Psychosocial Aspects of Chronic Illness and Disability among African Americans

By Faye Z. Belgrave | Go to book overview

pens, the person is no longer putting his efforts into something that will not help him to accomplish desired goals. In our group we found it necessary to review priorities and values so that individuals could see what was and was not important and how their values could be reflected given their current situation.

Discussions of acceptance may be especially important for individuals who have been stigmatized on the basis of disability or ethnicity. When we look to the larger world for information about how we should look and act, we are less likely to be accepting of our personal circumstances. Acceptance and the serenity that goes with it have to be achieved at an individual level. Acceptance may be derived from one's faith and spiritual beliefs.


Spirituality

Spiritual beliefs may be adaptive and are discussed in this chapter because of the centrality of spirituality to African Americans. People of African descent are spiritual people. Spiritual beliefs provide a type of secondary control in that control is not to fate or luck, but to a higher power. As discussed in chapter 3, research has shown spiritual beliefs to aid in effective coping for African Americans. African Americans with higher levels of spirituality have better outcomes than those with lower levels of spirituality. Spiritual rituals such as attending church or mosque, reading the Koran or Bible, praying, and meditation may help one accept life circumstances and grow stronger under aversive conditions.

Spirituality may be especially conducive when there is no plausible explanation for an adverse outcome. Faith in a greater power provides a framework for dealing with the unexplainable. Knowing that there is a force greater than self that shapes our destiny is empowering. In our group sessions, we encouraged the expression of spirituality. In one group, each session began with a prayer, and members offered prayers for the success of each other. Expression of spirituality in whatever form it takes should be encouraged and supported.

The use of spirituality as a coping strategy may run counter to those approaches that are more behaviorally oriented and scientifically based. Therefore, group facilitators and professionals may need training in being sensitive to the importance of spirituality for African Americans.


SUMMARY

Perceptions of psychological control and self-efficacy beliefs can be powerful intrapersonal resources for behavioral change. Having a victim/external orientation is not conducive to goal setting and achieve-

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