Thursday, 25 April 2013

Unconditional Positive Regard

Today's post was contributed by Dr Chong, a family physician who uses unconditional positive regard with her patients. She is a caring and compassionate person who has helped many cancer patients. I wish to thank her for sharing this article with us.

Unconditional positive regard is a term made popular by Carl Rogers. It is basic acceptance and support of a person regardless of what the person says or does. This type of communication is essential to healthy development. People who have not been exposed to it may come to see themselves in the negative ways that others have made them feel. Through this therapy patients eventually accept and take responsibility for themselves. By showing my patients unconditional positive regard and acceptance, I am providing the best possible conditions for my patients' personal growth.

 David G. Myers says the following in his Psychology: Eighth Edition in Modules:
People also nurture our growth by being accepting—by offering us what Rogers called unconditional positive regard. This is an attitude of grace, an attitude that values us even knowing our failings. It is a profound relief to drop our pretenses, confess our worst feelings, and discover that we are still accepted. In a good marriage, a close family, or an intimate friendship, we are free to be spontaneous without fearing the loss of others' esteem.
Unconditional positive regard can be facilitated by keeping in mind Carl Rogers' belief that all people have the internal resources required for personal growth. Rogers' theory encouraged other psychiatrists to suspend judgement, and to listen to a person with an attitude that the patient has within himself the ability to change, without actually changing who he is.
The concept of unconditional positive regard also has a simpler meaning outside of the therapist's goal to elicit change. It is the simple act of one individual accepting all traits and behaviors in another individual, as long as is it does not entail causing significant harm to oneself. The key word here is "significant". If one states that "This person's behavior annoys me, and thus is causing me 'significant' harm", then unconditional positive regard is made subject to so many objections that it cannot exist. Thus, finding a person's behavior/beliefs reprehensible when they pose no threat of harm to oneself or others, is incompatible with unconditional positive regard. To treat a flawed individual's otherwise harmless behavior or beliefs as cause to reject the individual's worth, morality and right to merit interaction with oneself, is a violation of the unconditional precept.

Monday, 22 April 2013

The Holistic Way

I have always had an interest in healing. Besides, diet and nutrition, I have special interest in the healing of the mind and emotions. As we are body, mind and spirit, I believe healing should encompass all three aspects because of their interconnectedness. The role of emotions and its effect on our health, for example, is an interesting area to look into. Along the way, to deepen my knowledge in this interesting area, I read books, follow my friends' journeys as well as enrol in courses on healing, when my schedule permits.

The area of alternative medicine is often said to be lacking in scientific backing. There are many claims and testimonies of people being healed from various therapies, some very costly. Generally, people find it easier to trust the advice of doctors who have been trained in mainstream Western medicine. The purists, i.e those who rely fully on alternative medicine are a minority.  Most people would use alternative medicine as a complementary therapy.

It was in 2006 that I learned that one of my friends had her spleen removed due to a rare blood condition.  After the surgery, she tried to heal herself by following a strict organic vegetarian diet recommended by a famous Taiwanese health expert. The diet consisted of soup, salad, steamed vegetables, brown rice and sweet potatoes. She was very disciplined and positive throughout. However, she wanted more from her life and decided to undergo a bone marrow transplant. She succumbed to complications as a result of her body's rejection of the transplant. My group of friends and I were deeply saddened by her passing. 

Many readers here would also remember Chang, a friend who left us last September. On diagnosis, his doctor said that the cancer was already too advanced for chemotherapy to be of benefit. He said that he was stumped initially, not knowing what to do next. He was inundated with emails and suggestions until he came upon the Gersons Therapy.  Like many, I followed his journey from reading his blog. I was intrigued by the many therapies he tried. Because he was seeking different views, we would sometimes discuss his therapies.

