6 Ways to Remain Positive when Given Bad News

I find the following has worked for me personally as well as many patients.

I have been a doctor for 30 years.

During that time, you might imagine that I have had to deliver my share of bad news. There are few things that can take the wind out of your sails, challenge your faith, and slap you with so-called reality more than a negative test result. As many of you know from reading my works, all of us possess a reactive, rather primitive, brain which will cause you to fight or flee when faced with potential danger, threat, or vulnerability. I have labeled this brain the automatic brain, or AB for short. A negative report is a convincing representative of danger and your body will go into full fight or flight mode. You may feel nervous, your stomach may feel sick, you may develop a bit of brain fog, you may lash out at unsuspecting bystanders (family, friends, strangers). It’s important to understand what is happening.

Another word that explains our reaction to danger is fear.

Fear is the description of what the fight or flight response does to us (because realistically we have nothing to fight and nowhere to flee). Such fear has a way of sneaking into everything we do. We may briefly get distracted and forget about the bad report or diagnosis, but don’t worry your AB will soon fire to remind you that you are in danger.

To be sure, there are degrees of bad news. Some news can indicate potential future danger; while other news might mean danger right now. So how do you go on living a vibrant and happy life when faced with bad medical news? I find the following has worked for me personally as well as many patients.

1. Stay in the moment

This may sound cliché and the darling advice from many a new age proponent. But unless you are sick right now, you face no danger right now. Whatever your doctor has told you is not with you right now. Possibilities abound, but right now, they mean nothing. Focus on what you are doing right now — whom are with; what activity are you doing.

2. Meditate

I know this is a hard one for many people. But with technology, there are several apps that can help you with this. I like the app Calm. Meditation can prevent the AB from taking over your entire being. If you prefer prayer, you can still use these apps. You will define your meditation. It will be yours and it will introduce you to your higher mind the gateway to a personal power, which I view as our Divine nature. I am not saying that this will help reverse your bad news or cure you, but it will help you be less fearful.

3. Ask, “Why me”, but only once

Bad medical news has a way of making one disbelieve in anything else besides the physical world. You may be the most spiritual person and a true believer in a greater power, but get a bit of bad news, and it all goes out the window. The perspective I like to take is that we are souls with a body, not the other way around. The AB runs our body and its functions; our mind is the gateway to our soul. When medical illness strikes, it does nothing to the soul. Yet, our fear can put up an impenetrable wall, so we lose sight of our soul. It’s a natural reaction to ask, “Why me?”. Allow yourself that reaction, but only one time. When you dig your heels into this self-pity and continue asking the question, it reinforces the disbelief in your soul, your Divine nature. It does not allow for anything good to come out of it. 

4. Don’t blame yourself

Although we know a lot about medicine, there is more that we don’t know. So, we really don’t know precisely what created your problem. In fact, most ailments are out of your control. Yes, a healthy diet and weight, as well as exercise, are under your control and we think can prevent many illnesses. If you were not doing these things before, it can’t hurt to start, but you cannot know for sure that your lack in doing so was behind the bad news.

5. Use Sensibility to Guide You, Not Fear

Fear can often prevent us from listening to the right voices or prevent us from listening to any at all. When Steve Jobs was originally diagnosed with a form of pancreatic cancer, his fear of doctors led him to take matters into his own hands. Since he really didn’t know what caused his cancer, he would have been better off having it surgically removed first and then adopting some of the alternative approaches, which he believed would reverse what he thought caused it.

6. Look for the Good

What could be good about getting diagnosed with cancer, for instance? Is it a wake-up call? Perhaps. Or perhaps it is not. Many with faith in a supernatural power, such as God, believe that there is a reason for everything. And that may be true. However, I would caution you for trying to find that reason. Instead, realize that all your interactions from this point forward would never have occurred in quite the same way as they will now. The people who you meet, the circumstances you share, the way you look at the world. Everything will be different now. I encourage you to look for the good in that and maybe by doing so, the “reason” will reveal itself.

Final note…

When you are given the “danger” of bad medical news, it is normal to rely on your AB for guidance. Unfortunately, it usually overshoots and creates fear more than anything else. When we think it is protecting us, it is blocking access to our mind, the gateway to our soul and Divine nature, which is our ultimate guide and protector. Trusting in that will help you remain mindful, vibrant, and hopeful.

