The Dying Lady


“A common Latino narrative is the story of the Dying Lady. The tale begins with a woman who decides that it is too much work to cook.

‘It’s such a hassle,’ the old woman states. ‘It would be easier not to eat.

Days turn to weeks, and weeks drag on until the woman finds herself unable to move or care for herself. People dear to the woman beg her to feed herself, but she refuses.

‘I’m much too tired to cook now,’ she laments. ‘I would need more strength to cook and clean.’

As her health continues to falter, her family and community grow concerned.

‘Is there nothing we do to help her?’ asked one woman.

All the people agree that if she will not nurture herself, nothing they can do will change her fate. With much sadness, the assembly decides that the only action left before them is to carry her to the grave. ‘She will probably be dead when we reach the tomb,’ one man states. ‘At least, if we carry her now, we can share in her final moments on Earth.’

As they carry the woman up the hill that will soon become her final resting place, a couple approaches bearing all types of food.

‘Here,’ a woman states, ‘you may have these beans and rice – eat them and you may live.’

Trembling, the woman reaches out to touch the food. The couple waits anxiously as she struggles to feel the beans.

‘They aren’t cooked,’ the woman sighs. ‘I don’t want them unless they have been cooked.’

With this announcement, the assembly continues up the hill. The woman has sealed her fate (refusing the help that could save her life).”

– taken from Diversity in Counseling; 2nd edition (2012)

Truth is, as any therapist knows, the story of the Dying Lady could easily be the story of the Dying Client. Therapists see it all the time. A person enters therapy, wanting change(s) in their life, but refusing help when it’s offered. For example, a person might allow themselves to remain depressed by refusing the help of family and friends, even professional help; when ultimately, to overcome depression, they must “choose” to reach out to the hands serving them and “engage” in the strategies offered. (Reminds me of the lines of an old Ray Stevens [country music singer/comedian] song: “There are none so blind as he who will not see.” I’m pretty confident it was Ray Stevens who sang these words, but reserve the right to be wrong about the artist.)  🙂  Actually, there’s a psychological concept/phenomenon to describe such behavior. It’s called “secondary gain(s)”, where unconsciously, usually, a person derives some kind of emotional payoff from their “issue(s)”; for example, the hypochondriac who desires to change, but discovers s/he might lose the attention of others by getting “better.”

The bottom line? How badly do you want change(s) in your life? Is it enough to forgo “secondary gain(s)”, and accept help when it’s offered?

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