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September 24, 2017
By Susan Callahan, Associate Editor and Featured Columnist
When I was much younger, I, like most people, never thought much
about how my brain worked. I just ran around, studying, getting dates,
getting through school, then the rest. My brain simply was there, it
was. There was no awareness that I was any different from my brain. I
mean, who goes around thinking about their relationship with their
brains, anyway? No one. Well, almost no one. There are, thankfully,
scientists who have thought a lot about our relationships with our
brains, with our own thoughts.
And in this fascinating body of work, scientists have discovered
something really weird and important. We actually can think ourselves
Here is the proof.
The Dutch Have Proven That Humans Can Think Themselves Sick
People believe the stories they tell themselves about themselves.
In 2010, scientists at Maastricht University in the Netherlands gathered
31 students for an experiment.
In this experiment, the students were first told a story about a crime in
which a man had trespassed onto the grounds of a medieval castle, and
had tampered with some stones in the building. The stones had come
loose and fell on a young girl below, killing her. The trespasser was
charged with manslaughter and convicted.
The scientists then asked the students to try to imagine that they were
the convicted man. To get a lighter sentence, the students were asked
to invent symptoms of a psychological disorder to sway the judge to go
easy on them.
One group of the students was told to just fill out the mental
questionnaire honestly. The other group was told to come up with a set
of psychological symptoms from a list of 75 bizarre symptoms they
were given, such as hearing voices, hallucinating or having the
sensation that a 1000 pound weight was attached to your legs and so
Next came a break. The students were told to just relax and play games
such as Sudoko before going on to the final part of the experiment.
In the final part of the experiment, both groups of students were given
the 75 questions in the mental health survey again, only this time both
students were instructed to just tell the truth.
Surprisingly, the fakers who had previously exaggerated their
symptoms continued to report the fake symptoms, even though they
were free now to tell the truth.
They had become convinced by their own lies.
What lies are you telling yourself that you have become convinced of?
Self Belief Becomes Our Realities
In the Dutch experiment, we are shown the remarkable elasticity of our
self beliefs. Told that we are sick, or if we imagine we are sick long
enough, then we become sick.
Our brains are just that powerful.
According to the US Social Security Administration, once a person
receives disability benefits, few ever go back to work. In fact, only
3.7% o percent g back to work in the first decade after they receive
their first disability check.
Let's be clear. Many people on disability are truly disabled. I had a
friend who was a paraplegic and on disability until she succumbed to
But I know of another man, Roger (not his real name) who worked as
bartender for 25 years until he was threatened with being fired for
stealing from the cash register. He suddenly "became" disabled with a
hard to dispute back ailment. Roger hasn't worked since.
Has Roger convinced himself that he really does have disabling back
Let's take other examples.
If you are a person with some self-confidence, you can venture out of
your home and run into a soul-killer at your job who convinces you
that you're incompetent.
It only takes hearing it a certain number of times before that negative
image f yourself, which started from an external source, seeps into
your being, where your mind can adopt it as your own self-image.
The Danger of Hanging Around Listening to Negative People
If you are in a relationship where the person who supposedly loves
you is telling you negative, untrue stories about yourself, you have to
stop them. If they can't stop themselves from spewing lies about you,
then you have to leave. Because, in a very short time, you will start to
believe the lies yourself.
How to Combat a False Narrative About Yourself
Every day, we dress ourselves before we leave the house. We wash our
bodies, comb our hair, brush our teeth, grab our keys and set out to
face the world. But just as important as putting on our physical clothes
is putting on a kind of psychological garb.
This garb is our reinforced self belief.
You have to repeat to yourself the good truths about yourself. That
you are an intelligent person, that you can create your life, that you can
change your life for the better, that you are good.
Your self belief, as the Dutch experiment shows, will eventually become
a part of your reality, and then it will be your reality.
In sports, athletes know well the power of confidence and the
destructive power of lack of confidence.
Several studies have found that athletes who visualize success tend to
succeed. Again, that is just how powerful our minds are.
In a famous experiment, basketball players who simply visualized
themselves sinking free throws experienced an improvement in their
free throw percentage which was equal to the improvement
experienced by players who actually practiced free throws.
What success will you visualize today? Will you visualize being a more
compassionate person, an attentive husband or boyfriend, a highly
competent and respected person in your job, a successful
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|People who falsely believe they are ill
can actually become ill, scientists have