fragmented.ME …
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toxic positivity …

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Toxic Positivity, are words or pithy sayings that you’ve probably heard said to you many times when you’ve been in need of understanding and encouragement. Especially so if you have had an incident which has caused you to fall upon hard times, feel low, or have some ongoing problem or illness that you just can’t seem to overcome. As a consequence, you find yourself in need of support or encouragement, yet find that you are instead receiving something else, which doesn’t actually make you feel supported or encouraged. You feel the total opposite. I know I have.

By way of example, and particularly in my case with having gone from mild ME to moderate ME and now severe ME, I am very in tune with my body and its symptoms. Enough to know when I’ve overdone it, when I’m getting a migraine, or yada yada (those with ME will understand what I mean and what I am saying here) …

And so when I say, for instance,

‘oh no, I’m getting a migraine’ or ‘oh no, I’ve triggered too much adrenaline, I know I won’t sleep tonight’, or ‘I’m getting sicker …’, and so on …

It is ‘toxic positivity’ when the reply I receive, given in the name of so called ‘encouragement’, is something like,

‘awe no you won’t, don’t say that, you’re being negative, if you expect it then you will surely get it … it’s as though you’re telling the universe what you want and the universe will give you just that … maybe try and be more positive, it will work … just try it and see’.

Hearing this. Being told this. It does nothing more than undermine my self insight and shows me that you have absolutely no understanding or genuine care for me or my situation. In fact, to hear those kinds of words is downright disrespectful to me. It feels dismissive. Moreover, in truth, it might well be claiming that I am sick because I think I am or implying that I want to be this way. Personally, I see this as ultimately telling me that I am lying about how things are for me or that I could change my health by simply thinking differently or in a so called better manner.

These ideas and ways of treating someone follow the faulty thinking that psychology experts route as the means to explain our sickness (as in ME), which in turn promotes GET and CBT to very sick people, resulting in making them much sicker.

They are simply just not true. In fact, they really could not get any further away from the truth. My experience of ME is that you cannot impact it, either negatively or positively, with mere thoughts or words alone. However, with belief systems like these it’s no wonder that people with ME are treated so badly by friends and family and even more shockingly by the medical profession too.

 . . .   T O X I C   . . .
 . . .   P O S I T I V I T Y   . . . 

what is toxic positivity …

In very simple terms, ‘toxic positivity’ can be understood, and presents, as an obsession with positive thinking encompassing the belief that people should put a positive spin on all experiences, even those that are profoundly tragic.

In view of the this, and in light of the devastating impact ‘toxic positivity’ can have on relationships, it is important to distinguish ‘toxic positivity’ from genuine and useful support and encouragement.

To help us understand some of the differences we need to determine what ‘toxic positivity’ actually is. And in this endeavour it will be useful if we first take a look at what ‘toxic positivity’ is not.

Accordingly, it can be categorically stated that ‘toxic positivity’ is not genuine encouragement and / or empathy given at the right time. Genuine encouragement and empathy given at the right time are what you ought to expect to receive when you have any kind of problem or long-standing illness, and more so with ME. Yet, ‘toxic positivity’ is what you will often receive.

Therefore, in total contrast, when ‘toxic positivity’ is used, the giver is almost always, even though they would never agree, offering the absolute opposite of genuine encouragement and empathy in the form of a so called ‘positive’ claim or statement, which may be well intentioned and meant to make you feel better. When it is pointed out to them that their words are not, by any means, encouraging, they may offensively, and even jocosely, claim that you’ve misunderstood or mistaken their intent or meaning and if you just got it, then you’d get the truth of what they really meant.

But more importantly, in every situation when you’ve been stung with ‘toxic positivity’ you will know because it will hurt your soul rather than soothe it.

From the above we could rightly conclude that, ‘toxic positivity’ involves the dismissing of negative emotions and responding to a person’s distress with false reassurances rather than encouragement and empathy. 

some definitions …

‘Toxic Positivity’ can be defined as:

toxic positivity:
the over generalisation of a happy, optimistic state that results in the denial, minimisation and invalidation of the authentic human emotional experience …

very well mind : toxic positivity:
is the belief that no matter how dire or difficult a situation is, people should maintain a positive mindset. It’s a “good vibes only” approach to life.

Given those descriptions then I feel it is of paramount importance that we aim to not use toxic positivity with the chronically sick. It could, and has been known to, destroy them.

forms of toxic positivity …

As already mentioned above, ‘toxic positivity’ can present in a variety of forms. From infrequent overly positive encouragement to an obsessive need to put a positive spin on everything, even when the idea of being positive about a particular incident or episode would seem like a really unhelpful way to offer encouragement to someone.

