Survivor or Thriver

Survivor or Thriver

Paige Winter, the phenomenally upbeat 17-year-old girl who recently survived losing a leg and 2 fingers in a brutal shark attack was interviewed by journalist Robin Roberts. She portrayed the most positive outlook on life that have ever heard coming from any 17-year-old girl; even those who are in the most positive of circumstances in life. Despite not being in the most positive circumstances, this young girl (I should say “woman”) is hopelessly happy. She is radiantly looking forward to all the things she can do with her life (which even includes shark conservation). Talk about resilience! This young woman takes resilience and coping with significant loss to a whole new level! Since I have grown accustomed to being around the types of people who have good health, comfortable wealth, and a beautiful home who get seriously stressed out because their spouse insisted on the trip to Maui instead of Bora Bora, I was truly amazed by Paige Winter.

After the journalist’s interview there was some discussion on the news program of this young woman’s attitude after surviving a shark attack, and losing a leg and 2 fingers. I believe it was Robin Roberts who said that Paige is not really a survivor, but is instead a “Thriver.” Of course, everyone (I’m sure including Paige) agreed.

That turn of the term that we so often use to describe ourselves as “survivors” of severe chronic illness really grabbed me. It suddenly gave me a whole new perspective on myself and of life in general. 

I have always felt that the term “survivor” was just wrong for me, despite the fact that I did survive many life-threatening conditions even after medical professionals were no longer even trying to save my life. Survivor sounded weak to me. Like I was saying, “Well, at least I’m still hanging on to life somehow.” Which paints a picture of a person who is beat down and bedraggled but managing to still schlep through life.

The term “Thriver” when applied to myself felt really right. Like Thriver really fits who I perceive myself to be, and how I see life. It felt very empowering. I do indeed see myself thriving in life, and know that there are no limits on what is possible for me; even though I am certainly not one of those people who puts any pressure on myself to always be “more.” (More on that some other time.) I see myself as thriving in my current state of being and achievement. From now on I am referring to myself as a Thriver (at least to myself).

I urge any of you who are surviving a chronic illness, or any other significant challenge in your life, to try thinking of yourself as a Thriver. See how your perspective on yourself and your life changes.

                                                         Christopher Knippers, Ph.D.         June 20, 2019

Advice to Dialysis Patients

Advice to Dialysis Patients

The American Kidney Fund recently asked me to become an Amassador to help in lobbying efforts to our legislature. They also asked me to give advice to dialysis patients and their families. Here is an excerpt from that questionnaire that I think is helpful to most people who are going through regular treatments for most diseases such as cancer:

   Getting through treatment requires mental gymnastics, in addition to taking the best care of your health possible. Keep your thoughts about yourself and your situation as positive as possible. Avoid ever thinking of yourself as “A Kidney Disease (or, dialysis) Patient.” You are a human being with life, love and purpose. Thinking in  a “victim” mentality is destructive and untrue. Stay as engaged in life and your passions as possible. (My passions happen to be writing, and volunteer work for my church.) Focus on every positive thing you can think of, at all times. You don’t have the luxury of a negative thought. Your job now is to be an example of overcoming adversity with courage and conviction in order to give others hope and inspiration.

While in the actual dialysis session, practice relaxation and meditation techniques. Take a workshop or get coaching in this if you have to.

   Newly diagnosed patients need to learn that dialysis is effective and is not a death sentence. It becomes a routine (though relatively small) part of your healthcare regimen and life that will keep you on track. Don’t let dialysis become the focus of your life. Even the diet is not as bad as you might think. You are capable of adjusting to all of this effectively, and finding meaning and purpose in your life.

   It is vital to have support from a friend or family member in your life whether a dialysis patient or not; but now you really need a special kind of nonjudgemental empathic support from someone who cares enough to be educated about the needs of a dialysis patient, and will be a positive influence in your life, encouraging you.

   Family members need to remain positive and encouraging to the kidney patient. Offer tangible as well as emotional support (be careful not to be patronizing or pitying). Patients sometimes feel a bit physically and/or cognitively weak immediately following treatment, and might need a ride home or help with preparing a meal. Most patients bounce back by the following day.

