Friday, 4 January 2013

Feeling guilty

The Parkinson sufferer and their family and friends can all feel guilty about the presence of the disease. I believe this arises out of feelings of helplessness. The sufferer may feel guilty about unintentionally burdening their family and friends with the difficulty of the disease. Family and friends may feel guilty about being unable to help their loved one. I am sure all involved wish that the disease hadn’t touched their lives. But, given the chronic nature of Parkinson’s, this wish, although very understandable, misses the reality of the situation.

What can be done to counter the feelings of helplessness? Heidegger’s idea of thrownness can be useful here. Thrownness describes the state in which you exist. Examples of thrownness include whether you are male or female, have dark or light skin or are susceptible to Parkinson’s. These things were laid down before you were born as part of the process that threw you into the world. No one could have changed these characteristics. Thrownness is blameless. No one should carry the guilt of blame. The state in which you exist just is.

It may seem strange but the major part of what you are was created without any conscious control (yours or anybody else’s). This seems to increase the helplessness! However, there is a crucial aspect of our thrownness the feelings of helplessness ignores. We can react in the right way to the situation; this is where real control resides. Thrownness, because it includes this ability, is not a rigid life sentence. There is space for individuality within your thrownness. You can’t control what you are but you can control who you are.

With this in mind, maybe the sufferer and their family and friends can empower themselves by learning about Parkinson’s, approaching the challenges with openness, honesty and mutual support, showing each other that the disease is manageable and can be adapted to, that life continues after a diagnosis. Therefore, all involved can feel empowered when walking on Parkinson’s terrain, ready to react to what is encountered along the way!

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