It could also be argued that being overly and unrealistically positive comes from feeling uncomfortable with negative emotions, which is just as bizarre as always being negative.

Real life is never all positive or all negative, it is always a combination of highs and lows and therefore our emotions will reflect this. When they don’t, we are in danger of becoming either all positive or all negative. Both being unbalanced extremes.

Therefore, being positive all the time can be mildly annoying on one level and seriously offensive on a whole other level. No one wants to be around someone who is always negative and likewise so with the obsessive and unrealistically ever positive person, especially when what you need is acknowledgment, understanding and encouragement. It just really is not helpful.

So just don’t okay … really don’t …

Interestingly, ‘toxic positivity’ can be something you do to yourself, or to others, and also be something that others do to themselves, or to you. Either way it is dangerous and hurtful and at its worse soul destroying.

signs of toxic positivity …

It can be fairly easy to know when you’re on the receiving end of ‘toxic positivity’ from a well meaning friend or family member because of how it makes you feel. However, it can often be difficult to see or know when you are subjecting yourself to it.

Personally, when I hear these kind of ‘support’ or ‘encouragement’ statements, from myself or others, I feel deflated, not good enough, dismissed, and somewhat lacking. So, even if the goal in using so called positivity is to encourage it hardly ever does and the way it makes you feel will tell you if you’ve been subjected to it or not. Mostly, if you’re in need of encouragement and empathy and feel otherwise you will know you’ve been subjected to one form of ‘toxic positivity’ or another.

Therefore, to help you identify ‘toxic positivity’, pay attention to how you feel when someone is ‘encouraging’ you.

Also, take into account some common ways that ‘toxic positivity’ can show up in our everyday life as listed below:

toxic positivity in everyday life
    • trying to just ‘get on with it’
    • trying to give someone perspective, for example ‘it could be worse’ instead of validating their emotional experience
    • hiding and/or or stuffing down / dismissing feelings / emotions / thoughts in order to mask your true feelings
    • feeling guilty for feeling what you feel
    • dismissing and/or hiding all negative feelings and emotions often behind positive quotes or sayings
    • minimising other people’s experiences with ‘feel good’ or ‘positive’ quotes or statements
    • shaming and/or chastising yourself and/or others for expressing frustration or anything other than positivity
    • brushing things off that are bothering you with the idea that, ‘it is what it is’
    • claiming that your life is all sunshine and rainbows
    • telling yourself and/or others to just stay positives!
    • having a good vibes only stance
    • telling yourself and/or others it could be worse, there is always someone else worse off
    • believing things happen for a reason
    • thinking that failure isn’t an option
    • believing that happiness is a choice

on the receiving end of toxic positivity …

Being on the receiving end of ‘toxic positivity’ feels, as noted above, demoralising and as though you are alone and unsupported.

When someone you look to for support claims, ‘just think like blah blah blah or blah blah blah, it will work … you’re being too negative’, it is isolating and simply not good enough and as already mentioned.

Furthermore, it is harmful to your emotional and mental stability and will have a negative impact on you personally and the friendship, and in so many ways too. Some of which will be discussed next?

how it affects you …

We know that ‘toxic positivity’ can be harmful especially for those already going through difficult times. The reason being, at a time when you need to feel supported instead you can feel dismissed, ignored, chastised, and that your reality is being invalidated.

Such ‘positive vibes only’ mantras can be particularly grating during times of distress. Because, when you are coping with difficult situations such as ongoing ill health, financial troubles, job loss, or the loss of a loved one, being told that you need to look on the bright side can seem downright cruel.

This ‘toxic positivity’ can feel like and lead to some of the following responses:

shame

Shame is a feeling of humiliation or distress caused by something or someone external to yourself. Consequently, when someone offers support, in the form of ‘toxic positivity’, they are literally telling you:

(1) how you ought to feel

(2) how you actually feel is unacceptable

And, they are doing this at a time when you need to feel supported and want to know that your feelings and emotions are valid and that you can find relief and love in their friends and family. Yet instead, ‘toxic positivity’ tells you that the emotions you are experiencing are unacceptable.

In the name of shame, to force a positive outlook on pain is to as well encourage a person to keep silent, or shameful, about things. Therefore, because on the whole we would rather not be seen as ‘needy’ or be a nuisance, when the choice is between being brave and honest or pretending that everything is going great, we often adopt the latter.