When Chang first started out, he adhered closely to what he called the modified Gersons Therapy (because he could not get the full set of supplements here in Malaysia, then). However, over time, he too started to use oral chemotherapy drugs. He commented, on hindsight, that he should not have been so naive, i.e. he should have combined conventional  drugs wth his alternative therapies much earlier on. At one time, he also described himself as being very comfortable with reading scientific papers but lost when it came to emotions.

After Chang's death, I  wrote to his doctor, Dr Chong, whom he consulted for hypnotherapy services, to contribute an article to his blog. I shall post the article on this blog and hope that it will benefit those who are seeking to complement their healing. I will share her article in the next post. 

Friday, 19 April 2013

Going Home (End of Life Series)


I would like to to thank readers who have written to me here on this blog as well as emailed me recently about my father's condition. He is at home, recuperating. I was happy when my mother told me that he likes my little massages. We are trying to support him, to the best of our capability, as his children.

Ultimately, everyone of us, man or woman walk alone on our journey home. However, this journey can be made more meaningful. if we can also provide support, love and comfort during the transition. Paul McCartney was present with his children when his wife, Linda McCartney passed away after a battle with breast cancer. "The kids and I were there when she crossed over. They each were able to tell her how much they loved her. Finally, I said to her: ''You're up on your beautiful Appaloosa stallion. It's a fine spring day. We're riding through the woods. The bluebells are all out, and the sky is clear blue.'' I had barely got to the end of the sentence, when she closed her eyes, and gently slipped away.

I think most of us would want to die, surrounded by loved ones and familiar faces, if possible. If we can share our lives, why not share the final lap together also?  I would like to pray for the good health of everyone on this planet.. I pray also for all who are sick and suffering.

May suffering ones be suffering free
and the fear-struck fearless be.
May the grieving shed all grief,
and all beings find relief.

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Death - A Celebration of Life (End of Life Series)

I attended a talk by a bereavement care company today. We were spared the sales talk because the organisers, a hospice centre had given them instructions not to use the talk as a sales event. The speaker, a 38 year old man shared that by pre-planning one's own funeral, one's  family will be spared from having to take care of funeral arrangements at a time when they are grieving.  As all related payments would have been made earlier, the children would also be spared of financial  pressure. It is worthwhile considering, just so that those left behind will have an easier time.

He said that he realised how very precious life is, after the unexpected loss of his father. He revealed that his father had died of a sudden heart attack leaving his mother to cope alone, as the children were overseas. He used himself as an example, sharing that he had planned everything, right down to the selection of his photograph, his parting song by Jacky Cheung as well as written his own eulogy.  He wanted his funeral to be a celebration of his life.

Dr Elisabeth K├╝bler-Ross, was a psychiatrist and the author of the groundbreaking book  "Death and Dying". At the hospital where she worked in New York, she was appalled by the standard treatment of dying patients. “They were shunned and abused, nobody was honest with them”, she said. Unlike her colleagues, she made it a point to sit with terminal patients, listening as they poured out their hearts to her. She began giving lectures featuring dying patients who talked about what they were going through. She also dramatically improved the understanding and practices in relation to bereavement and hospice care. Her ideas, notably the five stages of grief model (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance), are also transferable to personal change and emotional upset resulting from factors other than death and dying.

I remember my grandmother educating me on  the importance of crying and wailing at the funeral of a loved one. She said that if this is not done, the dead person would be treated badly when they reach hell. From this, I gathered that she wanted the same to be done at her funeral. However, though I was very broken hearted, I did not wail at her funeral. My mother did.

Venerable Ajahn Brahm, in one of his talks on grief said  there is an alternative to grief. Not that grief is wrong, Only that there is another possibility. Loss of a loved one can be viewed in a second way, a way that avoids the long days of aching grief. When his father died, it was as if a great concert had finally come to an end. Though he knew in his heart that he would probably not get to be with him again, he didn’t feel sad; nor did he cry. What he felt in his heart was, “What a magnificent father! What a powerful inspiration was his life. How lucky he was to have been there at the time. How fortunate he was to have been his son. ”I felt the very same exhilaration as I had often felt at the end of one of the great concerts in my life. I wouldn’t have missed that for the world." he said.

