I was reading the chapter on the "cancer-personality" bij Gabor Maté (if you haven't read or seen anything by him, I wholeheartedly recommend you do) and I remembered how I used to see patterns and characteristics in Fibromyalgia patients I was working with. It came to a point that, just by knowing their diagnosis, I could "predict" what kind of issues, related to their coping mechanisms, they struggled with.
At one point I started asking them during the first interview:
Let me guess...
You find it hard to say no to people.
You're not used to putting your own needs first.
You tend to avoid conflicts.
You're there for others while at the same time you often feel alone and abandoned, because it feels like "you have to do everything yourself".
You have an issue with setting boundaries, with yourself and others.
You always "keep on keeping on". You're a very driven person.
You don't like how this illness is slowing you down.
It prevents you from doing what you normally do: just muscle through.
And at the same time you realize that it's the only thing that actually gets you to take some time for yourself and to rest.
The responses were always the same: big eyes, full of surprise and disbelief and recognition, and a lot of yes, yes, yes. YES!
What it also did was... it let people know that they were truly seen and heard. They could relax a bit, knowing they were taken seriously and that there was hope...
So, what are we really talking about here? Is this just a coincidence? Are these characteristics the result of living in pain for years? Or could it be a contributing factor to the development of the illness itself?
If you've been following me for a while already, you know I like to get to the bottom of things and try to find "the root cause" of problems. Physical complaints included... And in my quest for answers I've come to realize how much impact our "way of being" has on our physical body.
Basically, it all boils down to STRESS. (I love to keep things simple, so there you go.) How we cope with stress is a result of our past (our experiences, upbringing, trauma's, etc) combined with our predisposition and personal characteristics.
Our coping styles were formed to help us survive difficult circumstances. They came into place to protect us. So they are not "wrong". You've just most probably "outgrown" them. You're not a little, defenseless child anymore. You can make different choices now. It's just that your "programming" is still running your reactions and your behavior.
By gaining insight into your own behavioral patterns and processing unresolved emotions you can learn new ways and strategies that are based in your adult Self, constructive and not anxiety-driven. You'll get out of survival mode and have chance to sculpt your life based on your conscious decisions. Your well-being will start to thrive because of it.