As a cancer counsellor, I often hear people talking about how they ‘must stay positive”. Everyone from their oncologist to their friends and family want them to ‘stay positive’ too. ‘
One woman told me that her mother responded to her wanting to talk about her fear of dying by saying “now, now we don’t want to hear any of that negative talk”… and went off to make a cup of tea. Many of her friends were reacting in a similar way.
Mum is probably terrified of losing her daughter and may have learned to cope with life’s difficult emotions by putting her own head in the sand or she may hold a common, but incorrect, belief that feeling ‘negative’ makes things worse.
Think for a moment about how this impacts on her daughter. She is probably feeling vulnerable, frightened, sad and grieving for the loss of her certainty about life and now she finds many of her friends and loved ones staying behind emotional closed doors just at a time when she needs them to be open.
At a time when someone needs support and care, well intentioned people dismiss their concerns. Some people even feel really scared about causing their own death if they can’t maintain this much desired state of positivity. Such pressure!
In the book ‘Remarkable Recovery’’, one doctor says ‘’The cancer patient who keeps up a false front in the name of positive attitude is doing himself a disservice. He’s cutting himself off from emotions – fear, anger, sadness – that are necessary in the healing process’’.
There is a distinct difference between holding a vision for a positive outcome of health, peace and life and trying to stay constantly positive while on the path of healing.
Feelings are experienced in our bodies. Think about someone you love. Where is the bodily feeling when you conjure an image of that person or pet? Think of a situation that causes you to feel fear. Where is the bodily feeling when you conjure up that image? Is it different to the feelings of love?
Unexpressed feelings become tension which we hold in our bodies. We learn at a young age what feelings are safe to express and what are not. We cut off from these feelings and a so a part of us becomes unavailable and locked away. ‘Health’ means to ‘become whole’ but years of chronic holding back of these feelings may deplete our resources and contribute to ill mental and physical health.
Appropriate expression of anger (or any other feeling) can be hugely liberating. Personally, I like to have a good old growl in the car when no-one is listening. No I am not mad, just happily expressive!
While I believe there are many triggers and causes for our bodies to move from good health to disease, I do think that emotional congruence or ‘being true to you’ plays a part and if we paper over our feelings, then we may be preventing the full flowering of our potential.
Disease can be a catalyst for people to explore any long buried bits. This can be challenging which is why it is sometimes best done in the company of a caring professional. It can also be liberating and lead to freedom, lightness and deep inner peace.
So I encourage you to be true to yourself and to explore all the options on your path of healing including emotional wellbeing and expression. If you have a loved one going through a difficult time, see if you can offer them the gift of bearing their suffering so that they might feel supported as they search for their own way to health and peace…
Lots of love
Margie is a somatic psychotherapist and counsellor providing psychotherapy services to the people of the Central Coast and Sydney. Margie lives on the beautiful Central Coast with her husband, two children, two dogs and a cat.
Over the last 12 years, Margie has also been engaged in the design, delivery and marketing of transformational learning programs. During this time she has regularly facilitated personal development programs for up to 50 people on weekend workshops, week-long intensives and advanced programs of 3-4 months.
Margie has a Graduate Certificate in Adult Education from UTS, Diploma in Psychotherapy from the Australian College of Contemporary Somatic Psychotherapy and qualifications in somatic therapy, executive coaching and relationship counselling.
Margie has a passion for personal development and regards people with respect, empathy and compassion in the belief that while we all do the best we can, a little bit more kindness and care can lead to even greater peace and joy in life.