Positive Self-Talk and Positive Thinking

One of the secrets of a happy retirement is using positive self-talk and positive thinking. I’ve had a reminder of this truth in the last few days.

After their annual health examination, our veterinarian recommended that our 13-year-old cats needed to be anesthetized to have their teeth cleaned and to have extractions of decayed teeth.  This happened last week.

During the surgery, we received a call from the animal hospital indicating that one of the cats had a large mass, about 1 inch by 2.5 inches in her throat.  Because of the size of the mass, cancer was suspected. To properly diagnose the mass, ultra sound and biopsy were necessary.  During the phone call, I agreed to the procedure as well as agreeing that the mass should be lanced and drained.

My self-talk said that our cat might as well die with clean and shining teeth. I had already assumed that such a large mass indicated that she had cancer.

When I got off the phone, I immediately told my husband that the cat had cancer and might need to be euthanized.  He was upset as well but his response was ‘let’s not jump to any conclusion — we don’t know that it’s cancer.”

When our cat came home, her neck was shaved, there was an incision with a long line of sutures, and she was wearing a restraining bandage.  She was in distress and let us know with cries through the night. I cradled her head and tried to keep her comfortable at the expense of my sleep.

In my mind, her behaviour confirmed the diagnosis I had imagined. My husband quietly comforted the cat and kept telling me to wait for the biopsy results before leaping to a catastrophic conclusion about her condition.

Self talk

Throughout the day, everyday, each of us keeps a constant mental dialogue. Thoughts come and go giving the brain messages about what you should or shouldn’t do.

Self esteem and feelings self-worth are affected by both positive and negative self-talk.  Unfortunately, it is easy to fall into patterns of negativity and pessimism where we seem to be waiting for the sky to fall — or the cat to die! A cycle of worry begins.

Events happen that generate feelings and emotions.  The brain processes the event and decides whether to react positively or negatively. In the case of our cat, my brain jumped to a negative conclusion.

In decision theory as taught years ago in business school, I learned to consider the worst possible outcome, the best possible outcome, and the most likely outcome before making any decision.

Unfortunately, I often focus too much on the worst possible outcome while hoping that a different, more positive outcome will bring a happy surprise. I know that much of this comes from deeper psychological processes. Usually I am aware of this tendency. I try to change my thoughts to envision an optimistic and positive outcome.

Self talk transforms thinking in any situation.  It affects perceptions and reactions.  It is also habitual. With awareness and practice, it’s possible to change cynical and negative self-talk patterns. Additional techniques include affirmations, mindfulness, self-care, and gratitude — all material for another post!

Cats truly have nine lives!

Here’s the good news — the biopsy indicated that mass in our cat’s throat is benign.  As a result of the lancing and drainage, it is reduced in size. The lump may or may not recur as it relates to a treatable thyroid condition. After the sutures are removed, fur will grow back to cover the incision. It may be true that cats have nine lives!

Here is a shot of our beautiful Tinkerbell before the surgery
Here is a shot of our beautiful Tinkerbell before the surgery

My husband’s ‘wait and see’ approach and his stubborn belief that the cat would survive kept him from taking a negative approach. For me, it’s been another lesson about positive self-talk and positive thinking!

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