Mind Over Sports

Archive for March 2007

There are over 6 billion people on the earth, which means there are over 6 billion individual self-images, and we are all interacting with each other, based — not only on who we perceive we are — but also how we perceive others, and our perceptions are an extension of our own individual self-images.

Self-esteem, simply put, is how we feel about our “self.” It is a deep-seated feeling of self-worth. Self-image is how we perceive those feelings. Raising self-esteem can only come from within. No one else can do it for you. Others can create an environment for it to take place, but no one can build your self-esteem. Confidence and feelings of self-worth are manifestations of high self-esteem. But just because individuals you know may have low self-esteem today does not mean they are destined to live with it the rest of their lives. They can take action to bring about change. But they must be willing to look inward, to examine their own issues.

Later in this chapter there will be a discussion of the visualization process and how you can use it to enhance your well-being. This use of your brain, of course, is not new. But what is relatively new are the ways in which you can use your brain. It’s been said that, as human beings, we only use 10% of our brain’s potential. I disagree. I believe we use 100% of our brain’s potential, but our understanding of how to use our brain is probably only 10%. We do not need to use more of our brain, but, rather, we need to expand the way in which it is used.

One of the most important ways you negatively affect your self-image, as discussed previously, is by withholding. Keeping issues bottled-up inside yourself lowers your feelings of self-worth. Not being honest because you fear the consequences of your honesty (or you don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings) results in your taking fewer risks thereby increasing your own personal stress. The stress, in turn, reduces the effectiveness of your immune system. Here is a case history of stress reducing the immune system’s effectiveness.


It’s time to rethink old theories. Self-image, or self-esteem, plays an important role in determining a person’s susceptibility to physical wellness or illness. The higher your feelings of self-worth, the less likely you are to become ill. The lower your feelings of self-worth, the greater amount of stress you create in your life, and stress, as we all know, can be devastating to your health. Later, this book will review steps you can take to build your self-esteem and reduce stress levels. It’s a program you may wish to follow to gain the mental edge in matters of health.

If you’ve been diagnosed as having cancer, here is a program you can follow to help you put your illness into remission. But remember, this program is not intended to replace treatment your doctor has prescribed. It is supplemental.

1. Begin a program of counseling regarding personal issues in your life that may be causing you stress.

2. Begin consuming massive amounts of beta-carotene, including fresh carrot juice. There has been some negative publicity regarding the effectiveness of beta-carotene, but the people generating that information are wrong. More than 200 scientific studies have shown that antioxidants, including beta-carotene, play a major role in preventing cancer and heart disease. But a few studies have received a great deal of media attention regarding the ineffectiveness of beta-carotene in preventing illness. These same studies also determined that people with high blood levels of beta-carotene at the start of the studies had a low incidence of cancer later on. Lester Packer, Ph.D., a leading antioxidant researcher, stated: “These results are consistent with the idea that foods that have high levels of beta-carotene, like fruits and vegetables, may be responsible for a cancer-protective effect.” The study that concluded beta-carotene wasn’t effective had included smokers who were still smoking ? which is an indication they really had not resolved their issues at all. So remember, huge amounts of beta-carotene . . . and drink as much fresh carrot juice as you can.

3. Begin eating foods that are good for you — such as raw vegetables, fresh fruit, broiled fish and certain meats. A diet therapy book is recommended at the end of this book that was originally written for arthritis patients, but has application for all illnesses.

4. Begin a program of physical exercise . . . even walking. You can start off slowly, and eventually, if possible, build up to a relatively fast pace, walking two miles a day. But start slowly, until your body becomes adapted to the faster pace.

5. Begin getting as much natural sleep as you can. And you’ll notice I said “natural sleep” — not sleep induced by sleeping pills. A lack of sleep has been found to affect the immune system.

6. Begin being completely truthful regarding your feelings, and begin bringing unresolved issues in your life to completion.

7. Get yourself involved in some type of charity work. Join an organization that helps needy families . . . become a volunteer . . . anything you can do to help others less fortunate than yourself. Organizations such as the Special Olympics will welcome your services as a volunteer.

