I wrote this to a friend who was so insulted by her doctor that she can barely tolerate him. At the same time she needs him. He made a callous remark about her being suicidal.
I'm going where angels fear to tread, but I got to be honest. Of course I realize that getting along with Dr Newberg will be a trial, but I've been a Dr Newberg on occasions when I hear the feedback from some of my patients. I don't think I'm a God but I come across, sometimes, as a God to my patients. They are miserable and feel inadequate and they see me on top of the world who never had a bad moment, never had a trauma or obstacle, and they thinkI was born with a silver spoon in my mouth and born as one of the Chosen People to boot.
I tell you I am empathic and sensitive and caring and considerate 99.99% of the time, but sometimes I am just out to lunch. One patient in group who was the last of 14 children gave me a baleful look one time and said it was obvious I never had any siblings! So what was I doing, doing group therapy! Yet I did it. I didn't know that being in a large family was a prerequisite for doing group therapy, but it sure helps. I had to work hard to overcome the downside of my advantages. Most of my patients consider my disadvantages trivial. They weren't trivial to me!
That's right, I should get over it. I did get over it, but what happened is not erased. The 0.0l% of my goofs would convince my victims that I didn't belong in the practice of medicine, let alone dealing with people, but here I was, practicing medicine, dealing with people. That 0.0l% of my blunders felt at the time to my 'victims' as the stupidest, cruelist, most mindless, inconsiderate and insensitive remark in the world, but I made it, in the context of the best of intentions.
The downside of free-association, doing it for years on the couch, means that sometimes I will say what I think without realizing how it would affect the listener. After all, how bad can it be, being I'm a good guy with the best of intentions doing God's work? I try to figure out how it is that sometimes what I say is a knife in the heart or a kick in the solar plexus and the trouble is I have stepped on a nerve, a hidden nerve, a hot button, a raw, unhealed wound, unwittingly.
I thought I was being helpful; I only want to be helpful. The most important thing for doctors is--- DO NO HARM! I don't want to do harm, honest injun. So, Jean, in short, I identify with Dr Newberg, even though I probably am 100 times more sensitive and caring than he is. If you have got a guy who is smart and competant and reliable, use all your control and survival skills, and in time the awful feeling will pass. He's got a history, God knows what it is, that he has been ravaged by somebody suicidal, and in his unguarded moments, his hot button is pushed and he flails out like a wounded beast. I think every human being has in him a crying child, a frightened child, a wounded beast.