Emotions are blunt instruments

A negative response to Parkinson’s disease may be appropriate in a given situation. However, the problem with negative emotions is you tend to get stuck in the negative until it is all you see; indeed, you may even begin to crave the emotion. Also, emotions are not subtle interpreters of a situation; they are blunt instruments when finer tools may be able to build a more complete picture of a situation. In addition, emotions are not permanent; they pass in and out of consciousness. Therefore, just because you feel an emotion, doesn’t make it true.

Thoughts and feelings form a reciprocal relationship; emotions generate thoughts and thoughts trigger emotions. Therefore, thinking negatively generates a spiral into negative emotion and more negative thoughts.

It follows that negative emotion can be reinforced by negative thought or changed by positive thought. For example, thinking, “I can’t do that because of my Parkinson’s” generates a negative emotion, which supports the negative thought. On the other hand, thinking, “I will give it a go” creates a positive feeling. This reforming of emotion by thought gives us the opportunity to steer ourselves through rough, negative seas until we reach calmer waters.

dr jonny

Would just like to say how much I'm enjoying your blog. Like you, I have Young Onset PD. Although a bit older than you - diagnosed last year at 38 years old.

I've been through every emotion since my diagnosis, including "I can't do that because ...". Now I'm trying to make sure PD doesn't define me. It helps to think positively about what will happen in my lifetime. The research and improvements in treatments and medication for PD.

We all have our good days and bad days. But as you say we're heading for "calmer waters".
I thought I would just add a thought or two about positive thinking. I was diagnosed in my late 30s and that's 20 years ago now. I continued to work as a probation officer and had promotions to senior manager and to her Majesty's Inspector of probation, a job which I held for nine years, travelling the length and breadth of the country before having to take early retirement. I'm sure that a positive attitude was helpful. I tend also to take something of a battling attitude and in addition was undoubtedly helped by positive approaches from family friends and colleagues.

Certainly, some people were unsure how to react and needed permission to ask or make light or indeed offer advice. I tried to be as open as possible and I guess that that exposure, which carries a certain amount of risk, is underpinned by having written books about my life with Parkinson's.

The only negative, if that's what it is, is that being further along the line, I now experience the hard reality that, albeit slowly for me, Parkinson's is degenerative and progressive. I believe that the slow progress, albeit inevitable, would not have been as slow if I had not taken a very bullish position. I can't back this up with evidence and it may well not apply to everybody but I am certain that it applies to me and I need to believe it anyway to keep me doing it. It has got harder, but I am still very functional and keep busy with a variety of activities and projects.

I wish you well in your journeyFor however you choose to conduct it. What you choose will be the right thing for you.

Best wishes

dr jonny,

I really enjoyed reading your thoughts on positive thinking and our varying emotions. When I was younger, I was one of those people who tend foolishly to blame themselves for any illness. I could drive myself mad trying to figure out which came first, thought or emotion. Did I think of something that created the emotion, or did the emotion give rise to thoughts of guilt or blame? It took me a while to realize that it doesn't matter which came first! The emotions and thoughts are mutually sustaining. Deliberate positive thinking lets the brain create beneficial secretions and calms the emotions as well; it is the key to breaking the negative cycle.