Bernie S. Siegel, M.D. has this challenging statement in his book “Love, Medicine, & Miracles.” He writes: “…negative conditioning is all too common. Over the years I’ve found that my patients tend to get the same diseases as their parents and to die at the same age. I think conditioning (I call it “psychological genetics”), because I’ve seen people change the scenario once they become aware of it.” This is a very powerful and compelling statement and makes us aware of the silent and abiding component of our early childhood environment in determining who we are.
Our thinking about who we are right now has been substantively influenced by early childhood factors either positive or negative. Dr. Siegel relates that his own early childhood environment was filled with love and unconditional love. He relates the his delivery was “traumatic…my features were grossly distorted from the forceps…I am absolutely convinced that the feeling of support I grew up with gave me the belief that I could be what I wanted to be and guided me toward my desire to give and to heal.”
Many persons according to Dr. Siegel do not have this type of unconditional positive regard and love in their background. He says that, at the time of the writing of his book that 80% of his patients were unwanted or treated indifferently as children. Many of his cancer patients had this tenacious background. He writes that his experience was quit dissimilar to those who hear “We always wanted a boy instead of a girl,” or “Your father was drunk-we didn’t want more children,” or even “I wish I’d had an abortion instead of you.” Such messages lead to a lifetime of feeling unworthiness. Then an illness is something that the patient deserves, and treatment becomes undeserved. For such people the disease can become their way of finally satisfying their parents’ wishes-or God’s, since many people carry a burden of guilt…”
It is important to enter deeply into one’s received early environmental messages, or at least take time to reflect thoughtfully on our received self-image. Genograms are a very good way to look back into our family history and look at the inter-generational patterns that are intrinsic to our backgrounds.
Mindfulness meditation is another way to reprogram our “psychological genetics” so that we can loose ourselves of negative programming or seek out a good counselor. By all means, get active, and do something to overcome those stubborn thought patterns that keep you from enjoying life. Get positive and stay positive. Dr. Siegel says: “If we all programmed our children this way, we’d be creating survivors. As parents, we are, in a sense, our children’s first hypnotists and can give them positive post-hypnotic suggestions.”