Brené Brown claims that the energy source of shame is silence, secrecy, and judgment. In other words, where there is hiding, secrets, and denial, shame is usually in the driver’s seat. 

Shame is crippling to the human spirit and one of the most uncomfortable feelings we can feel. Often, we don’t even know that we are feeling shame.

A way to determine if what you are feeling is shame is to ask yourself:

if they knew ‘BLAH BLAH BLAH’ about me, what would they think …

Another thing to ask yourself:

something I wouldn’t want people knowing about me is ‘BLAH BLAH BLAH’ …

If you can fill in the ‘BLAH BLAH BLAH’ with ANYTHING, whether it be a situation, a feeling, or an experience there is a high likelihood that there is some shame around that.

suppressed emotions

As a result of shame, we will often suppress our emotions in order to appear to be in control or even ‘over it’ by putting on a ‘fake’ persona or ‘cheery’ attitude to appear to others as ‘together’. In effect, we deny our truth in order to be acceptable.

Yet, time and again research shows that it is healthy to express our emotions and that holding them in or pretending they don’t exist causes stress on the body. Such research has shown the effects of suppressing emotions can long term lead to depression, anxiety and other physical health problems such as, high blood pressure, chest pain, headaches, sleep problems, digestive issues, muscle weakness and troubles concentrating to name a few.

Consequently, it is extremely important to acknowledge our reality by talking about it and allowing our feelings out. This in turn keeps us balanced and mentally sane whilst acting as a release mechanism so that stress and tensions don’t build up causing a backlog of health issues.

guilt

Guilt is the feeling of having done something wrong, something that you ought to feel shameful about. It is another knock on effect of ‘toxic positivity’ that can keep you silent and stop you from reaching out.

You feel you are guilty and must be doing something wrong because you aren’t finding, or maybe can’t find, a way to feel positive in what you face. Subsequently, you may begin to compare yourself unfairly to others, that you believe to be in the same position as you are. Wrongly concluding that they manage to stay positive more acceptably than you do. This, in turn, compounds the guilt you feel.

dismissed

Feeling dismissed is the same as feeling invalidated and in the case of ‘toxic positivity’ the invalidation or dismissal of ‘where you’re at’ is paramount. In this case if you are feeling dismissed or invalidated then you are deemed as unworthy of connection with the ‘toxic positivity’ bearer.

Ultimately this means that the use of ‘toxic positivity’ is an avoidance technique employed to sidestep authentic human emotion and its resulting human connection.

avoids humanness and connection

The idea of ‘toxic positivity’ being an avoidance technique goes even further when you address its full meaning.

Full on, it is an avoidance of authentic human emotion and connection. When people engage in this type of behavior, it allows them to bypass emotional situations that might make them feel uncomfortable. So they never face full on the whole spectrum of human emotion. They do not know how to be human.

Worse still, we sometimes turn these very same ideas onto ourselves, internalizing the toxic ideas we might have heard from others or seen banded around social media on pretty background images. Consequently, when we end up encountering difficult emotions, as we certainly will many times in life, we then use ‘toxic positivity’ towards ourselves, discounting, dismissing, and denying how we truly feel. Ultimately conning and abandoning ourselves.

prevents personal and friendship growth

Furthermore, ‘toxic positivity’ limits growth, personal and friendship alike. It enables us to avoid feeling emotions that might be painful, but it also denies us the ability to face challenging feelings that can ultimately lead to growth and deeper insight.

Confronting and accepting the ups and downs of life affords us personal growth and the ability to offer acceptance and empathy up to ourselves and others. Meaning, we have much deeper personal insight and are better equipped human beings, making us fit for the role of deeper relationships.

We can be there for ‘us’ and/or the relationships have.

encourages negativity

Ironically, ‘toxic positivity’ can have the total opposite of the desired effect. Instead of being encouraging it can be discouraging and make the recipient feel negative about themselves, their life, and their ability, or inability, to be seen as positive. Simply because they cannot live up to the ‘toxic positivity’ statement of the moment.

But in spite of this, it is possible to be optimistic in the face of difficult experiences and challenges. Still people going through trauma do not need to be told to stay positive or feel that they are being judged for not maintaining a sunny outlook. They need to be accepted in the now!

isolation

Another effect of ‘toxic positivity’ is that it can plunge a person into isolation.

If we feel unheard, or judged, then our natural way of dealing with this is to retreat. We in effect hibernate from others. We begin to fear sharing and often lose connection with ourselves and our truth maybe even denying our truth to ourselves and others by becoming ‘toxic positive’ ourselves.

