Do Your Negative Thoughts Manifest Disease?

Question from a reader:

“I have a fear that I may have cancer. I’m just 19 years old and I eat well and healthy. This thought comes at random times and I’m afraid that I may manifest this crazy thought. But sometimes I shrug it off easily. I’m really confused since I don’t know how to stop these thoughts and be free of this.”

The widespread popularity of law of attraction, and misinformed understandings of it, are responsible for a whole lot of fear-inducing questions like this from spiritual beginners who are terrified of manifesting into existence their darkest thoughts, however fleeting.

We all have crazy, weird, fearful thoughts from time to time. That doesn’t mean you’re going to literally manifest it. Manifestation doesn’t really work that way.

It’s not necessarily your thoughts that manifest, it’s the beliefs and emotions behind them which are put into physical action. People who have a disease don’t manifest the disease because they’re walking around thinking about having it. In many cases, that person never thought about having the disease at all.

Stories like this one floating around don’t help matters:

“In 1982 I died from terminal cancer. The condition I had was inoperable, and any kind of chemotherapy they could give me would just have made me more of a vegetable. I was given six to eight months to live. I had been an information freak in the 1970’s, and I had become increasingly despondent over the nuclear crisis, the ecology crisis, and so forth. So, since I did not have a spiritual basis, I began to believe that nature had made a mistake, and that we were probably a cancerous organism on the planet. I saw no way that we could get out from all the problems we had created for ourselves and the planet. I perceived all humans as cancer, and that is what I got. That is what killed me. Be careful what your world view is. It can feed back on you, especially if it is a negative world view. I had a seriously negative one. That is what led me into my death.” – Mellen Thomas Benedict

We have to understand that these sorts of things are created by emotional blockages (trauma) in the chakras associated with those parts of the body and it typically takes years of emotional repression to create them. So let’s talk about the nuance behind this.

Will negative thoughts manifest as disease?

It’s accepted that trauma results in mental health issues and like PTSD, complex PTSD (C-PTSD), anxiety, depression, eating disorders, suicidal ideation, and other mental illnesses, anger management issues, codependency, and a wide variety of other behavioral problems. It has only relatively recently been realized, however, that childhood trauma also greatly affects the development of the brain itself, resulting in additional problems like memory loss, learning disabilities, attention deficits, and more. We are also discovering how this affects the nervous system and, subsequently, the rest of the physical body.

The Adverse Childhood Experiences study (ACEs) conducted by the CDC and other research has found that more than 60% of adults have experienced childhood trauma, and that childhood trauma is highly correlated with a statistically significant decrease in life expectancy, a higher rate of developing cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, gastrointestinal disorders, liver disease, COPD, autoimmune deficiency, weight gain, sleep disturbances, and other chronic illnesses. 

Learn more about the ACEs Study.

In some of these instances, the disease is directly related to trauma responses. The constant stress placed on the body by a dysregulated nervous system creates a chain reaction, affecting organs and even muscle tissues, resulting in muscle tension, anxiety, upset stomach, digestion issues, headaches, fatigue, and many other symptoms that have long been known to be affected or caused by stress. It’s now becoming evident that there is a link between that stress and changes in the brain caused by trauma.

In other instances, existing disease or genetic predisposition for disease is further exacerbated by external unhealthy coping mechanisms such as substance addictions, risky behaviors, and other unhealthy lifestyle choices that are the result of coping mechanisms for traumatic stress.

It’s been known for years that stress is either the direct cause of or greatly impacts 90% of diseases. Now it’s becoming apparent that much of that stress is rooted in childhood trauma, and then compounded by the pressures of the society we live in (which was created from that same trauma…).

Just like all of the physical, mental, and emotional symptoms of trauma listed above, negative thoughts or beliefs about yourself are a symptom of trauma. This does not mean your negative thoughts create disease. It means your unhealed trauma creates both negative thoughts and disease.

What does this mean for spiritual practitioners and healers?

As practitioners and healers, we should never tell someone that their negative thoughts will create disease or that their disease is the result of negative thinking, because in most cases, especially with trauma, those negative thoughts are compulsory. Because of trauma’s effect on the brain, it is difficult for the individual to simply shift the way they think.

Trauma blocks in the chakras result in the physical body being frozen in a trauma response (fight/flight/freeze/fawn). This means that the traumatized person rarely, if ever, feels safe. When the brain perceives danger, the part of the brain responsible for thinking and rationality is completely shut down, and the person goes into an autopilot survival mode. They aren’t able to think rationally. Because of this, the brain cannot process a shift the negative thoughts until the trauma energy (chakra blockages) in the body is released and the body returns to a sense of safety.

Scaring the shit out of someone by telling them they will develop cancer if they don’t start thinking positively will actually engage their trauma response, not heal it.

So no, my friends. Positive thinking alone will not heal you. Like I said above, the brain can’t fully process a shift in awareness or perspective while the body is still in a a dysregulated state.

Learn about toxic positivity and how it can be harmful to potential clients. 

A holistic approach that addresses the underlying cause (trauma trapped in the body), while also treating the symptoms via examining self-awareness and self esteem, and also engaging in physical self-care routines such as eating a healthy diet and engaging in physical movement is what is necessary! And I won’t rule out the limited use of anti-depressants, either, so long as it’s understood that they are meant to help manage the emotional symptoms of trauma while you actively work toward healing, not as a magic pill to erase negative emotions while while someone continues to engage in the same toxic coping mechanisms that’s perpetuating their trauma in the first place.

Trauma Healing Isn’t One Size Fits All

Healing from trauma is different for everyone and it can take longer for some people than others, so we’re all allowed to move at our own pace. In fact, it’s imperative that we’re allowed to be as in control of that process as necessary to feel safe.

That isn’t a cookie cutter approach, and this is where a lot of holistic and spiritual healers and coaches come under intense (and valid) scrutiny. For example:

Some people’s trauma results in eating disorders. Orthorexia is an unhealthy focus on eating in a healthy way. When eating healthy becomes obsessive, including that as part of a trauma treatement can actually have harmful results. You have to know how to screen people for tangential issues so you can understand the full context of what you’re working with.

For that person, destigmatizing regular food is going to be a really important part of healing. You have to strip away all fo the beliefs that they’ve created around what food is healthy and understand how and where they are equating food with self esteem.

This is why a lot of holistic healers and coaches catch flack for attempting to systemize a healing process or presenting a single modality as the cure for everything. What works for one person will never work for everyone. There is always nuance involved.

A holistic approach will incorporate ways to release trauma from the nervous system–especially focusing on the root chakra, which is our center for feelings of safety– while simultaneously holding space for that person to process what’s being released.

There are many therapeutic approaches to releasing trauma from the body/nervous system, including but not limited to:

  • massage
  • reiki
  • somatic therapy
  • acupuncture
  • yoga
  • sound baths

For more information about how childhood trauma impacts the chakra system–and how to go about healing it–I highly recommend check out Eastern Body, Western Mind, by Anodea Judith.



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