Ten Rules for Being Human

Cherie Carter-Scott

1.  You will receive a body. You may like it or hate it, but it’s yours to keep for the entire period.

2.  You will learn lessons. You are enrolled in a full-time informal school called, ‘life.’

3.  There are no mistakes, only lessons. Growth is a process of trial, error, and experimentation. The ‘failed’ experiments are as much a part of the process as the experiments that ultimately ‘work.’

4.  Lessons are repeated until they are learned. A lesson will be presented to you in various forms until you have learned it. When you have learned it, you can go on to the next lesson.

5.  Learning lessons does not end. There’s no part of life that doesn’t contain its lessons. If you’re alive, that means there are still lessons to be learned.

6.  ‘There’ is no better a place than ‘here.’ When your ‘there’ has become a ‘here’, you will simply obtain another ‘there’ that will again look better than ‘here.’

7.  Other people are merely mirrors of you. You cannot love or hate something about another person unless it reflects to you something you love or hate about yourself.

8.  What you make of your life is up to you. You have all the tools and resources you need. What you do with them is up to you. The choice is yours.

9.  Your answers lie within you. The answers to life’s questions lie within you. All you need to do is look, listen, and trust.

10.  You will forget all this.

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The American Cancer Society issued the following announcement:

Psychological interventions associated with breast cancer survival

A new study finds that breast cancer patients who participate in
intervention sessions focusing on improving mood, coping effectively,
and altering health behaviors live longer than patients who do not
receive such psychological support. Published in the December 15, 2008
issue of CANCER, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society,
the study indicates that reducing the stress that can accompany cancer
diagnosis and treatment can have a significant impact on patients’ survival.

(more…)

This morning’s *Oregonian* includes an article: “Families of mentally
ill face daunting challenges” by Jerry Casey.

Here are some excerpts:

[begin excerpts]

Imagine your brother had a severe chronic illness. Imagine it messed
with his ability to realize how sick he was and made him act a little crazy.

Imagine he resisted getting treatment and insisted he was fine. Imagine
he threatened you when you tried to help. Imagine his caregiver nearly
went bankrupt. Imagine you found out he was off his meds again and about
to be evicted. Imagine you were scared, desperate and clueless what to
do — but decided to visit him one more time.

Imagine, in other words, you were Theresa Rockwood last month.

(more…)

Religious Beliefs and Devotion Linked to Sense of Personal Control

An individual’s level of commitment to religious rituals like praying
and attending service is directly linked to their sense of personal
control in life, according to new University of Toronto research.

U of T Sociology professor Scott Schieman interviewed 1,800 Americans in
a groundbreaking survey that examined the link between levels of
religious beliefs and sense of personal control over events and outcomes
in everyday life.

Among the study’s surprising results:

* People who believe in a powerful and influential God but aren’t as
strongly devoted to religious rituals like praying or attending service
report a lower sense of personal control in their lives;

*By contrast, individuals who believe that God’s will influences
outcomes in everyday life do not report a deflated sense of personal
control if they actively participate in religious rituals.

“One might think the most devout religious practitioners would feel a
lack of personal control in their lives because they have such faith in
divine control,” says Schieman. “Surprisingly, we found the opposite.
It’s those who believe in God but don’t dedicate much time to practicing
religion who feel the least in control of their lives.”

Schieman says these findings are particularly important in the current
economic climate, when many people are losing their jobs, their homes
and their savings.

“Some people feel unable to change the important events and outcomes in
their daily lives. Some people turn to a divine power or authority for
support. In some cases, this also implies a sense that one’s own fate
is influenced or determined by powerful external forces, especially
God,” Schieman says. “This notion of divine control is reflected in
common phrases like ‘It is all in God’s hands.'”

The study, entitled “The Religious Role and the Sense of Personal
Control,” is published in the October issue of the journal Sociology of
Religion.

