The Greek legend of Chiron, the wounded centaur,  was adopted by Carl Jung to epitomize the relationship between healing and wounding. 

 The details of Chiron's personal journey are available to all via any internet search but essentially he dedicated his own life to the healing arts despite his own suffering.   More important, however, is the notion that real healing occurs when those of us who have been wounded by life's dramas use our own suffering to help others.

It is clear to me that much suffering centers around a sense of loneliness.  Pain of any kind– physical, emotional, mental–isolates the sufferer and this exacerbates the suffering.

Only those who have felt real pain can empathize with others.  In fact the Buddhists speak of the benefit of suffering–a path that leads ultimately to compassion.  And compassion is the ultimate cure for our own suffering.

So we come to realize that all healing is mutual.  The healer and the healee are engaged in an active, bi-directional process of sharing what is the most profoundly human, our fragility, our weaknesses, our sense of vulnerability.

It takes great courage to admit weakness and suffering.  We are programmed not to do so.  We put on a front, wear a mask by which we act out our lives.  Revealing our suffering is difficult for most of us because of that revelation that we are imperfect and perhaps weak.

Even physical disease states have a tremendous emotional component to them.  Often as a physician, the best I can offer is a compassionate look, an arm across the shoulder, a quiet listening.  This human expression is often the only form of healing that I can offer.  But it often helps.  It is a recognition of shared feelings–that awareness that another human being, doctor or not, cares.   That element of being alone can be conquered, at least for the moment.

The truth is that we are ALL wounded in one way or another.  The nature of that wounding is so deeply personal and relies completely upon our perception of life's events that even revealing it to others may make no sense to them. 

By offering compassion to others, we can admit our own experience of suffering without stating it.  Those who are best at healing others tap into their own suffering for the source of their true compassion. 

In the process both are healed.


Have you ever tried to heal another?  What I mean is this–do you know someone who is suffering yet seems bent on their own self-destruction?  What do you do?  What can you do?

Is it possible to heal someone who doesn't want to be healed?  I fear the answer is no.

Those who have tried will become devastated themselves by the effort.  They may push themselves to the limit of their physical and emotional strength.  They may beg, cajole, offer help…….

But despite their best intentions, the truth is this:  we are all separate souls who have incarnated in this one particular lifetime  with our own karmic debt and with some unexplained and unrecognized journey. 

Despite our closeness to the troubled soul, our efforts may be in vain.  

 Unfortunately, we are not given all the directions along life's path. Some of us seem to be unable to recognize the lifepreserver that is offered to us and absurdly swim past the outstretched arms of loved-ones, hurdling towards the abyss.

Perhaps this self-destructive drive reflects a miscalculation on the soul's part.  Perhaps the mind of the individual is shackled by their own biochemistry, their own physical brain's defects.  Perhaps life's difficulties cannot be assimilated, cannot be overcome.

It is a sad state of affairs.  An incarnation wasted is a divine gift squandered.

But be sure to understand that your own journey must be honored and lived.

All healing is ultimately self-healing.  We must honor that truth.


As a practicing physician/meta-physician I have previously expressed my concerns re: Obamacare and in particular his failure to address the medical malpractice fiasco.

When it comes to end-of-life issues, however, I have to state my tentative support.  I will leave it 'tentative' until I hear more details.  But as I have previously stated, way too much money is 'wasted' in the last few months of life which do absolutely nothing to help the dying patient.  I believe it is wrong for conservatives to blow this off as some sort of premature euthanasia move.

Anyone who has spent anytime in a ICU, CCU setting will quickly realize that there are patients hooked up to ivs, on respirators and receiving therapies which are of absolutely no help to the patient. 

Now I do strongly disagree with any attempts to ration health care based on age.  Age should never be the criteria for any medical/surgical therapy.  Each case must be judged on an individual basis.  There are 85year olds whose cognitive and physical existence are at such a level that all attempts at maintaining their health should be exhausted.  There are far younger individuals, however, who suffer from progressively deteriorating organ failure whose prognosis is far worse and who may benefit more from supportive and 'comfort' care than aggressive treatments.

Is this potentially 'dangerous' and tricky territory I write about?  Yes it is.  It is why we need to created Palliative Care committees in hospitals consisting of physicians, nurses, clergy, ethicist and community leaders who are willing to evaluate individual cases.  Is it easier to 'do everything for every patient'?  Of course.  But the truth is that often we do more harm than good, induce more suffering than provide compassion, and waste scarce medical resources when there is no chance for recovery or improvement.

