Acceptance of an Illness is Not a Surrender

Vijai P. Sharma, Ph.D

Replace negative thoughts with acceptance thoughts such as, "I don't like being sick, but I can live with it."  We wrongly fear that acceptance of our illness amounts to surrendering to it.  Acceptance does not mean that we have given up fighting or that we are inviting the illness to stick with us for ever.  On the contrary, when you accept your  illness, it frees your powers to work on recovery and rehabilitation that were earlier being used to protest and fight against the disease.  An acceptance of the disease may even release the powers that were dormant which you had no idea you had.  It is the the freed up powers and the dormant powers that enable a person to "ride the tiger."  

 What we regard as limitations and restrictions caused by an illness may lie, to a great extent, in our belief system, rather than in our body.  Our beliefs create our reality, and the mind and body take that to be the truth without further questioning.  We act as if that is true.  Our actions provide confirmation of our beliefs.  Take for example a man with a severe heart condition who is unable to hold down the job he had previously handled for years.  Physical tasks, such as chopping the wood in the winter or tilling the yard in spring have become not only arduous, but tortuous.  In addition to this his sexual drive plummets to zero.  He begins to think about himself in such terms as, "I am not a man anymore," which then results in chronic depression.  

 The man in the above example now has depression to deal with, in addition to his heart condition.  Such a man is heading for total disability.  However, if he alters his belief about himself by affirming, "I am not able to do some things just now, but I am going to build from ground up and do what I can."   In this way he may be able to ride that proverbial tiger, called long-term or life-long illness.  

 Accept that you are 100% responsible for what happens to you.  Freeze the blame at point zero.  However, accept help from others with a gracious "thank you."  You don't have to do it alone.  Give others a chance to help you.  Learn practical tips on how to manage your symptoms and emotions on a daily basis.  Grow a plant.  Marvel at a sunset.  Such enjoyments are offered to all of us by  Mother Nature free of charge.  Seek out things that you can enjoy.  Find your "heroes," that is, people who are coping successfully from disabling and painful conditions.    Appreciate your assets and realize that it could be worse.  Look at those with compassion who have it worse than you and look for opportunities to help them cope with their illness.        

 Lack of acceptance leads to out of control emotions.  Some people who are chronically ill begin to take their anger out on their spouse and children.  In many cases, it is men who refuse to accept help for their out-of-control emotions.  Their spouses are compelled to seek help for themselves so that they can somehow cope with the situation at home.  It is unfortunate that for some, accepting help equals defeat.  For some medical patients who are going through an emotional turmoil, the suggestion of psychological help amounts to adding insult to injury.  A physician is hard put to recommend psychological help lest it should offend the patient.   Perhaps, patients in such a situation feel that the control of their body is already taken away from them by their illness, and "now my doctor is telling me that I have also lost my mind."  

 Unfortunately, many of us still view psychological help as a threat rather than a help.  According to them, psychological help is only for the people who are losing their mind or are already "crazy."   A lady who was losing her sight due to diabetic complications was having a difficult time in dealing with the fact that she was at the verge of total blindness.  She became severely anxious, depressed, and angry.  She didn't care whether she lived or died.  She overdosed on her medication.  At this point her doctor recommended psychological help.  The lady declined the suggestion saying, "I am almost blind but I am not crazy."  

 This lady was having nightmares which consisted of getting lost, stumbling in the dark and being mugged and beaten up on the street.  She didn't want to get out of her house or go to a store even with an escort.  She was afraid of stumbling over something and falling down, and thus "make a fool of myself."  She was obsessed that her escort would make a mistake in navigating her or not support her firmly enough to help her walk steadily.  These are all very normal concerns when a person must make a major shift from a "seeing" person to a "sensing" person--from being self-reliant to other-dependent. However, the dependence on others may be only a temporary phase.  When you accept help from others, you can concentrate your powers in learning how to use other senses and resources.  Agrippa in 1510 said, "So great a power is there of the soul upon the body, that whichever way the soul imagines and dreams that it goes, thither doth it lead the body." 

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Copyright 1996, Mind Publications 



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