I wanted to reach out today to everyone whose world is being rocked by a serious illness, health challenge, or perhaps infertility issues. Right now I know so many people who are struggling with these challenges, so I wanted to let you know that the Flourish team and I are always thinking about you even when you aren’t here and we’re sending good vibes your way. Let me take a minute to teach you about one of the most common pitfalls that happens when there are health challenges and tell you a little bit about what you can do about it.
When something terrible happens to your health or the health of a loved one, our brains very often tend to twist things around and start to assign blame where blame does not belong. Sometimes we’ll lash out angrily at someone else and blame them even though they’re not really responsible. However, more often than not we twist that blame and we assign it to ourselves and we blame ourselves for what is going on. This is especially true if you are the person whose body is experiencing the health challenge. Loved ones often blame themselves for other people’s health challenges as well, but it’s even more problematic for the quote on quote “patient.” Self-blame is something heavy that I don’t want you to carry around with you, largely because it’s a distortion. The health challenges that you are having are not actually your fault. You didn’t cause them, you didn’t ask for them, and I’m willing to bet that you’ve done everything you could to surpass them.
How Can We Sidestep This Pitfall?
I would encourage you to start thinking of that health issue as an external entity; something that is separate from the person or the body that has the health challenge. This helps us lower the feelings of blame and guilt that often come with being the patient, and it also opens up the conversation so we can all talk a little more freely about how we feel about this health challenge. A lot of my clients will recognize my little toy guinea pig. We use this in my office as a way of representing the health challenge. We may say that this little vermin represents the infertility that you’ve been through. Then we get to point our finger at it and talk about how angry we are at it, and also recognize that it’s something outside of the person whose body has the challenge. This is an incredibly effective tool with adults, but if there are children involved in the health issue in your family this is also a really important and concrete way of helping them understand that they are not to blame. You can come up with some type of a symbol to represent the health challenge and then everyone in the family can point fingers at it and talk about it a little bit more freely.