Positive Attitudes aren’t Automatic
My crash set me on a learning process wherein I discovered Attitude’s role in adapting to change. Before my crash, I didn’t have a clue how huge one’s Attitude is in determining whether we adapt or are devastated by change.
During the process of learning to accept the sudden changes forced on me, I acquired many tools to fortify what is today my most important and powerful possession, my Attitude.
Because of the extremely important role one’s surroundings play in determining whether one has an accepting Attitude, I believe that controlling my Attitude eases the discomfort forced on me by change.
Discovering the changes Viktor Frankle faced empowered me to face my changes. The two most basic and important differences between my experience on the rehab floor and Viktor Frankl’s well documented experience in concentration camps were that:
- We rehab patients were surrounded by people who had our best interests in mind. Feeling cared about and caring about others strongly impacts our Attitudes.
- We rehab patients had plenty of nutritious food and warm comfortable surroundings. Although a positive Attitude could only help someone lacking these basic needs, adequate food and safety makes a positive Attitude easier to achieve.
- Two basic and important similarities of rehab patients’ and concentration camp inmates made comparing our experiences a bit eerie. The first similarity was the shock all of us felt. Frankl describes shock running through the former citizens–in-good-standing as they were reduced to prisoners who were treated worse than rabid animals. I was similarly shocked. Didn’t people know who I was? Why were folks treating me like I was some nameless cripple? I had a history. I had been…
Although we patients were never subjected to cruel treatment, the similarity I noticed right off was the shock we both felt. Sure, I’d known that crashing a motorcycle could, and often does, result in life changing injuries, but I never imagined it would happen to me. Things like this always happened to someone else.
Many of the people in concentration camps, myself, and many of the people I’ve spoken with who experienced life changing trauma and time on a major hospital’s rehab floor report experiencing what psychologists refer to as “Delusions of Reprieve.”
Dr. Frankl said that he and his fellows clung to any shred of hope that could possibly mean that things weren’t going to be so bad after all. I remember clinging to self manufactured hope that I was either dreaming or being tested, that none of what was happening to me was actually real.
Relative apathy is the second phase—an emotional death—Dr Frankl says prisoners felt as their hopelessness dawned on them. Apathy, the giving up as hopeless, is definitely a stage trauma survivors can also pass through. My apathetic stage gradually gave way to feelings of non concern in regards to how or what other people felt or thought. My entire awareness seemed consumed by my own need or wants. During this phase of my recovery, I experienced overwhelming bouts of self pity and extreme impatience at anything or anyone that kept me from getting something I wanted.
The shock, denial, bargaining, anger and apathy and any other phases of negativity some people say traumatic accident survivors initially go through aren’t even clear to me. During my hospital stay, all I remember is feeling extreme fear, anger and depression.
By the time I got out, I was solidly into the depression mode. Hopelessness and helplessness engulfed me. I had no idea how to improve my life. I’m ashamed how I let my circumstances dominate me. Now was the time to man up and comfort my fiancée, but I didn’t do it. Because I didn’t step up to the plate and take one for the team, because I didn’t give my fiancée the comfort she needed, I didn’t get the strength comforting another gives us and our relationship didn’t survive.
- Things don’t always happen to someone else.
- Change is the only constant.
- Positive Attitudes make dealing with change easier.
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