Column: Ice cream is good for the soul sometimes

Dear Everybody,

How would you complete this: Last week, I took my grand-children to a restaurant. My six-year-old grand-son asked if he could say grace. As we bowed our heads he said, “God is good, God is great. Thank you for the food, and I would even thank you more if Nana gets us ice cream for dessert. And liberty and justice for all! Amen!” I heard a woman remark, “That’s what’s wrong with this country. Kids today don’t even know how to pray. Asking God for ice cream! Why, I never!”

Naturally, I bought my grand-children ice cream at the end of the meal. My grand-son stared at his for a moment, and then did something I will remember the rest of my life. He picked up his sundae and, …

I have to add a paragraph to this week’s column related to last week. I just read this true story about a Korean minister whose church was not doing well. His two sons encouraged him to pray and work and show his countrymen that one can truly forgive. While he was away preaching his two sons were killed. The police were able to capture their murderer who confessed. At his trial the judge was about to sentence him to death when the minister stood up and said, “I forgive this man who killed my two sons. By sentencing the killer of my beloved ones to death, the law can do nothing to help my grief. Why kill him then? Why not give him to me? Let me bring him into my family. He can take the place of one of those I have lost. If you will let me have him, I promise Almighty God to treat him as my own son.” He took him home hearing his sons’ words and showing everyone the way to forgiveness.

This article is written for two groups. Number one the women who need to be educated about the behavior of men in a crisis and two, the men, who are willing to change and go beyond the traditional self-destructive masculine behavior. Most men do not handle emotional problems well. Too often they desert their wives and girl friends in time of crisis. I just received a book to write a foreword for. It is by an attorney whose wife developed cancer and whose marriage ended in divorce. His desire is to help men handle these emotional issues and save more marriages. He is not a normal attorney and is able to feel as well as think.

I know some husbands who drive their wives to our support groups and then sit in the parking lot waiting for them. They are chauffeurs and not soul mates. They have a great deal of difficulty sharing feelings and joining a team, which is something women do as a reflex in times of stress. Men are more likely to take a fight-or-flight approach. If they can’t fight it or fix it, they take off. Be prepared. You are not the problem. The problem is their discomfort, or their dis-ease with disease.

Is this survival behavior? No. Do women live longer than men with the same cancers? Yes. Their survival has a lot to do with feminine biology and patterns of thinking and behaving. Men need to be given something to do. It can be as simple as a hug or mowing the lawn or getting out of the way and playing golf. But it can also be knowing that your presence is what is needed and not your attempt to fix and cure it all. You can go on the Internet and get information and feel like you are doing something for your afflicted loved one. Remember if you do what Lassie would do you can’t go wrong. Just find your role model and behave as if. In my latest book a young man says to his fiancée who discovers she has cancer and apologizes to him for the added burden, “Where love is involved there are no burdens.”

To be fair, there are men who are not afraid of their feminine side and are willing to join a healing team. In the same way, some women are not afraid to use their masculine side, and to speak up for themselves in hospitals and not be submissive. If you want to heal, it is important that you be a complete human being and be comfortable with behaviors that are not typically masculine and feminine.

To be a fully empowered patient and healing team member, you need to be able to step outside gender-defined ways of behaving. Fortunately, this is somewhat easier than it was decades ago. Today people do not find it particularly strange when a man admits to being scared or a woman makes John Wayne look like a wimp when she is unhappy with the care she is receiving. Men and women are generally allowed a wider range of emotions and behavior, and people may not find it odd that you are feisty when that is needed, and open, receptive, and expressive when circumstances call for that kind of response.

Moving beyond the traditional masculine and feminine roles can be a matter of life and death. In today’s environment we need to combine both features because they make a difference. For a man joining a group and developing relationships and asking for help may be very difficult but it is survival behavior. For the woman stopping the good girl behavior and expressing emotions may be a big change from her family behavior pattern.

What it is really about is our becoming a complete human being which very few of us are. Men need to stop being afraid of their vulnerability and take their place in society alongside women who have the right to their place in society. It took us long enough to even let the women vote. Why? There are women physicians I know who are so masculine it is unhealthy and their patients suffer. We all need to be in touch with our unconscious female and male components the anima and animus. They are within us whether acknowledged or not.

Men stop being afraid to feel and give your sons the freedom to be complete human beings. It is healthier to be authentic then it is to live a role. Having pets in the house can help get things started because when they get sick or die the emotions experienced can become our teachers and prepare us all for the future. Our home zoo led to my lecturing our children about the fact that though I was a doctor I couldn’t save every creature’s life and that they had to learn that death was a reality for them and their pets. Our house is surrounded by their marked graves and it keeps their love alive and with us permanently.

In conclusion: At the end of the meal my grandson picked up his sundae and, without a word, walked over and placed it in front of the woman. With a big smile he told her, “Here, this is for you. Ice cream is good for the soul sometimes; and my soul is good already.”

May you all find Peace and Serenity.

Keep In Touch,

Bernie Siegel, MD

“Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.”

-John Wooden

“Success is peace of mind, which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming.”

-John Wooden