I just watched this insightful TED talk about perspective. The speaker, Rory Sutherland, asserts that circumstances mater much less than how we interpret them. Specifically, Sutherland says that the more control we feel over our circumstances the more satisfied we are. I completely agree.
This one idea is the bedrock of Chronic Resilience.
As you know, illness takes much of your control away. You have to give control up to doctors, symptoms, appointments, routines, and a host of other things. One thing that you will always have control over is how you see your circumstances. And that can make a huge difference in how stressed you are about your situation.
I have definitely seen this in my own relationship with illness. The times that I’ve viewed my illness as a misfortune have been the days when I feel overwhelmed and fearful. On the other hand, when I find the strength to see illness in a different light I feel empowered.
A technique to change our perception of something is called reframing. A frame is what we see the picture through. A frame can add to the beauty of the picture or it can make everything look wrong, wrong, wrong.
Reframing is the conscious process of changing the “frame” through which we view the circumstance we’re looking at. It is a decision to change our viewpoint.
I’ve brainstormed 5 reframes that completely change the picture of illness.
- Illness is a much needed vacation. Human bodies need rest. Sometimes we don’t take it for ourselves in a timely manner; illness can be viewed as enforced relaxation.
- Illness is a wakeup call to focus on total health: mind, body and spirit. This is the view embraced by Kris Carr and many other health activists.
- Illness is a reminder to trust in faith. Needing to let go of control requires trust, lots of it. Illness can be seen as an opportunity to learn more about your faith and trust in higher powers.
- Illness is an opportunity to change directions. For many becoming sick is the push they need to finally do what they feel passionate about. Like it or not, illness is a reminder that our time on earth is finite and what we do with it counts.
- Illness teaches love. This one has resonated with me for many years. I have seen countless moments of unconditional love while I’m dealing with health stuff. I’ve seen it in my caregivers, doctors, family, friends and even by me toward my own body. Illness requires that we give of ourselves and that is what love is all about.
Of course the view you take about your illness depends on what illness you have and what else is going on in your life. Reframing is simply an invitation to know that there are ways to look at something.
Even though illness can be burdensome, it doesn’t have to be seen as a burden in totality. It can be seen as an invitation to wake up to our lives.
Each day illness reminds me of just how precious it is to be alive, and everything looks better in that frame.