The Psych Central Report

To Thine Own Self Be True

Part 2: On Denial, Tolerance and Acceptance

By SeptMorn
April/May 2006

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There are many kinds of tolerance. We’ll tolerate a rude person, a barking dog and a certain amount of physical pain and even emotional pain. Lately, there has been much talk about tolerance for religions other than our own, tolerance for people of different color or lifestyles. We may not like these differences, but we try to ignore them as much as possible.

The same can be said for changes and differences in our lives. We learn to tolerate the pain, tolerate that we can’t do what we once did. We don’t like it, we may fight against it and try to keep doing the things we used to be able to do. There are times of anger, rebellion, helplessness or hopelessness.

If our pain is of a physical nature, we may seek the aid of pain relievers of one sort or another. Sometimes we seek to self-medicate. We can look for relief in a bottle of alcohol, illegal drugs, food or other people. Some may even alienate themselves and withdraw from society altogether and succumb to the changes in their lives. We allow our disability, illness, physical or emotional pain to define who we are and resign ourselves to the pain or the inability to do what we used to do before.

Some of us have a higher tolerance for pain or hardship so we support the weight of our difference and our pain related to it. We simply put up with it for whatever time we are capable. We trudge along under the weight of it, complaining and wondering “why me?” We shout out to ourselves, to others and even Heaven that this is not fair! We wonder to ourselves if we are being punished and if so, why. And we keep trudging along, doing everything we think we can to suffer along. The weight of it all gets so heavy that ending it all would be well worth it just to stop hurting.

When we receive empathy for our pain, it feels better for a bit, so when that dose of “feel better” wears out, we seek more attention and empathy and it becomes a vicious circle. Some family and friends, some sooner rather than later, burn out, listening to us complain, moan and groan and they withdraw from us which in turn makes us seek out that attention even more.

We are no longer in denial. We know we have changed and so has our life. But we don’t like it, much less accept it. We become bitter and angry people. What we hold in our minds and in our hearts has to come out one way or the other. We become cynical, blame God, other people and even the fates.

The thing is, like Dr. Phil says, “why not you?” We are all on this Earth together. We are all human, made of flesh and blood, given to the same weaknesses and strengths as any other person. When we were put on this Earth, no one put a guarantee under our arm saying that this person would never know any difficulties, illness or pain. Every single one of us will eventually have an illness, go through hard times of one sort or another and have physical as well as emotional pain.

Through my own life experiences, I have become firm in my belief that going through day to day until the end of our life is all a learning experience. It’s just like a child learning how to stand upright. He must first learn some motor skills as well as coordination to even begin to crawl.

I remember my youngest had the hardest time learning to crawl. He could get up on all fours and he would lean forward, but he wouldn’t move his hands or knees. I would try to show him my moving his hands and knees but eventually I gave up and just let him become frustrated for a while. He had to put it together in his mind, for himself, which motion was first and which came second. Eventually, it came to him and it took him no time at all to learn how to walk.

My oldest son, on the other hand, hardly crawled at all. He went straight from the GI Crawl to walking. Lucky kid, you think? No. His kindergarten teacher knew almost immediately that he hadn’t crawled because he had little coordination in his fine motor skills. His homework was to crawl for fifteen minutes when he got home from school. He hated it, but I got down on the floor with him and made a game out of it. As a result, his fine motor skills and coordination are so good that he’s a fantastic artist today.

We’ve all heard of people who have had horrible accidents and have had to learn to talk, walk and other things all over again. With help from professionals, they learned coping skills that they wouldn’t have had otherwise. We don’t know why these things happen. All we know is that they do. We either learn proper coping skills for our new life or we stagnate and die inside.

Last updated: 10 Apr 2006
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 10 Apr 2006
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