In denying our truth, we begin to live inauthentically with ourselves and with the world. We lose connection with ourselves, making it difficult for others to connect and relate to us. We might look unbreakable from the outside, but on the inside we’re just scared little teddy bears longing for a hug.

The relationship with yourself, is often reflected in the relationship you have with others. If you cannot be honest about your own feelings, how will you ever be able to hold space for someone else expressing real feelings in your presence? By curating a fake emotional world, we attract more fakeness resulting in counterfeit intimacy and superficial friendships.

how it affects you, as the giver …

Although, ‘toxic positivity’ is often well-intentioned it can cause alienation and a feeling of disconnection between two people.

No one wants to share with someone who is all sugary sweet, ‘just think happy thoughts’, pollyanna kind of person? How comfortable are you with spilling your guts about the deep emotions you’re feeling?

In contrast the giver will often feel like they are sharing or throwing their so called ‘pearls’ before ‘swine’ and they too might not be comfortable sharing their ‘toxic’ resources.

how it affects you, as the receiver …

As stated above, although ‘toxic positivity’ may be well intentioned, the receiver will often feel the total opposite to the giver.

The receiver will likely feel as though they, the giver of ‘toxic positivity’, is throwing their ‘toxic’ spew before a ‘suffering’ human who needs empathetic understanding and support.

why is toxic positivity so harmful …

The main issue to the receiver is that ‘toxic positivity’ promotes poor mental health.

Because of social media and ‘results’ based work and home environments, ‘toxic positivity’ appears to be on the increase. Its main source of harmfulness is that you are going to come up against it more so now than ever before and it can lend you towards self criticism on top of others’ criticisms.

how to avoid toxic positivity …

One major way to avoid ‘toxic positivity’ is to let yourself feel your feelings, and also let others share theirs without needing to fix them.

Another way is to clarify what you want from a conversation partner. Set the boundaries straight off. Explain or express that you are comfortable with your emotions, negative, positive, or otherwise.

Blah blah …

alternatives to toxic positivity …

Even though ‘toxic positivity’ abounds there are things that you can do to protect yourself again being either a giver or receiver of it.

It is paramount to let yourself feel your feelings, and let others share theirs too without you needing to fix them. Be a healthy space for other others.

If you find you are someone who is often on the receiving end of ‘toxic positivity’ it’s a good idea to enforce some healthy boundaries with anyone who tries to pass judgement on your experiences. Know who you are. Know what is real about your experience and don’t let anyone gaslight you about what you know to be your truth. Hold your ground.

Being a healthy human being involves being conscious of ourselves and how we show up in the world. If you recognize yourself as a transmitter of toxic positivity, it’s time to cut it out. You’re hurting yourself and the people you care about most by insisting on this monochromatic mindset. Instead of practicing toxic positivity, aim for balance and the acceptance of both good and bad emotions rather than all-or-nothing thinking.

Let’s all put an end to and stop ‘toxic positivity’ by clarifying what you want from your conversation partner and if that’s not what you find then set your boundaries and be your own non toxic support.

non-toxic alternatives
    • I’m listening
    • I’m here no matter what
    • that must be really hard
    • sometimes bad things happen, how can I help
    • failure is sometimes part of life
    • your feelings are valid

Add your own ideas to this list because only you know what you needs.

… it’s OK to not feel OK– these feelings are valid …
… how others see you is not important …
… how you see yourself means everything …

in summary & in conclusion …

In conclusion, from all of the above we can deduce a few important take aways:

    • in every situation when you’ve been stung with toxic positivity you will know because it will hurt your soul rather than soothe it
    • it is perfectly ok to be not ok
    • often, toxic positivity is well intentioned
    • it affects both giver and receiver
    • it makes the receiver feel bad about themselves in many emotional ways
    • it destroys relationships
    • it destroys humanness
    • it causes ill health
    • it is imperative that we express our truth rather than deny it 
    • denying our truth is proven to results in health issues

Therefore, we could finally, and rightly so, conclude that no matter how well intentioned, ‘toxic positivity’ involves the dismissing of real life emotions; by categorising them as negative, and responding to a person’s distress with false reassurances rather than support and empathy and it will hurt your soul at the very least but might well hurt your health long term.

a personal concluding note …

I realise that this blog is very fragmented. It is very much reflective of how I feel a lot lately.

This post has to have been the hardest and least flowing piece I have ever written. While writing, I struggled to format and make the blog flow due to having to take days and even weeks breaks in between each writing sessions and so I lost my flow and my way plenty of times. I would have a thought and loose it. I would spend an hour of catching where I am up to and then cannot do any more. I read. I rest. I write … I read … I keep trying.

