening illness. She was withholding her feelings, getting little sleep, experiencing massive stress, and surviving by eating greasy hamburgers and chicken from fast-food restaurants.

She had low self-esteem, and before long she did, in fact, become ill with cancer. Instinctively, she quit her job; and with help from her doctor, was soon on a regimen of vegetables, fruits, grains and a variety of nutritional supplements, including large doses of beta-carotene and fresh carrot juice to strengthen her immune system.

People with low self-esteem, who do not confront issues in their lives, create their own stress. They also create for themselves psychological baggage affecting their ability to focus. The stress results in illness, the non-focusing results in accidents; and both are major reasons why health care costs in the United States increase dramatically every year.

It’s safe to project that 20% of our society is responsible for 80% of all health care expenses incurred, and most of this 20% is made up of people with low or negative self-images.
As mentioned before, people with low self-esteem (who have created their own psychological baggage) are prone to accidents, especially automobile accidents. They often either drive absent-mindedly and constantly run red lights, colliding with other vehicles, or they have so much anger — which they are afraid to release at the responsible party — they find themselves driving madly and recklessly through traffic. An article in a national news publication told of a new computerized test capable of predicting with considerable accuracy whether it’s safe for an older person to continue driving their car:

The test detects how rapidly and correctly the brain can process new visual information . . . about 20% of people over 65 have such severe attention impairment that they’re at high risk for car accidents.

This test, if proven effective, should not be limited to older persons. Unfortunately, it would still be difficult to ferret out those individuals with low self-esteem, whose ability to focus is affected by their emotional baggage and who drive angrily through traffic. These are also people who abuse alcohol and drugs, two major causes of automobile accidents. Certainly these persons are more susceptible to cancer and heart disease.

So, in a perfect world, if we want to reduce our spiraling health care costs we should attempt to create a society where people feel good about themselves and live their lives in a stress-free mode. These would be people who don’t withhold, who are honest with their feelings and never lie or tell half-truths.

But, you might be saying, “Everyone experiences some kind of stress. It’s impossible to live without stress.” This, of course, is not true. Granted, it’s impossible to live without the issues that create stress, but it’s how we perceive those issues in our every day lives that determines the degree of stress we experience. People with high self-esteem confront issues in a direct manner, while those with low self-esteem do not. The latter fear the consequences of their actions. They fear the consequences of being honest.

Howard P. Greenwald, a sociologist and professor of public administration at the University of Southern California, gives little credence to the belief that cancer survival depends on the patient’s emotional state. He maintains the biggest factor determining who will overcome cancer is economic and social, that people with high incomes have the best chance of surviving cancer because they receive better primary health care.

To some degree, Mr. Greenwald is correct. But money aside, people at the bottom end of the economic spectrum, those struggling to make a living, are also the ones daily experiencing great stress in their lives, particularly when they are unable to pay their bills. A study conducted at Duke University Medical Center found that living with racism inflicts biological stress that can hasten death in black Americans.


N. V. I.
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