8. Include in your daily schedule 20 minutes of meditation in the morning and 20 minutes in the evening, before dinner. And if you’re a spiritual person, certainly prayer will be a powerful tool for you. In his book, Timeless Healing, The Power And Biology of Belief, Dr. Herbert Benson, a Harvard Medical School professor, states: “We see so many healing practices that are associated with faith and belief. That doesn’t mean belief in religion is necessary to heal yourself, but for many people this kind of belief is the most powerful.”

9. Begin a consistent program of visualizing your T-cells attacking your cancer cells. This should be done with the use of meaningful music with appropriate lyrics.

Much has been written about the mind-body connection. Even the sages of India, thousands of years ago, acknowledged that what goes on in the mind reveals itself in the body. The medical field has long acknowledged the power of the mind to turn sugar pills into effective medicine, and the so-called placebo effect is no longer viewed as a pitfall, but rather as a resource.

In his book The Silent Pulse, George Leonard states that the placebo effect is not a product of the potion but of the process, which is one of authorization. The more severe the pain and the greater the perception of the authorizer, the more powerful the effect of the placebo. Leonard writes:

The placebo effect works best when both the patient and healer are convinced of the power of the treatment . . . the healer simply authorizes the patient to do what he or she is already easily capable of: that is, to control even the most esoteric bodily functions, to grow or destroy tissue, to produce sickness or health.

One study, reported in a national news magazine, found the “placebo effect” plays a larger role in the success of medical treatments — even in back surgery — than doctors had previously thought. Researcher Judith Turner of the University of Washington in Seattle found that the placebo effect has a natural healing ability triggered by belief in a treatment, doctor or institution. It can make ineffective treatments look successful. “The placebo effect,” she says, “influences patient outcomes after any medical treatment (including surgery) that the clinician and patient believe is effective.” Two examples: studies show that when asthma patients are given an inhaler filled with water, their airways will expand if they’re told it contains a potent new drug. Another study of 2,054 back surgeries, for lumbar disc disease, showed that even when no problem was found, and patients were just stitched up, 43% had relief of pain anyway.

Bryant C. Freeman, Professor of African-American Studies at the University of Kansas, has made an extensive study of Haitian voodoo medicine, having lived in Haiti for a number of years. In a conversation I had with him about voodoo deaths, he said:

If faith can heal, fear can kill. Victims die because they believe they are bound to die as a result of a hex. It’s an example of the fatal power of imagination working through unmitigated terror.

Buster John Kidney, an Indian medicine man living in Montana, uses plant cures, and works with patients in a hospital in Billings when patients request his services. He recommends the chamomile plant for soothing skin, peppermint for settling stomachs, and “sleepy-time” tea to relax patients and help them fall asleep.

In most cases, where beliefs play an important role in the recovery process, they work in harmony with an authorized or prescribed drug or medicinal plant; one that may, in fact, have some degree of curing power. But belief in the plant’s power to cure, working in harmony with the actual plant, makes the cure more powerful.

There have been documented cases where a macrobiotic diet has had considerable positive impact on the cure of cancer, and I’ve personally worked with cancer patients who believed that watching a video tape of T-cells attacking cancer cells would help put their illnesses into remission, and I’m convinced it did. (I would like to point out again that any work with cancer patients is always supplemental to what their physician prescribes.)

Placebos work because you believe they work. If you believe a shaman’s chant or a potion of lizard’s blood will cure you of an illness, there’s a good chance it will. A famous professional tennis player in this country was experiencing severe pain in his knee. He visited a “medicine man” in Australia who rubbed some oil on his knee and waved a lizard’s tail over it. The pain went away.

The more extravagant and powerful the ritual, the more powerful the belief. A good example is when you are introduced to Transcendental Meditation. There is a specific ritual you are exposed to and a ritualistic way in which your mantra is given to you. This process reinforces the power of the mantra and works to insure its success (another reinforcement is the considerable amount of money you pay for the privilege of using the TM system of meditation). I don’t intend those observations as criticism; TM is an excellent program for total relaxation, and I highly recommend the introductory course.

