I am a planner, I love to analyze and strategize. I am a dreamer. And I do my best to be a realist in the midst of it all. So keeping that in mind…
Everywhere you look, it is easy to hear advice on how doing “xyz” will produce some favorable outcome in our lives. Our achievement oriented culture presents itself in a manner that suggests if we make the “correct” decisions and choices and “stay positive” while doing so, we can control outcomes. Certainly, how we live our lives and care for our bodies, etc., speaks to the resources that we may be able to lean on when the unexpected strikes. However, as there are no guarantees in this life, it is important not to be lulled into the false sense of security that we can simply insulate ourselves from suffering by making the “right” choices.
It’s a set up when we confuse the power of choice with the illusion of control.
This is a subject that I feel really passionate about, because when you have been diagnosed with something that threatens your life it is so easy to blame yourself for causing it. To ruminate about which of your individual actions or decisions that you made were the reason for why now you have this horrible disease. Raise your hand if you have ever felt that feeling guilty or ashamed has been productive to your psyche. I’m pretty sure that if we were in a crowded room, very few would raise their hands. And I have to admit, when I found out that I was positive for a genetic mutation, I did experience relief that my breast cancer hadn’t been “my fault”. It is disturbing, because while maybe I have been “absolved of my sins”, my children have a 50% chance of having inherited this mutation and therefore a higher chance of getting cancer in their lifetime. Clearly, that is not something I want for them.
So yes, I am very concerned with how our society confuses the power of choice with the illusion of control.
I am an advocate of making the wisest choices for our overall well being that we can. When I take care of myself through exercise, eating foods that nourish my body, and through maintaining healthy relationships, I know I give myself the best possible chance of facing adversity. This is the power of choice.
When I find myself being seduced by the illusion of control, to me it is a warning sign that I am really grappling with the dark night of the soul- whether it be the fear of being alone, the fear of losing freedom/control, the fear that our lives are meaningless, or the fear of dying.
So if you find yourself in a similar place, it’s a sign that you are in need of compassion and self care. It may be that your loved ones are grappling with the same dilemma- for these fears are universal. And it is so natural to want to try and solve the problem with something concrete. Yet matters of the dark night of the soul are rarely concrete. While it can be very uncomfortable to talk about these fears, starting the conversation is so important. Honestly sharing our fears creates the opportunity for connection. Every time we feel connection with one another, we have the opportunity to heal, to release, to strengthen, and to become resilient once more.
– Stephanie McLeod-Estevez, LCPC, is an art therapist and breast cancer survivor. She began Creative Transformations to help others who are healing from a life threatening illness or injury. Creative Transformations offers individual sessions in person or via Skype, as well as workshops and this weekly blog. Please visit our website to learn more: www.creative-transformations.com.