We live a lot longer than we did, say, a hundred years ago. However, we live those extra years wrestling with diseases our elders had not known. Our longevity is due to the wonders of medical science largely. Since ailments are bound to become constant companions to most of us after a particular age, we have to learn to not to succumb to the negativity that the misery and pain associated with diseases generates.
Taking the difficult path that all of us have to traverse some day, we must accept the inevitable end with fortitude and grace. No one can afford the luxury of negative thoughts at any age but one has to be particularly careful to avoid these in later years while battling ailments, for the simple reason that a frail mind and body cannot withstand the dreadful consequences otherwise. Negativity will drag us down physically and emotionally.
Our thoughts have the power to either toughen us up for the challenges or throw us into the pit of frustration. The meaning we give to thoughts influences our emotions that change our lives, for better or worse. Best-selling author Anthony Robbins says: “To master your life, you must master your emotions.” Thinking of good times with an old friend after a long time or visiting a hill station of choice fill us with positive energy, while thinking of failed affairs, haughty boss, burning sun, poverty, disease, children dying of cancer, urchins begging at traffic lights etc. makes us feel unpleasant and miserable. Emotions that follow our thoughts are the basic instruments of action, and so our happiness or sadness depends entirely upon the kind of thoughts we nurture.
When battling a disease, think of kicking it and focus on getting back to normal at the earliest. Every good thought we come up with contributes to getting us back to good health and the ultimate goal of our lives. Everyone can’t have the nerves of steel but it is unfortunate that most of us have some or the other self-control problem. We break down under painful medical procedures and skip the treatment, knowing well the adverse impact on recovery. When negative thinking becomes an addiction, in old age especially, it has the potential to become incurable. I don’t ask you to show unreasonable bravado while facing terminal diseases but do fight these with poise and dignity, like the thorn bird, which according to a legend sings while it dies.
In the book, ‘How We Die’, author Sherwin Nuland quotes Sir Thomas Browne’s ‘Religio Medici’: “With what strife and pain we come to the world we know not, but ‘tis commonly no easy matter to get out of it.” Understanding how we can adapt to emotional and physical pain is important. Humans have the skill to get used to almost anything, even life-altering events, new environment, changed circumstances, situations etc. over time. Man is a pliant animal that gets accustomed to even pain. When we suffer pain for a long time, our ability to tolerate it and our overall approach to it also changes.
Suffering and hope are linked. Start looking for ways and means to fight the pain and get rid of suffering as early as possible without worrying too much about it.