Grieving is very much a personal thing.  The way we grieve is very dependent on our personality type and the culture to which we have been exposed.. It does not mean that a person who wails feels more than a person who does not.  The late Jacqueline Kennedy was very much admired because she was regarded as being very dignified in the way she carried herself during the death of her husband, John F Kennedy. My grandmother would have disapproved of her behaviour, though.

There is nothing wrong with grieving just as there is nothing wrong with viewing it as a celebration of life. It is our choice to make. Just choose the route that is most loving and beneficial  to ourselves. I would like to share this poem which I found to be comforting when I was grieving.  Death maybe the end of that life but not the relationship. Death is also not the end of love and loving. I have not stopped loving my late grandmother and former pets. And I believe, neither have they stopped loving me.

I Am Not Gone

Golden Flower Metal Art by Injete Chesoni 
I am not gone
I remain here beside you
Just in a different form
Look for me in your heart
And there you will find me
in our love which forever lives on

In those moments when you feel alone
Look for me in your thoughts
And there you will find me
in sweet memories that burn strong

Every time a tear
Forms in your beautiful eyes
Look up to the heavens
And there you will see me
Smiling down from God's glorious skies

~By Injete Chesoni

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

The Legacy We Leave Behind (End of Life Series)

From young, I have questioned some of the things taught to me and told to accept (because everyone else is doing so).  Why accept blindly just because everyone is doing so? Why not find out for ourselves? Most of the time, except for my stand on animals, I try to refrain from putting down my beliefs. I have learned over the years,  how unwise some views I held on to so stubbornly, had been. My beliefs are evolving as I learn more about life and I allow them to change as I go along.

There is always a reason why we hold on to any belief. It is usually because it serves a purpose at that stage of our lives. As we progress, we outgrow the limiting beliefs and  embrace more suitable ones. Thus, there is no need to blame ourselves for the past. We did the best that we could at that time. Similarly, the people who have hurt us, too, had some belief systems which caused hurt to others, unknowingly. Thus, we have to learn to exercise patience with ourselves and others.

The greatest work that needs to be done is on ourselves, not our enemies and not the world "out there".  Thich Nhat Hanh, the Zen Buddhist monk advised us to look deep into the suffering within us rather than that outside of us. And to transform that suffering within, from anger, bitterness and hatred into compassion. Otherwise, we will pass on this suffering to our future generations.

One of the benefits of voluntary work is that the suffering of others helps  evoke the compassion within us. We learn to be less self centered when we see the lives of the less fortunate. However, though very meritorious, it is not always necessary to be "out there" to realise compassion. It is very good if we can just start working on ourselves in our own homes. If I can only do that, I will reduce the negative energy in the world around me. To me, this can also be my contribution to the world.

Life is precious. We usually only realise this when the end of life is near. What have we done wth our lives? What do we plan to hand down to the future generations?  Is it only our material possessions or is the way we have lived our lives, that is a source of benefit to others? It pays to ponder.

Friday, 5 April 2013

The Rainbow Bridge (End of Life Series)

Death is not a part of life we spend much time thinking about. It is the realm of the unknown. And the unknown is usually frightening because it is so mysterious and inexorable. Yet, whether or not we wish to acknowledge it, there is always a reminder that it lurks somewhere in the horizon, unavoidable, because death is all around us.

From a human point of view, we wish not to lose our loved ones yet we definitely will. It is when the closest to us die that we feel the impact and the finality of it. I have lost my maternal grandmother, a few friends,  six kittens I tried but failed to save, Pansy, our first cat and Oreo, our first dog. Now, it is time  to prepare myself for the possible loss of my parents one day.

What does death mean? In scientific terms, it is the permanent cessation of all biological functions that sustain a living organism. Suddenly, the person ceases to be. Death is the closest concept we have of the unknown, of nothingness, the opposite or negation of life as we know it.

