The doctors at the rehabilitation center could not figure out why her bruises were not going away. What they did not know was that 90 minutes before the morning routine when nurses came into her room she would leave her bed. She would drag herself to the wall and push herself up to standing and lengthen the standing time up over and over. Later she took her first step and started falling again. She fell often and she told no one. Weeks later before she was to leave for home she demonstrated to dumbfounded medical experts that she could walk 20 feet unassisted. Finally she got the help she had been pleading for as the experts around her (who had treated her like the village idiot) realized she was right. Up to this point they had kept telling her to face the facts and stop being in denial.
The moral of this true story is that denial works for some people and it works quite well. I have many stories like that from people who beat the odds when everyone around them had told them to stop denying the situation. People who push ahead and make paths where there are none do succeed in some situations.
So you are trying to complete a doctoral degree in a period of economic stress, fear and hopelessness. Today I read that over 60% of the youth in a southern EU country are without jobs. I heard about the increases in tuition, influx of new colleges and how high the school debt is for students who are borrowing to complete a degree. Blah, blah, blah the world as we know it is changing and everything is going to hell. I am old enough to have seen this cycle many times and I heard about it from the generation before me. Name a negative outcome and there is some group out there pushing it. With the web we have even more compelling chatter all seemingly backed up by certified fact.
The fact is that after this current period of time things will get better for a while before we begin the next down cycle. Decide now if you want to have your doctorate when that next positive part of the cycle takes place or be where you are right now. Folks who drive forward with a dogged eye on their goals will have a different life than those who wobble, falter and fall to the wayside. I rarely talk to a failed doctoral student who just decided to throw it all away on a whim. Most were overwhelmed by other people, situations, fears and misinformation. Some let themselves get too tired while others turned their family against them and had ultimatums to “choose me or the degree!”
So how do we overcome all of this?
First realize what you are facing, do not hide from it. The fact is many doctoral students fail (drop out). All were just as bright and gifted as you are and they failed. Get that into your head the fact they did not go thousands of dollars in debt and then just quit on a whim. Something overpowered their dreams and abilities.
Second you have to focus on what you are trying to achieve and get away from the fear talk. Forget projections by “experts” that soon there will be no jobs, no future and everything is bleak. Yes it may be bad out there now but your focus is on the next chapter you have to finish, the statistics to be reviewed and the constant communication with your committee. You do not care about global warming, global freezing, saving whales, politics, job outlooks or gloomy predictions that may or may not come about. You care about what is due this week and what have you done lately to support your spouse, family, church and friends.
Third realize that fear and anxiety release many bad chemicals into your bloodstream. Instead of searching the net for scary stories do a search on the effects of stress on your body. It will list the biochemical things that happen while you are scaring yourself. Put your mind on the positive and you cannot do that if you are actively searching for negative things on TV, the net or talking to negative friends. Filling yourself with positive and restful things does not happen if you run to the negative. Once you graduate then you can bath in the anger, fear and slanted opinion that flow through our society when we go through these negative times. At a mandatory training day for CEU credits a person with multiple Ph.D. degrees talked about how in a split second fear releases about 1,400 chemicals in our body. You are smart so research how to stop this from happening to you.
Then wear your denial as a badge of honor as you march forward to complete your degree. Sometimes it is like bending forward to walk into a steady powerful wind like you have seen from those pre-hurricane news spots. People and situations will try to back you down, break you or warn you of failure. You have to take a realistic look at what resources you have and then you decide if you can continue based on facts not outside input. Some of you should involve spouses or other family members. But once that decision is made (and reviewed periodically) then you need to shut out the painful, scary and negative just like the young nurse did in the opening story. When she told us the story she got a bit tearful remembering how alone she had been at that time.
Everyone including some powerful and well educated folks told her she was wrong and that included some well-meaning family members. When I met her she was a trim, highly attractive woman in her mid-thirties and had no observable difference in her walking. She did use elevators she told us since long stairways taxed the less than 10 % muscle on the inside of each leg. She was in denial but she proved all of the experts wrong. Perhaps in some cases denial is a good survival trait. Look to your goals, no one else will.
My best to you,