Do you feel like a victim or a warrior? The first obstacle to your neurological rehabilitation is all in your head

Even though modern medicine has improved our quality of life to exceptional levels compared to the past, there is still a major limitation that it still struggles to cope with and that is probably holding you back too

A brake that, despite the knowledge and technology we possess, puts a serious strain on your health management, just as it did a hundred years ago. 

The obstacle I am talking about 

is the patient himself. 


In other words: You are the problem. 


In the article you are about to read, we will discuss how your mental attitude influences your results in fighting and living with the disease.

We will see which mental mechanisms are (probably) hindering you and making you a ‘Victim‘ of your pathology. 

We will then analyse how to replace these attitudes to develop a mindset that will enable you to optimise your progress in fighting a neurological disease and achieve the results you desire.

Let’s start. 


The power of the patient mindset

A growing body of research has shown that the mentality of the patient can measurably influence healing and physical recovery from their illness.  

In 2017, an online report was published in the British Medical Journal in which Stanford researchers appealed to the medical community. 

Their request was to pay much more attention to taking care of the patient’s mental attitude towards their illness and their social context. 

Ongoing studies have shown how the psycho-social context of the person plays a huge role in recovery processes, influencing the outcome of therapies. 

For what reason? 

You have probably already heard of the Placebo effect

However, what I am about to talk to you about here is a much more complex concept than the banal ‘taking a sugar pill’ instead of the actual drug, to make your pain go away. 

The placebo effect has been recognised as a set of neurobiological mechanisms that has the power to dramatically influence our healing response, derived in part from the person’s mindset and expectation of healing itself.

But, how does it work?

In recent decades, neurobiological research has shown how the placebo effect triggers distinct brain areas associated with anxiety and pain, activating physiological effects that lead to healing results. 

In practice, your mind activates neurological and biochemical processes that promote the healing and recovery process. 

Very interesting, isn’t it? 

But, there is a problem

You must know that there is not only the Placebo effect.

There is also its opposite

Those same mechanisms, which can help you in the healing process, can also do the opposite, i.e. give you negative effects, called Nocebo

For example, it has been shown that patients feel more pain after being told that an injection will hurt. 

Those who had been told about the possible side effects of a drug, on the other hand, were found to have a greater presence of them

Your mind is therefore capable of negatively influencing your relationship with illness, having the ability to slow down or hinder your recovery from a physical problem. 

But, why am I telling you all this?

You must understand how your mental attitude can influence your performance and results: it is through this awareness that you can begin to lay the foundations for a more effective mindset, in the service of your rehabilitation. 

You now have an overview of how your mind can help or hinder you in your battle against an illness.

Now, the time has come to explain to you the most common mental attitudes, which I have seen in many of my patients and which you may also have. 

But before continuing, read carefully below. 


Important premise: Read it!

What you are about to read is the result of personal studies and experience in close contact with patients, so it should be considered as such and purely for dissemination purposes

The goal of this article is to make you aware that there are mental attitudes that hinder us and to help you recognise those behaviours that may have slowed you down so far. 

However, mental health is a fundamental and very sensitive area that should not be neglected or taken lightly in any way. 

This is precisely why, especially if you are dealing with a neurological disorder, it is always a good idea to turn to an experienced professional such as a psychologist for support during your journey. 

That said, let us begin.


The mental obstacles of the “Victim”

The mind is an infinitely complex system and the variety of such processes is infinite.

Every day, we carry on our shoulders mental mechanisms that restrain and limit us, even if we do not realise it. 

These same automatisms can become even more burdensome and dangerous when you fall ill, making you ‘The Passive Patient‘, who is rowing against your recovery.

What I am about to expose to you are the four mental attitudes that I have often seen in my patients, especially at the beginning of their journey and that, at this moment, could hinder your improvement as well. 

I’m talking about:

  1. The “I want everything now” habit.
  2. The sense of powerlessness.
  3. The curse of contentment.
  4. “I’ll do it tomorrow”

Let us look at them one by one. 

1. The “I want everything now” habit

Nowadays, we are used to having what we want with almost no effort


I’m hungry: I eat a snack, maybe even an unhealthy one.

I get bored: I turn on the television or pick up the phone.

I need something: with two clicks I order it on the Internet. 


And the same happens when it comes to our health.

We go to the general practitioner and expect him to solve all our problems

We are prescribed drugs, perhaps to lower cholesterol, reduce high blood pressure or do something about that slightly battered heart, when the truth is that we are overweight, sedentary and have a poor diet. 

We prefer to rely on ‘fast food’ solutions, i.e. effortless quick fixes, but which most often only treat the symptom, without going to the root of the problem. 


I have a pain: analgesic. 

I do not sleep well: sleeping pills.

I am anxious: anxiolytic. 


One of the mechanisms we have established in our heads that blocks us from achieving long-term results is that

 We want everything and we want it now

And what are the consequences of this bad habit?


