Living With Polio


Spirituality has been variously described as a person’s relationship with God, the holy, or the whole; beliefs about the meaning, purpose, or mission of life; feelings of interconnection with the universe or all living things; commitment to values, ideals, and altruism; and being open to the mystery of existence. Spirituality is not necessarily associated with religious membership, but is related to attempts to answer questions about the meaning of life and how humans should live.

Spirituality also has been described as “the most powerful resource against suffering in the human services tool kit” (Vash, 1994). Practices include meditation, prayer, mindfulness, contemplation, thoughtful reading and conversation, and worship sharing. People claim that the insight, knowledge, and feelings of well-being gained through the development of their inner lives have profound effects on their attitudes, relationships, and actions. Adversity is often a catalyst for psychospiritual growth leading to a change in perspective about the meaning of life. It has been said that having a disability gives one a different perspective, not a different personality (Covington, 1999).

Smith (1995) found that polio survivors demonstrated greater spirituality (more frequent prayer, meditation, and religious affiliation) than their nondisabled contemporaries. Westbrook and McIlwain (1996) found that polio survivors identified the strategy of developing a philosophy of life and becoming a more spiritual person as being of more help with the late effects of polio than many medical treatments or social strategies. The emphasis on “being” rather than “doing,” found in many Eastern philosophies, is a helpful antidote to decreasingly active lifestyles.

Excerpt from PHI’s “Handbook on the Late Effects of Poliomyelitis for Physicians and Survivors.” © 1999 

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Psychological Health