“Mind over Matter”
During a recent January rut, I decided to escape into movie-land to occupy my mind with something other than my personal woes. I love movies and I have seen five of them that are recent releases. Four of them are based on true stories; one is not, but I like to imagine that it could have been.
As I watched these movies, it reminded me how powerful the brain is in our ability to survive. There is a common thread in all of them: Mind over matter. It is possible and it does work. Since I live with MS, I think about the brain a lot because it is a disease that involves the brain.
The movie Lone Survivor shows the unbelievable strength and endurance of Navy Seals, as does the lead character in Twelve Years a Slave. How can a person’s psyche be maintained while experiencing such immense physical and emotional pain? Matthew McConaughey’s character was given one month to live in Dallas Buyers Club, yet he finds ways to live another seven years because he’s not ready to die. All is Lost and Gravity are two movies that have characters with incredible intelligence in their fields—sea and space–who find themselves all alone in disastrous situations. Their ability to focus on using their skills and ingenuity, despite their obstacles, keeps their fears at bay.
The will to live, to survive, to endure, to think, to focus, to achieve… Sometimes these can be acquired through training; sometimes it just happens because of the human spirit, hope and faith.
We have all heard stories about people who obtain super-human strength and endurance. The guy stuck in a crevice who cuts his arm off to get free, or the woman who lifts a heavy car off of her child after a crash. POW’s who survive torture. Holocaust survivors.
There are people who beat the odds when given a bad prognosis for something like cancer. Or other chronically ill persons who get better receiving what they thought was a new drug, when unknown to them they had really received a placebo (i.e. a “sugar pill”)!
The possible, the positive. Positive thinking is like an ol’ shot in the arm for me. It gives hope and energy. The confidence to move forward.
I remember using Lamaze when I delivered my son, and had a relatively quick and natural childbirth. Yoga and deep breathing techniques are effective in helping my neuropathic pain and muscle spasms.
I read about the brain often to learn about new research taking place for MS. I’ll start Googling a particular subject like myelin repair, and an hour later I am immersed in reading about rehabilitating a stroke victim. Fascinating stuff going on with the brain.
Yes!–there are other ways to “train” or “re-train” the brain. I have had partial success in past years improving problems that MS has caused me, such as balance and coordination. My will to do aquatics therapy regularly has helped maintain function. Yes!—there has been great advancement in research for restorative function such as stem cells. Clinical trials have started. Yes!—the brain has the ability to repair some damaged myelin in the early years of MS. Yes!—exercising and resting the brain keeps cognition healthy and functioning well.
And then there are powerful things the brain responds to: brainwashing, hypnosis, and drugs. Both positive and negative.
It is a powerful organ, but a delicate one as well. For the life of me, I can’t understand why someone would do boxing or head-contact sports. While they are working on battering their brains, I’m working on protecting mine. And while some people will take any drug a doctor will prescribe (or not prescribe!), I diligently do thorough research before taking any new pill or shot. That is what my great-aunt used to refer to as “use your intelligence.”
Mind over matter. Realistically, it doesn’t always work. But I like to believe that a person can do just about anything if he/she puts their mind to it.
Author/MS Counselor/Living with MS