  • You have lost the ability to be patient: without this skill, you do not give yourself time to achieve concrete results in the long run, and you risk getting frustrated and giving up quickly, losing sight of a better goal for your life.



  • By temporarily relieving the symptom, you forget about the origin of your problem: You are precluding yourself from realising what you actually need to improve your condition; because the shortcut you have taken is probably only a temporary or superficial solution that will, sooner or later, put you back at square one.


2. The feeling of “powerlessness”

One of the most common feelings, when faced with a neurological disease, is a strong sense of helplessness

A disarming feeling given, firstly, by the lack of control over an inevitable diagnosis that could not be changed.

Something you were never prepared for, which happened so suddenly that you found yourself confused and without an idea of how to react. 

The lack of control disconcerts and paralyses you, allowing those events to knock you down and keep you grounded, conditioning you and not allowing you to react concretely.

You feel like a victim for something that happened to you and deprived you of something. 

Clearly, there is a reason why you feel this way.

You cannot change what happened, nor can you prevent that diagnosis from being written on your medical record. 

And this is where we find the problem

The mental trap is that when you think you have no control over something, it is easy to convince yourself that you have no control over everything else.

In psychology, we speak of an ‘External Locus of Control‘ theory developed by Rotter, according to which the person locates the causes of what happens to him in life, successes or failures, to purely external factors for which he is not responsible

This means that you believe you have no control over what happens to you, especially when it comes to failures.

What is the consequence of this mindset? 

You give up, losing the will to fight to regain your health.

But it doesn’t end there. 

This is the mechanism that blocks you from seeing what you can actually do to change the situation, encouraging a vicious circle of inaction

It then becomes extremely easy to let go and become ‘passive’ about your condition, perhaps expecting others to solve your problems


3. The curse of contentment

The real problem with a neurological disease is the sudden or progressive disability it brings and its consequent impact on everyday life

Not only that, but due to the nature of the problem, even with intensive rehabilitation, improvements are often slow and small and require constant work and effort. 

In this situation, anyone would feel demotivated

You get frustrated and start to lose the will to commit, because “what’s the point anyway?”.

You think you can’t really achieve more than what you already have and unconsciously lower the bar of your expectations.

You thus end up belittling your goals, especially when improvements are hard to see or because you have reached a stalemate in your progress.

For example, I have had patients, even young ones (in their thirties and forties) who, despite their potential, were about to settle for using an electric wheelchair when they could have walked on their own with other aids. 

They could not believe that they could achieve more than they had already conquered, to the point that it seemed almost impossible. 

But by encouraging them to look beyond those seemingly insurmountable limits and by working properly and consistently, we were able to achieve those results. 

And as you may have guessed, this inner conviction is the one that absolutely limits the expression of your maximum recovery potential.

Because being content means not looking beyond the obstacles in front of you, and making yourself comfortable with the modest results you have achieved so far. 

Let’s face it: illness gives you objective limits and you could have all the reasons in the world to stop and make do with the bare minimum. 

The important thing is to choose this path consciously; because at the end of the day, unconsciously or not, settling means choosing not to see how far you can go.


4. “I’ll do it tomorrow”

The last item on this list is as ‘trivial’ as it is difficult to deal with and which everyone, in one way or another, faces every day.

I am talking about procrastination.

Procrastination is that little inner voice that makes you put off an action or task that you should do. 

Making that call, booking that doctor’s appointment, completing that workout…, etc.

After all, there is always that one action that we know we have to do for our good but that requires effort, time and energy; which is why: we put it off.

“Today I’m tired…, I’ve been working a lot…, it’s raining outside… I’m stressed…”

Do they sound familiar? 

And the thought that follows this excuse is a constant: “I’ll do it tomorrow”.  

As you may have guessed, procrastination is another powerful brake on achieving your goals, because, by dint of putting it off today and putting it off tomorrow, your situation does not change.

You remain at square one, even though you are aware that it is precisely those laborious actions that have the power to change things. 


“Procrastination is, without a doubt, our favourite form of self-sabotage.

Alyce Cornyn-Selby


Well, now that you are aware of these four mental brakes, it is time to go a step further and turn them into the mental tools at the service of your rehabilitation. 

Let’s see them.


The change of Mindset: From Victim to Warrior

We have seen which mental mechanisms are unconsciously making you a “victim” of your pathology and which are hindering your treatment path

The first step is to recognise these mechanisms and then gradually reduce them.  

But it is not enough: more effort is needed. 

The fundamental shift is to move to a new mindset: from “victim” of your pathology to “warrior”: a new mental attitude at your service, enabling you to achieve the results you desire and seek your maximum potential for improvement.

The metaphor of the Victim and the Warrior may seem a little forced, but the power of mental imagery is widely used in psychology and rehabilitation and can be a valuable tool to distinguish these two opposing mindsets.

