troubled bodiesIt seems that in much of the ‘anglo-saxon’ world, we have lost the facility of bodily communication we enjoyed in childhood. Children don’t seem to play together as much as they did, people tend to work alone. Has our society become so densely populated that we no longer know each other well enough to risk bodily communication. People crowd together on the ‘tube’, their bodies not quite touching, but they don’t communicate. Their eyes look at their mobile phones or stare into space, their expressions neutral or defensive. And if they inadvertently touch, they immediately apologise.

We are living in a narcissistic age. Perhaps in reaction to population density, people are focussed on personal achievement, being special in a crowded world. They advertise ourselves on social media. They desperately seek connection but at the same time, fear it. With an educational system geared towards self actuation; being or working together can be difficult.

One of the hardest problems is how to connect with people of different genders, ages, classes, races, languages. How can we bridge the gap between men and women when men are so often seen as aggressors and women victims? How can we learn to understand people of alternative gender identities? How can we connect with people of different races in a time of racial abuse and terrorist attacks? How can people bridge the inequalities of class and education? These are the existential problems of our time; the pain and the tragedy. It can be so difficult to negotiate connection.

Perhaps it is not surprising that bodies are so diverse and unstable. We not only have a range of unexplained bodily illnesses and a variety of gender identities, we have a surfeit of obese bodies that seem to express need and anorexic bodies that defend against intrusion, and assert self sufficiency. Food has become a challenge to the postmodern body

The feminist psychoanalyst, Susie Orbach, claims that girls grow up ashamed of their own body, perhaps mirroring their mothers obsessions with dieting. She describes girl’s bodies are provisional; they use gyms, diets and plastic surgery to reshape an unsatisfactory body, and clothes, hair styles, make-up and jewellery to refashion it. Their bodies are commodities to be exploited by the food industry, cosmetics industry, clothes industry and plastic surgery. Consumers from a very young age, they are driven to achieve that perfect body. The body, in turn, has become objectified and politicised; it does not so much express a sense of self; only an impression of the prevailing culture. There is a dissociation between being a body and having a body.

bodylanguageWhen we engage with somebody, we tend to see it as a relationship between two minds, but it is also a relationship between two bodies. We pick up what the other is feeling and vice versa; we tune into subliminal signals, like their facial expression, rate of breathing, involuntary movements, colour of the skin, sweating and even their bowel sounds. We respond to changes in posture, nuances of gesture. We can even tell whether a smile is genuine or not or whether sympathy is heartfelt. A lexicon of feeling is revealed on our faces and acted out in our bodies. In my callow youth, I thought I could ‘read whether a girl liked me by the colour of their ears – but I often got it very wrong.

These bodily signals are unconscious. We don’t think about them; they just happen. There is a direct line from the emotional brain to the body. Shame, desire, guilt, sadness, fear, anger, boredom, tiredness are all expressed in our face and the rest of our body. Without saying anything, we can feel whether we like or dislike somebody, whether we can trust them or not, whether we ‘fancy’ or desire them, whether we fear them and whether they irritate us.

And the feeling’s mutual. If we connect with someone, we tend to match our communications through mutual eye contact and facial expression (smiling, laughing, concern, sympathy, anger, fear, desire). We learn how to defuse anger or calm anxiety with a glance and a relaxed posture. Even when we cannot see our companion’s face, we can demonstrate the nature of our connection through our bodies. People who are attuned to each other unconsciously mimic each others posture and gestures, walk in step, and can match each others actions and movements like cooks, team mates, dancing partners or lovers. And as our bodies tune in to each other, so nervous synapses in our brain form, disconnect and re-form, changing our bodily repertoire moment by moment.

An intertwining of personal histories.

We start to learn how to be in infancy, a process of imprinting that utilises mirror neurones, special neurones that encode the expressions and actions of others and can reproduce them. Interactive regulation becomes auto regulation – the way a person is treated as a child becomes how they respond to cues and treat themselves and others as an adult. Transactional Analysis claims that patterns of relating are learnt, initially from our parents and close relatives, then from friends, teachers, people we admire and intimate partners. Like permanent memory traces or engrams, they encode how we interact with others and in different situations.

Emotions are exhibited through our bodies and only later expressed in language. We only have to glance at someone across a crowded room to know whether it feels safe to talk to them. Usually we can find the right words to express what we feel, but in some situations there is a dissociation between the two. Politicians can talk the talk, but the mismatch between what they say and their facial expression may tell us we cannot trust them.

