Three particular types of beliefs are especially devastating to health. In our clinical experience, we have found that patients who hold any of these beliefs (or variations thereof) are particularly vulnerable to disease and slow to recover when disease develops. We term these three crucial health-inhibiting beliefs: (1) The Victim Belief, (2) The Martyr Belief, and (3) The Low Self-Esteem Belief.
The Victim Belief – Victims are helpless: lack control and abdicate responsibility. Victims believe themselves to be powerless and at the mercy of bad luck, mean-spirited others, or uncompromising heredity. They believe their health and lives are under the control of external forces. Some of the external forces may be germs, heredity, the government, or circumstances in general. Indeed, all too many people are truly victims of physical and mental violence and abuse. However, many actual victims recover from their trauma without becoming career victims. Others cling to the victim attitude long after their physical injuries are healed or they are removed from the abusive situation. The victim belief nurtures a victim attitude and a belief of helplessness and hopelessness.
The Martyr Belief – While the Victim suffers, the Martyr enjoys (in both senses of the word) ill health, the abuse of others, and a general case of the miseries. It’s his/her purpose in life. The Martyr believes that it is his or her lot in life to suffer – but, generally, not in silence. “It’s all right; you all go on and have a good time. I’ll just stay here (and be miserable). Or, I’m not very strong; I was a sickly child.” The Martyr is ever ready to brag about his or her misfortunes. Our clinical experience shows that Martyrs who firmly believe that their pain or ill-health is divinely decreed and serves a higher purpose rarely respond to treatment. The strong emotions that accompany their belief and persistent negativity perpetuate the physiology that led to their condition of health. The intensity of their negative emotion overrides positive therapeutic effects of treatment. Martyrs feed on adversity.
The Low Self-Esteem Belief – Unlike those who practice responsibility-avoidance that is part of the Victim Belief, those who suffer (literally) from low self-esteem believe that everything that goes wrong is their fault, somehow. They habitually evaluate themselves by comparing their weakest characteristics with the strongest characteristics of others. In an effort to compensate for their inadequacies, they devote much of their energy to trying to please others, and unless their efforts are constantly acknowledged and praised, their feelings of failure and unworthiness are just reinforced. In time, subconscious physiological responses to the constant anxiety and fear exhaust overworked organs and systems, and illness surfaces. Low self-esteem is founded on “should’s” and “ought’s.” It is self-directed health-inhibiting beliefs in action.
Beliefs like these lead us down a wrong path and plague rich and poor, intellectual and illiterate. The good news is that beliefs can be changed in the same way they were formed – by conscious thoughts accompanied by feeling. Only the individual – victim or not – can take charge of his or her health and life. It just takes a whole new mindset. If your beliefs don’t fit, change them!