   I have overcome numerous life-threatening conditions in my life, and have actually been pronounced dead at a very early age. I have overcome being brain-dead from a landslide, then unplugged from life-support so I could die. I went on to earn a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology, just for spite. I have had a remarkable career in psychology and have worked with many people you see on television and in movies and in politics. I still counsel a few of them on a complimentary basis. Since receiving the diagnosis of kidney disease 5 years ago, which I initially was sure was a death sentence, I have become happier than I have ever been in my entire 66 years; despite now having a significantly reduced income from my days as a busy psychologist. My strength comes from the beautiful love and support of my friends, and family; as well as from a very deep faith in God (for very good reason). There have been many amazing miracles in my life, and there are more to come.

I hope this is helpful.  Blessings to you.

Christopher Knippers, Ph.D.                                                    June 13, 2019

Sabotage, Over-reaction, & Other Irrational Behaviors

Sabotage, Over-reaction, & Other Irrational Behaviors

Many people who have a lot of great qualities manage to still screw up their relationships, jobs, health, or other important areas of their lives. We chock it up to being “stupid,” having bad luck, ignorance, or other reasons that still don’t quite explain why someone who has so much going for them would just keep failing in some important area of their lives. There is an often overlooked explanation for sabotaging good things in life, over-reacting to relatively minor stressors, or in some other way being irrational in making behavioral choices which have significant negative consequences.

Secure emotional bonding with parents often goes wrong somehow. The reasons are usually environmental (for some reason parents don’t provide a secure predictable relationship with the child, or there is severe trauma); or the child can have physiological or neurological conditions that prevent them from feeling secure in general. The child never fully feels safe and secure in the relationship and carries that sense of insecurity into adulthood, generalizing that insecurity into all relationships. They end up coping with it in various ways which usually involve either being overly dependent in relationships, avoiding close relationships; or some combination of those relational styles (going from dependent to avoidant) which creates inconsistent behaviors in relationships.

These relationship dysfunctions can affect many different types of relationships (personal, work , etc.) and other areas of life such as health and substance use. When a person feels insecure in relationships they also feel insecure in their own identity and sense of self. Then, everything can be thrown off course, and the world is a confusing place.

This “Attachment Disorder” is believed to affect at least half of the adult population. This high prevalence can account for the current divorce rate of over 52%, among other things. Some people have only a small degree of attachment issues, so the overall number of people affected to some degree is likely much higher than 50%.

Attachment Disorder is a fairly common diagnosis of children and can be effectively treated. Unfortunately the field of psychiatry does not officially recognize the disorder in adulthood, despite its obviously lingering and growing consequences after it has been left untreated in childhood; and despite the fact that  numerous clinicians and researchers do recognize it.

It can be very effectively treated in adulthood. First the disorder must be recognized by the affected individual. Next identify the specific relationship patterns that are problematic (avoidant, dependent, inconsistent). Then with professional help new rational thought patterns about self-identity and self-worth can be established, along with more realistic perspectives about people in general (e.g. “there are degrees to which you can trust people, and having a few faults is normal”). It is essential for new effective behavior patterns in relationships to be taught, so relationship re-education is needed.

Of course, if the root cause is on a physiological or neurological level, medical intervention is necessary as the first step in treatment. Also, if the root cause is severe trauma, then specialized treatment of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder must be primary.

In my own case, the etiology was fairly mixed and complex (many causes). It required very effective psychotherapy including Cognitive Behavior Therapy for irrational thinking, and EMDR therapy for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I required medical intervention for a lifelong severe illness. A vital component of my treatment (initiated by a secular Clinical Psychologist) was spiritual reprogramming through spiritual re-education, meditation and prayer in order to give me the ultimate in a secure, trusting close relationship with a Higher Power.

There are varying degrees of Attachment Disorder, from severe to mild. If you can identify with any degree of Attachment Disorder know that help is available from therapists who are familiar with Adult Attachment Disorder.

It’s really not your fault. You can get on with a much happier, effective, fulfilling life.

