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Dementia can be a disturbing thing. It changes people. Someone with dementia undergoes changes to their personality, the person you know them as, and that can seem frightening. But is it possible that if you change your thinking about dementia, you can change the way you think and feel about your loved one, and therefore maintain a deep connection to them, no matter what? I think it is.
To watch someone go through the process of losing themselves to a neurological disease can be hard. As a loved one’s personality begins to fade away, we’re confronted with a new reality. In this process, there can be a lot of grief over this change. And a lot of resistance to it.
Resistance is simply opposing something. And it would seem counter intuitive to not oppose something as devastating as dementia. But in the resistance, disconnection can happen. Let me explain.
In opposition or resistance, there is a refusal to accept reality as it currently is. I find it inspiring when people fight for their loved ones, and don’t just accept modern opinion or status quo. But if their is no acceptance of the circumstance as it is, there is no starting point for change. Without acceptance you can’t truly examine a problem and make a strategic plan to make changes where possible.
Resisting the facts can be emotionally draining, because you’re arguing with reality. And guess who always gets to win that argument? I’d like to be clear about something here. Acceptance does not mean condoning something. Acceptance just means saying “this is how it is right now.” It’s allowing reality to be what it is, without attaching all of our thoughts and emotions to it.
Fact vs. Story
Separating out the facts from the story your brain is telling is a valuable tool for acceptance. The human mind is a story telling machine. The stories you tell in your head make up your own personal reality. But there is a difference between personal reality, and facts.
A fact is something everyone can agree on. A story can not be. Take for example this sentence.
“Dementia is scary.”
Seems like a fact, right? It’s not.
“Dementia is” is the fact. “Scary” is story. Stick with me here. Everything we sense gets filtered through the neurons built up in our brain which results in thought and feeling, and that determines the meaning we attach to everything. We also have the power to observe what our neurons are doing, by watching our own thinking. This gives us the ability to audit our own minds, and make changes if we want to.
So let’s try on another thought:
“My loved one is suffering.”
The fact is your loved one. Suffering is the story. As an empathetic human being, sure you can see if a loved one is upset. But if you continually approach them with that thought in your mind, how are you going to feel?
Sad? Frightened? Helpless? Hopeless?
And in those feelings, how are you going to show up for your loved one? I can assume stressed out, depressed, and perhaps feeling like a failure. Guess what that’s going to do? Drive an emotional wedge between you and them.
Now what if you intentionally chose to think a thought like:
“I just love him/her.”
Thinking that thought, what feelings come up?
Love? Surrender? Humility? Acceptance?
Think about how showing up for your loved one with those emotions will change the dynamic of your relationship with them.
Thoughts are powerful. They shape your personal reality. And they are also the root of resistance and acceptance.
Thoughtfully ponder the resistance you might currently have towards something, and determine whether or not it’s creating the version of yourself you want to show up in the world as.
Work with me
Do you have a loved one diagnosed with dementia, and are emotionally distancing yourself due to negative feelings? Is this how you want it to be? If not, I can help you.