When I posted a little moan about all the hours we chronically ill are obliged to waste in hospital outpatient departments, I did not anticipate that I would become embroiled in a surrealistic discussion about whether illness is ‘real’, or just a symptom of “wrong thinking”. But so it happened, with repercussions both here and on Big Pike’s site which I expect a good many of you will have seen.
This has led me to reflect on the phenomenon of denial, which is an increasing feature of our contemporary mental climate. By denial I mean the refusal, by individuals, organisations, and sometimes governments, to accept what stares them in the face. This discounting of obvious states of affairs, and of the consequences of the deniers’ actions, is not merely dangerous folly: in my opinion it is often dangerous wickedness and morally culpable.
An obvious example is the Bush/Blair refusal to accept that the invasion of
Another is the
A third is the refusal of many vocal Muslims to understand that if they wish to be accepted by the non-Muslim population of this country as friendly neighbours, they must abide by our common democratic values, and cease demanding special privileges for their religion such as the introduction of sharia law. Thank goodness that Tony Blair has at long last shown a grain of sense in starting to tell them this. Not before time!
While I have no business to deny the personal reality of someone who believes they are “saved” because of their belief in a Deity, although I may consider that they are sadly deluded, where the denial of the physical reality of illness on the spurious ground that it is “all in the mind” and can be cured by “a change in thinking” is concerned, I think that I can legitimately say on the basis of my own life-experience and that of countless others that this contention is claptrap. It is a belief that does not stand up against the visible evidence, and can only be adhered to by someone with a stubborn belief in verbal somersaults and empty paradox.
To bolster my case, I cite the following examples:
My own. I have been seriously ill for two years now. I am only too well aware of the importance of mobilising whatever mental strength I am capable of in living as creatively as possible with my illness, but I know that it will never be cured by a “change in thinking”.
My grandfather suffered from a serious depressive illness for twelve years, and unavailingly sought for every possible cure on offer. He ended up, thanks to medical mismanagement, as a bad case of drug dependency. He would not have been cured by a “change of thinking”.
A year ago some cousins lost a grandchild who died a week after his first birthday. The poor infant had been diagnosed with liver cancer at four months, and during the remainder of his short life his family underwent great stress which traumatised them and will continue to do so for a long while. Could this tragedy have been averted by a “change of thinking” on the part of this little baby or his parents?
A lifelong friend who died not long ago aged 80 had suffered throughout his life from the effects of being born with a cleft palate. Repeated operations and other painful treatments dogged him throughout his life. Nevertheless, he bravely pursued an academic career and became a distinguished Professor in his field. Could his physical disability have been cured by a “change of thinking”?
I could go on, but I rest my case. By all means let us have free and controversial discussion amongst the posters and commentators of the Awkward Squad. But not houseroom for arrant nonsense, please.