Monday, October 21, 2013
Life is full of blows and hurts which nobody escapes be it sickness, the accident of birth, unexpected losses be it financial, other people or loves. For some these incidents occur early, some late and others at various times. To live full is to survive all the misfortunes and do so while keeping one's sanity and powerful urge to live life to the fullest. Yet we have just to look around us and we can see some who fall into deep depression and barely survive while others climb over the misfortunes and rise to the top better for all that has happened to them. Makes one wonder what separates those who barely survive to those who rise to great heights because of the ills manifested upon them.
CBS Sunday Morning program of October 20, 2013 had a segment titled "The Science of Survival" which probed this matter by observing two survivors of personal tragedy and a study of war prisoners who spent many years, some decades in abject misery in solitude. Psychiatrist Dennis Charney said that two factors were always present that enabled the people to overcome unbearable circumstances; "Strong Social Support" and "Unshakable Optimism". One of the persons interviewed added that she started to recover from an unbearable childhood situation when she realized it was "Not her own fault or hopeless". The other person when asked if she could do it over would she do it differently to which she responded "No", being positive is powerful and the whole experience has taught her to live her life being resilient which helps her to overcome the bad things that happen and live life to the fullest.
Doctor Charney said it was possible to train one's self to become strong survivors if we remember that we can't do it all by ourselves and nothing is hopeless. There maybe naysayers referring to progressive diseases like Alzheimer's that destroy the brain or even accidents that snap the spine. The good Doctor's study referred to such cases as snapped spines where with strong social support and unshakable optimism the patients and thier care givers actually had a better life filled with good cheer than those who didn't have these very important elements.
Unshakable optimism is what St. Paul referred to in his letter to the Romans when he refers to the hope that we have of being united with Christ when we pass from this life to the next, "......But hope that is seen is no hope at all.Who hopes for what they already have?".
Survival is not wishful thinking but dealing with a circumstance which needs dealing with at the precise moment. Of course we will die so a progressive disease may not be cured but it can be tolerated and incorporated into the lives of those who are experiencing it so that those who remain are stronger for the experience and the ones afflicted have easier lives while they endure the inevitable.
There was a couple while still relatively young were afflicted by Alzheimer's. One spouse had the disease the other was the caretaker. The ordeal lasted some 15 years at the least, with one spouse succumbing fully to the disease. The spouse remaining will tell anyone who wants to listen that through this they loved each other more, deeper and broader than if it never happened. That their lives were actually more meaningful because of this. They had support from various sources but most important was the support received from their family. They always felt while one was losing touch with reality their love was growing stronger. Amidst all the sorrows that could be lamented they laughed instead, kissed instead and they survived even as one succumbed to this terrible disease.
The one element that the CBS program seemed to leave out of their discussion was love. Strong social support and unshakable optimism could never exist in a vacuum. The element of love is needed. Love of one for the other. Love of one's self. Love of life. To survive one has to love this life, full of colors, seasons, good foods, things to work on and people to love. It seems that love of self is elemental if you hate yourself, or even just dislike yourself, how can you love another. Loving yourself and the life this world offers leads to wanting to share all this good with others. This sharing is of course with your mate, loved one, your children, your parents and everyone you come in contact with. We are not hermits. We need each other, "No Man Is An Island", John Donne, strong social support. And even if we seem to be in a hopeless position we know through this love sharing, that nothing is hopeless, for we hope for the good things that lay out there for us in all situations, in this life hopefully, but we hope for what lays before us in the life to come. We may not visualize it but who hopes for what is seen?
Survival then means the want, desire to live life fully and enjoy all that is and is to come always in union with our surroundings fully expecting only the best!