“Some life dilemmas cannot be solved by study or rational thoght. We just live them, struggle with them, and become one with them.  Such dilemmas are not in the realm of the intellect.  They come from our feelings and our will, and they penetrate our subconscious and our body, down to the marrow our bones.”

Thich Nhat Hanh from Fragrant Palm Leaves pg 86.

How we talk and think about pain:

We talk about pain and injury, meaning different things.

There are the physical sensations in the body. There is the meaning we give pain and this includes both possible physical effects, and social effects or meaning. There is the emotional experience (“Misery Factor”) that goes with the pain and what it means to us.

Circle your own experiences:

Body sensations Meaning (Physical) Meaning (Social) Emotional description
Throbbing Injury Embarrassed Tiring
Pounding Ambulance Failure Unbearable
Sharp Unemployment Inferior Agonizing
Aching Paralyzed Useless Punishing
Burning Collapse Lonely Killing
Dull Disabled Humiliated Wretched
Tender Forever Ridiculed Dreadful
Sore Emergency Ignored Exhausting
Gnawing Attack Insecure Nagging
Hurting Crippled Ashamed Sickening

When we feel body sensations, we interpret these, and are prone to predict or guess the possible physical effects and social effects of what is happening. This is what the pain means to us. Depending on the interpretation, we will also have a different emotional experience.

Part of the job of people in chronic pain is to learn to identify (be aware of) and change excessively negative interpretations of body sensations.

Alternatives

Body sensations Meaning (Physical)
(add your own)
Meaning (Social)
(add your own)
Emotional description (add your own)

Temporary

I’m adequate

Manageable

Same as

Minor

Understanding

Coping

above

Healing

Compassion

Tolerable

Inconvenient

Strong

OK

Adjustments

Helped

Challenging


Self study

When you are in pain, how often do you think of the kinds of possible physical effects noted above? How often do you think of the social effects or meaning noted above? Which emotionally loaded words do you use to yourself and others? How could you begin to think and talk about your symptoms that might be better?

Brian Grady, Ph.D

One thing you will notice about many professional caregivers is that they are very good at responding to other people’s needs. I would hope so! To do this well is like providing nourishing and healing food for people. You notice what nourishment is needed, and supply it.

To do this well over a long period means that we as caregivers have to be in good shape ourselves. We need to be adequately nourished. This means eating well, of course, but it goes much beyond this. Consider:

If the body does not get enough of all the right food groups – enough of what it needs – it becomes malnourished. In extreme cases, it may starve. Then it gets weak or out of sorts, and is able to do less for others. This is also true psychologically. Not to get enough of what we need means becoming psychologically malnourished, out of sorts, or to experience a kind of ‘psychological starvation’. Making sure we get what we need isn’t conceit or self-indulgence. It’s more like maintaining good health.

As human beings, what are the psychological “food groups” that we need to stay healthy? There are lots of ways of thinking about it, but you could say there are four.

1. ACHIEVEMENT: The need to achieve things, to have recognition and respect, to be good at things, to be competent.
2. LOVE and BELONGING: To feel connected to other people, to fit in, to be valued for yourself, to belong, to experience affection.
3. FUN: To do things you get a kick out of and enjoy doing for their own sake, to have recreation, to laugh and smile.
4. FREEDOM: to be able to make your own choices, have things the way you would like them, do what you want to do with yourself.

When all of these needs are being met (as well as the more physical needs like adequate rest, food, safety, security, warmth), we’re generally happy. Go without one or more these, and you get distress.

Good self-care is going to include knowing what you as a human being need, and finding ways to make sure you get it.

For caregivers this is especially important, because the well being of others depends so much on you and how you treat them. When you are healthy (physically and psychologically), they can rely on you. This isn’t optional.

I’m always reminded of the announcement they make on airplanes. If the cabin loses pressure, you are supposed to put your own oxygen mask on first, and then help the kids with theirs. They need you to have it together, for their sake.

Brian Grady, Ph.D