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Our Thoughts Matter

Susan R. Johnson MD, FAAP, 12/12/00

"What a person thinks is not important. It is only what they do or say that matters". This was the message I was taught during my 3 year fellowship in behavioral and developmental pediatrics. A child could have intense feelings of anger towards someone, but as long as they didn't act out their anger on the other person, everything was "OK". How superficial that piece of advice seems today. Our thoughts do matter. Our thoughts are the foundation of our words and our actions. Our thoughts are everything.

Biologically, what we think, determines the kinds of hormones and neurological transmitters that are secreted within our body. If we hold on to our anger and do not find a way to transform it, these "thoughts" of anger become secretions that determine our moods. If we continually "live" in a state of anger or sadness than our emotions can actually affect our physical body (our posture, the way we walk, the lines on our face, our voice), and depending upon the strength of our immunity, these emotional states can suppress our immune system and lead to physical illness.

I had one of the most difficult times of parenting the week after Thanksgiving. During Thanksgiving vacation, my son and I were visiting family. I was tired, and our schedule became very chaotic without the predictable rhythms of sleeping and eating. Getting back to school, or "re-entry" as I call it, was extremely difficult. My son and I had several days of angry words. Each morning my son would wake up ready for a fresh start, a new day. I would wake up with negative thoughts and negative expectations from the previous day. My mood of soul (determined from the past) was impacting the morning (the present) and the soul mood of my son. Each day became more difficult than the day before. It wasn't until the end of the week when a new thought occured to me: each morning is a fresh beginning. Each day is a whole life. Forget the past, stop worrying about the future, and live each day to the fullest. I had heard these words in my childhood, but I didn't fully understand their meaning and their relationship to my thoughts until now. I had been re-reading a small book,"In Tune with the Infinite", by Ralph Waldo Trine. It was published in 1899, and contains many words of wisdom:

"Thought is a vital, living force, the most vital, subtle, and irresistible force there is in the universe...The "power of the word" is a literal scientific fact...The spoken word is nothing more or less than the outward expression of the workings of (our thought) forces...And in a sense love is everything. It is the key to life, and its influences are those that move the world. Live only in the thought of love for all and you will draw love to you from all. Live in the thought of malice and hatred, and malice and hatred will come back to you. Every thought you entertain is a force that goes out, and every thought comes back laden with its kind."

I started thinking new thoughts. I stopped mentioning the negative events of the day before or the week before. I stopped thinking about all the difficult times we had together. I stopped feeling guilty. I stayed in the present with my thoughts, and I filled my thoughts with love. Something happened to my mood of soul. It was transformed. My son and I had a great day, a new beginning. That night, my son looked at me and said, "Mom, I love you". I had not heard those words in a long time. I looked at him with loving eyes and said, "I love you too". A new day had begun.

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© Susan R. Johnson, M.D., F.A.A.P.
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