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How to Cope When Bad Things Happen to Good People Like Us

When something bad and painful happens in our lives, many of us ask, “Why me? What did I do to deserve this? After all I am a good person and I prayed to God, why weren’t my prayers answered?” These questions can become more disturbing and more stressful than the problem itself. We place guilt on our shoulders and can’t let go of feeling like a victim. In addition to guilt we spend a great deal of time hoping. Although we need some hope to create an optimistic fuel to drive forward, if we hope for too much, we are setting ourselves up for disappointment. Also we rob ourselves of accepting and adapting to the immediate present. Human beings are beautifully engineered to adapt. We can live with many things…

True story: A young unmarried woman of thirty three was diagnosed with breast cancer and had a radical mastectomy. Her post surgical treatment which included radiation treatment caused lymphedema, an uncomfortable swelling of her arm. She received regular massage therapy to deal with this common after-effect. Not in her wildest dreams could she imagine the full outcome of her illness. She and her massage therapist fell in love and are engaged to soon be married! Out of adversity sprouted true love!

In early February 2004 an Australian study, “Optimism and Survival in Lung Carcinoma Patients,” stated that optimism in a group of patients with a specific type of cancer did not lengthen their lives. The conclusion: The role of optimism has been overrated in cancer survival. While this study undermines the role of positive thinking in healing, many physicians still support that positive thinking is effective in improving life quality. Dr. Abraham Verghese in a February 22, 2004 NY Times Magazine article explained that thinking we have supernatural, positive powers to drive away illness is simplistic. However, positive thinking helps one to live with an illness instead of die from it. Hope is a wonderful thing- Emily Dickinson called it “The thing with feathers.” However, we have to simplify our hope keeping it realistic and down to earth.

We need not stress about why something bad has happened. We need not feel burdened with guilt that we are sick and can’t cure our illness or that of our loved one’s because we have failed at tapping into our positivism and superior mental control. Rather genetics, environment and random events have created the situation. We can learn to live better. Here are some suggestions to balance out stress.For additional insight, mind/body prescriptions and physical exercises designed to overcome adversity please read the chapter Training for Trauma in my book Turn On Your Inner Light

Debbie Mandel, MA is the author of Turn On Your Inner Light: Fitness for Body, Mind and Soul, a stress-reduction specialist, motivational speaker, a personal trainer and mind/body lecturer at Southampton College. She is the host of the weekly Turn On Your Inner Light Show on WLIE 540AM in New York City , produces a weekly wellness newsletter, and has been featured on radio/ TV and print media. To learn more visit: www.TurnOnYourInnerLight.com

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