I live in Utah, in the United states. It’s a desert, and like all deserts, we have snakes. Thankfully, though, most snakes tend to live more in the mountains and southern part of the state. An interesting thing I once heard, is that the most dangerous part of a snake bite was not the bite itself. Rather it was the poison. If someone gets bit and only attends to the wound, worse damage will happen internally because of the poison. The person must be treated for the poison. Without proper treatment any superficial bandaging is virtually useless. This is very similar with us.
We all receive metaphorical snake bites from time to time. These come in the form of people taking advantage of us, talking behind our back, betraying trust, abusing us; basically anytime someone does something harmful to us. Just like a snake bite, these legitimately hurt. It’s not pleasant when someone breaks a promise or if a spouse decides to leave. However, as painful as these experiences can be, they are not the most damaging.
The most damaging part about “snake bite” experiences is when we interpret the experience in a negative way; when we have corrosive thoughts about the experience or person who wronged us. This is the poison. And just like poison from a snake bite, we don’t see it. We can however, feel the effects.
How could just thinking negatively be worse than a bitter or abusive situation? Let’s talk about that. First off, let me point out that I am not belittling or glossing over any unpleasant experience anyone has had. However, when we think about the situation or the person who offended us in a negative way, we end up affecting our lives and health in a negative way.
When we continually entertain negative thoughts about anything, we build neural connections that lead to negative associations and beliefs. For instance, let’s say we were double crossed in a business deal and lost money. If we entertain negative thoughts, we can end up creating beliefs that businessmen are corrupt or people can’t be trusted. We might start believing that the world is out to get you or that you have to cheat to get ahead. Clearly these beliefs keep us from pursuing healthy avenues for business dealings in the future.
The truth is, not everyone in business is trying to make a quick dollar. Not everyone is trying to cheat you. In fact, there are more people trying to do the right things than those who are shady.
Of course, this is just one example. Depending on the situation, we could create beliefs that marriage is terrible, your spouse doesn’t love you, we can never earn more money, we’re worthless, xyz religion or race is bad, etc. All of these are limiting beliefs; they limit our ability to see things as they really are, as well as limit our growth, progression, contribution, and ability to connect with others. As undesirable as it is to have limiting beliefs, there is another unfortunate side effect from negatively thinking about an event. It affects our health.
We’ve spoken a lot about this topic in previous blogs, so I won’t go into much detail on this subject. However, negative thinking activates the stress mechanism, causing prolonged elevated amounts of stress hormones, such as cortisol and adrenaline, to be produced. Prolonged elevated amounts of these hormones negatively impact various parts of the body, including compromising the immune, endocrine, metabolic and digestive systems. These hormones also make it difficult to sleep, feel motivated, and cause various other issues with homeostasis.
If we continue on with our negative thinking and limiting beliefs we cause unneeded stress on the body that leads to chronic physical and emotional illnesses in the future. Thus this poison is the most dangerous part of the “bite”.
What is the cure, the remedy to this poison? Reconciling the experience. One of the dictionary definitions of reconcile is to “cause to coexist in harmony”. When we reconcile an event, we learn to look at it through new lenses, without judgement toward yourself or the offender. It’s putting the event into a healthy perspective. It’s turning a challenging time or experience into a blessing. It’s processing and living with the experience in peace.
Part of how we do this begins with the questions we ask ourselves. When a “snake bite” happens, often our first reaction is to ask questions such as, “Why me?”, “What did I do wrong?”, “Is God punishing me?”, etc. These aren’t the right questions because they lead to negative answers such as, “I deserved this”, “This happened because he’s a bad person”, “God hates me”, etc.
Better questions to ask are, “What can I learn from this?”, “How can I turn this into a blessing?”, “How can I help people who went through the same experience?”. Questions like these bring positive answers and help us to reconcile the experience.
Just like any snake bite, challenging experiences require immediate attention. The longer they’re left unreconciled, the more damage can be done. If you’d like more help or information on how to reconcile an experience(s), feel free to leave a comment or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’re more than happy to help in any way we can.