Now we will see what are the practical actions to remove the mental blocks I have outlined so far and achieve the Warrior mindset.

Let us continue. 


How to develop the warrior’s mind


1. Cultivate your patience 

“One step at a time is enough for me”



Patience is the fundamental virtue that everyone should cultivate in order to achieve their goals, especially if you are going through a course of treatment and rehabilitation. 

Improving your health takes time and there are no shortcuts; especially when it comes to an injury to the nervous system.

Haste is bad advice and only brings you frustration and anxiety.

Think about the goal and then “forget about it”. 

Focus only and exclusively on the small actions you know you have to do today without focusing on immediate results, which you would struggle to see.

The human body needs time to improve and, in the long run, your actions will lead to concrete results.

Because, using a metaphor, your rehabilitation journey is not like a centre-meter sprint but like a long marathon towards your goals. 


2. Become responsible for your actions

We live in the illusion of control but the reality is that what we have control over is very little

You cannot control the people around you, the events that happen to you or even the results of your hard work

It is undeniable: despite our best efforts, there are always variables that influence the results we would like to achieve but over which we have no power.

However, there is always one thing over which you have complete control: 


your actions.


In the first part of the article, I told you about the “External Locus of Control”; however, I did not tell you that there is another type of “locus”, defined by Rotter. 

I am talking about the “INTERNAL locus of control” which, unlike the previous one, consists in believing that one’s life outcomes and events are one’s own responsibility. 

In a nutshell, become aware that your actions have a real influence on the events that happen to you and the results or failures you achieve. 

Being aware of this can have a huge impact on your life. 

It is you who decide to actively work and act to get better and to promote your healing. 

You are the one who decides to eat healthily, to follow the instructions of your doctor and professionals. 

As it is always you who can decide to do the opposite and go back to your old ways. 

The choice is yours.  

Knowing that you can control your actions makes you responsible

Responsible for what you get. 

For example…

My diet affects my health: 

  • I am not interested in eating healthy: I get fat and feel weak. 
  • I eat healthy: my shape improves and I feel stronger. 


The professionals who follow me give me precise indications on what to do to get better and promote my recovery:

  • I don’t follow them: I get worse.
  • I follow their lead: I improve.


Even if you do not have control over everything, you can become aware of the power of your actions and take responsibility for your results. 


3. Be Ambitious 

Ambition is the quality that has enabled all mankind to achieve astounding goals. 

The first tool to achieve great results is to set great goals

If men of the past had not set goals for themselves that seemed unattainable at the time, we would not have the same benefits that today we enjoy; and things like transplanting a heart or sending space probes to Mars would not even cross our minds, to give you a couple of examples.

Your goals drastically influence what you can achieve. 

If your goal is modest, you will bring home no more than the small result you set yourself. 

On the contrary, if you aim for an ambitious goal, you may never achieve it, but it will certainly push you to reach far beyond the boundaries you know and achieve more than you imagined. 

Unfortunately, every pathology has objective limits that are difficult to surmount; but this does not stop you from aiming for suitably challenging goals and seeing how far you could go. 

You will be surprised by the results, just as my patients continue to surprise me with theirs: despite being aware of their pathology, they do not give up and continue to aim high.


4. Cultivate discipline

If there is another factor that can give you huge results in the long run, it is the constancy in action; a constancy given by discipline

Anyone who has achieved ambitious results in life knows that the key to success is to be consistent with one’s actions over time.

Setting yourself ambitious goals and choosing the right activities to do, is useless if you are not able to put everything into practice consistently; and to do that you need discipline. 

It is the attitude of doing those actions every single day, consistently and without procrastination, that will bring you one step closer to your goal. 

Find at least ONE practical and simple action that you know will help you progress towards your goals.  

Once you have identified that action you can do every day, put it on the calendar and simply: begin.

Give yourself time to get used to taking action and, little by little, add new actions and quality behaviour. 

Without realising it, you will progress faster than you imagine. 



In this article, I have told you about some of the most common constraints that imprison you in the “victim” mindset of your pathology; followed by a presentation of the mental mechanisms you need to train, to develop the attitude of the “Warrior”, who fights for your rehabilitation. 

You now have the tools to have a different awareness and strengthen a solid mindset at your service and be able to get more satisfying results from your efforts. 

I wanted to summarise them in these four sentences. Grant me the “poetic licence”: 

  • The warrior is patient because he knows that every great goal takes time to be achieved. 
  • The warrior is responsible for his choices because he is aware that it is his actions that give direction to his life.
  • The warrior is ambitious and is not content to lick his wounds.
  • The warrior is disciplined and knows that constancy in action will pay off. 


Training these skills will enable you to deal with your illness and your entire rehabilitation journey in a completely different way. 

Take time to digest these concepts and put them into practice… one step at a time and with perseverance. 😉

I hope they can be of help to you. 


Have a good rehabilitation. 

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