This entry was written by Michael J. Formica, MS MA EdM, Editor and Project Coordinator for LBBC who, as a mental health and education professional with more than 25 years of experience, also blogs regularly at Psychology Today:
Almost as soon as we are able, we start naming things. This serves us by helping to make sense of our world, creating a sense of safety and supporting the relationships that we establish with the people, places and things that surround us. On the other hand, labeling things can also fail to serve us because labels create limits.
How did you define yourself before you were diagnosed? How do you define yourself now? Has it changed? That’s an important question to ask—and answer—because if your self-definition has changed, then your self-perception has changed along with it. And if that shift is away from the positive, then you could be creating an obstacle for yourself that prevents you from striving toward your full potential and enjoying the quality of life that you deserve.
Quite recently the well-known writer and teacher Ram Dass was working on a project that addressed the topic of what he calls “conscious aging.” He was struggling with the last chapters in the book because, despite being a rather self-amused “senior” himself, he was in robust health. One night he lay in bed, struggling with how to end the book and very conscious of the fact that he really had no point of reference for it. Lying there, thinking, he experienced a massive stroke that left him partially paralyzed, unable to speak and more than a little helpless.
For most of us, the thought of being confronted with such a circumstance is terrifying. How does one cope with the prospect of a life, once so independent and full of activity and vigor, now to be lived as someone almost completely dependent on others? Well, we have a choice. We can see the situation either as an obstacle, or an opportunity.
If we choose to regard our circumstances as an obstacle, then we effectively put ourselves in a cage—a “prison of our own device,” to quote Don Henley. If we choose to see it as an opportunity—for self-reflection, for growth, for drawing out of ourselves our fullest potential and, by association, the fullest life—then we’re on to something. For his part, Ram Dass doesn’t bemoan his new circumstance, but, rather, refers to it as a “grace.” Plus, he adds, he’s now got the ending to that book.
So it is for all of us; it’s all about choice. If we buy into our circumstances, and the labels that go along with them, we limit ourselves in a hundred different ways. By letting go of our labels and keeping sight of ourselves, even in the face of extreme adversity and fear, we are no longer prisoners, but become the keepers of the keys to the universe and all the magic, mystery and potential it holds forth — the same magic, mystery and potential that lives inside each of us and, most importantly, lives inside of you.