A Quiet Revolution

There is a quiet revolution taking place in psychotherapy – a movement from mind to body. Recent insights from neuroscience have shown how often life trauma, which few of us escape, may be expressed through the bodily symptoms but not acknowledged in conscious thought. Research has also demonstrated how communication can take place between human brains without language.

Psychoanalysis was always about the relationship between the mind and the body. Freud claimed that things that cannot be thought about may be expressed through the body, though more recently body mind psychotherapists, such as Susie Orbach, tend to consider that trauma is expressed in the body before it can be brought to mind and thought about. The body can, in many different ways, influence the mind.

Psychotherapy, the listening cure, has for too long been caught up in its own arcane language and abstinent attitude. Yet many studies have shown that effectiveness is based, not so much on what the therapist says, but more on the feeling relationship that is established between the therapist and the client. The therapist is not just ‘the brain box in the corner’, observing, judging, interpreting. Talking can sometimes get in the way and may even re-traumatise. We are all influenced by the emotional state of others. Intuition, our proprioceptive and visceral consciousness, is our sixth sense. Therapists need to engage with their body as well as their mind; they have to be aware of their own gut feelings so they can discern what is created with their client.

People who have been traumatised often don’t know and can’t talk about what has happened to them. There is often a disconnect between mind and body. A person may say one thing while their body expresses another, though it is the always the body that ‘tells the truth’. Thus the feeling of what happened can only be accessed and resolved by observing and working though the body.

Body based therapies are more spontaneous than reflective. Sensorimotor psychotherapy is a talking therapy that does not so much explore the narrative of past events but observes the changes that take place in their client’s body and uses those to draw attention to what is happening now and how to control them. These include changes in facial expression, posture, involuntary movements and even intestinal squeaks and growls.

This needs to be done with great sensitivity since if a client gets too close to the reality of what happened, it may traumatise them all over again, making them panic or shut down. So the therapist monitors the level of arousal in the clients body using their own intuition and works just inside the window of tolerance. If it looks like their client is becoming agitated, they will pause the discussion and use deep breathing or yoga to bring the mind back on line. If, on the other hand, their client begins to shut down and dissociate, they will bring them back into the window of tolerance by getting them to stand up, stamp their feet or move around.

The acceptance of mindfulness meditation, sensorimotor psychotherapy, eye movement desensitisation and reprogramming (EMDR) and emotional freedom technique (EFT) has prompted a rapprochement between talking cures and a range of body based complimentary therapies. Many holistic therapies can be helpful in modulating levels of arousal to where clients can think with safety, reduce symptoms and build a trusting connection. Some such as Yoga, Pilates and Tai Chi can change mental attitudes. Some postures and movements are assertive and can empower a patient. Others encourage openness and relaxation. The feeling of being held during therapeutic massage can be so comforting and containing. Reflexology or foot massage has the same effect. But patients may find their own activities, hobbies and pastimes, which ground them, and help them cope better. These might include, running, swimming, yoga, breathing exercises, music, art or cooking. We all need space to unwind and think.

Nevertheless, if patients want to bring about a more fundamental change in their pre-morbid character, then an integrated body mind therapy, that encourages ‘enactment’, the playing out of a particular engrained patterns of behaviour on the stage of the consulting room may create a space in the present that where the behaviour can be questioned and changed.

As I have explained in previous posts, trauma shuts down the thinking and reasoning part of the brain and expresses what happens in the body as actions, disabilities and symptoms. These effects may not be accessed either by medicine or traditional mind based psychotherapies but are available to novel techniques that utilise bodily communication.

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during the Inaugural Law Enforcement Officers and First Responders Reception in the Blue Room of the White House in Washington.

So Donald Trump is now in the White House; the leader of the western world.  In his inauguration speech, he promised to put America first, to repeal many of his predecessor’s achievements in the of trade deals with Asia, nationalised health care and control of carbon emissions  and to make America great again. Trump is not a liberal democrat; he does not see himself as keeping the world safe; he is willing to go to any lengths as long as this is in America’s interest.  While the white male voters of middle America cheer to the rafters, the rest of the world holds its breath.

