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Healthy fear is an oxymoron

TMerrick Dr. Tim Merrick Friday, July 12th 2013.

If prayer can be considered holding an idea fervently in your mind, then fear is really a prayer for what you do not want. After all, what we keep in our mind reproduces after its kind. We've all heard of using positive affirmations and creative visualization. The self-help isles of bookstores are choked with these topics -- because these techniques work. They have been shown to calm the mind and heal the body. Even shrink tumors.

So holding onto fear is like saying a negative affirmation; like conjuring a nightmare visualization. Holy self-fulfilling prophesy, Batman!

In chiropractic we teach that there are three basic causes of subluxation —that chiropractic lesion which reduces the brain's regulation of organs, glands and muscles; that thing we chiropractors “adjust” to help the body work naturally, the way it was designed to. The three offending causes are physical trauma (like accidents or long-term postural stresses), chemical trauma (like poisoning, medication, long term diet problems or pollution), and perhaps the worst of the three: mental or emotional trauma.

The 'Course in Miracles declares that the opposite of love is fear. And it is 'my experience in nearly 20 years of chiropractic practice that fear is the most egregious of the mental and emotional stresses, and often more deleterious to your spine and your health than a car accident. It produces an enormous stress within the entire organism. Stress being the universal agent of degradation.

There is a great acronym for FEAR: False Evidence Appearing Real. Even though our fears are often unfounded, the subconscious mind does not know the difference between what is “real” and what is imagined. Close your eyes and imagine a tiger chasing you and catching you in the stomach with its giant claws. Your heart rate just went up and your palms got sweatier. Fear doesn't just change our physiology for the worse, it also alters our behavior. Fear can leave us paralyzed. It often prevents us from taking appropriate action—often the action necessary to free us from our fears!

Just look at our culture's fear of disease and death. We are so afraid of being unhealthy we go to exorbitant lengths to avoid, postpone or circumvent even the appearance of disease or aging. (If you don't believe me, just check out ' Unfortunately, we sacrifice the very thing we are desperate to protect. By trying to avoid anything that might be a sign of age or disease we rush into elective surgeries and take powerful medications--often with disastrous effects.

There's a dangerous medical procedure known as angioplasty sold to prolong life, even though the risks of this procedure are well-known. Many still elect this option because they fear if they don't they might have a killer heart attack. In one report, over 5,500 people die this way each year trying to calm their fears.

And I'm sorry, but can injecting botulism—a deadly neurotoxin--into the muscles of your face to cause little bits of paralysis be considered anything less than vain and fearful insanity?

Our fears of age, disease, and death are very much like prayers for the very specter we want to avoid. While stacks of books have been written on accepting death as part of life, I'm not advising surrender. I'm saying if we are intent on staying as healthy as possible and doing battle with the Angel of Death, our fears don't help.

Remember when I said fear causes you to do stupid things? Well I've hinted at a few activities already. Worse than these is our paralysis, our failure to act on our health in pro-active ways. Yeah sure, it seems like a lot of work to eat healthy, get exercise, see your chiropractor, and acupuncturist regularly, meditate, cultivate a relationship with the divine--however you define it, and maintain a positive attitude. Hey, I didn't say it would be easy.

But didn't we just say we'd do battle with the Angel of Death? With what--chemotherapy? I can hear the Grim Reaper laughing now. The irony being that he doesn't need to do anything to promote our demise. He can sit back and pop open a cold one with his scythe. We're literally tripping over ourselves to get in the grave! Over a million people die every year from medical mistakes, drug reactions, hospital induced infections, and other medical mayhem.

Well, I suppose the world is overpopulated anyway. Though for me--call me a hopeless romantic and a sentimental sap--I like being alive. I mean really alive -- vivified, juiced, imbued with all the power and light of this creation, something that doesn't come from a pill, potion or lotion.

OK, it's not easy. I'm not getting any younger or stronger or more handsome (though you can't really lose what you never had), but I still try to find a way to make sense out of this dance we call life or failing that, try to enjoy the poetry of its apparent non-sensical nature. I laugh, I cry.

But I don't dance with the devil by playing into his hand. Having an appreciation of natural order allows me to believe in my body and trust its awesome healing capacity. But it takes effort to stay in that natural order. It requires caring for my body, mind, and spirit; it requires purpose and intention. What's yours?

With Zeal,
Dr. Tim