Our thoughts define who we are. They can make us instantly resourceful or plunge us into the depths of despair. This true story illustrates how thoughts can affect our health and our circumstances.
Many years ago, shortly after Dr. Maxwell Maltz opened his office to start practicing as plastic surgeon, a tall African-American came to see him. Over six feet tall, he towered over the surgeon. He complained about his lip.
After examining his lower lip, he could find nothing wrong with it, and told his patient this.
The patient confessed that it was not his idea, but his girlfriend’s. She had told him that she was afraid to be seen with him in public because of his lower lip.
Dr. Maltz thought the man a dignified giant who had become attached to an overly critical woman.
Although there was nothing wrong with his lip, the patient insisted on an operation. Thinking that an outrageous fee would bring the man to his senses, Dr. Maltz said it would cost $1200. The ruse appeared to work. The patient said that he couldn’t afford such a fee, thanked the good doctor, and even bowed courteously.
But, the very next day, the man was back, a little black bag in his hand. He dumped its contents on the table, and hundreds and hundreds of bills poured out. Twelve hundred dollars lay on the table; his life’s savings.
Dr. Maltz was shocked, and saddened too, because he didn’t want to deprive the man such a huge sum of money. He confessed that he had merely quoted that figure to dissuade the money from having the operation. In that case, said the patient, he would find another plastic surgeon who would do it for him. Backed into a corner, Dr. Maltz said that he would do it for a smaller fee on the condition that he tell his lover that he paid $1200 for the operation.
The operation was simple enough. Under local anesthesia, he cut the superfluous tissue from inside the lip, approximated the rims of the wound with extremely fine silk, and bandaged the upper lip for support. The operation only took a half hour.
The patient returned a few times to have the bandages changed. There was no visible scar because all the surgery was done inside the lip.
Although the patient did not look much different, his whole attitude changed. After the stitches were removed, he crushed the doctors hand in a hearty handshake, thanked him profusely, and strode out of the room, a commanding figure.
However, a few weeks later he was back. Dr. Maltz barely recognized him. He had lost a considerable amount of weight, he stooped, his handshake was weak and timorous, and his voice barely audible.
“The bug, sir --the bug!” proclaimed the man.
“The bug, sir –the African bug. It’s got me, and it’s killing me.”
Apparently after the last stitches had been removed he had gone and seen his woman. She had asked how much it cost. After he had told her $1200 dollars, as the doctor had recommended, she had flown into a rage and claimed that he had cheated her of the money. She revoked her love and cursed him, promising a swift death.
Deeply troubled, the man had gone to his room. He lay there for four days. A loud rapping on the door forced him to open it. The landlady, concerned about his unusual behavior, had brought a “doctor”.
The so-called “doctor” listened to the man’s explanation about the curse. He examined the man’s lower lip and confirmed that he had indeed been bitten by the African bug.
The doctor had tried to drive out the bugs with liquids, pastes, and strong potions, but the bug was too strong.
Dr. Maltz, examined the inside of the lower lip, filled a syringe with Novacain, then, after it had taken effect, removed the scar tissue.
“It’s only some scar tissue,” he explained to the man, holding it up.
“You mean, there’s no bug, no African bug?”
The man suddenly regained his full height. A rich smile spread over his face, his voice boomed out a gravely, courteous thanks, and he bowed. Once again, he strode out of his office.
A few months afterward, Dr. Maltz received a letter from the former patient. Enclosed was a picture of a smiling, handsome giant with a lovely girl beside him. Emboldened by his new appearance and his freedom from the illusion of the African Bug, he had met a new girl, courted her, and married.
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Saleem Rana got his masters in psychotherapy. His articles on the internet have inspired over ten thousand people from around the world. Discover how to create a remarkable life
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