Understanding is Relative

Leave a Comment

The following story was circulating on Facebook:
A young couple moves into a new neighborhood. The next morning while they are eating breakfast, the young woman sees her neighbor hanging the wash outside. “That laundry is not very clean; she doesn’t know how to wash correctly. Perhaps she needs a better laundry soap.” Her husband looks on but remains silent. Every time her neighbor hangs her wash to dry the young woman makes the same comments. A month later, the woman is surprised to see a nice clean wash on the line and says to her husband: ” Look she has finally learned how to wash correctly. I wonder who taught her this?” Replies the husband, ” I got up early this morning and cleaned our windows.”

And so with life…What we see when watching others depends on the clarity of the window through which we look.

This story so hit home with me. I was brought up in a very judgmental household. I never realized how much I used to presume and judge others and situations until one day my husband (then boyfriend), thankfully, pointed it out to me (yes, I still married him!)

We often make monumental mistakes when we judge other people and their actions. We see the world through “life experience” tinted glasses. Before we move to judgment we should always take a step back and examine how and why we came to a conclusion or, at the very least, understand that we may not have a clear view (all the facts). We need to stay open to the possibility that there is information we are missing. i.e. Is the woman on line holding everyone up because she is being inconsiderate or is she having a bad day and forgot her wallet? Is that really obese person lazy and gross or is he doing battle with a disorder/disease? Until you know the whole picture and, even then, unless you are personally going through the exact same thing, you can never fully understand what it going on with another individual. Emoting good wishes instead of hurtling daggers of judgment benefits everyone. You will be amazed how pleasurable life is when you openly look for and begin to perceive a broader view of the world.

Another point in the story above which is often overlooked is that the husband let the wife continue misjudging her neighbor for a month. I can tell you that not only was I shocked by the realization that I was acting like a true member of my family (something I strive to avoid) I was also grateful to be shown the error of my ways. However, to be honest, I was also annoyed with my husband for taking so long to tell me. If you hear someone being judgmental or simply misjudging, then tell them. They may not appreciate it but then again you never know unless you try.

Understanding that we all view the world from our own perspectives is one of the most important lessons one can learn as a Healthcare Provider. While waiting for a movie to start I was channel surfacing and came across a hospital drama (could not tell you which one, sorry). A young female doctor was frustrated because she could not convince her professional model patient, suffering from a rare cancer of the jaw, to have the surgery which would save her life by removing a large piece of her mandible (Jaw bone). The model wanted to look into alternative methods before having her face permanently altered. The Doctor, presuming it was all about the model’s vanity, asked her supervisor for advice and the supervisor’s reply was “stop judging your patient”. Totally not what the she expected to hear. It forced her to take a step back and examine her own perceptions. She realized that she was in fact looking at the situation through her own personal references, a person who’s identity revolved around her intelligence not her appearance. What proceeded was a very open and honest conversation between Doctor and Patient, which I might add started with the Doctor apologizing. Taking the time to try and understand exactly where our clients are coming from should be the first step in every treatment.

“What you see and what you hear depends a great deal on where you are standing. It also depends on what sort of person you are.”
― C.S. Lewis, The Magician’s Nephew

When in Doubt Ask!

Leave a Comment

question2-724662The movie “When Harry Met Sally” (1989) starring Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan is best remembered for the hysterical Deli Orgasm scene. Meg Ryan’s character, Sally, was showing Billy Crystal’s character, Harry, that men have no idea when women are faking it. Men just trust/assume that all is going as it should. The other unique quirk in Sally’s personality was her constant questioning of everything in her life. She could not order a meal unless she knew every detail and gave specific instructions on how she would like it prepared and served. Now most people would find this an annoying quality in their friends and family. But, truth be told, Sally’s questioning always got her exactly what she wanted or needed (at least in the daily necessities of life).

Asking questions, for some reason, is very difficult for most people. The problem is either we do not feel we have the right to question, or we are afraid to appear stupid. (By the way no question is ever stupid if you truly want to know the answer.) And some times we simply do not know what to ask. Researching and asking questions is a habit we all need to develop and become efficient at, especially when it comes to our health.

