Mind Over Sports

Archive for March 2008

People with low self-esteem will generally back off from any self-image type of training because they will do anything rather than look inside themselves and face issues they have been avoiding. It’s almost like holding a cross up to the proverbial vampire — the vampire shields himself — or herself — and recoils in horror. Some people will even choose death rather than deal with and resolve important issues in their lives.

A well-known professional football player had enormous personal issues in his life but because of his stature in the community refused to confront them publicly. He considered himself a role model for children, and felt going public with his problems would reflect badly on him. He kept his secrets bottled up inside himself and subsequently, he created his own stress, which affected his immune system — and he died of cancer. He was a wonderful, kind human being. But sometimes when we are famous, it becomes a two-edged sword, because our perception of how we believe we are being viewed by the community — or even the nation — may keep us from taking action necessary to save ourselves.

At a dinner attended by 400 people where this athlete was introduced from the audience, the emcee conveyed the feelings of everyone in the room when he announced that “we are all pulling for you to get well.” As the emcee pointed out, and everyone knew, the athlete had cancer and was fighting for his life. This was an excellent example of how we unknowingly create negative expectations for people with an illness. What the emcee should have said was — this individual was really no different from anyone else in the room since we all have cancer cells in our bodies, but he was putting his cancer aside and was working on enhancing his immune system to make it stronger so that he would eventually put his illness into remission as so many other people had done successfully.

The opposite is also true. A young attorney, while putting in 70-hour weeks at his office, was diagnosed as having a malignancy. He cut back his work week, which lowered the number of hours he was able to bill, resulting in less income for the law firm. His partners, being greedy and avaricious, complained he wasn’t pulling his weight. They wanted him to either work more hours or reduce the amount of money he drew from the firm. Because of their greed, they showed little mercy. But the benefit was, they did not display a solicitous attitude, feeling sorry for him, thereby creating a nocebo effect, or an environment of negative expectations. Subsequently, by following his doctor’s recommendations and using some of the ideas discussed later in this chapter, he put his illness into remission and was able to extend his life for a few years. His partners’ greed, and the way in which he was treated, I believe contributed directly toward extending his life.

Here’s a true weight loss program that absolutely does work. I call it my “Chocolate Oreo and Skim Milk” Diet. First, for breakfast, you should eat a normal breakfast. In fact, breakfast should be your biggest meal.

At 3pm, you eat a normal lunch. And that’s it. No supper. In place of supper you can have, around 7pm if you get hungry, a chocolate Oreo and a glass of skim milk. And that’s it. Or, you can have a bowl of cereal with skim milk. Or a hand full of almonds. Most personal trainers will tell you that the worst thing you can do is to eat a large meal at 6 or 7 or 8 o’clock and let the food just settle on your stomach and stay there all night. That’s how people become overweight and even obese. So I promise you, if you follow this diet (and basically cut out supper) you will lose weight. It worked for me and it can definitely work for you.

Half-way during the 1988 basketball season, I became involved with the University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC) basketball team. The team had mostly African-American players on it and I made the decision to implement a program I called “Excelling for a High Order,” which involved having the team interact with a group of young people with some type of life-threatening illness. By doing so, it enhanced the players self-esteem and thereby positively affected their performance. The group I selected was the Sickle Cell Anemia Chapter in Kansas City, which was run by a very talented and very devoted woman named Kasey Moore. Kasey educated me about Sickle Cell and soon after I recommended a program to her which she subsequently submitted to the national Sickle Cell headquarters and my understanding is that portions of it are still being used.

Here is what I found out about Sickle Cell anemia and what I recommended: As is generally known, Sickle Cell is a disease affecting primarily Africans and the African-American community, but it also affects individuals who come from the Mediterranean area — such as Sicilians. I won’t get into the differences between carriers of sickle cell and actual sickle cell patients, other than to say that people who have sickle cell have genes shaped like “sickles,” which, when their blood pressure increases, the cells coagulate in the blood stream forming a beaver-dam effect blocking off blood vessels and creating for the patients what is generally referred to as a “pain attack.” And so, when I set about to develop a Sickle Cell program, I made the decision to create audio recordings that would achieve two goals: First, to relax the individual’s body and mind through the use of soft, relaxing music, thereby reducing the level of pressure and thus reducing pain; and second, to transform (through guided imagery) the sickle-shaped cells into full, healthy, round cells. I should point out that it wasn’t necessary for the cells to actually become transformed, but only that the patient believed that they were being transformed in his or her body thereby producing relief. It’s somewhat like the “placebo effect.” The program worked and soon after some of the young people who used my recordings found that they could substitute the recordings for morphine shots, which they dreaded taking. If you would like more information, I invited you to contact Kasey Moore at: Sickle Cell Disease Association of America: Kansas City Chapter, 1734 East 63rd Street, Kansas City, Missouri 64110, 816-444-5600.

We often read or hear in the media where athletes have been diagnosed with cancer. Based on my experience, more than likely those athletes are repressing their feelings, which not only affects their self esteem and their performance level, but also their health. Here’s how it works: When you withhold (or repress) your feelings and emotions it’s a form of lying that demeans you and lowers your self-esteem. As your self-esteem is lowered you begin to see the world around you from a negative perspective (“we see things as we are”) and create stress for yourself based on how you view your life’s issues. As a result of the stress, your body begins to give off hormones that impair your immune system. At that point, the cancer cells in your body (and we all have cancer cells in our bodies) begin to multiply at a rate faster than they can be devoured by the immune system and soon after you are diagnosed as having cancer.

Many physicians will agree that a relationship exists between high self- esteem and wellness, and low self-esteem and illness. When I lived in Kansas City, Missouri, In the late 1980s, I volunteered my services at the RA Bloch Cancer Support Center. On various Sunday mornings, with the encouragement of co-founder Richard Bloch, I would meet with newly diagnosed cancer patients in a support group environment. At the outset I would explain to them that even though they had been diagnosed with cancer, that was not their primary problem. Their primary problem was that each had a suppressed (or impaired) immune system. Since research has shown the most conspicuous characteristic of cancer patients is bottled up emotions, we would have each person in the group tell his or her own story about stress in their lives. Each would interact with others in the room and, at the same time, bring their emotions to the surface. After talking about their issues (many for the first time) their repressed feelings began to disappear and they immediately felt better about themselves. Once they began talking about their issues, they experienced an increase in self-esteem and were then ready to use a visualization technique where they visualized their own healthy t-cells attacking their cancer cells. This exercise was accompanied by Patti LaBelle’s recording of “New Attitude.” At that time I had a story board that I used in those sessions showing the t-cells coming together, mobilizing, and forming an arrow. The arrow would zoom toward a large glob that represented a cancer cell and the arrow would attack the glob which would then deflate and dissipate.

Unfortunately, I’ve never been able to locate the storyboard. But I believe cancer patients reading this can create their own visual image of t-cells attacking cancer cells (see photo insert at left) and use Patti LaBelle’s recording to accompany it. I’m sure Patti would not mind since she herself is a cancer survivor. Later, patients would listen only to the music track and the images that were embedded in their minds would recreate themselves, automatically. Also, it’s important to remember that when cancer patients enhance their own self-esteem, they automatically enhance the potency of their immune systems. One last point: What I have recommended should only be considered as a supplemental program. It should not replace any treatment recommended by a physician or oncologist.

N. V. I.
National Visualization Institute

Learn how to visualize, resulting in increased performance.

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