Beliefs we have about preventive health measures can sometimes devastate our bodies. Some women have chosen to have healthy breasts removed, and some their ovaries and uterus, because of presumed hereditary disease in the family. Scientists are convinced that some women are born with a greater risk of getting breast cancer than other women. What they don’t know is why. But much of the research is focusing on particular growth-enhancing genes. This is an excellent example of what Robert Merton refers to as the self-fulfilling prophecy.

If a woman has her healthy breasts, ovary and uterus removed surgically, then, based on her belief system, there is a strong possibility she will never have to deal with cancer. But perhaps she could have achieved this same result by improving her own self-image (or self-esteem) in an attempt to reduce the stress in her life that impacts her immune system. Low self-esteem is transferable from generation to generation, just as genes are transferable. But one process is measurable, the other is not.

The Los Angeles Times reported that Harvard researchers found that genetics appears to play a smaller role in the development of breast cancer than had been thought. The reason for this is, just because we carry certain genes in our bodies does not mean we are predestined to have a certain illness. We are only “genetically pre-disposed” toward that illness and we can take preventive measures.

Research has also indicated a possible relationship between genes and obesity. This could very well be true, but the research fails to mention that if you carry the gene, you are only genetically pre-disposed to being obese. The findings have yet to be tested on human beings, but I feel confident they will find that not everyone possessing the gene is obese. In many instances the media coverage of research findings is misleading and, in this case, very likely provides obese people with a justification for their obesity — even establishing negative expectations about their weight. As far as losing weight is concerned, severely limiting your intake of carbohydrates (bread, potatoes, desserts) is a safe and sane way of burning up body fat.

Here now are some steps you can take to build your feelings of self-worth. As you’ll recall, there are four basic paths to follow:

The first is one over which you have no control. It began the day you were born and has a powerful impact on the way you think, on beliefs you may have and actions you take in your life to get from point A to point B. It has far-reaching consequences not only for you but also for your children or spouse. Of course, I’m referring to the basic self-esteem you get from being raised in an environment rich with love and nurturing. Unfortunately, many high-risk children who are products of dysfunctional families are not getting the care and attention and the results show up clearly every day in drug abuse and crime statistics.

Now, some of you may be saying to yourself: “See, I’m messed up because my parents didn’t give me enough love.” Or, “I’m the way I am because there was so much turmoil in my family life at home.” For those of you who are chained to the past, one point very clear: You can change. You may not be able to change someone else, but you can certainly change yourself. You can create your own positive experiences, or you can live your life blaming others and not taking responsibility for your own actions. Every behavior has a purpose. If you’re not willing to let go of the past, you need to take a long hard look at: Why? And the reason may well be that you’re getting something from holding on to those issues rather than acknowledging them, resolving your feelings about them, and then moving off them. There’s a payoff for everything we do, or we wouldn’t do it.

This may sound cruel to some people who may have been abused as children, but if they are still holding onto the issue, say 30 years later, they need to look at: “Why?” But it does require that they change their belief system.

There are two types of self-esteem. There is basic self-esteem and there is situational self-esteem. Basic self-esteem is the kind just discussed. It comes from being loved and nurtured and having someone who genuinely cares about you. Situational self-esteem reflects daily up-and-down feelings we have about ourselves as we go through life. People who live their lives without the basic foundation of love and nurturing are those most susceptible to drug and alcohol abuse, most susceptible to joining cults, and most susceptible to developing life-threatening illnesses.

Caring parents produce healthier adults. A national publication reported on a 35-year study that followed 87 Harvard College men into middle age. The study found that the perception of being loved by their parents when they were 20 produced the healthiest men at age 55. The study concluded the perception of being loved and cared for at a younger age may lower stress hormones and improve immune functions setting the stage for a healthier adulthood.

Now there are those who maintain if you don’t have basic self-esteem by the age of two, then you’ll never develop it. But basic self-esteem can be created at any age. All it requires is someone who cares about you and loves you. It can be a spouse, a coach, a teacher, or even a friend. Someone who will provide the nurturing and create the environment so you can change your life and create new directions for yourself.

