A Biased Mind's Approach to Disease
In this first blog entry I am going to give my best attempt to describe a behavioral pattern, that I routinely observe, that I feel leads to a great degree of dissatisfaction.
Do you wonder why everyone around you seems happy and healthy and you struggle with your health?
Robert is a patron of mine that spends most of our visits discussing various minor ailments. He is an average 45 year old man, slightly overweight, but in decent health. Much of his time is spent focused on career and fulfilling his free time with pleasurable activities like watching his favorite TV shows, enjoying dinners and parties with his friends, and his child's recreational activities. Robert confides that he thinks of his health often. He states, "I just don't fell well. I am always tired. I have terrible heartburn. My knees and back hurt all the time. I see these other people in my life getting along just fine and wonder why I feel so awful?" As his healthcare provider I reaffirm that he is overall in good health and not stricken with a disease, but I observe him, and many others, victims of their narrow focus.
The theory basically states that the behavior/existence/movement of an object is dependent upon the relative position and movement of the observer. For example, a person tossing a small ball inside the cabin of an airplane would describe the motion of the ball much differently than a person observing the ball being tossed from outside the cabin. Since, the individual tossing the ball inside the cabin is moving the same speed as the ball it does not appear to be moving fast. The observer outside the cabin would observe both the ball and the individual moving very fast. In the subject of physics, light can either be a wave or a particle based on which medium you observe it in.
Our subject Robert ability to observe others is quite limited by several social constructs. In general, most of us gather information of our peers based on what is readily available. Social media has certainly provided a lens into the lives of those around us. One could argue that social media is our largest and most in-depth peer database. We gather information from superficial interactions at children's sporting events, the occasional cocktail party, and gossip as well. Based on the available evidence, if your brain is anything like mine, you will connect the dots into a narrative that presents your subject in a positive or negative tone. But are you seeing the whole picture? No.
Although human beings have a much higher level of consciousness than other animals, there are similarities in behavior. Humans, like many mammals, often collect in packs. We tend to socialize with those that think similarly to us, look similar to us, and behave in a similar manner. Within our social construct we become quite responsive to social correction and modify our behavior to improve climb our social hierarchy, and remain a part of the pack. As far as health is concerned, some are keen at displaying strength and fitness. This may lead to admiration within the group and the behavior is enforced. Others may be keen on frailty, which will lead to sympathy amongst the group, and again enforced. The underlying fundamental health may be irrelevant, to a certain degree since the outward display is more likely a result of behavioral modification via social conditioning. It makes you wonder if Robert's social peers view him in a similar light? "Getting along just fine."
So, why does any of this matter? First, if our subject perceives himself negatively amongst his peers it will lead to repetitive negative thoughts about himself. He will likely continue to compare himself to others in his social group and may extend this even further to people he doesn't even know. He will project himself against, actors, athletes, successful businessmen and women to his dismay. If he doesn't know his own social circle to great depth, he certainly does not know these characters. He will ultimately lose in all of these comparisons, since he does not have the whole story, leading further and further into self depreciation; distracting himself the entire time from his own story. He may end up looking to the heavens and shouting "WHY ME?"
Second, and far more dangerous, the pursuit of the answer to "Why Me?" When you perceive yourself to have disease, when in actuality you don't you are now exposed to new risks.
The truth, we all suffer. We suffer a great degree throughout our lives. The suffering tends to compound as we age. I would argue this isn't a bad thing. In fact, it is essential to humanity. An animal may feel pain or loss and suffer from these things. But it lacks to capacity to recognize it as suffering and question why, or how to stop it. Humans have capacity to recognize the source of suffering, and degree of suffering from various events. It drives innovation, inventiveness, and resource fullness. The advancement of the species. Love in a sense, could be, the recognition of suffering in another, and the desire to ease it with your whole heart. It is by design. So, it is going to happen to you, in many forms. Not only you, your neighbor, favorite actor, and the homecoming queen from high school will face it.
So, when several professionals can't figure out what's wrong with you; Say to yourself, "Thank goodness, I'm blessed to be free from serious disease. What I'm feeling isn't going to kill me. I have time to improve." Instead of, "I'm a medical mystery and doomed to disease for the rest of my life."