I am intrigued by the power of expectations; by the impact they have on our well-being.
Yesterday, I had the opportunity to speak with Dr. Thomas Curry, a licensed Texas psychotherapist about this phenomenon.
Dr. Curry explained, “Expectations are a hot topic in healthcare practice and research. It is widely recognized that an individual's, or group of individuals, expectations either help or hurt healthcare outcomes. Why this is so, and how it happens, unfortunately remains a mystery. However, what is not mysterious at all is the fact that expectations play a very pivotal role in the progression of mental and medical disease, as well as it has a strong role in any treatment effect.”
This makes me wonder: Do expectations of decline and illness allow for unchecked fear to manifest as disease on the body where it can develop and spread? Are expectations of health possibly divine urgings that animate us to discover more than we are accepting of life at a given moment?
One family’s experience, detailed in full in Robert Peel’s Spiritual Healing in a Scientific Age, suggests that what we truly expect, we get.
In 1947, Elmer and Doris Wiederkehr agreed to adopt an unwanted child. Prenatal tests indicated that the child would be born handicapped, but the Wiederkehrs were not deterred. Unfortunately, the child, Les, was born with multiple handicaps, including unformed vocal chords, a damaged heart, serious bone and blood conditions, and cerebral palsy. Doctors predicted that Les would live no longer than eight months.
Doris had been healed of a curvature of the spine through prayer, and had learned to trust God, to expect healing. So she prayed and cared for the baby’s physical needs as best she could. The doctors felt that Les was too frail for either surgery or medication.
In 1983, Doris explained: “The medical prognosis at that time was that [Les] would never be able to speak, stand or walk properly, or receive an education. We were told that he would continue to suffer convulsions, that he had a blood deficiency which inhibited coagulation, and that the condition of his heart made survival past early childhood unlikely.”
When asked, “What happened when you took [Les] home?” She replied, “Well, he had a difficulty in breathing. It was hard for him to eat. He couldn't walk. He was in bed most of the time the first few years... I'll have to admit that the physical deformities didn't bother me. I really didn't see them the way some others did. He had beautiful blue eyes. He responded to love. And I fully expected -- I never doubted that he wouldn't find his complete freedom.”
As a Christian Scientist, Doris read the Bible, prayed, and shared with Les what she was learning about God's care and Les’ spiritual nature. Her expectancy of betterment had been forged by her own experiences. Even though Elmer was not a Christian Scientist, he was supportive of Doris’ expectations of progress for Les. Doris said, "[Les] just kept me trusting and expecting. You could see awareness in his eyes and that he was grasping [what] we were telling him.”
“[When he was almost three years old, Les] was standing upright. He fell a great deal and we did have to pad the doorways and our furniture to keep him from harming himself. But there was a lot of progress after that. And we, everyone in the family, talked with him whether he answered or not. We gave him time to answer. And we could tell by the expression on his face what he was thinking. We just never treated him as though he didn't talk.”
“We took a six-or eight-week trip at one point because the children were beginning to tease him a little in the neighborhood… On the way back, he improved. He gained weight... And on the day we came home, the boys were tired… and took a nap... I decided to lie down too. My husband had taken the car to a garage.”
“We were all asleep when a man entered our home... I heard my son, Les, saying in a shaky voice, 'No other gods before you. You don't belong in here.' No, these weren't the words of the first Commandment, but the power of the first Commandment was in the words. And then he repeated it again in a very firm, strong voice. And the man... never touched anything... and walked out of the house.”
“When he got back into bed, he said, 'Mommy can I come lay with you?' And I said yes… I would have liked to have taken him in my arms and danced around the house with him...”
“My husband came home... And I said, 'Dad, what we've been expecting and knowing would happen has taken place. Les can talk.' And he said, 'Well, its not going to make any difference. We always gave him time to talk. So we can just go on.' …Les is going to walk, he's going to skip, he's going to run, he's going to do all the things.'”
“The heart condition was healed when he was eight years old. He rang the doorbell because he needed help, and when I opened the door he fell in. He was unconscious. I did call the hospital... They came out with a portable cardiograph, and they didn't think he would last… When he awakened he was not exhausted like he had been from other attacks. He was just as though nothing had happened. He never had another attack after that.”
“And then he began to swim, and set a record in an ocean race when he was only nine. And still, I would say, he didn't have complete use of the right arm and right leg. He was about fifteen before you'd say he no longer fell without warning. He was the catcher on the Little League team that whole season. He loves all sports.”
“I always told him that God had need of him. And that meant He had need of his thinking. And that if he wasted time resenting or having hurt feelings over people's unkindness, why, he wouldn't hear God's voice. And he wouldn't recognize his healing and his freedom when it came. He'd be too busy feeling sorry for himself. Or angry, you know. So he learned to forgive and he learned it so well that it's helped him in later life.”
When Doris gave this interview, in 1983, Les was then happily married, physically sound, and fully employed in a plumbing firm.
The Wiederkehrs’ experience causes me to further wonder: Do our expectations cause what we yearn for to take place or do they cause what has always been available and possible to be uncovered?
As well: What molds our expectations? What causes us to expect good health or healing? What makes us expect illness and suffering?
The answers to these questions will have a tremendous impact on our health for better or worse, now and in the coming years.
Dr. Curry concluded his comments to me about expectations by stating, “The reality is that our thoughts, and our expectations have a real effect on our physical experience.”
I know that Elmer, Doris, and Les would certainly agree.
– Keith Wommack is a Syndicated Health Blogger, Christian Science practitioner and teacher, husband, and step-dad. He is a legislative liaison for spiritual healing & Christian Science in Texas. He has been described as a spiritual spur (since every horse needs a little nudge now and then).
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