So I’m finally back with another posting after 6 more weeks of whirlwind start up activities! Thank you to those of you that attempted to wade through my summary of the health care bill and it’s implications on primary care. I know it was dense, but for those of you that do tune in to the latest healthcare debates, I thought it would be useful to have my perspective as a representative for the American College of Physicians. I do recognize, though, that although I was excited about what I learned in Washington, it was a little “ho-hum” for most of you. I often query my patients for their reactions to the things I’m crazy enough to post here for the world to read. That series often got the “I started to read it, but it was late….” response. Ok, I get it. Most of you thought it was boring!!! But it was useful to organize my thoughts and I’m glad it’s “out there”.
But now I’m ready to talk about more interesting things, like the secrets of a life well lived! I’m hoping I get some comments to this one. We all need all the guidance we can get! I can’t even begin to tell you what an amazing trip the past year has been for me. As I reflect on where I’ve been, I realize that I’m just starting to see things as I think they really are. I believe I’ve gotten to the place I am through some serious self analysis and study from some pretty incredible teachers. I don’t use the word “teachers” in the traditional sense. Yes, I am a conference junkie, and I read every meaningful piece of psychology and philosophy I can get my hands on, but I learn even more from my family, friends, colleagues, and patients. For those of you that are interested in following the postings I have planned, I think it’s important that I wade into those controversial waters again and share my views on religion so that you know where I’m coming from. I am an incredibly spiritual person. Although I formally associate myself with the Episcopal church, I am very equal opportunty when it comes to religion. From what I’ve learned so far, all the major world religions in their purest form share similar principles and a belief in some higher power. I think people call this higher power different things like karma, fate, kismet, God, Allah, Yahweh, etc. but at the end of the day I think it’s the same thing. I love the quote from the French philosopher Teilhard de Chardin, “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.”
Although we are all extraordinarily unique individuals, we are all wrestling with the same human desires, challenges, hopes, and hurts. The more psychology one reads, the more one realizes how universal our struggles are. One great psychologist that I think has it “just right” is Erik Erikson. For those of you that are not pop-psychologists like me, I invite you to read a summary of his theories from this website http://www.learningplaceonline.com/stages/organize/Erikson.htm which I believe gives a very readable summary. I think it’s a great personal exercise to read through each stage and reflect how we think we did there. As you read, ask yourself “Did I master this stage, or did something happen which left me with a personal deficit that I need to continually work to overcome?” Tough things to think about, I know. We should all be reassured, though, that not one of us is perfect. We all have strengths, and we all have short-comings. One of the reasons I love my job is that I get a much more intimate view of the human condition than most people in the rest of society have. Seeing every day that I’m not alone with my inner conflicts and personal disappointments has enabled me to be more forgiving of myself when I fall short of a personal expectation.
So as I reviewed the eight stages of development that Erikson writes about, I was happy to see that I’m right on track! 🙂 I’m finding that I’m straddling stage 6 (Intimacy and Solidarity vs. Isolation) and stage 7 (Generativity vs. Self absorption or Stagnation). Stage 6 is supposed to take place from age 18-35, but has been pushed back a bit in my generation as we start our families later. Stage 7 typically includes ages 35-65, so at age 37, I guess I’m right where I should be. Stage 6 is where we learn how to love. It is during this time that we hopefully find mutually satisfying relationships and often start our families. Stage 7 is when we tend to be occupied with creative and meaningful work and with issues surrounding our family. Strength comes through care of others and production of something that contributes to the the betterment of society.
So that’s what I’m trying to do with the creation of my practice. I want to be MORE than just a doctor who refills your medications and treats your latest infection. I believe the goal of a true primary care provider is to help each patient achieve a new level of excellence relative to wherever they are when they walk through that door. I hope that my studies and life experiences will enable me not only to keep my patients physically safe and healthy under my care, but also can provide some level of insight or inspiration to tackle the much more difficult pieces of overall wellbeing. So I plan to make this blog about lessons I’ve learned, and a venue for sharing snippets of great writing or ideas I’ve come across that have spoken to me in some profound way. My patients or those of you who are close to me will probably realize that I will annonymously write about snipets I’ve learned from you. I truly believe the tools for achieving happiness reside in the ability to find mutual love, respect, and understanding. Tonight I’ll end with one more quote from Teilhard de Chardin. “Someday, after mastering the winds, the waves, the tides and gravity, we shall harness for God the energies of love, and then, for a second time in the history of the world, man will have discovered fire.”
Mark Chagall (1966) The Burning Bush