Sad, Stoic or Stroppy?


When you got told your life-changing diagnosis, how did you react? How are you reacting now?

The answer to this depends on the nature of the baggage you're carrying into this new situation. That depends on two factors: your beliefs/values and your personality.

In most people, their beliefs/values are to them the contents of their soul, to be defended at all costs, and immune to facts, new information and challenges, which are aggressively fought off. Unless of course your beliefs/values are genuinely about seeking truth rather than what suits you to believe - not very common. This is the reason you should avoid discussing sex politics and religion in unregulated environments, particularly pubs. The irony is that your beliefs/values are constructs of your mind, your own personal map of reality, with no basis in genuine reality, because your experience is limited to where you are in time and space. Your map lacks almost all the information in the universe.

Your personality however is actually more solid. Unlike your beliefs/values, which have evolved with experience, your personality now is in most cases pretty much what its always been, unless distorted by trauma or highly intense experiences.

If you're now an arthritic, you have to square this with the beliefs/values you brought with you. If for example you're religious, you've now got to see it as all part of God's plan. If your God is a loving God, you now have to explain to yourself why He/She let this happen, along with all the other natural events that strike down nice people and innocent children. If you believe life doesn't owe you any favours however, you will respond differently to people who think bad things shouldn't happen to nice people.

But beliefs/values are only half the story. There is your own personality to contend with. If personality seems too nebulous to get your head round, it's easier understand by breaking down into "ingredients". There are five main ones:

Sensitivity - the response of your emotions to experience. Hypersensitive people get emotional at everything, hyperchilled people very little.

Behavioural - calm types don't make many waves, lively types want to stir things up.

Aggression - Passive people will tend to let things happen to them - aggressives are confrontational and will pick up a club the moment they sense a challenge - and use it.

Group attitude - independents internalize and would rather go it alone, team players need a group to express themselves in

Introversion/Extroversion - Introverts thoughts tend to be entirely about themselves, and prefer elites and intimacy with a few with whom they completely relate - they hate crowds. Extroverts are fascinated with everyone else and climb the walls without a crowd to be in.

If you now examine yourself against all these factors, you will have a good understanding of why you have responded to your diagnosis in the way you have, either with mourning/lamenting, stoic acceptance or a tendency to get stroppy.

Using myself as an example, my beliefs/values are positivity (glass half full) atheist, empiricist (if I can't measure it I will disbelieve it), scientific rather than spiritual and centre-right politics - democracy and the regulated free-market, personal responsibility, no handouts, law and order, bohemian tastes, artistic/racial/religious/political tolerance. My personality is hypersensitive, lively, very aggressive and group orientated, highly introverted. The upshot of this mix is that I am STROPPY!! This is however tempered by my deep sense of responsibility and thirst for truth, meaning I can be persuaded and talked down from the parapet if I am standing on one.

What about you? Understanding yourself, accepting yourself, and BEING yourself are key factors in coming to terms with the situation you find yourself in.