Once when working with parolees from a state prison, one woman — a former inmate — questioned my statement that to build self-image requires someone in your life to love you and care about you. She seemed to have made the decision to straighten out her life alone, and was well on the way to making a positive contribution to society. She had a seven-year-old son she loved dearly, and who loved her. I’m sure having her own child, someone who loved her unconditionally, also contributed to her sense of self-worth.

Nonetheless she told me that all through her life she really never had anyone who loved her or cared about her — that she had made her own progress without anyone else’s influence.

But when we discussed her past in detail, she revealed that at one point in her life — after she had been released from prison — she had met another woman who subsequently became her close friend. In fact, it was the closest friendship she had ever had, someone she was able to confide in and share her innermost feelings. Her friend was someone who she genuinely cared about. And loved.

But three months after they met, her friend was killed in an automobile accident.

Her point was, since she had only known this woman for three months, how could her friend have had a lasting effect on her self-esteem? I asked her if she ever thought about her friend and she said “yes, quite often.” She had so cherished the relationship — as brief as it was — that her friend’s memory was always with her, always in her heart. Even though her relationship with her friend was brief, it was also powerful. And that the relationship had not ended with death, but rather, had only changed. The relationship was transformed. We sometimes think that when someone in our life becomes deceased, that our relationship with them discontinues . . . but it’s not true. That’s why, in a 12-step program, for instance, participants are required to write a letter to someone with whom they have unresolved issues . . . even if that person is dead.

One last point: if you have basic self-esteem, you have the ability to bounce back from hard times. For example, let’s say you were formerly the owner of a successful business but you experienced bad luck and were now on the verge of bankruptcy. You know you must take action to survive. If you have basic self-esteem, you will do whatever is necessary. You will take on any kind of menial job, because you have the ego strength to do it. Some people with low-self-images may have difficulty doing this, if much of their esteem is associated with the kind of work they do. But for people with the basic foundation, this is not an issue. And as soon as they begin working at the menial job, powerful forces take over, and their lives begin to change for the better. Also, when we experience difficult times in our own lives, it makes us more compassionate regarding the plight of others.

The second effective path to high self-esteem is the path of honesty. Total honesty. Total truthfulness. The more honest you are, the better you feel about yourself.

Many of us tend to withhold in our lives. We withhold our emotions and our feelings, keeping them deep inside. This withholding process, as pointed out before, is a form of lying that demeans us and lowers our self-image. As our self-image drops our performance level drops and we create psychological baggage affecting our ability to focus and process information. And, since “we see things as we are,” as our self-esteem declines we become negative, developing negative beliefs and thoughts that produce negative actions and events in our lives.

However, when we don’t withhold, when we are honest and truthful with our feelings and emotions, we develop a positive self-image, resulting in positive beliefs and thoughts that create positive actions and positive events.

The negative self-image cycle can be broken and reconstructed into a positive self-image cycle. But it requires work and time, love and caring. We need not become locked into any behavior pattern forever. We can alter our lives with a strong personal commitment to change.

The third effective path to high self-esteem is the path of bringing unresolved issues to completion. If issues in our lives are allowed to hang over our heads like a dark cloud, they too will create psychological baggage that affects our focus.

Remember, to dump that baggage it is not necessary to have totally resolved an issue. You need only to begin taking those first steps toward resolution. For example, if you owe someone a thousand dollars, as you begin to pay off the loan — even just a few dollars at a time — that action will have a positive effect on your sense of self-worth.

The fourth effective path to high self-esteem is the path of doing for others. It’s been said that “volunteering may be helpful to your health.” This is true. Volunteering produces increased feelings of self-worth, and as our self-image becomes more positive we are more likely to deal with issues in our lives, thus reducing stress, and lower stress levels keep our immune system stronger.

Now, before I get into an in-depth discussion of how these four basic paths can be applied in your life, it’s important to understand the power and impact that placebos and beliefs have on our health.

N. V. I.
National Visualization Institute

Learn how to visualize, resulting in increased performance.

PHONE: 417-773-2695

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