The Willingness to Hope and Cope – Building the Bonfire of the Soul
by Dr. A. Schaeffer-Pautz, M.D
The diagnosis of a serious illness can leave us feeling powerless, dismayed, and afraid. We may feel like a victim, slog through treatments, and worry about the outcome. Coping with illness this way is unsatisfactory and improves little merely by “being positive.” We need more insightful and effective ways of coping. Yet how can we be subjected to illness, even advanced disease, and not feel victimized? After all, doesn’t conventional wisdom consider disease to be an enemy? By developing a fuller, more encompassing attitude that steps out of victimization, we improve our odds. — We become active survivors.
We must act on a diagnosis appropriately. Overcoming is a process of deeds, requiring insight, courage, and willpower. Real energy and clout are needed to embrace and incorporate the seeming enemy. Handy for this struggle is a readily-available, inward force. If you will, the potent energy on tap for firing up the soul is Hope.
Fear is consciously countered by hope. Constantly refueling a positive attitude with hope stokes the inner fire higher. The more the fire burns, the greater courage becomes. When we witness fears being consumed, we are encouraged and empowered further. We may feel joy moving ahead.
Achieving a workable positive approach does not imply that a diagnosis should ever be ignored. No matter how hopeful we are, a problem ignored usually gets worse. Hope melts away fears, however, when it is properly supported with thought-out options. Understanding the options avoids false hopes.
All this is possible due to a certain magnificence. Because the inner life and its potential fire can be more encompassing than an illness, it is possible to contain and incorporate the diagnosis, to subsume the problem effectively within the inner life.
We know clinically in anthroposophic medicine(*) that an active, positive approach favorably influences an outcome. An optimum situation develops when we take charge and embrace an illness appropriately. As experience – the assimilation of a situation in life – gradually consumes the passive feeling of victimization, we become aware of more options. We grow from the encounter. The quality of life improves, encouraging strength while increasing potential results. In the sense of learning from an illness, we befriend an enemy – a well-known phenomenon among breast cancer “victims” turned survivors.
Our ability to cope with any situation requires composure. Anthroposophic medicine applies this process of engaging the will in a conscious, full-feeling manner. Balance in our daily deeds is achieved by the completeness of thinking, feeling, and willing working in harmony.
How to build a soul bonfire:
1. Affirm that life is good despite it all. Think positively into your feelings. Embrace your fear; acknowledge that it’s “OK” to be afraid, but inform the fear that it’s not the only feeling in town.
2. Hold the spark of joy – fire it up with hope into an all-sustaining hope. Focus your thinking not on ultimates, not on living or dying, concentrate instead on moving forward each day.
3. Renew your mental and physical fortitude. With the hope expanding, feel your way positively into your body, into your will. You may experience a fire-like quality literally, an expansive warmth flowing into your extremities.
Repeat as needed, allowing the steps to support each other. For example, the warmth in the willpower provides positive feedback to your feelings and thoughts. The effort feels good and you know (think about) its appropriateness. Maintain healthy willpower with a consistent daily rhythm, a good diet, and exercise.
Keeping hope on tap to fuel your fire may lead to a manageable outcome of an illness with proper treatment. The willingness to hope provides forward motion with renewed courage and vitality. The wisdom we transform into deeds of courage not only leads us out of victimization, this is in large measure essential to our very humanity. So too is wonder.
But of course, we all have to go some time. Dignity, joy, and a good quality of life are possible even to the moment of the great transition from this world. Individuals who are willing to cope with illness fully using the fire of hope can develop an amazing thankfulness for all that life offers.
(*) Anthroposophy (anthro-po-sophy) means the “wisdom of Man.” As a human-centered extension of conventional medicine, the anthroposophic approach incorporates the totality of the human being.
Note that this article is not intended to diagnose or treat. If you have a medical condition, please consult with your health care professional.
Dr. A. Schaeffer-Pautz, M.D. is a board certified internist and a board certified holistic medical doctor. Of about fifty anthroposophic physicians in America, Dr. Pautz is the only one in Florida. She heads the Persephone Healing Arts Center in Jacksonville Beach, Florida. The center provides wide-ranging services including unique adjunctive treatments for advanced diseases and extensive counseling. First-time visits are two hours or more. (904) 246-3583.