As a society, as a culture we need to face these issues directly.  Unfortunately when they become politicized they provide a disservice to our nation and its sick.



I published a posting in July of last year that involved a patient of mine and her future son-in-law.  I recently had a chance to revisit this story with the patient I referred to as Mary.

Her son-in-law I called Mike had been stationed in Iraq.  He described this unusual event while in his barracks.  This time I heard the real version of the story and it is worth repeating.

Mike described lying on his bunk and thinking about leaving to grab a soda at the PX. To his dismay he was unable to get up because he was being held down by an unknown stranger.  The man was older, with short cropped gray hair, a yellow tee shirt with a police insignia, black shorts and black sneakers.  He was quite stong and was pushing Mike on the center of his chest. But Mike felt  no sense of aggression or evil intent.  The stranger seemed determined to prevent Mike from getting up.

As he disappeared, Mike proceeded to get up and leave the barracks when a huge bomb went off in the PX. Shaken, he realized that he  had been prevented from leaving by a mysterious stranger who subsequently vanished into thin air.

When he got back to the States he told his wife and mother-in-law to be, Mary what happened.  Mary smiled and asked Mike if he recognized the man from any of the pictures in her home.    "My God", Mike exclaimed, "that's the man!"

He had pointed to a picture of Mary's deceased father–a retired cop.

Mary had known it all along.


Readers of my blog may know that I rarely get political.  But when there is something powerfully and obviously wrong with an area of personal interest to me, I have to comment. 

Of course you know that I am a practicing gastroenterologist for over thirty years now.

Of course I want everyone to have health insurance.  There are many, many patients who I have treated over the years who have had none–and I received no compensation for that care.  That's OK because it is part of the profession.  We treat people when we are on service regardless of their financial and insurance situation.

What is outrageous about Obamacare [and I voted for him after much soul-searching] is the obvious refusal to address the malpractice crisis in this country.  Despite what the New York TImes or other liberal media outlets write, PHYSICIANS PRACTICE DEFENSIVE MEDICINE OUT OF FEAR OF MALPRACTICE LITIGATION!!  Can I make those letter any bigger?

There is a subtle but dangerous campaign of "misinformation" that the liberal media puts out there claiming to demonstrate how small a percentage of medical decisions are made based on defensive medicine.  Utter nonsense!!  It is a cover to defend the refusal to address medical malpractice and the reason is clear.  Obama has been heavily funded by the trial lawyers lobby.

Charles Krauthammer and others have also publicly addressed this fact.

It is horribly disingenuous of the media to pretend that such defensive medicine is mot a MAJOR source of health care expenditures.

But don't take my word for it.  Please ask your own physicians–they will be glad to tell you how physicians practice in the real world.  We are conditioned to order extra tests, call more consultants, perform more procedures because of the fear of being sued for not doing these tests [on the rare chance we might miss something] and doing them  IMMEDIATELY because of fear of being sued for 'delay in diagnosis'.

The costs of defensive medicine alone could provide enough money to give everyone insurance.

Like I've written about before—take it out of the courts, give these cases to panels of experts who can expeditiously and fairly adjudicate them–limit the 'pain and suffering' rewards and lets move on.  If anyone believes that physicians purposefully commit negligence–take away their license and throw them behind bars.  Honest mistakes and oversights occur because we are human and therefore fallible.

Obama should at least be honest enough to explain why he does not want to address this issue.  His supporters –the trial lawyers–would be very upset.

ONLY ONE THOUGHT AT A TIME–a powerful concept of healing

I previously discussed the myth of multitasking–we can't do it.  Our perception merely reflects how adept we are at shifting from one task to another.  But no matter how well we do it–there is a period of time in which we are NOT doing either task.  It is the nature of this hiatus which can be troubling and even dangerous.  We also loose continuity when we try to multitask since we are breaking one flow of thought to introduce another.

Thinking works the same way.  We cannot hold two separate thoughts in our mind simultaneously. But that is not necessarily a bad thing.

It offers us a potential for healing.  We can actually 'change the subject' in our mind.  When we find ourselves obsessing over negative thoughts, scenarios.  When we are burdened by worry and concern and yet are unable to change anything, then the truth of one-thought-at-a-time can be healing.

It is the basis of some meditative practices as well.  Repeating a mantra and focusing in on it takes our mind away from other more disturbing thoughts. Going back to concentrating on our breath does the same thing.  We change our focus.

Practitioners of meditation are adept at training their minds.  They can displace negative thoughts with neutral or positive ones.  This is not easy for most of us.  But at least the awareness that it can be done should be somewhat comforting.

At least we can try it out.