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So many lawyers, so little time...

"The prospect of hanging focuses the mind wonderfully"--Samuel Johnson

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Location: Louisville, KY, United States

Gastroenterologist, cyclist, cellist, Christian, husband, father, grandfather.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Worthy of comment

I've had some feedback from my "narrative" post, ranging from "That was a good post, Dad", to "Do you know the number of the local Suicide Prevention hotline?". One very thoughtful comment read as follows:
Many patients, as your experience has taught you, confuse the circumstances of their lives, with who they are, e.g. "PWA", Person with Aids, as just one of seemingly limitless number of examples.

But physicians, too, fall into this same trap. Their monetary success, academic rank, or involvement in malpractice litigation (whether or not they were at fault) is often the fuel that fires their narcissistic awe or narcissistic rage, as the latter case may be.

This all too often leads to the problems that befalls so many physicians; substance abuse and dependency, burn-out, divorce, depression, suicide, and early death.

Reducing their view of themselves and their world to the "if only..." you can see how this happens.

Serving G-d and the community, no matter how one defines success, is usually difficult and often painful.

The advice I give to my patients, and to many physicians, is first, through self-love, find compassion for yourself, and forgive yourself. Once having done that, you can then forgive others. No longer will your rage linger and fester, as this is symptomatic of your resistance to what is.

Love and compassion.
Forgiveness and humility.
Prayer and faith.

These are the tools that made you a great doctor. They are also the tools that will enable you to find comfort.

There is of course much wisdom packed in those few short paragraphs.

One concept that has helped me to have a better understanding of virtue is Aristotle's "principle of the mean", which states that a virtue is not a polar opposite of a vice; rather, a virtue lies between the extremes of two vices. For example, courage is not just the opposite of cowardice, but occupies the middle ground between cowardice and recklessness.

Our response to adversity likewise can lie at two extremes. One is a narcissistic self-absorption, or as Frank Pittman would put it, a belief that somehow our particular brand of suffering is unique in the universe. The other is denial of pain, that ANY pain is evil and we best do all we can to avoid it. The ultimate expression of this vice is substance abuse or it's surrogates such as workaholism.

I suspect that most of us go pinging wildly back and forth between these extremes. I certainly do, although my own tendency is "extinguish the pain at all costs" which has led to my battle with workaholism.

The biggest single weakness of the blog is that it is not a very good vehicle for an extended narrative. I may spend three months and numerous posts to create a tension that finds a catharsis in the expression of pain, which then allows me to push forward and find the joy that surrounds us all if we're only attentive to it. If your first reading of my "working-through" was "A narrative", it would be easy to imagine poor me railing against the universe for having had such a bad time of it as of late.

The reality is that my suffering in the grand scheme of things is trivial. That is why I enjoy forays into "third world" countries. The folks there know what real adversity is, and they often don't even see it as anything other than life-as-usual.

On the other hand, I'd be less than honest if I said that my experiences weren't painful. Yes, we all can deny our pain, or we can savor it, but the precious middle course is to confront it, receive healing, and move on.

And that cannot happen without the input from our friends, our family, our colleagues, and from God.


Blogger SkiTheStars said...

Even though I am a Hopeful Agnostic*, I find your posts full of wonderful insights. Keep up the good work(s).


*Three possible conditions after organic mass panic, i.e., death.


2 out of three is not terrible odds.

2:01 PM  
Blogger JusPasenThru said...

A new version of Pasqual's wager?

11:21 PM  

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