You wake up and it’s the damnedest thing. Spring is in the air, but you don’t feel the slightest bit congested. As you look around your apartment, you realize your eyesight is crystal clear as well. What is happening! you think to yourself.
Your head throbs.
Maybe I just have a bad headache. You reach over and grab some Advil. After 30 minutes, your head still rings. You take some more. Another 30 minutes pass, you take even more. Finally, after going well past your usual dosage, the headache subsides.
It’s certainly an odd start to your morning.
Instead of being surprised, imagine you did this intentionally. Imagine that for weeks, you trained yourself to believe you could see better, breathe easier, and, for whatever reason, have a higher medication tolerance. Could such a reality exist?
Science says, why not?
The best place to look for proof is in patients with Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID). You may also know it by its former name: Multiple Personality Disorder.
Being an ignoramus such as I am, I thought DID was largely made up. Living in Southern California, I figured it was just a trope Hollywood used to make movies. Turns out I’m wrong. For my fellow ignoramus’ out there, DID is described as, “the existence of two or more personality states that recurrently exchange control over the behavior of the individual.”
Put another way, you have one body with multiple people living inside it.
That concept alone is fascinating to ponder. But that’s only the first layer. As you dig deeper, you find something profoundly more intriguing.
Different personalities, different symptoms
Researchers dating back to at least the 1980s found that physiological symptoms depend on the personality in control at the moment.
For instance, if one personality is an old man with poor vision, the body responds in kind. The old man has a hard time seeing. When it switches to a young girl who is color blind, the body once again changes. She is able to see perfectly well, but suddenly suffers from color blindness.
This 1988 article from the New York Times uses the following example:
“When Timmy drinks orange juice he has no problem. But Timmy is just one of close to a dozen personalities who alternate control over a patient with multiple personality disorder. And if those other personalities drink orange juice, the result is a case of hives.
“The hives will occur even if Timmy drinks orange juice and another personality appears while the juice is still being digested. What’s more, if Timmy comes back while the allergic reaction is present, the itching of the hives will cease immediately, and the water-filled blisters will begin to subside.”
A list of differences
It doesn’t just stop at allergies though. This 1996 study from the NIH notes:
“Physiologic differences across alter personality states in MPD [Multiple Personality Disorder] include differences in dominant handedness, response to the same medication, allergic sensitivities, autonomic and endocrine function, EEG, VEP, and regional cerebral blood flow.
“Differences in visual function include variability in visual acuity, refraction, oculomotor status, visual field, color vision, corneal curvature, pupil size, and intraocular pressure in the various personality states of MPD subjects as compared to single personality controls.”
In other words, even though the body is the same, the personality encompassing it dramatically impacts their physiology. From the hand they write with to their resting heart rate.
Case in point, in their 1988 article, The New York Times mentions that there was “one patient who had a blood pressure of 150/110 when one personality was in control, and a pressure of only 90/60 when another personality took over.”
What does this mean for you?
Belief is a powerful tool. In the case of DID patients, their body believes they are someone else and makes changes to reflect that. In your life, you could hypothetically use belief in the same way. Whether that be ridding yourself of an allergy or earning more money for your business.
For years, I called myself a realistic pessimist.
I looked for the bad in things and generally found it. This inevitably caused many problems for me. Once while talking to my psychologist, she asked if I had ever tried reframing things. To see the positive instead of the negative.
I scoffed at her. Sure, I had tried that in the past. But it always felt like a lie. Like the world was a dark place and pretending it wasn’t was pointless. However, I’ve since learned that there’s something more to it.
Move forward with belief
As I explored new books and new ways of living, I learned how belief shapes reality. For instance, when I worried about my business struggling, it struggled. When I was worried about money being tight, it was tight.
I lived like that for a long time.
Late last year though, I began to change. I envisioned a better world, I looked at the bright side of things, and things invariably improved. When I believed my business would do well, it did. When I believed I would sleep better, I did. It even worked with little things. When I believed I would win at rock-paper-scissors, I did.
Just a week or two ago, I envisioned getting featured in Forbes. Yesterday I was. Here’s the article.
I told my psychologist that thinking positive felt fake. Like I was lying to myself. But now I know that’s not true. It’s not fake. Rather, it’s just seeing a different side of the coin. It’s focusing on the light instead of the dark. And in doing so, you allow more light to come in (as mystical as that sounds).
Your mind is more powerful than you give it credit for. If you actively change the way you think, you can bring about real change in your life.
PS: Shoutout to Corey Gladwell for introducing me to the DID concept.
PPS: To learn more about using belief to your benefit, I recommend the following books:
- The Power of Your Subconscious Mind by Joseph Murphy
- The Secret by Rhonda Byrne
- The Celestine Prophecy by James Redfield