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Classical Error

Dave Hingsburger | 16:23 UK time, Thursday, 6 March 2008

They are able because they think they are able.

Thus says Virgil.

Now I don't really know the classics but I know that's a name that I should know. I was doing some research on disability here at the office and I came across this quote and for some reason it really, really annoyed me. Where does he get off? I get tired of this kind of 'positive thinking' creates a 'positive world' and 'negative thinking creates ... well, me and my disabled body.'

I am disabled because I am disabled. Now this doesn't mean that I'm not 'able' in other ways. Although I hate the 'differently abled' kind of language that was popular a while back, I do not deny that I have abilities but I don't deny my disability either. As positive as I am, as positive as I can be - I still can't walk well. I still fall over.

I had a friend once who was facing a serious illness and a tough set of operations - along with the possibility of permanent disability. She was driven mad by people telling her not to have 'negative thoughts' and even madder by those who suggested that it was her negativity that had brought on the illness and would create the disability. What horse feathers! What snake oil. How dare someone suggest that illness, or disability has any connection at all with how one thinks! Isn't this just dressing up sin in sheeps clothing. You are disabled because of a inherent personal flaw ... oops I had a negative thought and my left leg dropped off.

Are you allowed to say, "Perfiffle" on a BBC site?

Listen up Virgil - I'm having a happy day today and I still can't walk.

Sorry to disappoint you.

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  • 1.
  • At 01:17 PM on 08 Mar 2008, Myrna wrote:

It's even worse when your disability is a mental illness. "You have to want to get better", "You're the one who has to do the work, we can only support you while you do it", "It's all about your attitude - if you keep behaving depressed, you'll keep feeling depressed".

You're supposed to be able to get better from mental illness by sheer power of will. Personally, I find that good old-fashioned drugs help a lot more than a hundred people telling me I have to want to get better to get better, when not wanting to get better is a symptom of the illness itself.

  • 2.
  • At 01:30 PM on 09 Mar 2008, Kathryn Williams wrote:

Thank you for putting this in a public blog - so many of these hurtful "be happy" comments come from well-meaning people, and it can be hard to explain why their attempts at encouragement are devestating. I wrote a similar rant *ehm* essay - you can read it here:

Thanks again for bringing this issue to the fore. Goes to show that being an ancient philosopher doesn't make you all-wise. Just makes people think you are ...

I have a chronic pain condition connected with my disability. Not much is known about it, other than when I get stressed it seems to get worse.

Needless to say, phrases like "You have to want to get better", and "You're doing this to yourself," are said to my face more times than I can count.

Fighting words?

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