More importantly, while I researched I also copied ideas from others posts by way of a reminder of what points I wanted to include. However, amid all the fragments of thought, work, illness and coming back to the post, I have lost what’s mine and what’s someone else’s work. Moreover, if I ever use anyone else’s ideas or refer to their thoughts I like to quote them as the owner of such and link back to their post too. I am not completely sure that I have not used bits of other’s ideas and writings and I know if I have used anyone else’s work that I have failed to reference them for it because I have not been able to remember where it came from. This is the main reason for determining, as stated here in my personal conclusion, that I will not write researched pieces any more. My health, energy and cognition need to be far weller than they are to do a researched educative piece justice.

I will tweak this post many times over the coming months, because I am not happy with it but because I’ve put so much effort and spent so much energy on it I cannot let it go. So please do revisit this blog as it might get better with time.

However, I think this will be my last in-depth subject for a while. I need to learn a new technique whereby I write on a more personal level rather than an educational angle and just let my writing flow out of me, not be a well researched piece.

Please feel free to contact me to share your outcomes or with any questions you may have.

 fragmented.ME xXx

Last Updated on 12/05/2022 by fragmented_ME

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My birth name is Denise, but I’m know as Bella to those who love me. I have a first class honours degree in education & psychology and a strong passion to keep learning and educating others ... I have severe ME/CFS and lots of other chronic illnesses and I started this blog as an expansion to my instagram page, where I advocate for chronic illness. I am married and have two grown up boys, or should I say young men. I have three gorgeous grandchildren, one boy and two girls. And despite being chronically sick and housebound I am mostly happy. 🥰

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10 steps to practicing Radical Acceptance
according to DBT’s founder, Marsha Linehan:

 

1.  Observe that you are questioning or fighting reality (“it shouldn’t be this way”)

2.  Remind yourself that the unpleasant reality is just as it is and cannot be changed (“this is what happened”)

3.  Remind yourself that there are causes for the reality (“this is how things happened”)

4.  Practice accepting with your whole self (mind, body, spirit) - Use accepting self-talk, relaxation techniques, mindfulness and/or imagery

5.  List all of the behaviors you would engage in if you did accept the facts and then engage in those behaviors as if you have already accepted the facts

6.  Imagine, in your mind’s eye, believing what you do not want to accept and rehearse in your mind what you would do if you accepted what seems unacceptable

7.  Attend to body sensations as you think about what you need to accept

8.  Allow disappointment, sadness or grief to arise within you

9.  Acknowledge that life can be worth living even when there is pain

10.  Do pros and cons if you find yourself resisting practicing acceptance

Logo of ijpsych

2009 Oct-Dec; 51(4): 239–241.
doi: 10.4103/0019-5545.58285: 10.4103/0019-5545.58285
PMCID: PMC2802367
PMID: 20048445

The biochemistry of belief

Address for correspondence: Dr. TS Sathyanarayana Rao, Department of Psychiatry, JSS University, JSS Medical College Hospital, M.G. Road, Mysore - 570 004, India. E-mail: moc.oohay@91oarsst
This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

“Man is what he believes”

Anton Chekhov

Beliefs are basically the guiding principles in life that provide direction and meaning in life. Beliefs are the preset, organized filters to our perceptions of the world (external and internal). Beliefs are like ‘Internal commands’ to the brain as to how to represent what is happening, when we congruently believe something to be true. In the absence of beliefs or inability to tap into them, people feel disempowered.

Beliefs originate from what we hear - and keep on hearing from others, ever since we were children (and even before that!). The sources of beliefs include environment, events, knowledge, past experiences, visualization etc. One of the biggest misconceptions people often harbor is that belief is a static, intellectual concept. Nothing can be farther from truth! Beliefs are a choice. We have the power to choose our beliefs. Our beliefs become our reality.

Beliefs are not just cold mental premises, but are ‘hot stuff’ intertwined with emotions (conscious or unconscious). Perhaps, that is why we feel threatened or react with sometimes uncalled for aggression, when we believe our beliefs are being challenged! Research findings have repeatedly pointed out that the emotional brain is no longer confined to the classical locales of the hippocampus, amygdala and hypothalamus.[1] The sensory inputs we receive from the environment undergo a filtering process as they travel across one or more synapses, ultimately reaching the area of higher processing, like the frontal lobes. There, the sensory information enters our conscious awareness. What portion of this sensory information enters is determined by our beliefs. Fortunately for us, receptors on the cell membranes are flexible, which can alter in sensitivity and conformation. In other words, even when we feel stuck ‘emotionally’, there is always a biochemical potential for change and possible growth. When we choose to change our thoughts (bursts of neurochemicals!), we become open and receptive to other pieces of sensory information hitherto blocked by our beliefs! When we change our thinking, we change our beliefs. When we change our beliefs, we change our behavior.

