If you have behaved yourself into a situation, you must behave yourself out of it! The behavior in this case is the behavior of the mind. As a physician, you went through systematic training of the mind to get you to believe certain thoughts. When was the last time you questioned one of these thoughts?
Learning that the mind's natural tendency is to attach to certain thoughts and believe them; and observing that the root of all painful, stressful feelings is believing certain thoughts, was revolutionary for me. I uncovered a system of thoughts that I believed without question, and realized that I already had all the freedom I was longing for. I simply had to question my thoughts.
To show you how this process works, it's best to use real examples.
Each week I’m going to take a stressful thought that is central to the physician’s belief system, and question it. Follow along, and even listen in on the audio podcast as you do your own work on the same thought.
*This process is based on The Work of Byron Katie. For more information, visit www.thework.com.
A list of physicians’ common stressful thoughts:
“I need to take care of patients.”
“I am surrounded by illness, suffering, and death.”
“Patients demand my time.”
“People need me to respond.”
“I need to fill out paperwork.”
“There is too much paperwork.”
“My job is stressful.”
“Medicine is a stressful profession.”
“I don’t have enough time.”
“I have too many patients.”
“I am responsible for my patients.”
“I am responsible for keeping my patients healthy.”
“I am responsible for alleviating my patients’ pain and suffering.”
“I can’t make a mistake.”
“I need to do the right thing.”
“I work too many hours.”
“I don’t get paid enough.”
“I don’t get enough respect.”
“I need to be more efficient.”
“I already paid my dues.”
“I sacrificed myself to become a doctor.”
“I’m dealing with life or death issues.”
“This is more than just a job.”
“I need to find meaning in my job.”
“I’m too busy.”
“It’s not worth it.”
“I trained all those years to be able to do my job.”
“I’ve worked so hard already.”
“I can’t give up my job.”
“I need to put my training to good use.”
“I need to put the patient first.”
“My needs are secondary to the patient’s.”
“The system needs an overhaul.”
“I am a doctor.”
Can you come up with any more, based on your own experience?
Make your own list, and follow along as I question each of these thoughts.
Today's thought: "I need to take care of my patients."
- Is it true?
- Can you know that it is absolutely, 100% true?
- How do you react, and how do you behave, when you believe the thought, "I need to take care of my patients"?
- What is the payoff you get for believing the thought, "I need to take care of my patients"?
- What are you afraid might happen if you didn't believe the thought, "I need to take care of my patients"?
- Who would you be, and how would you behave, if you didn't believe the thought, "I need to take care of my patients"?
Now turn the thought around, as I have done below. Find three genuine examples in your life for how each of these new thoughts is as true as the original thought.
- "I don't need to take care of my patients."
- Some common complaints and illnesses (upper respiratory infections) resolve themselves on their own.
- There are some issues impacting a patient's health that cannot be solved by a doctor's intervention.
- I can choose not to be a doctor practicing clinical medicine and taking care of patients.
- "My patients need to take care of themselves."
- Behavior changes such as exercise, smoking cessation, and diet are examples of how patients can take care of themselves.
- Giving patients the tools and information to take better care of themselves is a recognized need in improving health care.
- Patients can improve communication with their doctors by being more informed and asking the right questions.
- "I need to take care of myself."
- As a doctor, I am a model of health to my patients.
- If I am tired and depleted, I have limited capacity to take care of another person.
- The way I lead my life sends a powerful message to my patients, to my family, and to other doctors.
Take the time to find examples that feel genuine to you, and that come from your own life.
Notice where you are facing resistance to this process, and when your mind wants to "speed up" rather than find the examples.