It was Freidrich Nietzsche in his polemic, ‘On the Genealogy of Morality (1887)’, who described the masters of society as ‘blonde beasts’, who are only interested in the acquisition and the retention of power.  These are the rulers; the powerful. They are vital, confident and self regarding, but also amoral and corrupt; they hold the rest of society, whom he termed, the slaves, in subjugation. They are the Trumps of this world.

Morality, Nietzsche asserted, begins as a reaction by the slaves against the power of the masters. Their grievance and frustration cannot be used in direct revenge against the rich and powerful, but is  internalized as moral qualities of virtue, compassion, self control and denial, which makes them feel superior and virtuous.

Entrapped by their own virtue, the morality of the slaves encourages constant self examination, shame, guilt and punishment. It isn’t enough to behave badly; people could also punish themselves for having bad intentions or thoughts.  Not given to self reflection, the blonde beasts have no such misgivings; they think and do whatever they want.

Eventually the slaves revolt against their masters under the guidance of their spiritual leaders or priests, who preach a life of righteous asceticism unsullied by shame and guilt and subject the slaves to the moral guidance of an all powerful but ‘abstract and imaginary’ God, whom only they could represent on earth.  A kind of moral and liberal democracy prevails but does not necessarily make people happy as it is built on self examination, confession, guilt and sacrifice and leads to suspicions of inequality among different groups.  So the price of civilization, according to the misanthropic Nietzsche, is a guilty conscience and endless self abnegation while the philosophical/scientific notion of asceticism distances society from life and the emotions into unattainable sterile abstractions.  Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth, but that may not satisfy them.

But politics runs in cycles.  The revolt of the slaves eventually destroys itself (see Newsnight’s video on my facebook page. In his dialogue with Plato,  Socrates came up with the shocking suggestion that tyranny evolves from democracy. The argument goes something like this. Democracy maximises equality and freedom. Everybody is equal and everybody is free to do exactly as they like.  The more democratic a society becomes, the more the freedoms multiply, men are interchangeable with women, animals have rights, children criticise their parents, foreigners can come and work, teachers are afraid of their students, the rich look like the poor. Any inequality is criticised: elites and the wealthy are particularly despised, the weak are suspect. That’s when a would-be tyrant seizes his opportunity. He is usually of the elite but is a traitor to his class and is often given to excesses of power, greed, and sex. He takes over a particularly obedient mob and attacks as corrupt his peers, who either flee or try to appease him.  He offers a relief from the endless choices and insecurities of democracy and rides a backlash to excess and presents himself as the personified answer to all problems, and in the face of the certainty of absolute power, democracy repeals itself.

Does this seem a simplistic and ultimately depressive notion?  Democracy was conceived as a way for large numbers of people to live together in relative harmony, their emotional impulses contained by the laws and morals of society as effected by their secular and spiritual leaders and controlled by their institutions.  So is tyranny is the inevitable outcome of a democracy that has created expectations it can never fulfil?  Has democracy undermined itself by being too liberal.  We in the western ‘civilised’ world have enjoyed a liberal democracy that has lasted for 70 years and have sought to impose the same system on others. The election of a blonde beast in the USA and the near election of another blonde beast in the UK are indications that liberal democracy has succumbed to the hedonic appeal of power.

Sigmund Freud expressed similar ideas to Nietzsche in his essay ‘Civilisation and its Discontents’, in which he described the irredeemable conflict between instinct and the morality of civilisation.

stressed-student80% of Sheffield students self report disturbances in mental health.  This was the shocking statistic presented by Anna Mullaney, welfare officer for the students union, speaking at a debate, organised by Sheffield’s University Counselling Service.  More objective studies have shown that  1 in 4 students have a mental health problem.  Around  50% of people attending doctors surgeries or specialist clinics have illness that defies medical explanation, such as eating disorders, Irritable Bowel Syndrome or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, all of which often start during a period of adolescent dependency extending into the mid twenties or beyond.

Why might this be so?  Is it because children are so overprotected they are ill equipped to cope with the stresses and pressures of independent life at university?  Or is it that modern Universities are particularly toxic for students?  Or are we just over-medicalising everyday experience?

 

Are Universities dangerous?

When I went to University in the nineteen sixties, I was among a privileged 30%.  I knew I had a job waiting for me as soon as I left.  The government funded my tuition fees and I had local authority support for my accommodation and sustenance.  As the Prime Minister of the day proclaimed, ‘we had never had it so good!’   It was true.  We were very fortunate.  We were also eager to make our way in a world that seemed more secure than it does now.