A mention of the ‘Placebo’ is most appropriate at this juncture. Medical history is replete with numerous reported cases where placebos were found to have a profound effect on a variety of disorders. One such astounding case was that of a woman suffering from severe nausea and vomiting. Objective measurements of her gastric contractions indicated a disrupted pattern matching the condition she complained of. Then a ‘new, magical, extremely potent’ drug was offered to her, which would, the doctors proclaimed, undoubtedly cure her nausea. Within a few minutes, her nausea vanished! The very same gastric tests now revealed normal pattern, when, in actuality, she had been given syrup of ipecac, a substance usually used to induce nausea! When the syrup was presented to her, paired with the strong suggestion of relief of nausea, by an authority figure, it acted as a (command) message to the brain that triggered a cascade of self-regulatory biochemical responses within the body.[2] This instance dramatically demonstrates that the influence of placebo could be more potent than expected drug effect.

An important observation was that, part of the placebo response seemed to involve the meaning of the disorder or the illness to the individual. In other words, the person's belief or how she/he interprets (inter-presents or internally represents) directly governs the biological response or behavior. Another remarkable study involved a schizophrenic. This woman was observed to have split personality. Under normal conditions, her blood glucose levels were normal. However, the moment she believed she was diabetic, her entire physiology changed to become that of a diabetic, including elevated blood glucose levels.[3]

Suggestions or symbolic messages shape beliefs that in turn affect our physical well being. Several cases of ‘Disappearance of warts’ have been reported by Ornstein and Sobel wherein they ponder on how the brain translates the suggestions (sometimes using hypnosis) into systematic biochemical battle strategies such as chemical messengers sent to enlist the aid of immune cells in an assault on the microbe-induced miniature tumor or probably small arteries are selectively constricted, cutting off the vital nutrient supply to warts but not touching the neighboring healthy cells.[2]

Findings of carefully designed research indicate that our interpretation of what we are seeing (experiencing) can literally alter our physiology. In fact, all symptoms of medicine work through our beliefs. By subtly transforming the unknown (disease/disorder) into something known, named, tamed and explained, alarm reactions in the brain can be calmed down. All therapies have a hidden, symbolic value and influence on the psyche, besides the direct specific effect they may have on the body.

Just as amazingly life-affirming placebos are, the reverse, “Nocebo' has been observed to be playing its part too. It is associated with negative, life-threatening or disempowering beliefs. Arthur Barsky, a psychiatrist states that it is the patient's expectations – beliefs whether a drug or procedure works or will have side effects – that plays a crucial role in the outcome.[4]

The biochemistry of our body stems from our awareness.[5] Belief-reinforced awareness becomes our biochemistry. Each and every tiny cell in our body is perfectly and absolutely aware of our thoughts, feelings and of course, our beliefs. There is a beautiful saying ‘Nobody grows old. When people stop growing, they become old’. If you believe you are fragile, the biochemistry of your body unquestionably obeys and manifests it. If you believe you are tough (irrespective of your weight and bone density!), your body undeniably mirrors it. When you believe you are depressed (more precisely, when you become consciously aware of your ‘Being depressed’), you stamp the raw data received through your sense organs, with a judgment – that is your personal view – and physically become the ‘interpretation’ as you internalize it. A classic example is ‘Psychosocial dwarfism’, wherein children who feel and believethat they are unloved, translate the perceived lack of love into depleted levels of growth hormone, in contrast to the strongly held view that growth hormone is released according to a preprogrammed schedule coded into the individual's genes!