No one had talked to me about death before my grandmother died, whilst I was in my teens. It was unexpected. The heartache that went with saying goodbye to her defied description. We slept together in the same room for many years. Her absence and the sudden silence left a terrible hole. I wanted to reach out but she was no longer there. Where had she gone? 

The subjects of death and religion are inherently linked. In Buddhism, it is believed that death is not the end of life. It is merely the changing of forms, one manifestation to another. The Christians believe that after a person dies, he/she goes to heaven or hell. Thus, do we get to meet again one day in heaven (or hell)? Will we remember one another and the warmness we once shared?

"Would you know my name
If I saw you in heaven?
Would you feel the same
If I saw you in heaven?
I must be strong and carry on

Beyond the door there's peace I'm sure
And I know there'll be no more tears in heaven"

("Tears In Heaven" by Eric Clapton)

What about animals? Do they go to Rainbow Bridge after they die?
The Rainbow Bridge is the name of both the meadow and an adjoining bridge connecting it to Heaven. When a pet dies, it goes to the meadow. The pet plays, there is always fresh food and the sun is always shining. However, while the pet is happy, they miss their owner. When their owner dies, they come across the Rainbow Bridge. At that moment their pet runs to their owner's arms in joy while their owner looks into the eyes of their pet who was absent on Earth, but never absent in their heart. Then, they cross the Rainbow Bridge together into Heaven, never again to be separated.." source: Wikipedia

........ Or is it all just a hoax? Maybe it is just a big zero or nothingness after death? Experiences from people who experienced the near death process have shed some light into dying. However, death still remains a mystery.

No matter what our religion is, what does our heart say? Can we be real with ourselves? How much faith do we have in the spiritual texts? That death is but an illusion to the ignorant mind? If such be the case, why do people still fear death and why do we still grieve?

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

The Passage of Life

I visited my father daily when he was in the hospital. He was sedated for two days in the Intensive Care Unit. On the third day, I was informed that  he was conscious but his eyes were closed. When I greeted him, he opened his eyes  and I saw the look of recognition in them. He then closed his eyes again, and I saw a tear roll down his cheek. I had never seen my father cry before and overcome by emotion myself, I could only guess the reasons for his tears.

In all these years that I have been his daughter, I can honestly say that I don't know the man. He migrated from China in his teens and is what they call a "Chinaman." As a father, he rarely communicated with us, his children one on one.  Being hard of hearing now, it is even harder to talk.  I felt at a loss how to bridge the gap. I think many people communicate their love to their parents through service and gifts.  Ang paus, food, dinners and regular visits. It is not part of our Asian culture to hug and kiss or be touchy feely.

I did not come from a tactile family. My father had not hugged us since we were little children. However, at a time like this, apart from the visits, I wanted to communicate more. And to me, touch is a form of non-verbal communication that can  say as much as a lot of words. This is probably most obvious when someone you know is in trouble or in sorrow. Taking hold of his or her hand or putting an arm around the shoulder often is much more effective than words.   It can communicate warmth, support, understanding, compassion and love.

I decided that it is time, to be myself. Pride and ego has no place at time like this. I would make it a point to touch him or massage his shoulders and arms.  I even plucked the courage to stroke his face and hair. I told him in Cantonese that I loved him and we, the family loved him very much. I just wanted to be sure he knew, in case anything happened to him, that he was not alone and we cared for him.

Two days later, the doctor called for a morning meeting to brief  my brothers and me about my father's condition. He said that my father could be discharged but his heart was failing. We would have to decide whether we wanted to hook him onto a respirator the next time it happens or just give him oxygen and let him go. If her recovers, it is good but if he is unable to breathe on his own, no one has the right to take him off the machine and it could go on for weeks.  No one knows. What a decision to make. I left the meeting with a heavy, heavy heart that day.