When David Seidler, a well-known and talented British-American movie and television writer, was told his bladder cancer came back, he was devastated. The first time Seidler decided to decline chemotherapy and extensive surgery, reported the CNN. He chose minimal surgery and immune-boosting supplements, but that was not enough and the cancer came back few months later.
This was 2005, and at 68 years old he has just started writing the screenplay “The King’s Speech,” which brought him an Oscar five years later. Looking for other options, his then wife suggested he used a method to beat cancer that was so unorthodox, Seidler first thought it was nuts.
“I know it sounds awfully Southern California and woo-woo. But that’s what happened,” he told reporters.
What she suggested was that Seidler tried simply visualizing his cancer going away. With nothing to lose, Seidler decided to give it a try for two weeks prior to his next doctor’s appointment when he was scheduled to have another surgery.
He sat down and for hours each day visualized a “a nice, cream-colored unblemished bladder.”
Two weeks later, he went in for the operation, and later got a call from his doctor who sounded shocked. When the tissue was tested, no cancer was found.
“I don’t know how to explain it, but there’s no cancer there,” he said.
Two weeks prior, before the visualization, the same tissue was tested by four different laboratories and all confirmed it to be cancerous.
Seidler believes that it was gone due to his visualization work as well as changing his mind to be positive. While at first Seidler was grieving his disease and his 30-year marriage that was falling apart at the same time, he later decided to stay optimistic no matter what—and that is what he thinks made all the difference.
Seidler was still cancer-free in 2011 during his last interviews on the topic, and no news came about his health in 2018. He was seen healthy and held a masterclass on writing at FEST Film Festival in June 2018.
Visualization Changes The Outcome
Dr. Christiane Northrup, the author of the best-seller books on the mind-body connection, says that healing a disease using the power of positive thinking is very possible because of the enormous ability the body has to self-heal—as long as the person stays out of its way.
Having a life-threatening illness makes it easy for a person to go into a fear mode and experience other negative emotions. Unfortunately, while it is completely understandable why a person would feel that way, it does nothing to heal them and actually hurts the body instead.
Fear changes the body’s chemistry says Dr. Northrup, who received a medical degree from Dartmouth Medical School and completed residency at Tufts New England Medical Center. Fear raises the cortisol levels, putting body under more stress and inflammation thus making it sicker and less likely to heal.
Hope and other positive emotions have the opposite physiological effect on the human body. This is why visualization can and does work.
What Science Shows
Right now visualization is commonly used by athletes. By visualizing success, they train their body to achieve it, says Dr. Bernie Siegel, author of Love, Medicine & Miracles at Yale Medical School (The book talks about multiple cases from a surgeon’s experience where patients had extraordinary results from self-healing).
Weightlifters who imagined lifting weight had the same brain patterns as if they were training. Cleveland Clinic Foundation research showed that imagining going to the gym and exercising worked half as much as actually going to the gym.
You might say, I think about going to the gym all the time, and that does not work! That is because visualization that works takes hours and extreme details. When done right, it has does wonders for athletes.
Visualization also helps ‘average’ people achieve their best lives, according to Psychology Today.
Imagining more success, money, and confidence can bring all of these things faster. A study by TD Bank concluded that visualizing success works for entrepreneurs and small business owners.
This all sounds great, but what about actual disease?
Regarding disease, there are no large-scale studies to show the effects of visualization yet. Studies take a lot of funding, and visualization is not profitable for the medical industry—it is not a drug one can sell and make millions for.
Yet, we can see much data from other types of studies that point to the same conclusion—emotional health has a great effect on healing.
- Studies on heart attacks show that they are most likely to happen on Mondays the most stressful work day of all.
- Yale School of Public Health and the National Institute of Aging research concluded that having a positive attitude about aging leads to a lower chance of disease.
- Harvard researchers persuaded hotel housekeepers to believe that cleaning is the same as exercising. One month later all of them suddenly lost weight and had lower blood pressure.
“It’s so obvious that your attitude effects survival,” says Siegel.
How Visualization Works
The best news is that there are no side effects to visualization so whether you have a disease to conquer and just want to stay healthy, visualization is worth it.
Using the power of imagination, the trick is to use your own method of visualizing health that works for you. Siegel says he has talked to religious patients who imagined religious patients who imagined the hand of God using light to remove disease, scientifically minded individuals who imagined a lot of healing white blood cells attacking their cancer, and artistic ones who imagined their tumor being eaten by dogs. Whichever imagery you choose to should makes sense to you and feel right to you personally.
Maybe like Seidler you will visualize a health organ or a healthy body, maybe you will choose a more metaphoric imagery. What matters most is consistency, time spent using the visualization tool, and your positive attitude.
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