Nowadays, most young people expect to go to University.  It is a rite of passage into adulthood but there is not a guarantee of a job at the end of it. Many university leavers start life on benefits.  The bar has been raised.  Employers are often looking for students with Masters degrees or Doctorates and these are only awarded to the most competitive students.

The pressure to succeed, claimed Ms Mullaney, often means extra courses, assignments and ‘character-developing’ involvement in student politics, administration and sport.  Universities were always a preparation for life, but that life has become much harder. Most students have to take casual employment in bars or restaurants just to earn enough for the necessities of food, shelter and entertainment.  Many find it more economic  to live in a house together with other students, but this gives them no privacy and little time for thought and study.  They may fall out with their housemates or feel coerced into drinking too much, taking drugs or casual  sex.  The stereotype is that students work all day, finish their shift in the restaurant late a night, then hang out with their friends until the early hours and then get up for lectures again the following morning, but that may not be the norm.  Nevertheless, loneliness, poverty, the stress of assignments and exams, alcohol, drugs and sex make for such a toxic mix, it is amazing that so many students get through it.  But many don’t and what happens during what should be  ‘the time of their lives’  may leave them increasingly susceptible to illness and stress.   So is university that dangerous or does it just seem so?  Is this why more students are living at home these days?

 

The Pathologising of Everyday Life

The other speakers in the debate went to University in ‘the golden age’.  Sir Simon Wessley, now President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, acknowledged the results of mental health surveys of young people and the stresses of university life, but questioned whether such stress should be considered abnormal or just part of growing up.  Change is always stressful and leaving home and going to university has always been a challenging transition.  It is way we deal with stress and the experience and resolution of anxiety that helps people learn and grow in confidence and enjoy life.  Enjoyment and self confidence always comes with overcoming risk.

Wessley questioned whether we were not in danger of pathologising everyday experience?’   Might, for example, everyday sadness and disappointment now be regarded as depression; life stress, anxiety disorder; a robust exchange of views, bullying;  focus and hard work, autism or obsessive/compulsive disorder; or the boredom of an intelligent child,  attention/deficit hyperactivity disorder?  There is obviously something in that but such assumptions may condemn many to accusations of malingering, rejection and stigmatisation.

Quoting from a study of those soldiers deemed at risk from battle trauma, Wessley noted that the greater proportion of those at risk showed resilience under fire and grew from the experience.  The same applies to assessments of vulnerable students.  Fitness to study assessments could rule people, who otherwise might do brilliantly, out of university.

 

Does Awareness make people ill?

Ken  McLaughlin, Professor of Social Care & Social Work at Manchester Metropolitan University questioned the benefits of awareness campaigns for mental illness. He wondered whether this might focus too much attention on vulnerability instead of celebrating the risk and the excitement of life.  Awareness creates labels, which makes people more conscious of being sick and justifies illness behaviour?  Have we become so Health and Safety conscious that we worry ourselves sick about the risks of everyday life than just accepting them and enjoying the challenge?   Moreover, he added, by labelling people as mentally ill, are we producing a stigma, that isolates the individual, causing rejection and more tension and illness.

 

Blaming the individual for society’s ills.

McLaughlin was was concerned that societal and political problems were so often reconfigured as psychological issues for the individual.  People who are unemployed may not so much need counselling or CBT; they just need help to find a job. Trades Unions seem more concerned with helping people cope with inequalities than fighting them.  The same might apply to student union initiatives. It’s often when people feel entrapped in a situation where they feel ignored or unfairly treated that they get ill.  Expressions of frustration and anger can be quite rational responses to the injustices of life.  CBT may help the individual deal stay with their troublesome feelings, but positive action may be more effective.

Situations that induce feelings of entrapment, impingement, rejection, isolation, loneliness, inequality, poverty and hopelessness often underpin distress and illness and should not just be seen as a failure on the part of the individual. We need to address what it is about society that makes people feel bad.

 

Are interventions exacerbating the problem? 

Professor Kathryn Ecclestone, from The University of Sheffield’s School of Education said that the university has trebled its expenditure on psychological support of students, but questioned the evidence base of such interventions.  Mindfulness courses, resilience training, trigger warnings on upsetting lecture material and provision of ‘safe spaces’ for vulnerable students have become commonplace. She questioned how helpful these were.   ‘Are we offering much needed support and recovery facilities or are we in danger of fostering dependency?  Do self help groups keep people in illness?