Christopher Knippers, Ph.D., 02/18/2019

The Genetics of Success

Success is something most people want to achieve in their lives, and it is defined differently by different cultures; but it generally involves a high degree of recognition for some accomplishment in a person’s career and/or personal life. Our United States culture honors those who become outstanding corporate leaders, athletes, and actors. Often, these successful icons write autobiographical books detailing how they became successful, and usually offering advice on how most anyone who has the desire for success can also achieve the same greatness that they achieved. Is this actually true?

Genetic research would suggest otherwise. The good fortune of having been born with the right genetic make-up can determine just how far a person can go in their lives and what they can accomplish. We are talking about resilience.

Everyone experiences some degree of stress throughout their lives. Some of this stress can be extreme enough to be categorized as “trauma.” Some people are able to bounce back from trauma, while others suffer crippling depression and/or anxiety. The degree to which someone bounces back is typically determined by genetics. Many people are even able to compensate for, or overcome debilitating physiological conditions due to the fact that other genetic factors can help them over-ride the disability. In many individuals even brain damage can be overcome because new neural pathways can form to compensate for the damaged neurological structures. Of course epigenetic or environmental factors interact with genetic factors to help determine a person’s resilience to stress of any kind, whether physiological or psychological.

The point is that people who achieve success despite overcoming great odds in their lives, whether they be environmental or physiological, have been given a significant advantage by genetic factors of which they might be completely unaware.

The lack of awareness of the role that their genetic good-fortune has played in their achievement can give successful people the false impression that they somehow did it on their own to a much greater degree than is actually true; and can cause them to hand out the advice to others that they too can achieve the same kind of success.

Another phenomenon can be explained by the genetic theory of success: Highly acclaimed successful people who unexpectedly kill themselves without giving any indication that they are in pain. Friends and family are often bewildered saying that they had no idea anything was wrong: “Robin seemed to be happy; Kate was her typical cheery self the day before when we went to lunch; Anthony was living his dream to the very last day.” If a person does not have the genetic stamina to handle success (which can be extremely stressful), their resilience can simply run out abruptly without warning. They continue trying all of the same strategies they have used most of their lives to keep going (cheerful attitude, etc.), but the sustaining underlying stamina is not there. It can come to a jarringly abrupt end, shocking even themselves.

From a scientific standpoint, I like the quote from the research study Psychobiology and Molecular Genetics of Resilience (Adriana Feder, Eric Nestler, Dennis Charney, 2010): “Complex interactions between an individual’s genetic make-up and his or her particular history of exposure to environmental stressors determine the degree of adaptability of neurochemical stress response systems to new adverse exposures, as well as the function of the neural circuitry involved in stress responses.”

Humans are genetically wired for certain drives, and for responses to life. Environmental and other epigenetic factors can intervene and alter certain behavioral responses to life, but the basic drives and response-patterns will still be there, as will certain inborn abilities.

We were not all meant to achieve success in the same ways. We certainly weren’t all meant for high recognition. I believe that everyone has unique strengths, weaknesses and abilities. Discover yours. Use that information to determine what you consider to be successful for yourself, not what some narcissistic Type A corporate CEO tells you you should consider success. Relax and enjoy being you.

Your Inspiration

Your Inspiration

I asked for feedback from readers on a philosophy or belief or practice that inspires them in their challenges in life.  Here are some profound results.  Thank you, to each of the following people for sharing, and for passing along your inspiration to other readers.

One Step at a TimeShearly Chambless:     Shearly is inspired by the story of a 5-year-old boy with his grandmother, both facing the daunting task of climbing a very high steep flight of stairs to where they must go.  The boy asked, “Grandma, how are we going to get to the top?”  She replied, “One step at a time.”  Shearly remembered this story at a time when she was going through cancer treatments and surgeries, yet was trying to maintain her career in social work.  She would begin to feel defeated, like she could not keep going on; but then would hear the words, “One step at a time.”  And, she made it through to success in her health and in her career.

Refreshing Paws  —  Christopher West:     Christopher maintains a very joyful attitude in his life, and a great sense of humor in his perspectives on life (my personal experience with him).  His inspiration for dealing with life’s challenges, whether in relationships or work, comes from taking 10 minutes each day to pray and meditate, often while holding his dog Ruthie’s paw.

