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Life sucks - just accept it

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Every now and again, you come across a light bulb moment in your life, when your chaotic inner thoughts and hunches are suddenly given a lease of life, and you can confidently reorganise them into a nice acronym. Admittedly, this usually happens in freshers’ week at university when we are high on our newly found independence and the fumes from the anatomy dissection room.

So it came as somewhat of a surprise to me when I totally identified with, and connected to, a psychological therapy I read about whilst preparing for a teaching session.

ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy) works on the principle that most psychological suffering is caused by experiential avoidance, and strategies are taught to face this suffering head on. In other words, it is therapy based on the well known serenity prayer – to accept what is out of your personal control and commit to action that will improve your life.

The reason this resonates so well with me is because I have increasingly wondered why, as a society, we have become less and less tolerant of any type of physical or mental pain. Admittedly, we are a long way on from the founders of stoicism in Ancient Greek times, but there is much we can learn from them when we reach out for a pill for every ill.

The principles of stoicism are self-control, calm, acceptance of fate and indifference to fame and fortune. It is the acceptance of normal human emotion that modern society has the most trouble with. It’s as if we are trying to cleanse ourselves of the feelings of fear, loneliness and grief and emerge unscathed in this sanitised society.

Health professionals are, in part, to blame for this medicalization of normal emotion, by accepting a culture of medical dependency and legitimising it with sick notes. An ACT therapist would acknowledge the emotion, normalise it and encourage strategies to face the pain in order to move on.

So the next time your patient asks you for a prescription to help get through their redundancy or divorce, ask yourself – ‘How would I feel in this situation?’ The chances are you would feel very similar. Yet the pressures placed upon us by society mean that it is almost impossible to resist the desire to alleviate pain and distress; even if it is non-pathological.

Unfortunately, the truth is that life sucks sometimes and we just have to ‘Accept’ it, face our pain head on and commit to a better life.

Dr Shaba Nabi is a GP trainer in Bristol

 

 

 

Readers' comments (11)

  • Also known as "Country & Western Syndrome" - Daddy's in the jailhouse, Granny's looking sick and the dog ain't too well either..

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  • Interesting read. There may be a varied generational response to sig life events. Food for thought...

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  • I find comments 9.20 and 4.10 very odd. Firstly Dr Nabi is not talking about psychological therapies in general but one in particular that to my knowledge is not used in the NHS. You have had a bad experience of some psychological therapy - so it's all dangerous? Should every good doctor now tell their patients not to have any counselling because of your experience? very odd.
    I happen to agree with everything said here. I prescribe plenty of antidepressants; but when I don't think it is appropriate it is remarkable how many times the patients says that was exactly what they thought and a chat with someone is all they needed. It is much easier just to write out a prescription and agreeing that life is tough, but recognising that it will get better (basically empathising) is all that is needed.

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  • Spot on Shaba. Well said. Many people do need help but a larger number just want to medicalise all the problems in their life and want the doctors/ therapists to help out, rather than sort it themselves. People die, businesses fail, loved ones betray us, money is lost, floods happen just as shit does, in a predictable pattern sometimes, and we do have to learn to face such calamities. By all means have a moan or a temporary breakdown and take sedatives or even antidepressants, but within a few months pulkl yourselves up and move on. Notice how we doctors are never expected to feel low or meidcalise our emotional/financial problems, but with a steely glint in our eyes turn up everyday because people have been told to GANFYD.

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  • Correction : Pull and not Pulkl & medicalise and not meidcalise. God! The spelling mistakes. I must see my GP Dr Nabi tomorrow and see ifs he can prescribe me something for my embarrasment here and maybe put me on certs for a while too whilst she is at it, as deep lobster red embarrasment can take many years to cure , I hear.

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  • I have no problem with doctors 'having a chat' about the normal vicissitudes of life, but Nabi seems to be eulogising a psychological therapy to add to the growing number of colourful ones in the alphabet soup (CAT, CBT, DBT . . ) without acknowledging that the deep subconscious reason these people become therapists is to deal with their own problems through others, and this is a slippery slope to being lured into a manipulative cult. That is quite different to having a direct, equal chat with a patient.

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  • Oh I see, all therapists want is to lure you into their manipulative cult. I understand now.
    Although I don't remember any of my patients who have seen counsellors being lured into manipulative cults. They probably were just very lucky!

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