things went south in the blink of an eye
An Accident Derails Max’s Life
In a split second Max fell off a ladder, shattered a lumbar disc, ruined his prospects for marriage, and derailed his journey towards a successful career as a mechanical engineer. He was livid. The shock of the accident kept his rage at bay. His angry energy was absorbed by interminable doctor’s visits, surgeries, and fights with his insurance company for health benefits. A law suit conveyed his fury at the negligence of his employer for non-compliance with workplace safety codes.
photograph copyright, Jeanette Raymond, Ph.D.
supportive fronds of love and care interfered with Max’s anger
Cocooned in a Chrysalis Where Resentment Festers
Max was bathed in support and sympathy from his family, fiance and friends. They rallied around and helped him get through the first year of struggle for recovery. Together with his pain medications and physical therapy, the network of people caring for him acted as buffers against his volcanic fury. Cocooned in this chrysalis his outrage and resentment swelled into a festering reservoir of hate, waiting to explode.
Self-fulfilling Prophecies come true
Frozen in a time warp, Max couldn’t respond to his fiance’s eagerness to face the challenges ahead and adapt their plans for the future. Her encouraging comments felt like jabs, pushing him to get back on his feet before he was ready. Convinced that it was only a matter of time before she got tired of his back injury, he anticipated the break up of their engagement. He goaded her about the genuineness of her commitment to him until it wore her down. His self-fulfilling prophecy came true. She left him.
Max is Lonely and Isolated
Max’s friends called, visited, and made arrangements to take him out. He couldn’t bear to witness them getting ahead while he was standing still. He turned down invitations and made excuses for not accepting visitors. Eventually the calls and visits dropped off, and Max became increasingly isolated.
Life Goes From Bad To Worse
Physicians and surgeons tried one thing after another to help heal the disc. They didn’t know why he wasn’t responding to state of the art surgery and rehabilitation. The insurance company refused to cover any more experimental treatments. Physical therapy offered little hope for improved mobility. The legal battle provided some compensation but no where near enough to cover medical bills, let alone living expenses.
Indignation and Outrage Erupt
Max ranted and raved at his incompetent doctors, his lawyer who didn’t win bigger, his fiance who abandoned him and his friends who forgot him. Indignation, outrage, and pure vengeance competed with his physical pain for his attention. The festering reservoir of hate now had concrete legitimate targets to aim at, in ever increasing numbers.
The Power Of The Victim
Max felt powerful in his role as a victim. It gave him the right to blame all his carers for ever, and avoid facing the terror of starting his life over. If he couldn’t be the colorful and vibrant butterfly he was destined for, there was no way he was going to emerge from his chrysalis. He would rather let his larva dry up and rot than change course and make himself into a new and equally striking butterfly.
Anger and victim hood isn’t the only choice
Transition To a New Life Was Treachery
Max wanted the world to stop at the precise moment before his fall. Responding to medications, surgeries and encouragements would be a betrayal of his prior life. Max allowed his body to be treated, but his soul was absent. He didn’t want to participate fully and become a traitor to his hopes and ambitions. Transition to a new life was treachery. By keeping his prior existence on life support, Max sabotaged his chances of getting better. His physical pain and mobility problems became the symbols of the past he refused to let go of, and a future he refused to acknowledge.
Max has a choice. He can continue this death watch or he can begin the mourning process. Grief and mourning are the key to choosing vitality rather than victim hood. The first entryway to mourning is often anger. Rage has enormous energy and if aligned with the desire for life, it will act as a resurrecting force. Max has a right to be angry. Taking it out on his family and doctors is counterproductive. Harnessing the anger into a fighting spirit boosts his immune system, jump starts the healing process and encourages his loved ones to maintain their support.
Christopher Reeves used his anger in the mourning process to set up stem cell research labs after he was paralyzed by a horse riding accident. Al Gore mourned the loss of the presidency by using the force of his anger and grief to become a Nobel prize winner. Both mourned, then made a meaningful new life that touched millions of people.
Max can’t accept the help of loved ones because he envied them. He will need psychotherapy to help him through the grieving process while empowering him to have richer and deeper relationships that will mitigate his loss. He can also find a new calling – how exciting is that !!