Being a physician is hard. (And so is being a human).
As physicians, we think we have to be something other than human. A “superhuman” of sorts. Having just enough compassion to care for and connect with our patients while also having the unique “ability” to show absolutely no emotion when things doesn’t go as planned. It’s like a survival skill.
In order to make lightning quick decisions when all hell’s breaking loose in the clinic, lab, OR or ER, it seems like a good idea to mysteriously tuck away the negative emotions (like stress, fear, doubt, or grief) that inevitably come up.
But there’s only so much storage in that emotional closet of yours. A whole mess of tucked away and (not-so-)forgotten but definitely unacknowledged emotions is a prequel to a bad outcome, which could quite possibly be yours. And IMHO…it wreaks!
Hoarding the normal negative emotions isn’t gonna generate a better day, nor does it help you in the long run. You don’t have to be superhuman in order to be a physician. You just need to be a human who has the knowledge, care, & expertise to help your patients.
You don’t need to be perfect as a human (or physician), either. (Pro tip: it’s impossible to do anyways).
Human physicians can best serve their human patients by being better humans: managing their own thoughts and emotions instead of avoiding or denying them.
What if, instead of tucking the normal and negative 50% of human emotion into the recesses of your emotional closet you just set them on a proverbial Mayo stand for a bit, still in view but not forgotten? Putting them in a “time out” of sorts?
Then, when things are clinically stable, you can gently return to those negative emotions with love and compassion. It’ll be easier to return to those emotions when they’re still in your vantage point instead of the bottom of a dark closet.
I promise: while this doesn’t seem easy, and it may not seem doable for you (yet), allowing yourself be human and actually feel and accept all the normal human emotions is an alternative way to bring some peace, calm, and control over what may seem out of control and complete chaos. (Because, how’s the hoarding working out for you, anyways?)And allowing all the human emotions is a sustainable way to be your best self, as a human and a physician.