Doctors need your help to build a nurturing relationship with you.
Our rational mind goes to the doctor for expertise, but our heart goes to the doctor for comfort. We seek diagnosis and treatment, but we also need encouragement. If the doctor conveys that we are up to handling whatever problems come our way and that we can do things to help ourselves, we feel uplifted and empowered to heal.
When anything goes wrong with our body, it's an unsafe feeling. Our nervous systems are exquisitely sensitive to whether a situation is safe. Emotional connection is a primary way we lower stress and soothe our fears. Once we sense emotional support and safety, the parasympathetic nervous system can take over and send our energies toward recovery.
A medical professional's kindly voice, warm eyes, soft eye contact, and attentive posture lets your nervous system know that you are in a safe place for healing to commence. We bloom inside when we feel like a person instead of an object of examination.
We feel uneasy and unsafe in situations where we are being chronically evaluated. Neuroresearcher Steven Porges points out that the experience of being classified or evaluated sparks natural anxiety in the deepest parts of our nervous system. The human spirit doesn't like being reduced to numbers and finds it discouraging to be constantly assessed.
In schools, hospitals, corporations, and other institutions that measure people by a standard of progress, we can get the uncomfortable feeling that things are being decided about us that will affect our sense of freedom and identity. Even though our medical status needs to be tracked, we want the experience to be as reassuring and empowering as possible.
As busy professionals, sometimes doctors can focus on what's wrong and forget to tell us what we're doing right. As teacher and psychotherapist Tom Baker has said, when a doctor offers a diagnosis or prognosis, he or she may be speaking strictly about our physical symptoms, but we may hear it at a deeper spiritual level, as if there's something wrong with us.
A doctor's visit can make us feel like scared children sitting in the principal's office. Even though it's irrational, when we feel bad physically, we may subconsciously get the feeling we've done something wrong. Underneath it all, we want to know that we are still good and that our doctor sees the best in us even if our bodies are having a hard time. When we are given emotional connection and are seen as good, we feel safe and relaxed, allowing our internal recovery systems to heal us more quickly.
When a medical professional makes us feel that we are all just human beings together, we feel supported in a profound way. It no longer feels like a risky encounter with someone who has power over us. When the professional gives it the personal touch, we feel safe to be ourselves and the principal's-office feeling disappears.
You can do your part in encouraging your doctor toward the kind of interaction you want. Medical professionals have been trained to provide a service that they must do under extremely difficult and pressured circumstances, often on life-or-death issues. Sometimes they get so busy they can lose sight of how valuable just a few words of praise or encouragement could be.
You could let your doctor know how important it is to hear that, even if you have a serious condition, you will get through it, you will have help, and you will handle it well. If we're going to nurture the kind of doctor-patient relationship we want, doctors need our encouragement too. They may have forgotten how scary doctor's visits can be.