Positive Psychology on a Winter’s Day (Even for the Hair Club President)

Wrist

I hate injuries. I don’t like getting injured whenever I’m engaging in physical activity. That was the case several weeks ago when I tore a ligament in my left wrist while performing an overhead barbell press of 120 lbs. without using holders to keep the weights in place. Initially, I thought I sprained my wrist and continued to exercise, ignoring the pain, thinking it would resolve itself with rest and ice. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case because the pain didn’t go away. Several weeks later, I was experiencing tingling sensations up my left arm and shoulder. At first, the pain was fleeting and minimal, but it became worse. Things got so bad that I found myself unable to move my left arm at work, hanging in numbing pain. I immediately went to my doctor’s office that evening for a check-up. I was prescribed some ibuprofen, received a referral for an MRI and hand therapy, and had an x-ray done, which revealed the torn ligament.

Fast forward to Friday, February 13, 2015, the infamous Friday the 13th for superstitious individuals. One of the coldest days thus far for this winter season. The temperature was in the teens when I went outside the comfort of my warm home to start my car that morning. It was also the day I was scheduled for my first hand therapy appointment at 7:30 a.m. I anticipated that the physician would inform me that my wrist would heal on its own after six to eight weeks by continuing to keep it wrapped and iced and take ibuprofen. Wrong. I discovered that I had a scapholunate (SL) ligament tear in the center of my wrist. This ligament connects the scaphoid and the lunate carpal bones together. My options for repairing the SL ligament would be either 1) surgery or 2) partial fusion. Both treatments could correct the problem, but there was also the possibility of losing partial wrist movement and/or developing arthritis. I would need to wear a manufactured splint for the next several weeks to keep my wrist immobile. I didn’t need to make an immediate decision because my doctor also recommended that my left arm be tested for potential nerve damage due to the tingling sensations. Once the results from that test were determined, I could proceed with moving forward to treat the SL ligament tear.

As I waited for my wrist to be fitted for a splint, I pondered the options. Matter of fact, my mind drew a blank after I was told the treatment methods. I felt frustrated at myself for being so careless and narcissistic for injuring myself at the gym. There was no telling how long I could no longer weight train my upper body (back, shoulders, and chests) since I’m not allowed to do pushing or pulling exercises. I had reconstructive surgery on my right knee almost 14 years ago, recalling how I was bedridden for two weeks and underwent physical therapy for eight weeks to learn how to walk again. All I wanted to do is go home, lie underneath the covers, and rewind the day’s events after receiving my diagnosis. I couldn’t do so because I had to get to work following my appointment. I had group counseling sessions to facilitate, and there were some clients who were looking forward to attending my groups.

I arrived at work around 10:10 a.m. after receiving my splint. It didn’t feel as bad as I initially thought it would, but it’s something I’m not looking forward to wearing, especially during the winter. I was scheduled to facilitate Positive Psychology in the 11:00 a.m. hour, which gave me some time to prepare for the group and to catch up on weekly progress notes. I decided to structure my lesson based upon the latest chapter I read earlier this week in John C. Maxwell’s The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth about personal development and self-defeating beliefs. This was very convenient for the task since self-perception can enhance or harm a person’s optimism and mindset. I wrote and printed my outline, ready for group counseling.

As I arrived in group, I was bombarded with questions about the splint and my wrist, something I couldn’t avoid unless I took the apparatus off, which I’m not supposed to do. I answered all questions to ensure the clients that I was doing okay. I started the group by reading a quote in Maxwell’s The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth by Denis Waitley and asking the clients for their feedback:

“Personal development is the belief that you are worth the effort, time, and energy needed to develop yourself.”

Some of the clients shared their thoughts about personal development. I continued the discussion by inquiring with the group why some people fail to achieve their potential. Group members gave various answers like negative thinking, life-changing experiences, and limitations. This conversation was the perfect segue into a discussion about how some individuals allow self-defeating beliefs to hinder their personal development. I read another quote that appeared in Maxwell’s book by Zig Ziglar discussing negative thinking:

“It’s impossible to consistently behave in a manner inconsistent with how we see ourselves. We can do very few things in a positive way if we feel negative about ourselves.”

This quote generated real fascinating discussion about how some individuals fake their emotions to get by in certain situations, but their attitudes would eventually catch up to them in the long run. To further illustrate this point, I went so far as to perform a role playing exercise where I was an unconfident and timid counselor trying to facilitate positive psychology. I stepped outside the room and came back inside immersed in the activity. I avoided eye contact with the clients, barely spoke above a whisper, and kept my distance from the group. They didn’t like this counselor, some noting that they wanted to attend another group while others wanted the original counselor. Afterwards, I discussed that beliefs can enhance or harm one’s personal development, something that we as human beings are taught and learned based upon our experiences. Just because one’s personal beliefs may currently be self-defeating doesn’t mean that they’re meant to be that way for the rest of his or her life. The group discussed coping mechanisms they could use to enhance self-defeating beliefs including, but not limited to, using positive self-talk instead of negative self-talk; stop competing against others; removing self-imposed limitations upon our abilities; choosing a positive word to describe yourself; and doing something positive for another human being that adds value into his or her life.

Of the coping skills that were mentioned during the session, using positive self-talk was my personal favorite. That really hit home for me given my current situation. It’s easy for me to fall into self-pity, walking around like Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh, depressed and feeling sorry for myself because of the SL ligament tear. It’s very challenging to attempt to write anything with this cumbersome splint on my arm. It’s very disheartening to know I can’t exercise the way I’d like to until I’m fully healed. It’s very frightening to think about what would happen if I lose partial mobility in my wrist if I decide to have surgery. Well, the world hasn’t come to an end. My SL ligament tear is an injury that will heal in due time. I’m still able to write and I vowed a long time ago to not let anyone or anything to ever prevent me from doing so again. I can still perform lower body exercises and could modify my upper body exercises to not include push or pull techniques. I’ve had surgery before on my right knee, and although I lost the ability to run long distance, I discovered the benefits of practicing yoga for physical, mental, and spiritual wellness. That’s an excellent way to look on the brighter side of things. Yes, indeed.

I’ve facilitated many positive psychology groups for almost a year, but that group on Friday, February 13, 2015 was my personal favorite. The lessons I taught the clients are so applicable for any person to work on his or her personal development. Sometimes when I facilitate my group counseling sessions, I feel like the hair club president from the commercial back in the 80s, even though I’m a counselor, not a client. However, I’m human, too, just like the clients, dealing with issues and life-changing experiences that could affect my mental health. I do have my coping skills to help me manage through my personal challenges, including writing and exercise. I’m grateful that positive psychology is also another, which will definitely be beneficial for my recovery.

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About Bill's Universal Expressions!

Poet, writer, therapist, and ESSENCE Best Selling and future New York Times Best Selling author.
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