Saturday, August 07, 2004

Mind Control

When I was growing up, and during my rocky adolescence, my mother used to say to me,

"There's no such thing as a bad day".

She would go on to remind me that the concepts of "good" and "bad" applied to the events of any given day were really just cognitive constructs. By mentally applying a spectrum of good and bad to situations, we in turn create a perception of the world in that frame.

Yeah, I didn't believe it either.

However, I can now see what my mother was saying. I don't disagree that the world can be what we make of it. If I get out of bed thinking the day ahead will be horrible, then from that point on, everything- spilling the coffee, missing the bus, an aggravated telephone call from a colleague- is coloured by the notion, by a preconception that I am having a "bad day". If I was to turn it around, welcoming the day as a fresh challenge with exciting possibilities, then it would become so.

Glass half full, that kind of thing.

But then there are the days where you would require to have superhuman powers of mental fortitude to turn certain experiences into something positive. I can think of a couple of people who have recently had, what in anybody's book, would be a really bad day. No amount of simple cognitive restructuring is going to turn those events like those into something "good"- maybe, you eventually find a way to think of it differently-for example, acceptance instead of hair-tearing grief. But that takes time. It's not as simple as putting on a happy face and accentuating the positive.

However, it occurred to me the other day when reading this (Karen, you always give me food for thought) that I haven't really thought too much about how my thoughts may or may not be affecting my body.

Short of medical intervention (which is coming) we have tried just about everything in our quest to get pregnant. You know the litany. Charting. Green tea, baby carrots, grapefruit juice, cough syrup, progesterone cream and extra B6, vitamins for E's swimmers, cutting out sugar (dismal failure), cutting down on booze and caffeine (flunked that one too). Eggwhites for those difficult days. And of course, sex, lots of. Lying with feet up afterwards. Standing on head afterwards.

The one thing I haven't tried is really thinking positively about my chances of getting pregnant. Of visualising the egg meeting the sperm, and the two setting up house in my uterus. Imagining the two pink lines. Willing myself pregnant, of mentally picturing a pregnant body, holding a baby.

Of course I have flirted with the notion, have had flitting thoughts of what it would be like, particularly when we first started trying. I imagined the joy E. and I would feel, the triumphant phone call to my mother. But I always stopped myself before getting too carried away. I think that's partly why I don't buy HPTs, ever. The idea that this would result in a positive is so not a reality I have mentally allowed to happen. I just don't go there.

There are reasons for that, of course. The disappointment of it not coming true, if I have convinced myself it is possible, would be crushing. And to be honest, it's already crushing enough.

I wonder now if my constant negativity has possibly harmed my chances. Whether, by approaching this with a pre-determined sense of doom, I have in effect created that reality for myself. Maybe there is a benefit of doing some mental gymnastics, to tell my body that I am a fertile goddess, goddamit. To not just joke about it, to really believe I can get pregnant, and not worry how hard it will be to re-adjust my perceptions if that proves to be false.

Could I try, at least for one cycle, and see what happens? Or is that too scary, too much of a leap at this point, too much effort when it may all be meaningless in the face of a medical reason for our failure to conceive, which is something we may find out in a couple months?

There's a program on TV here that E. and I really like. It's called Mind Control with a guy called Derren Brown. He's a "mentalist", an illusionist who relies on psychological manipulation as part of his tricks. What he does, or purports to do, is jaw-dropping.

For example, he has this trick where he goes to the dog-track. He picks a losing dog, and then convinces the girl at the booth that he has a winning ticket. He slaps his palm on the counter and announces, like a Jedi Master, "This is the winning ticket you were looking for!" And she pays out.

Or the one where he made an entire shopping mall of people gather in one place and simultaneously raise their hand, on cue, without knowing that they were doing it. He hypnotises people to stick big needles through their hands, without feeling pain. He "reads minds" by getting inside people's heads, and tapping into their perceptions of the world. He can tell when people are lying.

The point is that when E. and I watch this, we are reminded that the mind can indeed work in strange and mysterious ways, if we know how to give the right signals. We think we know what is happening, we see the path ahead, the plan. Our thinking is driven down the same straight lines, day in, day out. But what would happen if I suddenly left the path, and approached the future at a different angle.

The path I am on is so safe. It's so much easier to to stick with what is familiar. Maybe it's time to start thinking about things differently-because I am not so sure the route my brain is taking is the right one. Maybe I need to stop allowing my all preconceptions to influence my pre-conception.

I may not get pregnant as a result, but at least I will know, will understand, that for once, it wasn't because my mind wasn't joined up to my heart.


At 4:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe the dude at the dog track can convince me that my always single line HPT really has two lines -- now that would be a trick.

I'm right here with you on this point. I try to think in terms of when instead of if and that it will happen, but it's just so hard. I was feeling like you wrote today. Here's hoping for a glass brimming over in fullness and that phone call you're dying to make soon.


At 6:06 PM, Blogger lobster girl said...

Wise words, dear Mare. It is so hard to know how to think positively without setting myself up for terrible disappointment. But I think you're totally right. It's worth a try.

I'm now envisioning my uterus as a happy, wecoming place. Plushy couches, soothing music, balmy, softly scented air, just the kind of place where an embryo might like to hang out for a while.

At 5:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

(It's actually me...Heidi from "Lost and Finding"...I have figured out a back route to your site that seems to be working. Yay, for me!)

I have wondered these same things myself. I remember lying in bed imagining my embryo implanting. One cycle, I even told a lot of people, so that they could pray and/or think positive thoughts for me. As much as I, myself, tried to be positive, that old nagging pessimism ate its way through. It's so hard because it seems to be the only way to protect ourselves from even greater heartache.

At 9:19 PM, Blogger Orodemniades said...

Well, hell, if thoughts influence the body, I should have been dead a long time ago. Or gotten cancer, or some equally horrible disease that would leave me suffering, in pain and agony.

No, wait, I've got long term depression, same difference!

I don't dare hope. I like to imagine that I have a child in the future, preferably my own baby, but, I've got to be honest, I know I'll be a parent regardless of where that child comes from. So I guess I do have hope...but until the IVF begins, I choose to put the hope of conception out of my mind, because if I didn't, I don't think I'd be able to get up in the morning. I have to think the worst might happen, and how I'll survive it, rather than hoping the best might happen, and being unable to recover from the loss of that hope.

At 5:51 AM, Blogger sexy said...



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