There are claims that positive thinking increases a person’s chance of surviving an illness, such as cancer, but there is no strong evidence to support that claim. There are too many studies with conflicting results. If you know someone who survived an illness by being positive, most likely they would have survived anyway.
So, if you’re in a hospital visiting someone in strife, don’t tell them to remain positive. Sometimes a patient wants to be angry, or to grieve. Or they want to accept the situation as it is, and deal with it. They don’t want someone urging them to adopt a positive attitude, and they don’t want to be pressured into hiding their feelings. They might comply to make you feel better, or to avoid being accused of giving up, but it will be pretence. And that’s a shame, because they might be giving up their last opportunity to be themselves.
Don’t tell a patient their illness is a gift; don’t tell a patient to cheer up. If the patient chooses to be positive, fine, but if they want to rage, or cry a river of tears, let them. All you need to do is support the decision they make, and let them Be.
‘When a person can believably say to him or herself that everything is being done to help, and is doing everything they can to be better and healthier every day, he/she seems to cross a threshold – from the fanciful, into the possible, which is where real hope exists.’
Judith Acosta, in ‘The Huffington Post’.
Here is an article about what NOT to say. But don’t take all the tips to heart because some ill people welcome the chance to talk about their illness.
Ten things NOT to say to an ill person.
What NOT to say to someone with cancer.
Can positive psychology treat traumas?
From Ratio National’s Science Show, Dec 2, 2007:
‘We are programmed to remember bad experiences to avoid repeating them. But we can remember too much, too often, and trauma victims are often plagued by persistent recollections. Dr. Emily Holmes and her colleagues at the University of Oxford asked patients to recall in detail their incident, twice. In the first telling the person is asked to re-experience the thoughts and emotions associated with the trauma. In the second telling the patient adds to the story new helpful information (such as: ‘I didn’t die.’). The brain creates a new memory, replacing the ‘alarm’ memory with a benign one. . .
Dr. Holmes suggests that perhaps one day, kids in school will practise visualising the positive side of unwanted incidents, so that in life they can steer themselves towards positive alternatives. Dr Bundy Macintosh is doing similar work at the University of East Anglia in Britain.’