Other People’s Courage  —  Bruce Stout:     Seeing the courage that other people display in their lives when facing difficult circumstances greatly inspires and motivates Bruce; especially the courage that some young people show in facing a difficult life.            (This is a way that all of us with chronic illness can have a sense of contributing to the greater good in the world:  Be courageous in facing your challenges.  In other words, “Feel the Fear,and Move Forward with your life, anyway.”  Better yet, try this next suggestion for dealing with fear.)

Press “Delete”  —  Cindy Hecker:     Cindy spent her entire life as a happy healthy girl and woman, despite many difficult challenges in her life.  She simply did not feel anxiety or depression, even though her siblings both wrestled with those conditions since their early childhood (they thought Cindy was just crazy, or at least in denial).  In rejection or other setbacks she simply moved forward with a joyful attitude; until one day she experienced a very painful injury which left her greatly disabled for years.  Fear began to dominate her life.  She was anxious all the time.  Recently, she had the revelation that she was an “addict.”  She had become addicted to fear.  She asked God for a way to overcome her addiction.  It concurred to her to simply “delete” any thoughts of fear when they first appeared.  It worked!  She is experiencing freedom from fear and much of the pain she was experiencing.  She now imagines pressing “Delete” in her mind whenever a fearful or anxious thought occurs to her, and becomes joyful, again.  Her physical pain also abated.  She can be herself again, and enjoy her paradise in Hawaii.

Faith in God, Listening to God, Relationships with Friends/Family   Sue Udell:     With a strong faith in God and a sense of love from a higher source, Sue has overcome many life-threatening conditions, as well as losses throughout her entire, long life.  She spends time each day just relaxing and “listening” for God’s guidance, which does come to her through thoughts, emotions, a sense of peace, and through unexpected occurrences in her day (serendipity).  She often seeks God on walks in nature.   Her relationships with friends and family give her strength and support.  In her 70’s with several chronic illnesses, Sue lives independently and happily in a beautiful beach community.  Sue is a true miracle.


Find Your Inspiration!

Christopher Knippers, Ph.D.                                                    August 23, 2017



The Way to Happiness

The Way to Happiness

In seeking Happiness for others, you find it in yourself.         (anonymous)

The world’s problems are truly overwhelming.  One can often think, “There is nothing I can do.”  So, then they do nothing.  Trying to help with any of the world’s problems can seem like trying to bail out a sinking boat with a tea-spoon. When we think of how our “small” efforts might affect the word’s problems it might seem useless; especially when we are in the midst of trying to deal with our own overwhelming problems.  “How can someone like Me help Anyone?!”

The answer is actually quite simple: Every time you even try to brighten someone’s day, there is a ripple effect in the universe that spreads light and joy and hope in the world.  Scientific studies do show tangible evidence that your intent to spread joy actually causes the elements such as water to respond to your thoughts by altering their molecular composition.  Sounds like hocus pocus, or even delusional thinking; but it is absolutely a scientific fact.  (Please read the research of Dr. Masaru Emoto.)   Therefore, when you intentionally try to help someone else experience happiness, your efforts are helping not only that person, but also the world around you.  Your intentions spread.

Something as simple as a smile, or a compliment, or coins for a parking meter can change someone’s life and can give them enough hope to find what they are seeking in their own life.  Hope can go a long way in advancing someone’s life; and they in turn can go on to help others.

It might be best to start spreading joy with people who appear more open to your kind gesture or smile; then you can progress to the real challenging work of trying to spread a little happiness to those who appear angry, anxious, or sad.  These are the people who need it the most; and in some cases they will not return the smile or show any form of appreciation for your kind efforts (even for parking meter money).  Spreading joy does have immense rewards, and some of those might be harmonious relationships with those whom you are trying to help.  However, if immediate positive feedback is what you are seeking, you will be disappointed at times.  The effects are often unseen; but they are nonetheless very real.  Your life will change for the better, in the long run.

Happiness and hope are infectious.  Start spreading a little of those things today in any way that you can, and feel your own happiness start to increase.

Christopher Knippers, Ph.D.                                                          August 9, 2017




An Invitation to Readers

I would love to hear from you.  I would like to hear what principles you have found that help you in life: Physically, emotionally, spiritually; or in any other way.  I would also like to know how you would like to be identified (or not) if your thoughts are published on this blog site.