Providing scientific evidence to support a holistic approach to well being and healthcare, Bruce Lipton sheds light on mechanism underlying healing at cellular level. He emphasizes that ‘love’ is the most healing emotion and ‘placebo’ effect accounts for a substantial percentage of any drug's action, underscoring the significance of beliefs in health and sickness. According to him, as adults, we still believe in and act our lives out based on information we absorbed as children (pathetic indeed!). And the good news is, we can do something about the ‘tape’ our subconscious mind is playing (ol' silly beliefs) and change them NOW.[6] Further recent literature evidences provided knowledge based on scientific principles of biology of belief. There are limited studies on clinics of traditional beliefs and if we get more scientific data, we can use these traditional systems in clinical mental health management. Human belief system is formed by all the experiences learned and experimented filtered through personality.[7] The senses to capture inner and outer perceptions have higher brain potentials. Some questions that arise in this context are, does the integration and acceptance of these perceptions result in the establishment of beliefs? Does the establishment of these beliefs depend on proof demonstrations? The proofs might be the perceptions, which we can directly see or having scientific proof or custom or faith.[8,9] Beliefs are developed as stimuli received as trusted information and stored in the memory. These perceptions are generalized and established into belief. These beliefs are involved in the moral judgment of the person. Beliefs help in decision-making. Bogousslavsky and Inglin explained that, how some physicians were more successful by taking an account of patient beliefs. Beliefs influence factors involved in the development of psychopathology. They also influence the cognitive and emotional assessment, addictiveness, responses to false positives and persistent normal defensive reactions. Total brain function is required in stabilizing the belief and in responding to environmental system. Some of the brain regions and the neural circuits are very important in establishing beliefs and executing emotions. Frontal lobes play a major role in beliefs. Mental representations of the world are integrated with sub-cortical information by prefrontal cortex. Amygdala and Hippocampus are involved in the process of thinking and thus help in execution of beliefs. NMDA receptor is involved in thinking and in the development of beliefs. These beliefs are subjected to challenge. A belief that is subjected to more challenges becomes stronger. When a new stimulus comes, it creates distress in the brain with already existing patterns. The distress results in the release of dopamine (neurotransmitter) to transmit the signal.[10,11] Research findings of Young and Saxe (2008) revealed that medial prefrontal cortex is involved in processing the belief valence.[12] Right temporoparietal junction and precuneus are involved in the processing of beliefs to moral judgment. True beliefs are processed through right temporoparietal junction.[13,14] Saxe (2006) explained that beliefs judging starts at the age of five years citing example of judging of belief questions on short stories by the children.[15] Belief attribution involved activating regions of medial prefrontal cortex, superior temporal gyri and hippocampal regions. Studies by Krummenacher et al, have shown that dopamine levels are associated with paranormal thoughts suggesting the role of dopamine in belief development in the brain.[16] Flannelly et al, illustrated on how primitive brain mechanisms that evolved to assess environmental threats in related psychiatric disorders.[17] Also were highlighted the issues such as the way beliefs can affect psychiatric symptoms through these brain systems. The theories discussed widely are related to (a) link psychiatric disorders to threat assessment and (b) explain how the normal functioning of threat assessment systems can become pathological. It is proposed that three brain structures are implicated in brain disorders in response to threat assessment and self-defense: the regions are the prefrontal cortex, the basal ganglia and parts of limbic system. The functionality of these regions has great potential to understand mechanism of belief formation and its relevance in neurological functions/dysfunctions. Now it is clear that biology and physiology of belief is an open area for research both at basic and clinical level. The future directions are to develop validated experimental or sound theoretical interpretation to make ‘BELIEF’ as a potential clinical management tool.

Perceptual shifts are the prerequisites for changing the belief and hence changing the biochemistry of our body favorably. Our innate desire and willingness to learn and grow lead to newer perceptions. When we consciously allow newer perceptions to enter the brain by seeking new experiences, learning new skills and changed perspectives, our body can respond in newer ways –this is the true secret of youth. Beliefs (internal representations/interpretations) thus hold the magic wand of remarkable transformations in our biochemical profile. If you are chasing joy and peace all the time everywhere but exclaim exhausted, ‘Oh, it's to be found nowhere!’, why not change your interpretation of NOWHERE to ‘NOW HERE’; just by introducing a gap, you change your awareness – that changes your belief and that changes your biochemistry in an instant!

Everything exists as a ‘Matrix of pure possibilities’ akin to ‘formless’ molten wax or moldable soft clay. We shape them into anything we desire by choosing to do so, prompted, dictated (consciously or unconsciously) by our beliefs. The awareness that we are part of these ever-changing fields of energy that constantly interact with one another is what gives us the key hitherto elusive, to unlock the immense power within us. And it is our awareness of this awesome truth that changes everything. Then we transform ourselves from passive onlookers to powerful creators. Our beliefs provide the script to write or re-write the code of our reality.

Thoughts and beliefs are an integral part of the brain's operations. Neurotransmitters could be termed the ‘words’ brain uses to communicate with exchange of information occurring constantly, mediated by these molecular messengers. Unraveling the mystery of this molecular music induced by the magic of beliefs, dramatically influencing the biochemistry of brain could be an exciting adventure and a worth pursuing cerebral challenge.

