In my therapy practice in Bryn Mawr, I work with women who have breast cancer. They are often afraid of their fear: the Law of Attraction has become a monster for them. The issue is the LoA and how it applies – and does not apply – to getting and fighting cancer.
I have studied the LoA for years. There is a lot of (I believe rather immature) stuff on the internet about the LoA. “Think well and you will be well”, the teaching goes. I think it grossly oversimplifies the case.
And worse, I think it freaks people out.
Is there nothing to fear but fear itself?
So many women I work with are freaking out because they are scared, and they are scared of being scared. This puts them in a bind. They can’t begin to grapple with the fear, move through it, and let it move through them, because they are afraid that in being afraid they are making themselves sicker.
Because they are afraid of the power of their fear they don’t allow themselves to express it. Consequently, their fear has no way out. It grows in the darkness. And worse, these women feel shame because they have fear.
For most of us, a cancer diagnosis is @%*&# scary.
And then things get better. Most of the time – by far, most of the time – my clients do, too. They learn about treatment options and they start the marathon. They find out that the sun still rises and they still laugh and have fun.
The marathon ends and they reflect on how much they have gained: they know a lot about mindfulness and meditation, complementary therapies, nutrition and natural beauty products. They have learned to tell the people they love that they love them. They don’t sweat the small stuff.
But for many women with breast cancer, the road to recovery is fraught with the boogey man named the Law of Attraction. They come to me and cry: I am afraid, and worse, I am afraid of being afraid; I’m afraid that my fear is killing me. If I let myself feel afraid, am I making my cancer grow? I am afraid to let myself feel afraid, and yet I’m still afraid. I have no power over this fear. It feels like life and death.
Don’t suppress your emotions.
I don’t pretend to have all the answers. But I know my clients. I read the research, I talk to people, and I listen. And I can tell you that there is not a shred of evidence that feeling afraid makes people sicker. On the other hand, there is research, including a study of 94 women with recurrent or metastatic breast cancer, showing that unprocessed trauma hurts.
David Spiegel, M.D., one of the study authors, says “people do better in the aftermath of traumatic stress if they deal with it directly. Facing, rather than fleeing it, is important… In other words, don’t suppress your emotions (emphasis mine).”
Please. Don’t. Suppress. Your. Emotions.
Emotions are not “good” or “bad”. What we do with them, however, has consequences. Suppressed emotions can cause some serious mischief. Keeping our fear pushed down is exhausting. And it’s inauthentic. And we can’t heal what we can’t allow ourselves to feel.
I think that having a dialogue with our feelings is healthy. In English we say “I AM afraid”. Other languages express it as “I HAVE fear”, and there is a certain mindful distancing that comes from framing our emotions this way.
What I want to say to my clients, to all the women who are fighting the fight, to you, is this:
Please don’t punish yourself by fearing your fear. Let yourself feel your feelings. Let the fear move through you. You will find yourself on the other side of that feeling and see how much you have grown.