Today's post is about the expectations we hold and how they affect us physiologically. We've touched on this a little bit before, but it keeps coming up for re-trainers so I want to reiterate the importance of becoming aware of our expectations, and holding expectations that are conducive to wellbeing.
We are all generally familiar with the placebo effect and how that works in our favour, but it is also important to keep in mind its opposite: the nocebo effect. When we hold negative expectations or are fearful that something is going to create symptoms, we actually release the neurochemistry in the brain and signals in the body to make those reactions far more likely. As a result we have a reaction - not from the event or situation itself but from the fear & beliefs about it. Sometimes people will notice symptoms starting just thinking about it before they even do it. This is the nocebo effect taking hold.
This is why it is so important to think greater than you feel or greater than what your brain is trying to tell you, and to not allow fear to run amuck in your thoughts and emotions. I've witnessed a few occasions recently where people's fears have created far more reactivity and volatility in them than would have been present had they not entertained the fear. And then, when the reactions occurred, they used the experience to confirm that their fears were accurate, reinforcing the idea of needing to listen to the fear and allow it to guide their actions and choices. This is a dangerous downward spiral to get caught in.
I invite you over the next while to investigate your interior landscape of thoughts, feelings and beliefs, and search out the fears and negative expectations that you are still attached to or strongly believe. Start to challenge them a little bit. One method you can use comes from the work of Byron Katie, where she has people ask themselves four questions:
1) Is it true? (hint: the initial automatic answer will be "yes" which is why we ask ourselves question #2)
2) Can I absolutely know it is true?
3) How do I react/ What happens when I believe that thought?
4) Who would I be without that thought?
After answering these questions, turn the thought around (i.e. what if the opposite were true?) and start entertaining that possibility. This helps to release the grip of thoughts and beliefs and gives us the space necessary to consider other alternatives and engage differently with the activities or actions we are introducing into our lives.
Until next time!
If you have a question, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Candy Widdifield is Registered Clinical Counsellor, Wellness Coach, and Registered Reiki Master Teacher in Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada. She works with people all over the world, helping them to optimize their wellbeing and thrive in their lives. Her modalities include coaching, therapy, Reiki and the Safe & Sound Protocol. More information about Candy can be found at www.candywiddifield.com