The Psych Central Report
To Thine Own Self Be True
Part 1: On Denial, Tolerance and Acceptance
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When my mother first told me that my dad had died, it made me sad, but when I searched my heart, I knew that I didn't believe it. For years after, I would think that I saw the back of his head or saw him walking down the street. I knew in my heart of hearts that was my daddy!
At the age of ten, I could no longer put up with the physical, verbal and emotional abuse that my grandmother was giving me as a steady diet. I ran away from home. It took me months to convince my mother that I should go away to boarding school just like she had done. At that age, I didn't know that I was running away from home. All I knew was that my environment was no longer tolerable.
When I came home for a vacation, my grandmother told me that my mother would sit in her chair for hours on end without doing or saying anything... because she missed me so badly. I didn't believe it. My subconscious told me that my mother had already made her choice as to who demanded her care and attention more. It wasn't me.
My first obstetrician, after having run all his preliminary tests, told me that I had RH negative blood and stood a very good chance of either losing my baby or having anything from a blind baby to something completely horrendous. I was ready to have an abortion. In those days, I would have had to go across the border to get one. Luckily, I had been raised with the fact that life, any life, is sacred and not mine for the taking. I tolerated my pregnancy until I saw a different doctor who set me straight.
About ten years ago, I started having trouble walking or standing for any length of time. I refused to believe that it was anything more than just a lack of exercise. The more I exercised and the longer I walked, the more I hurt so the more I exercised and the more I walked... until one day I was massaging my aching thigh muscles and realized that they were hard as a rock. It slowly began to dawn on me that my trouble with walking and standing wasn't my lack of fitness. Yet I kept denying that anything else could be wrong.
At some point, sadness and even anger set in. All three; denial, sadness and anger are part of the process of mourning. It's my point of view that if we're in denial, then it's probably because we feel we've lost something that we don't feel capable of dealing with. Whether it's the death of a loved one, the health of a child, love and attention from a parent, or the loss of our childhood and innocence, we mourn that loss. We either rebel against the injustices of life or we buckle under the stress. We scream "why me? It's not fair! What did I do to deserve this? No! I refuse to accept it!" The anger at and denial of such an injustice can consume us and quite often does.
There is no time limit for mourning. Life doesn't stop, however, no matter how badly we want it to or are convinced of it. Time will not wait. It keeps its steady march onward. We can choose to make time our friend during our mourning period. When we have a negative thought, we must try to see things more clearly and look diligently for something positive. When we find that positive, reflect on it. Replace the negative thought with the positive one. It takes effort, practice and time. Often, the effort doesn't seem worth the trouble but we either move forward, little by little, or we stay stuck. Stagnation is death--death to our emotions, to our being, to our goals and to the possibilities for our lives.
It is my belief that everything happens for a reason. I've proven it to myself over and over. Whatever our life path was before, some power has chosen to set us on a different path, perhaps because we are needed more there than on the path we were on before. It may seem that we are not equipped for that change, we rebel against any change in our lives, but there is always a purpose for that change if we are willing to begin to let go of our sense of loss. There are always possibilities and a need for us to be on our new path. We may not see it, but it's there. The only obstruction is our resistance to change.Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 2 Mar 2006
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