Recently, things have been rather frustrating emotionally. I’ve always found free-writing to be a good stress-reliever because it never fails to make me feel better; however, I’ve found it nearly impossible to write anything these past few days. Sigh. Anyways, earlier today, I found myself with a block of waiting time (outside, in the cold, to add), so I took out a piece of lined paper, a pencil, and began to write. Longhand! Since typing on the computer has become increasingly widely-used, it had been so long since I physically wrote a draft on actual lined paper! That’s some old-fashioned goodness. Anyways, I wasn’t really writing with a purpose, just to get my thoughts out about a topic that came to mind. Perhaps you could call it a rant, or just an opinion. Because it’s the only piece of free-writing I’ve done in the past two weeks, well, here it is, on the blog in typed form… 🙂
“See a Doctor”
(Or psychologist, therapist, nutritionist, counselor… any of those professions which have the claimed purpose of helping your physical or mental health.) A person confides to their friend a state they struggle with, which could be anything from stomachaches to a threat of suicide, and their friend offers the three words in this message’s subject, in whichever tense or form. The friend, using the phrase in whichever tense or form, probably thinks that they are only trying to help. But I think, in the given situation, those three words are most unhelpful and most unsatisfying anyone can ever say.
First of all, dear friend, why are they telling you this personal frustration in the first place? If they really wanted a mental or physical health professional’s words, wouldn’t they have directly gone for it? Why are they even telling you?…
…because they want you to care. They are telling you something significant to them (I mean, your body and mind are aspects of your life that hold great significance–your body supports you and enables you to have a full range of motion; your mind is the frame through which you perceive everything that occurs in your life.) They are aware you are not a medical professional with a degree–you are their friend, presumably a friend who they trust to some degree. So when they tell you about their situation, they know what they’re looking for: from you, they hope for consolation or sympathy or understanding on an emotional level.
I suppose many people immediately come up with the curt “see a doctor” response because logically, they think it’s the most responsible: specialists in those fields have been through training and have experience; thus, they must be my friend’s best bet! But through telling your friend these three words, you are seeing things one-dimensionally; you are missing this whole other aspect to it: the emotional aspect. Humans are emotional beings; we all want to feel cared about in some way. But doctors and therapists — why do they do what they do? Their purpose is to communicate knowledge and information to people, and their profession is their source of income — they need to see patients in order to support their own family. But put yourself in the doctor’s shoes: when you see a patient walk through the door, how do you approach their situation? They are someone whom you’ve never met, and they have no emotional connection to you. Obviously, you’re going to approach them with the knowledge you’ve been taught and have used in the past – something from the books, or your former boss or teacher, or whomever.
My point is, the doctor doesn’t connect to the patients on a personal emotional level; they can only offer advice and suggestions based on their many years of study. The patients walk in the door, and later walk out; maybe they return at some point in the future. But they are separated from the doctor through professional duty, which overwhelms the potential for personal friendship to be forged between patient and doctor.
So why does your friend talk to you about their situation? Because they trust you enough and think you’ll care. They think you’ll have something of value to share — consolation out of friendship. Take it as an honor that your friend trusts you; rather than an opportunity to end the discussion with “see a doctor.” No matter what you say, try to make it sympathetic, understanding, or consoling, or otherwise helpful on an emotional level. Because a simple “see a doctor” translates as, “I don’t care/aren’t willing to think hard enough to give an answer of substance, so I’ll take the easy way out.” And that’s most likely not the message you want to give your friend!
…though, now that I think about it, “Go take a Bikram Yoga class!” phrased in an appropriate manner, preceded and followed by some thoughtful and compassionate explanation, might just be the best response of all. Hehe. Anyways, that concludes lz’s random piece of the day. Thanks for bearing with me, if you even kept reading this far! 🙂