It’s the day after the elections. It’s time to start the healing. Hopefully, the mental and emotional wounds inflicted were not deep enough to be beyond healing.
It’s quite unfortunate that campaign periods in most countries, especially the Philippines, are always periods of negativity. Opposing candidates throw dirt at each other. Constructive criticism is fine, but when it willfully slanders, with the aim of permanently damaging reputation, the negativity generated may be so bad, that healing soon after the elections is not possible.
How we wish the candidates would keep this in mind before uttering an unkind word about opponents. The bashing and slurring often goes down to the gutter level.
But no matter how deep the wounds may have been, there’s always a chance for healing with the power of forgiveness. The good thing is, this power is in the hands of the
aggrieved party or parties. One can either forgive and leave it all in God’s hands, or maintain that perpetual state of bitterness and anger, planning to seek revenge, without realizing that these negative thoughts and feelings are slowly eroding one’s physical, mental and emotional state.
From time to time, we get to see patients developing severe illness several months after losing in the elections. They allow themselves to be trapped in that suspended state of negativity, replaying in their minds all the hurts and slurs they received, and the financial losses they incurred.
I share the counsel of Richard Mendoza, a motivational speaker of Fame Leaders’ Academy, when I encounter cases like this. He says that someone who remains bitter and angry and seeks revenge is like a prisoner in a dungeon who doesn’t realize that he holds the key to the dungeon door. For some strange reason, he chooses not to open his prison door.
Dr. Abet Atilano, respected cardiologist at the University of Santo Tomas Hospital, told me sometime ago that many illnesses like heart disease and cancer are actually caused or aggravated by negative feelings and thoughts. If people can only learn to forgive, then this will be a healthier and better world, he said.
One of our patients from Pangasinan, who requested anonymity, said that she used to be a physical and mental wreck because she couldn’t forgive her philandering husband. Worse, she couldn’t find the guts to confront him.
She finally came to her senses and “grabbed the bull by its horns,” as she described it. They underwent counseling, and it looks like everything is fine in their marriage and with her health.
“My insomnia, ulcer symptoms, and even itchiness in the body vanished, even if I don’t take anything (medication) for them anymore,” she said.
We should not only forgive others, but should learn to forgive ourselves, too. Frequently, we are our worst critic and enemy, calling ourselves all sorts of names for things we may have done in the past. Feelings of guilt and remorse can also wreak havoc—not only on one’s nerves, but on one’s physical health, too.
Dr. Tim Ong, a doctor who coaches people through emotional conflicts, wrote on his blog that he has a poster in the waiting room of his clinic that says, “Self-forgiveness is essential for healing.” He asks patients to read it so they will “realize that some physical illnesses are just manifestations of unresolved emotions and conflicts.”
He explained that in many instances, these unresolved emotions have to do with anger and self-blame, two sides of the same coin. “The difference is that with anger, we direct the negative emotion at an external object or person, while we direct it inwardly at ourselves in self-blame,” Dr. Tim said.
Both emotions may actually lead to various symptoms, and, if unresolved, to more complicated medical problems. Some researchers even believe that these negative emotions are closely linked with cancer.
Doctors should also exercise self-forgiveness, Dr. Tim advised. It’s true that doctors carry a heavy responsibility, such that they are described as “little gods.”
They make vital decisions for their patients, and some of these decisions can spell the difference between life and death. Not infrequently, despite best efforts, the patients deteriorate, and may even die. After all, the science of medicine has no answers yet for all medical problems.
Many doctors, especially those new in medical practice, would spend sleepless nights asking where they went wrong. Would the patient have lived had they decided on another treatment or intervention?
The questions just won’t cease, and no answer seems good enough. I have heard of a few doctors who decided to quit medical practice and just embark on another career because of this dilemma.
“No doctor with a conscience can continue to provide quality healthcare to his patients if he allows such guilt to haunt him indefinitely,” Dr. Tim said. “Self-blame in such a case is not only harmful to the doctor himself, but to the patients he has to treat every day.”
That is the reason a doctor usually undergoes several more years of residency and fellowship training after nine years of medical education to hone his or her decision-making ability. The longer one has been in medical practice, the better one becomes at tempering the science of medicine, so one does not decide only by the books, but by the wisdom of experience. And part of this wisdom is knowing that doctors are not the real healers, but are just instruments of the One above.
Realizing this, the doctor should not take the glory when a patient with critical illness lives, nor should he grieve, question and blame himself, when the patient dies.
May we heal again after the elections, especially if we have lingering feelings of animosity toward others, and more so, toward ourselves.