Psychological Self-Help

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way, e.g. before bacterial infections were found to be responsible for
tuberculosis and for ulcers, it was thought that personality traits and
high stress were the causes. Cancer can't be caused or controlled by
your positive or negative thoughts, but optimism can perhaps help you
cope with the growing cells. 
Back in the late 1970's a popular treatment for cancer, advanced
by medical doctors, involved having the patient visualize their healthy
cells attacking and killing the cancer cells. Well, that treatment has
been discarded, but we still have the self-help books saying "you have
to be positive," "you need to imagine being cured of cancer," "you
have to eat specific foods," and so on to get well. We must separate
the nonsense from the truth. Of course, being cooperative and
conscientious about carrying out your treatment and maintaining your
general health are important. 
General health, according to popular and interesting but spiritual
books by Siegel (1989), is related to peace (acceptance of ourselves
and the world), love, hope, taking responsibility for oneself, self-body
talk, openness to joy, reaching out to others, relaxing, self-
acceptance, expression of feelings, visualization of healing, having a
fighting spirit, spiritual faith, and other factors. For health we certainly
need to talk to and listen to our feelings--our inner selves. 
And for health we may need a protective, nurturing system of care,
something far warmer, more available, and more personal than our
current medical/psychological services. Shelley Taylor (2002) has
pulled together the evidence for "tending and befriending" tendencies
(see Anxiety section above) and for the critical importance of having a
caring social environment throughout life, but particularly from loving
parents in childhood. In her book, The Tending Instinct, she also
reminds us that the radical collapse of economic/social/political/health
care systems, such as when the Communist block crumbled, resulted
in "the system" and people being less able to help each other. The
death rates in these countries during the 1990's increased (life
expectancy went from the 70's to the early 60's, especially for men),
the marriage and birth rates decreased, heart disease, cancer, and
accidents increased as the caring/tending aspects of the culture and
within the families declined. Apparently, having social support by
relatives, close friends, coworkers, by social and church groups...and
by the health care system, plays a major role in keeping us healthy. . 
Does Prayer Improve Health? This is not an easy question to
answer. Most people are told "yes" in church. Many people pray for
sick relatives and friends. There are also many studies that say "yes,
prayer helps." One such article was reported recently by a respected
Ob-Gyn specialist at Columbia University (Lobo, 2001, in Journal of
Reproductive Medicine). Half of 200 Korean women wanting to get
pregnant were secretly prayed for by North American and Australian
prayer groups. Those prayed for reportedly got pregnant twice as
often. Similarly, a group of physicians at Duke (Krucoff, 2001, in
American Heart Journal) studied the effects on angioplasty of both
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