An impending sense of doom

Column by Hallie Beard, Opinion Editor

This week, “Twister” star Bill Paxton died from surgery complications.

Paxton was worried about his surgery, or at least the email he sent to a friend suggests he was, according to various news sources that printed an excerpt. I assume anyone would be worried or nervous about a significant surgery, but I’m wondering if Paxton’s concerns were more than pre-knife jitters.

Believe it or not, patients facing surgery can have what’s called “an impending sense of doom” – essentially, an intense fear that their own death is near. Now, whether or not Paxton felt this, I’ll never know. But the question got me thinking.

Perhaps it sounds a bit new age-y, but I’m a big believer in the concept of energy and how our minds and spirits work with our physical form to produce and derive energies from our surroundings. For that reason, I also think our beings – our essences, souls, animas, whatever – are more connected than we think. Whether or not this gives us more power over our experiences is the question that troubles me.

For the past couple years, I’ve been actively trying to be a more positive and optimistic person. Until recently, I believed very strongly in a theory I made up: The Theory of Negativity, or Hallie’s Law.

The theory states if a person imagines hypothetical situations in detail, that situation cannot happen – or at least is very unlikely to happen – in real life. So, I’d use this thinking to make myself feel better in potentially dangerous situations. For example: let’s say I’m walking to my car at night and I suddenly get the fear that someone could attack me. Well, if I imagine a very specific scenario – the attacker comes from that building wearing xyz and says xyz and kidnaps me – the likelihood of that specific scenario happening then seems extremely low, and my fear subsides. I believed for years it was a pretty clever way of dissuading fear.

The downside of the theory is that it worked in reverse, too. I’d be thinking of hypothetical positive situations – having a good conversation with a friend, hearing good news, succeeding at a task – and suddenly realize, according to my theory, that good thing couldn’t happen because of the way I’d thought about it.

To cut to the chase: it was a terrible theory to live by, and one that encouraged horrible thoughts and feared uplifting ones. Don’t follow it.

What’s funny is that my philosophy has nearly done a one-eighty since those days. My theory implied that my thoughts had the power to stop things from happening rather than cause things to happen. But now that I work to have a more positive outlook on life, it’s seeming that the opposite is true: our thoughts probably encourage a great deal of things to happen because of the way our mental/spiritual/figurative selves affect our physical selves and energies.

Does that mean a patient facing surgery who has an impending sense of doom actually causes their own death? No – I think “cause” is too strong a word. But does that patient make themselves more susceptible to complications overbearing their system and leading to death? I think so.

Consider how children face fear and injury. Let’s say we’ve got two kids, Thing 1 and Thing 2, who are about to play dodgeball. Thing 1 wants the game to be fun, and they’re gearing up their psyche to win. For Thing 1, the adrenaline they’re feeling is going to help their muscles feel stronger and more able to succeed and avoid injury.

Thing 2, on the other hand, dreads dodgeball. They just “know” they will get hit in the face with the ball or get knocked down because they’re not good at sports and don’t have the strength. Essentially, they’re coaxing every nerve in their system to embrace and expect failure. For Thing 2, the adrenaline in the body is making them shaky, unstable and unfocused – a state of mind and body that submits to injury and pain.

If these two kids play the horrible game that is dodgeball (can you tell I grew up Thing 2 in this scenario?), what would you wager is the outcome? Is Thing 2 going to pull talent, confidence and resilience out of thin air and magically defeat the capable Thing 1? Probably not. Because they’ve geared up for certain outcomes, those outcomes are looking pretty plausible.

Readers, maybe this is all mumbo jumbo to you and the idea of energies or auras just sounds like witchcraft. Take it as you will, but do some experimenting this week. Are your fears and negative feelings purely coincidence, or has your psyche been controlling the chess board? Let me know.