The Wisdom of the Body: Lessons Learned from a Hospital Stay

Blog The Wisdom of the Body: Lessons Learned from a Hospital Stay

Picture of Gary M Jordan Co-author of Unlock the Power of Your Perception and Your Talent AdvantageFive weeks ago, I found myself in the hospital for a five day stay that was precipitated by acute diverticulitis. It started out two weeks earlier as periodic lower intestinal cramping. I ended up in the ER with almost constant cramping after nothing had passed through my system for 48 hours.

It was an interesting experience that left me a lot of time to reflect on what my body is teaching me as I approach 70 years of age. The lessons are not new, but there is something about their physical manifestation that brought them new meaning!

Lesson 1: You are not in control.

When we think about being in control, we most often think about plans, organizing, goals, or schedules. From a broader perspective is the experience of agency, or sense of control that you feel in your life, your capacity to influence your own thoughts and behavior, and have faith in your ability to handle a wide range of tasks and situations.

But if you focus at the physical level, you will discover that you are not in control of most of what is happening in your body. Most of your physical systems run without your conscious intervention or attention, nor is there anything your conscious intervention or attention can do to take control even if you want to.

This may sound a little silly or obvious, but when the system isn’t working the way it is supposed to plans, organization, goals, schedules, and even agency don’t meant a whole lot.

Lesson 2: You do not know what is going to happen.

I think that this lesson is the cause of our need to believe we are in control!

Lying there in the hospital I had faith that what was going on with my body would resolve, but I didn’t know for sure. I didn’t know how long a resolution would take, what that resolution would look like, if my life was going to change, or how my life was going to change.

Lesson 3: Surrendering to the truth of lessons 1 and 2 is a challenge.

One of the things I often say to clients is that therapy is a process that helps you to surrender to life as it is rather than trying to make it into what you think it is or you think it should be.

“This isn’t supposed to be happening!” is not a helpful focus when your digestive system has shut down and you are in extreme pain. I know that at some level all we have is the here and now, but it all becomes about the here and now and getting through the next moment when your body is not working correctly!

Being where I was and letting myself focus on healing was important to my recovery. The physical discomfort served to keep me from too much worry about the future and in the awareness that if I didn’t heal there would be no future to worry about!

Lesson 4: Ego makes the lessons harder to learn.

We all have an ego. It is the part of us that tells a story to ourselves and the world about who we are and then tries to prove the story is the truth rather than just a story.

It is all those things we tell ourselves to help us feel good about our lives: “I am important. I am in charge. I am successful. I am different. I am special. I know better than others what is going on, etc.”

Having an ego is important to our daily functioning in the world, but it is pretty much irrelevant when you are where I was. None of the things I use daily to support my sense of value meant much or served me in the condition I was in.

Lesson 5: I am mortal.

The uncomfortable truth. We all know this, but in my experience, we try not to think about it too much. It was hard not to think about it the first several days of my hospital stay. It is a very different experience to think about your mortality from the comfort of your couch than from a hospital bed. It is a very different experience to think about your mortality at age 70 than it is at age 20.

I was released after 5 days, and after the inflammation had fully resolved two and half weeks later, I had surgery to remove the offending section of my colon. My surgeon says that I won’t miss it and that the chances of recurrence are very low.

That’s good, but it doesn’t change the lessons learned nor diminish their importance. As the t-shirt message says: “I don’t mind getting older, but my body is not too happy about it.”

My recent hospitalization was not just a medical event; it was a profound journey of self-discovery and reflection. While the surgery and subsequent recovery offer relief, the insights gained remain. I carry with me a deeper understanding of surrender, humility, and the fragility of life. Indeed, aging may not always be easy, but it continues to offer profound opportunities for growth and wisdom.

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About Dr. Gary M. Jordan, Ph.D.

Gary Jordan, Ph.D., has over 35 years of experience in clinical psychology, behavioral assessment, individual development, and coaching. He earned his doctorate in Clinical Psychology from the California School of Professional Psychology – Berkeley.  He is co-creator of Perceptual Style Theory, a revolutionary psychological assessment system that teaches people how to unleash their deepest potentials for success. He’s a partner at Vega Behavioral Consulting, Ltd., a consulting firm that specializes in helping people discover their true skills and talents.  For more information, visit

For additional information on Dr. Gary Jordan, please click here

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