Stop “Awfulizing”

You’ve been told “It’s cancer.” I have deep compassion for you. I fully appreciate your feelings. I’ve been there, too.

First, you’re in shock and filled with fear. The next moment you’re angry but not quite certain at what or whom. Then comes the thoughts of, “How did this happen? Why me?” Even the guilt starts to creep in. “Did I bring this on myself?” Plus all the questions have started to rush through your mind: “Will I die?” “How long do I have?” “What will happen to my family?” And on and on and on. Your mind is overwhelmed at times.

Be calm. Try not to panic. I know that this is easier said than done. But be aware that panic will only inhibit rational and positive action.

Cancer is a serious illness, but it is not necessarily fatal. You do have the luxury of some time. Unlike a severed artery, cancer does not require you to do something this very instant, A hurried response, based in the emotions of fear and panic, is neither required not preferred. In fact, a hurried response may be harmful. Don’t take that as a license for inaction, however.

Stop and examine your frenzied thoughts for just a moment. It is at the beginning stages of this journey that clear decision making will be most important. With these early decisions, you will ensure that your illness is properly treated. Panic acts only to your detriment.

Panic is a mental phenomenon, a response to our beliefs about cancer being frightful and overpowering. The process can accurately be labeled as “awfulizing.” Isn’t that an apt description? When we awfulize, we mentally take our current situation to its worst possible conclusion.

If we will objectively observe our emotions for just a moment, we will see something different from initial appearances. The intense panic that virtually every cancer patient experiences is actually the mind projecting its fears about the unknown future. Think about it, and understand this truth: Panic is caused by the mind. It’s an assumption. It is not based on material fact.

Our fear-filled thoughts do not necessarily determine out future. We have a choice. This is a profound healing insight.

What to do when you start to feel anxious emotions arising inside? Try to witness them. Just observe. You may want to give those emotions a image. View them, and yourself, in your mind’s eye. Instead of putting yourself in the role of a victim who is hopelessly caught in a web of panic and despair, become the observer. By not engaging the mind in battle, by simply watching the emotions and letting go, your panic will soon subside.

For example, Gwen Clement said she gave her fears a name. She would catch herself becoming anxious and say, “Hey, Mr. Fear. What are you doing here? Get out of my life.” Then she would replace that fear with a short prayer of gratitude. “Thank you, God, for giving me long life.”

I encourage you to do the same, to develop your version of speaking to your fears, to literally tell them to go away. Then always end by imagining yourself as a victor. Give yourself an image of a competent and confident person who is about to make some very important choices. Clear decision-making can and will be yours.

An Important Thing You Can Do

Sit down, Take a deep breath. Say out loud, “Cancer does not mean death.” Observe your emotions, Detach by separating who you are as a person from the emotional panic you may be feeling. You are not uncontrolled fear even though you may be experiencing fear. Understand that difference. –Cancer: 50 Essential Things to Do, Copyright Greg Anderson