Simon Wessley quoted from research showing that psychological debriefing after trauma  doubled the rate of breakdown.  It was better to talk about normal things with family and friends, he claimed.

 

At the age of 19 to 21, young people are still trying to find who they are.  Students are very suggestible; they take on many worries about the way they feel they should be. Experience gains at University lasts throughout life.  Instead of creating a space to talk about a perceived problem or seeking escape through sex and drugs and loud music,  universities might help students to work together, face life and experience that frisson of risk and resolution that will them grow into responsible and confident adults.

 

 

archersSo it’s all over.  Or is it?  Helen is out of prison.  The jury decided that there was not enough certainty to convict her of attempted murder or even wounding with intent.  Instead, the balance of evidence favoured the interpretation that she acted in defence of Henry, her son. Rob’s reputation is in tatters.  He has been branded as a rapist and bully, using manipulation and mind games to systematically undermine his wife’s self confidence. It now looks as if Helen will get custody of her children, though Rob will almost certainly be granted access.

This must be the most disturbing storyline to come out of The Archers; it’s a long way from cake making to domestic abuse.   It could be written as a play or a film though I suspect radio best  facilitates projections from our own experience.  As Sunday’s extended episode demonstrated, the members of the jury had each identified with the protagonists according to their own experience.  One had a friend in the same situation as Helen, another prided herself in surviving a coercive relationship, a third had lost access to his own children.  This story touches us all.  Irrespective of our gender, there can be few of us who have not felt manipulated by our spouse or who, at times of stress, have not sought to coerce or control our partners.  We know the territory. This story shows how risky marriage can be.  We could end up losing everything.

Helen stabbed her husband; her defence was that she was so systematically goaded and undermined by Rob that this was an accident waiting to happen.  Did he not actually put the knife into Helen’s hand?  But how often do things go the other way?  How many women have so provoked a man with threats of abandonment and removing the children that he has lashed out or found solace elsewhere, provoking what they may both most fear?

It is too simplistic to dismiss Rob as a villain.  We need to ask ourselves: what is it that makes someone like Rob behave the way he does?   Why does he need to be so controlling?   Is it insecurity?  Does he have a deep seated fear of abandonment?  Rob, an only child, was sent away to boarding school at a very early age by two ambitious and selfish parents.  We don’t know much about their relationship, but Bruce seems a somewhat tyrannical husband and Ursula the long suffering wife who learnt how to appease her husband while satisfying her attachment needs through Rob.

It is likely that the early experience of abandonment punctuated by spells of over indulgence left Rob him with a deep distrust of relationships, especially with women. The prediction was that they would always let him down, just like his mother. This would particularly apply to romantic or sexual relationships, and more so with marriage and children, where the consequences of failure are so much greater.  So Rob would have an exaggerated sense of ownership. Helen had to belong to him. If she wasn’t part of him, she would have to be rejected.  He was the man; like his father he had entitlement.  He could not tolerate her having a life of her own; it made him feel insecure.

People like Rob just have to get their own way.  They are often very charming.  They know how to make others believe that are special.  This is the entrapment.   They have such a fragile sense of themselves, they need somebody else and are more likely to attract and choose a partner who also has a fragile sense of identity and can be manipulated.   Rob found this first in Jess; she was 16 and had just taken GCSEs when he met her.  He was older and had just left university.  He swept her off her feet, married her quickly and whisked her off to Canada.  It was all very romantic, but Jess never conceived and the relationship cooled.  When they came back, he met Helen and soon seduced her with his charm.  Helen was a willing victim and that made him feel secure, for a while.

Insecure, frightened people like Rob are highly manipulative; they play mind games, set tests, issue veiled threats, make it clear what would please them or displease them and all the while increase the level of coercion and strip away any sense of individuality.   It is a form of mind control; a thought crime.   

Rob fenced Helen in; he distrusted her friends, her family, he disliked her going to work, he didn’t like her wearing anything too revealing and more sinister, he was so desperate to create a copy of himself that he forced her to become pregnant.  And when she was pregnant and they knew it was a boy, the control increased.  He smothered her in cotton wool, got his mother in to make sure she didn’t do anything herself and when she resisted, he persuaded her she was ill and needed antidepressants.  Her only way out was to leave him, but he would never allow that. The possibility that she might leave would feel like death to Robert and lead to desperate measures, like putting the knife in her hands. Such people are dangerous.

