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General Psychiatry

Attitude

Attitude has a major influence on our lives and has become identified as one of the important ingredients in living well and longer. Attitude is in part shaped by our experiences and education, by our failures and successes. A positive attitude can help to increase our ability to cope with life’s problems or with a disease. We have a chance each day when we get up to make this a great day for us and to achieve what we wish, or to merely accept events that occur and not try to improve our situation or to set new goals. Some things in life are more difficult to change than others. Thus, how we live is in part controlled by our attitude toward life. Because we can change our attitude, we can change our outlook, and thus our life.

The Will to Live

The will to live is nurtured by a positive attitude. A negative attitude can diminish or undermine the mind through fear, anger, or loss of self-esteem. These emotions, when unresolved, can lead to hopelessness, futility, resignation, and the loss of the will to live. (See also the article: “The Will to Live.”) Here are a few examples:

  • The phrase “frightened to death” is more than a figure of speech. An early reference to stress and fear is recorded in the Bible, in Acts 5, when Ananias and his wife Sapphira suddenly die after being castigated by Peter for withholding from the disciples some of the money paid for the sale of land. This has been attributed to a sudden coronary death from stress.
  • In primitive societies, people have been literally frightened to death by the imposition of a curse or spell, known as bone pointing. When a person who believed in the phenomenon was “boned,” he or she withdrew from the world, stopped eating, and waited to die. Death could take place in a few weeks. Such deaths have not been explained medically, even with an autopsy, but it seems apparent that the paralyzing effect of fear played an important role. The victim’s fear stems from ignorance and superstition. He has been encouraged to believe in the power of the curse. Thus, ignorance and superstition play a role in how the mind functions to help or hinder a person in living.

People with a positive attitude are able to be open—to talk about their problems with their family, friends, and physicians. They feel good about themselves and generally have been that way all their lives. It often is very hard to change lifelong patterns such as your psychological reaction to daily living.

The will to live is therefore a spiritual, emotional, and ethical commodity. It needs nurturing and developing; if controlled, it can strengthen a person’s resolve to survive. There is a direct correlation between a person’s mental and emotional states.