Also interested in hearing from anyone who has tried a plant-based diet for more than 6 weeks at a time.

You can contact me at Dr.Knippers@att,net

Thank You,

Christopher Knippers           08/02/1017

The Healing Effect of Confidence

The Healing Effect of Confidence

What you focus on becomes your reality.     (from cognitive psychology, and spiritual teachings of numerous faiths for millenia)

Confidence is a quality that most anyone greatly desires, but yet confidence can be illusive.  Many people have something about themselves or about life, about which they are insecure.  Certainly, a chronic illness can put a damper on confidence.

In 1907, the great physician/psychologist Dr. Alfred Adler identified the condition of “organ inferiority” in people who had chronic illness, and the fact that this organ inferiority affected their personality and their approach to life.  Organ inferiority is a condition that causes people with chronic illness to have a deep sense (often unconscious) of inferiority due to the dysfunction of their body.

We can overcome this sense of inferiority by: (a) identifying it; (b) Adjusting our thoughts to realize our value despite the illness; (c) Focussing on our strengths; (d) And focussing on the reality of the possibilities in life that do indeed exist for us.

My life has been transformed by focussing on all of the miracles that have occurred for me through the years, rather than focussing on the traumas that preceded the miracles.  I also focus on miraculous occurrences in other people’s lives throughout time.  This new focus has given me a deep sense of confidence that a power does exist in the universe which can help us overcome anything; and this focus has helped me appreciate my own role in overcoming the problems that have frequently presented in my life.  This type of confidence has produced a sense of humility that was not characteristic for me, earlier in my life.  I accept my life as it is and as it is not; and I know that it is all good.  Situations around me may be ever-changing, people around me may be upset (even with me), and situations in my own life may not be ideal; but I stay centered in the knowledge that all things are possible, and that a Power greater than myself is giving me the knowledge that I need to deal with whatever is happening around me.  There is a core identity on which I remain focussed; and I embrace that identity.  This calm peaceful approach to life has given me much more energy and confidence to deal with life, and its ups and downs.

This state of confidence makes healing and vitality significantly more likely, since it eliminates stress which is one of the greatest triggers for illness of all types, and which hinders healing.  By cultivating confidence in your life, you are creating the perfect conditions within yourself for healing and vitality to take hold.

Realize your true value and your true nature; and realize the Power that is in your favor.

Christopher Knippers, Ph.D.                                         July 12, 2017



The Divine Spark

The Divine Spark

Deep within you is a divine spark that can become the unconquerable human spirit.  And that flame is the Power in the Universe that created you.  In some it burns brightly, in others it is barely distinguishable; but it always burns . . . and with love and acceptance it gets higher and brighter.  We can help others kindle this flame by seeing the good in them, even though they don’t see it in themselves.     (From Gnostic, Jewish, Christian, and other spiritual teachings)

Many of us describe ourselves as “spiritual” in our beliefs and in our approach to coping with chronic illness; but spiritual is often ill-defined.  The philosophy expressed above has given me a tangible definition of spirituality.  I have found that focusing on this “divine spark” that I do believe resides within us, helps me to not only avoid focusing on my symptoms, but has helped me to actually overcome them.

When I realize that there is the wisdom, power, and love of my Creator residing within me, it is comforting and empowering.  I begin to realize more of my potential to overcome adversity and to express more of my purpose in life.

The last part of that philosophy above is also important to remember.  We can help other people realize the spark in them by seeing the best in them instead of judging and criticising them.  We also need to be aware that the people with whom we tend to spend most of our time can have an effect on whether or not we find the divine spark within ourselves.  Avoid people who judge and criticise.  Avoid judging and criticising yourself.

Wisdom, power, and love is the expression of the divine spark in you.  Nurture the divine spark in you through focusing your attention on it; and realize that you will find the expression of wisdom, power, and love growing in your own life.  It is a matter of where you turn your attention: To the chaos around you (and sometimes within); or to the Divine Spark within you.  Choose wisdom, power, and love.

Christopher Knippers, Ph.D.                                                  July 5, 2017