For example, when deciding to hire a personal trainer at your gym, do you take the word of the 20 something girl behind the counter “Oh he/she is the best trainer in the gym”, or do you ask specifically what his/her qualifications are? i.e.

• “How long has the trainer been training?” “How long at this facility?”
• “Is the trainer certified and if so, by what organization?”
• “What are the specific certifications held by the trainer? ”
• “What is the trainer’s style of training…Boot Camp/Army Sergeant or gentle encouragement?” in other words is it the right one for you?
• “May I speak to some of his/her clients?” (for this there is whole other set of questions)
• What questions, if any, did the trainer ask you?

You are basically planning to turn over your body to this person. Don’t you think it is worth a ten minute interview? Yet most are more concerned about the cost and trust/assume that the gym would not be employing unqualified trainers. I had a client who was the “top trainer” in a local gym and upon explaining which hamstring I was stretching I received a blank look. When I questioned the trainer ” Do know how many different hamstrings there are in your leg?” her answer was ” of course…two” (The answer, if you did not know, is actually three.)

Even scarier to me is that we almost never question Doctors, Surgeons, or Therapists (Physical/Massage etc). In my last blog I mentioned that Surgeon’s are not required to take training in or be certification to perform new procedures. I was somewhat surprised at how quickly people defended the Doctors and stated that it was OK as they are qualified professionals. Really? How do we know this? Is every surgeon or doctor out there the best at what they do? In every profession there are those at the top (most qualified) which means there is also a middle of the road (somewhat knowledgeable or skilled) and a bottom (a health risk!) . How do you know which one you have unless you ask?

Taking some time to research on line about a disease, injury, surgery and formulating questions can mean the difference between a full, speedy, successful recovery and long, lengthy, painful not so much recovery.

• “Please explain the disease, injury, surgery to me?” If the Doctor does not take the time to answer your questions in the manner in which you understand the answers, is this the Doctor for you?
• “Does the doctor specialize in this disease, injury, surgery?”
• ” How often has he/she dealt with or performed this disease, injury, surgery?”
• “What is the doctor’s success rate?”
• “Realistically how long is the recovery from the surgery?”
• “What types of medicine will I be on before /during/after and what are the short/long term side effects?”
• “Will I need physical therapy? Are there alternative therapies I can try first?”
• What questions, if any, did the doctor ask you?
(these same questions can be used for any therapist, Physical, Massage, Occupational etc)

These seem like basic questions everyone would ask but time and time again I have clients walk in the door without a clue as what were the specific effects of their illness/injury. What was done (or why for that matter) to them during a surgery. What the effects of the procedure or medication was having on them? Is the rehab being done correctly? I have a client who suffered an open fracture of the elbow. Her physical therapy was “torture”. When she questioned the Doctor about it he replied “It is supposed to be torture and she would just have to put up with it.” It turned out that the Doctor forgot tell the PT that her forearm was fused and could not perform rotation. Something the PT was trying to force her arm to do. She knew that something was wrong but did as she was told for another 5 months until she could no longer take it.

People go to the Doctor/Therapist because they are in pain and do what the authority figure tells them to do because they are told it will take the pain away. They never think to question the doctor/therapist or research alternatives (i.e. other more qualified doctors, alternative treatments) until it is too late and the damage is done.
Blindly trusting someone because they presumably know more about something then you do is dangerous. We allow electricians, mechanics, plumbers to take advantage because they have knowledge we do not. In the end we complain about being over charged and shoddy work. We can end up in dangerous situations in our homes (leaks and structural issue) and when we drive ours cars (believing the brakes work and the fuel filter is clear).

This is bad enough but what is even more terrifying to me is that we do the same with our health. We choose to trust and hope rather than taking the time to gather the information and ask questions in order to make the best decisions. This is the information age. There is no excuse for not thoroughly researching and understanding something when it comes to one’s personal health & well being and that of our families. As a Therapist I always take the time to make sure my clients understand the treatments they will receive from me and that they are armed with the proper questions and information when seeing their doctors. Fear should not be a factor when making a decision, trust should be earned not automatically given. The only way to know if someone is faking is to ask. The results are mutual satisfaction for all parties concerned.