Unbroken

I'm not much of a movie person. Last night, though, I somehow ended up getting roped into watching "Unbroken." For those of you who haven't seen it, it's a true story about an Olympic athlete who joins the military and survives a plane crash, 47 days adrift in a raft, and a POW camp. If you haven't seen it, I recommend it. It's difficult to watch, but worth it. The entire movie is centered around the question of how much a man (or woman) can survive with their mind and spirit intact. As I was watching it, my mind made a sudden weird cross-connection, as it so often does. I flashed back to a patient I first started seeing three or four years ago. When I met her, she was so tiny and frail that she almost seemed to be made of glass. As I learned her case history, however, I discovered how very far she had come from where she once was. She had an extremely severe case of Crohn's disease, and at one point she she was so ill that she was bedridden for over a year. She explained that, as sick as she was, she could do literally nothing. She couldn't eat, she couldn't move, all she could do was lie there and suffer. Since she couldn't get out of bed, she decided that she needed something, anything, to give her a reason to be awake and to get her through her day. She was drawn to qi gong, which is a combination of breathing, meditation, and movement. In TCM, qi gong is used to cultivate and balance out the energy of the body. At first, though, she was unable to move. She focused instead on her breath, and on the more meditative aspect of the exercise. Slowly, very slowly, she was able to move into various postures as she became stronger. By the end of that dark period, she had more or less willed herself back to health. By the time she became my patient, she was working full time in the medical field, was married, and ended up eventually having a baby. It was incredible to think that not long ago, she had been so close to death.

I wonder what it is that gives some the will to fight, to rise above their challenges and create a path of healing for themselves, while others silently accept what is handed to them. As a hypnotherapist, I wonder sometimes if it is a matter of imagination. In hypnosis, the greater the imagination, the easier it is to get someone into trance quickly and deeply. Anyone can be effectively hypnotized (with a few exceptions), but those who can imagine well are fantastic subjects and tend to find that success comes more easily to them. A vivid imagination can bring you to a place beyond your present situation, and perhaps just being able to visualize another possibility out there, another path free of suffering, can be enough to keep you going when things seem hopeless.

Or maybe it's something else? An inner drive for survival that some are both with, and others lack? Optimism? What is it that some possess that allows them to fight to get better, while others simply accept their fate with resignation?