We dedicated this episode of our Creating Health series to the first step on your journey to healing MS. This first step is not only important for those diagnosed with MS but also to move forward from any kind of significant change that was unexpected—such as COVID 19, a loss, getting fired, or going through a breaking up.
Preparation for the Journey
c When we get diagnosed with a scary chronic disease, get laid off, lose our partners, or even need to change our lives because of a pandemic, we grieve. And just as grieving the loss of a loved one has five stages of emotions that we move through, being diagnosed and losing our old lives is no different.
The Five Stages of Grief
The five stages of grief are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and, ultimately, acceptance. Unfortunately, many of us continue to experience these stages without ever coming to completion. Yet, until we complete the grievance and accept our present state, we cannot fully move forward (instead, we continue to bargain, get angry when what we are doing doesn’t work, get depressed and feel helpless, etc.).
“We cannot change anything unless we accept it.” – Carl Jung
Accepting multiple sclerosis does not mean you like it or agree with it. Accepting it will allow you to see where you are without judgment and move forward.
Getting to Acceptance
In this month’s video, Eva M Clark walks us through a process (adapted from Edith Stauffer Forgiveness Process) to move quickly through the five stages of grief. Do this exercise using a journal to write down your answers if you can. To start, decide what you want to accept so that you can move forward on your healing journey (MS, Coronavirus, a divorce, trauma, etc.).
Step 1. Begin by Blaming it.
Tell it what you don’t like about it (be specific) and all that that has caused.
Step 2. Now continue with all the “Should have’s…”
Tell it what should have happened instead.
Step 3. Now write about all the negative thoughts you have about it and how it makes you feel.
Tell it how you treat it and yourself because of all the negative thoughts you have about it.
Example: I blame MS for making my life so difficult. It made me lose my job. My body should have supported my efforts in making this promotion work! Because I wasn’t able to stay in that job and succeed, I feel helpless, and my negative thoughts are that I am not good enough for any job.
A Short Story on Accepting What Is Without Judgement or Negative Thoughts
There is a Taoist story of a farmer who had only one horse. One day, the horse ran away. The neighbors of the farmer quickly come over to console the farmer over his terrible loss. However, they are surprised by his remarks, “What makes you think it is so terrible?”
A month later, the horse returns home, bringing with it two beautiful wild stallions. The neighbors become excited at the farmer’s good fortune. Yet again, they were surprised when the farmer remarks, “What makes you think this is good fortune?”
Not long after, the farmer’s son is thrown from one of the wild horses and breaks his leg. Again his neighbors quickly exclaim, “Oh, what bad luck!” to which the farmer responds, “What makes you think this is bad luck?”
War erupts in nearby lands, and the young men of the land go into battle. Only the farmer’s son remains due to his broken leg. The neighbors congratulated the farmer for his luck. “What makes you think this is good luck?” replies the farmer once again.
Releasing the Negative Thoughts Towards Multiple Sclerosis
We are going to become like the farmer – release the negative thoughts or judgments about what has occurred. It is neither good nor bad. It just is.
Step 4. To do so, take a moment, close your eyes, and ask yourself, “How or who would I be without any negative thoughts towards this?” No interpretation or no judgment. Observe it.
“Most of our stress and suffering comes not from events, but from our thoughts (about the events).” – Martha N. Beck
The First Step on Your Healing Journey – Acceptance
Now that we have released negative thoughts regarding it, we can begin the acceptance process.
Step 5. In the same journal, look at all the ‘should have’s’ you wrote down. And now for each one, write:
” Even though I would have preferred it _________;it didn’t. So, I cancel my expectations. I accept that I was full of expectations, and I accept what is.”
Example: Even though I would have preferred that my body had kept up with the demands of my new promotion, it didn’t. So, I cancel my expectations. I accept that I was full of expectations, and I accept what is.
To move forward, we need to know what we truly value and cherish. Many times we think that we want what we lost. We don’t complete the grieving process because we close ourselves to ever getting what we cherish most in other ways. Are you willing to imagine what you truly want and allow life to bring it to you in whatever form is correct for you now?
What do you want to bring forward?
Step 6. Make a list of what you truly valued, the qualities, and the things that were special of that which you lost. What about it did you value?*
Examples: job = having a purpose, being helpful, feeling acknowledged. A partner = kindness, companionship, sharing, and closeness. Life before the pandemic = having a schedule, connection, freedom, touch, etc.
We can get boxed in thinking that there is only one way to have the things we desire: we must be married; have to be physically strong; and/or need to have a high profile paid job; etc. But there are so many more ways to achieve what we truly desire. And when we open up to the possibilities, miracles can happen.
Envision your future
Step 7. Envision a future with all the ways that those things we value can show up. Make the images vague (as we can’t be sure of what the future brings), but very bright and exciting. Create several different forms that that value/quality can take in your future. You want to engage the subconscious and get it excited. Once it’s engaged and understands your interests, your subconscious can then find those things for you in an infinite number of ways. That’s its job!
Now close your eyes, if they aren’t already, and imagine your timelines as a path in front of you leading into your future. And now imagine taking all those images you created, duplicate them, and mix them up like playing cards. Now take the cards and toss them onto that timeline path so that they land in different places and different times. Notice them there. The journey of healing has now begun.
*Adaptation from Steve Andreas’s (NLP) grief process.
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