For more, get my free eBook 


Charles F. Glassman

Dr. Charles F. Glassman, aka Coach MD, is a medical doctor, thought leader, & author who has learned that true holistic care arises when we balance mind, body, & spirit.

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MargoCharles F. GlassmanDarrel HoglundCatherine B. RoySherryramlogan9 Recent comment authors
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Darrel Hoglund
Darrel Hoglund

What is AB?

Catherine B. Roy

Wonderful article, Charles and so much needed! Thank you!


Thank you …such a great and everyday life that we live …accepting where you’re in life is your greatest strength and challenge .With belief, good faith and strength we can put up a fight to over come all negatives and work on clearing our ailments…yes it’s really hard but success comes to those who believe and try…..I have realized that in every thing it’s mind over matter…

Mary Davis

Great article. Thanks Dr. Glassman!

Diane Greve

This sounds likes good advice on how to handle bad news that may happen to you, another way to accept and do the best that you can with a scary diagnosis… Thanks so much … I enjoyed your article..



Robina fazal

Thanks!Doc.Charles.Glassman💖💐for Sharing a really nice..worthful piece of your thoughts,experiences and wisdom….Yeah..it’s natural what when we feel signs of some fear..astonishing thought..that can make us irritate or in worry..our positive healthy thinking..our grip on our thinking power..being not extra sensitive ..being not extra conscious can really let us feel better..confident and relaxed..but that strong control..and ease only can be achieved by practising in daily routine life ..by remaining cool..and calm…by positive thoughts and attitudes .A healthy positive life style..active life..positive busy routines..exrcercises..mind,soul easing yoga..prayers at time..meditations..balanced diets..exposure to nature at times..captivating in such works ..which can not let you think or feel about your self your..problems..or any annoying Symptoms..of any mental unease or if have any physical discomfort..or any one who cause panic or bad behaviour..anyones rude or upseting behaviour or attitude..Mean to say we are given a life by God Almighty to use in best possible ways to enjoy life with heakth..happiness courage..Stamina..vigour ..passion and desires..for this we have to be realistic..strong…positive ..to acheive best in life for our selves .whether we are healthy or have any disease..ailment or problems ..we have to brave and strong enough to lead the moments of life with healthy thinking healthy attitudes ..good behaviours..with an inner power to overcome our worries or bothers..So we can be able to lead a happy ,healthy ..life with purpose ..we can do a lot good for ourlife with positive energies..and passions and can be a good Source of positive energies for other Souls .Amen..


Thank you so much for your inspiring article.Life is full of struggle,and we can’t avoid those cuz it’s always been a part of our life.I’ve been through a lot of trials,and beyond those difficulties,am still here surviving and smiling.😆😆😆😆.people who wanted to help people who are in need of help have limitations,but God can give you everything.Though we can’t, see him but he can see us,and one of the instrument that he uses to cure our illness are the Doctors.I prefer Prayer,🙏🙏🙏 cuz he’s the only one I can trust.Thank you for sharing your inspiring article Dortor Charles,May God be with you always.


So; do you feel, as a Doctor, the messenger of a rough battle to come: it is going to let your Divine Nature take over and lead you through this enlightened tunnel..?
“The fantastic Voyage will guide you to the next level”.
“This might be good news for you”.

Do you feel like you’ve been asked to deliver good news to your patients? If so, I would imagine it’s the best way to deal with that awkward task.


I’ve been tested many times regards my reaction to bad news, like many others, whether it’s myself or others telling me about theirs. I never seem to be able to react in the way I’ve trained my mind to deal with it. At first I “always” get uncontrollable shivers if it’s news of a death, every time, then I freeze. I just heard yesterday about a man in our street who committed suicide in his garage behind the house. It stayed with me all day. I knew his wife better but the shock just made me feel quiet and sad. His wife will have to live there with that image of him in her head in that Blackfoot garage. I feel she will have to move away. I have to say, he wasn’t a “ likeable” character, but it was the shrilling scream of his daughter when she found him that goes through me. And what despair could have driven him to take his own life. It’s tragic. My own bad news makes me feel weak and ill, and I get panic attacks. All the advice I’ve been given as to how best to deal with this situation goes out of my head. That makes me feel disappointed in myself. But, reading some tips from a Doctor is always helpful and if we train our brain and practice those tips, hopefully they will kick in automatically. Thank you for another good article.