The illusion that you control your body is a harsh wake-up call. You are going about your life, dealing with its ups and downs, when a routine medical exam throws up something unexpected: severely abnormal cells, tumour, blockage, hormonal imbalance, or something else. It’s serious, maybe even potentially life threatening, and you need further tests and treatment, preferably sooner rather than later.

You have that worrying time waiting for tests and the results, which will help determine the next course of action. You need to make decisions about treatment, and rejig your schedule to accommodate it. On top of that you are trying to wrap your head around the fact that this was going in your body and there was no sign that anything was wrong. You may also have other big things going on in your life.

I’ve realised it’s an illusion that you control your body


Snapshot of letter with diagnosis I received. Taken by B Babcock 2015.

10 years ago severely abnormal cells were found, the type where further tests are required to rule out cancer. I struggled to grasp that something was wrong with me when I was feeling physically ok. At the same time I had just experienced a redundancy, was dealing with its aftermath and looking for a new job. Despite it being caught and treated in time so it would not develop into cancer, I remember feeling upset at random moments and asking myself, ‘How did this happen? My last cervical screening was only 1.5 years ago. How could something develop that quickly?’

From this experience and many other people I have coached, sometimes the prospect or onset of a serious illness can shatter the illusion that you control your body. That realisation, along with your current medical crisis and anything else going on in your life, can be a lot to handle.

Picture of dice on a laptop next to the control key (CTRL). To demonstrate the illusion that we control our bodies 100%. So much happens that it's like the roll of the dice.

Photo taken by B Babcock 2015.

But here are some tips to help you identify what you can control and influence.

We can control our mind, breath and muscles

That is what we can control regarding our bodies. (Provided they themselves are not impacted by an illness/condition. For example, mental health issues can impact one’s ability to control the mind, lung and/or heart complications can impact the breath, or spasticity the muscles.)

We can control the choices we make, the food we eat, what and how we think, how we feel when people speak to or about us, how we respond to people in turn, taking a deep breath when we start to feel anxious, exercising to build muscle, clenching and relaxing muscles as part of a relaxation routine, and more.

Realising what we can only influence

There are processes within our bodies that happen day-in day-out without us even thinking about it. It is these processes we don’t directly control. For example, we eat food and our bodies get on with absorbing and processing the nutrients. We don’t directly control that digestion process, but we can influence it such as avoiding foods that make that process harder for our bodies or taking tablets to manage indigestion.

So it’s about identifying what we can control and influence and finding ways to do that effectively.

What it’s like for you?

Have you ever had an unexpected diagnosis? What was it like for you? How did you identify what you could control about it and what you couldn’t?

If you are looking for an objective and supportive partnership to help you identify how you can control and influence your body and life differently, have a look at services I offer for individuals and get in touch for a no obligation chat to see if I can help.

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© Copyright Barbara Babcock 2015

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