Our culture glorifies the romance of falling in love and getting married, but it is probably the most risky thing any of us ever do.   Falling in love is about finding someone who makes us feel good about ourselves.  People write about that ‘oceanic’ feeling of well being.  Everything, even the most mundane situations, is touched with charm.  Every love song that has ever been written is about us.  But do we fall in love with the other person or do we experience the illusion of falling in love with an idealised version of ourselves, as viewed through the eyes of our lover?    Our love object brings out the best in us just our regard brings out the best in them.  It is a heady and for many, once in a lifetime experience.  For a brief moment, we are one mind and one body. In successful and stable couples, it transforms into a kind of mutual interdependence that allows each partner to be themselves and grow independently, secure in the knowledge that they are loved. Trust replaces the need for control.

With couples that are less secure, falling in love possesses a quality of desperation.  Those who have a fragile sense of their own identity crave somebody who will make them whole; their other half.  Such couples cleave together and for a time everything is wonderful.  Rob and Helen were besotted with each other.  Rob was looking for somebody who would help him secure his purpose in live, a true partner, while Helen thought Rob was so wonderful, she was more than willing to be that person to the extent of giving over parental responsibility for her son and letting him take over her business.  Such love is not so much blind as drugged.  It is a wonderful illusion until the mist clears and they realise that their beloved has different set of needs, values and even morals and ethics, and understand that they are a mere mortal and not at all like the image one had created of them.  Then the only way they can hold on to the illusion is through coercion and control.

It can only end in tears.

 

 

musselmannThe old ones of Auschwitz Birkenau, the survivors, called them the ‘Muselmann’ (german for Muslims); the weak, the inept, the ones who distanced themselves from suffering by giving up.  Deprived of any expectation or hope, they no  longer suffered, they just existed, shuffling along like zombies to the inevitable conclusion;  already dead in spirit.  Any hope had been destroyed together with their humanity and dignity.  . 

Jenny fell passionately in love with a man, who abandoned her.  So she declared War on Want by refusing to submit to her own emotions and with that her need for  sustenance?   This is Jenny’s way. Others use drugs to fill the void left by the loss of hope, others eat or drink too much, others seek sex and others find refuge in illness or madness. In a moment of clarity after the storm, Lear expresses that it is better to lose his mind than to be preoccupied by devastating grief.  

David has been my client for twenty years.  He first came to see me because of persistent abdominal pain and constipation, which he was convinced was caused by a cancer of the bowel that his doctor had failed to diagnose.  No medical tests could convince him that he did not have a disease that would kill him unless promptly and properly treated.  He was very suspicious of any notion of any psychological cause but never stopped coming to see me.  David has never   given up, but he has been a hostage to fortune and he suffers for it.  He clings on to the idea a notion that life has to be fair.  He believes in trust and in spite of everything, retains expectation and hope.  If he were religious, this might give him peace of mind, but he’s not and it doesn’t.  Instead his expectations condemn him to torment of frustration and disappointment as life lets him down yet again.  For David, the pain and mental anguish represents his life force, a continuous grudge against the ineptitude of doctors, the neglect of society and the unfairness of life. . 

It was only recently that he came to the realisation that he doesn’t have to be a victim; the passive recipient of what life delivers. People rarely do what we want. They are much more concerned with their own needs. In that respect, life can never be fair.  It’s a world in which those who shout loudest often get all the prizes.  So if David wants to get what he needs out of life, he has to create the conditions that provide what he needs. 

Those who survived the dreadful conditions in the Nazi concentration camps were the ones who were able to retain a sense of their own identity and adapt to the environment without giving up.  They had no expectation of kindness from the prison guards, but they could gain sufficient life force from a brief glimpse of the mountains, the sound of birdsong, the memory of a melody or composing a poem.  Life is what each of us can make of it.  David’s wife was recently seriously ill with cancer, but this gave him a sense of purpose and worth as he negotiated with the doctors, looked after himself and the house and kept up a email commentary to friend.  .  

Life is never easy,  but we don’t have to submit to its cruelties and injustices. Neither do we have to make ourselves ill by railing against the world and suffering the torment and the illness.  There is a third way.  That is to adapt and take responsibility for our own destiny.