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How Resisting Causes More Pain: Accept and Help Yourself Heal
“Whatever the present moment contains, accept it as if you had chosen it. Always work with it, not against it.” ~Eckhart Tolle
My partner, Ruth, and I were not happy.
The inside of her mouth was covered in sores, she couldn’t swallow well, and she was exhausted. The chemotherapy was ravaging her body. Something had to be done.
When her oncologist, Dr. Patel, came into the room, he perched on his little rolling stool and looked up at her Ruth where she sat on the exam table with her legs dangling.
She railed against the chemotherapy and what it was doing to her. I seconded her sentiments silently with frequent nods and frowns.
After some time, Ruth finished her diatribe and crossed her arms, daring Dr. Patel to fix this invasion into the very lifeline of her system.
His expression had never changed during her speech. He looked at her intently, listening carefully, but his eyes were soft with care and concern. Now those eyes looked deeply into hers.
“Ruth, don’t resist. Don’t resist the chemotherapy. Allow each drop to enter your body in a healing way and do its work. Resistance does not help you; it only saps your energy. In your treatment, in your work, in all places in your life—don’t resist. Go with whatever comes rather than struggling against it.”
Ruth and I looked at each other and then back at Dr. Patel.
Hadn’t we been told to fight this cancer? Weren’t we encouraged to imagine little SWAT teams inside her body waging an assault on her wayward cells? Now this little Hindu doctor with the kind eyes and mischievous smile was telling us not to resist?
I had never, even for a moment, thought about this concept. Oh, I knew about “letting go” because I’m a therapist, after all, and we know about these things.
But it had not crossed my mind to do anything except fight this illness that was threatening my beloved Ruth and the treatment that was making her miserable.
Now, as if in a movie where everything suddenly goes into slow motion, the moment after Dr. Patel finished speaking, my thinking began to expand.
I could see how this gentle “don’t resist” directive could benefit us during Ruth’s journey with cancer, but it could also benefit me as I struggled with my own demons of insecurity and self-doubt.
And at work where I let small problems affect me in a big way.
And with my family when I grew impatient with them and . . . the ramifications of this little idea were enormous.
I looked over at Ruth and could see the moment she got it, too. Her head cocked slightly to the side and her body relaxed. A slight smile replaced her angry countenance of the moment before.