Thursday, 17 January 2013

Reacting to a Parkinson's diagnosis

It is natural to rage against unfairness and injustice when faced with a diagnosis of Parkinson’s. But such rage is self-defeating; it is based on someone being responsible for your thrownness (which includes Parkinson’s) but thrownness is blameless. Such targetless rage is therefore potentially endless. How do you choose to react differently?

Reacting differently is built upon the recognition that there is space for an alternative. If rage is seen as the only legitimate reaction, backed up by the immediacy of powerful emotion and habitual thinking, then the recognition that it is only one possible reaction won’t be achieved. To see the space available requires you to also be in the audience to your own thoughts and to question everything.

Emotions are powerful but inaccurate mediators of a situation; they deal in broad brush strokes and tend to narrow thought and demand immediate action. But, even in the midst of emotion the mind can still work with a finer tipped paint brush to determine in greater detail the implications of a situation and a path through it. Emotions can become self-perpetuating if they are not challenged by thought; for example, negative emotions generate negative thoughts that, in turn, generate negative emotion. The pivot in the perpetuation of emotion is thought; this gives us the opportunity to change emotion by changing our thoughts. The supremacy of emotions needs to be challenged since emotions may not be the best interpreters of the situation you are facing and thinking differently can change emotions.

Extracting yourself from the demands of emotion is difficult yet important in choosing a reaction. Stepping back and seeing space for you to impose your mind and voluntarily move into a reaction, while resisting being led by the nose to where emotion wants to take you, is crucial. This does mean that you take responsibility for your reaction. However, you continue to be in the audience to your thoughts to monitor and change you reaction if it becomes necessary.

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