It sometimes seems as if we live in a golden age of insecurity. So much that’s going on makes anxiety appear entirely rational.
But are we being bombarded with more reasons to be fearful than it’s necessary to take on board? Most of us will never encounter the majority of mortal dangers we hear about daily.
I recall chatting with a friend who was feeling anxious about fears circulated in the press and on TV. It came to me to say gently: “You know, the media constantly expose us to multiple ways we could die, yet we die only once, so fixating on endless possibilities is a waste of energy.”
It wasn’t the most gracious way to convey my feeling that she had a right to peace of mind. Yet it was effective. It freed her from feeling she needed to keep abreast of every health scare.
By contrast, getting stuck on the myriad ways mortality presents itself is not a risk-free venture since “the nocebo effect” – the opposite of the placebo effect – needs guarding against. A placebo is a treatment without medicinal qualities that nevertheless brings relief to a patient believing proper medical care is being given. The nocebo is the opposite. It brings suffering when there’s no basis for it except a mental acquiescence to a suggested outcome.
There’s plenty of research evidencing the nocebo effect, some of which is summarized in an article by Lissa Rankin, MD. Her piece, subtitled “How Negative Thoughts Can Harm Your Health,” also points to thousands of documented cases of “spontaneous remission.” That is, of complete or partial reversals of disease without medical treatment, or with treatment inadequate to produce the results recorded.
Both the nocebos and spontaneous remissions show the effect our beliefs can have on our well-being. These evidences have led Dr. Rankin to conclude, “There’s no such thing as an incurable illness.” Instead we can “optimize” the possibility for spontaneous remission through mental means – a possibility that challenges the logic of much health-based insecurity.
That can be a good thing to do. Through my practice of Christian Science I, when ill, have had many opportunities to disprove that material logic. The belief-shift I’ve found effective is yielding a material perspective of my prospects to a more spiritual view of life and its possibilities. This includes the conviction that the underlying nature of everyone, including myself, is a provable divine goodness. Through this I recognize health as the normal, spiritual state of being, and disease as a materialistic – and mesmerizing – hold on my thinking, which the “power of Christian Science and divine Love is … adequate to unclasp” (Mary Baker Eddy, “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” p. 412).
Like opening a shuttered window onto a sunny day, such “unclasping” reveals the beauty of a divine basis for feeling secure – namely, the security of being made in the spiritual “image and likeness” of an unchanging divine source, as the Bible says.
This is the rock Jesus said all can stand on, and so we can – even today, among the shifting sands of the latest breaking news.
This blog was first published as a “Christian Science perspective” piece by The Christian Science Monitor.called “Watching out for security and finding it within”.