REFERENCES

1. Candace Pert. Molecules of emotion: Why you feel the way you feel. New York, USA: Scribner Publications; 2003. ISBN-10: 0684846349.
2. Ornstein R, Sobel D. The healing brain: Breakthrough discoveries about how the brain keeps us healthy. USA: Malor Books; 1999. ISBN-10: 1883536170.
3. Robbins A. Unlimited power: The new science of personal excellence. UK: Simon and Schuster; 1986. ISBN 0-7434-0939-6.
4. Braden G. The spontaneous healing of belief. Hay House Publishers (India) Pvt. Ltd; 2008. ISBN 978-81-89988-39-5.
5. Chopra D. Ageless body, timeless mind: The quantum alternative to growing old. Hormony Publishers; 1994. ISBN -10: 0517882124.
6. Lipton B. The biology of belief: Unleashing the power of consciousness, matter and miracles. Mountain of Love Publishers; 2005. ISBN 978-0975991473.
7. Bogousslavsky J, Inglin M. Beliefs and the brain. Eur Neurol. 2007;58:129–32. [PubMed: 17622716]
8. Gundersen L. Faith and healing. Ann Intern Med. 2000;132:169–72. [PubMed: 10644287]
9. Mueller PS, Plevak DJ, Rummans TA. Religious involvement, spirituality, and medicine: Implications for clinical practice. Mayo Clin Proc. 2001;76:1225–35. [PubMed: 11761504]
10. Patel AD, Peretz I, Tramo M, Labreque R. Processing prosodic and musical patterns: A neuropsychological investigation. Brain Lang. 1998;61:123–44. [PubMed: 9448936]
11. Tramo MJ. Biology and music. Music of the hemispheres. Science. 2001;291:54–6. [PubMed: 11192009]
12. Young L, Saxe R. The neural basis of belief encoding and integration in moral judgment. Neuroimage. 2008;40:1912–20. [PubMed: 18342544]
13. Aichhorn M, Perner J, Weiss B, Kronbichler M, Staffen W, Ladurner G. Temporo-parietal junction activity in theory-of-mind tasks: Falseness, beliefs, or attention. J Cogn Neurosci. 2009;21:1179–92. [PubMed: 18702587]
14. Abraham A, Rakoczy H, Werning M, von Cramon DY, Schubotz RI. Matching mind to world and vice versa: Functional dissociations between belief and desire mental state processing. Soc Neurosci. 2009;1:18. [PubMed: 19670085]
15. Saxe R. Why and how to study Theory of Mind with fMRI. Brain Res. 2006;1079:57–65. [PubMed: 16480695]
16. Krummenacher P, Mohr C, Haker H, Brugger P. Dopamine, paranormal belief, and the detection of meaningful stimuli. J Cogn Neurosci. 2009 Jun 30; [Epub ahead of print] [PubMed: 19642883]
17. Flannelly KJ, Koenig HG, Galek K, Ellison CG. Beliefs, mental health, and evolutionary threat assessment systems in the brain. J Nerv Ment Dis. 2007;195:996–1003. [PubMed: 18091193]

Articles from Indian Journal of Psychiatry are provided here courtesy of Wolters Kluwer -- Medknow Publications

HRPacing ...

Description

Heart Rate Pacing is a technique used to stay within ones energy reserves. The anaerobic threshold (AT) is the heart rate at which aerobic energy surges. The threshold is often around about 60% of a ones maximum heart rate, though each person is different and an individual's threshold may vary from day to day or within a day.

(Note: Maximum heart rate is 220 minus ones age. For a 50 year old, 60% of maximum heart rate is (220 - 50) x 0.6 = 102 bpm.)

Features:

* Changes colour to indicate:

- Resting - (REST) Lavender

- Recovery (RECOVER) - Green (RHR + 10%)

- Exertion (EXERT) - Orange (RHR + 20%)

- Anaerobic Threshold (AT) - Red ((220-50)x0.6)

* Set an alert based on:

- reaching Anaerobic Threshold Zone, or

- custom set Maximum Heart Rate.

* Set the Anaerobic Threshold Tolerance from 0.6 (default) to 0.5 if desired.

* Set a custom interval between alerts (15 secs default).

* Displays 12/24 hour clock based on user settings in Fitbit profile.

cognitive deficits in patients with ME/CFS …

where is the …

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… duplicitous …

duplicitous …

summary of the 5 major diagnostic criteria from 1988 onwards …

summary of the 5 major diagnostic criteria from 1988 onwards …

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