In today’s WSJ article by Alison Gopnik http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324637504578567640169906564.html?mod=WSJ_hps_LEFTTopStories she discusses the is issue of resilience in children. How they survive adversity, how they develop in the face of poverty, social upheaval, family and economic chaos speaks to all of us about how we navigate the stormy seas of our own lives.
Pediatricians speak of two types of children–orchids and dandelions. As one would imagine, orchids literally blossomed as individuals under ideal conditions and whithered when life experiences were difficult. Dandelions were more resistant, tending to survive and do OK regardless of social and family environmental conditions.
They seemed to find physiologic correlates by measuring RSA (respiratory sinus arrhythmia) in five month olds. These were felt to correlate with temperament. Follow – up studies demonstrated that lower-RSA children (dandelions) seemed to survive personal adversity better– while higher-RSAs (orchids) exhibited more difficulties as they got older.
Can we learn anything from this article? Are we surprised by the notion that temperaments are innate and that we are all the products of nature and nurture? Doubtful. We need to address the issues of poverty, parenting, family structure, educational support etc. etc. regardless of the “flower types” but it may be important to target those who are at higher risk of withering on the vine.
Wisdom can come from the most unusual people and places. Like the words from a random fortune cookie, they can resonate with us on such a deep, intimate level that we are blown away by their relevance to our most personal life conundrums.
A recent visit to a WAWA one early weekend morning had the same effect on me.
I was standing in line with a newspaper (yes the Sunday NYTimes still works for me on paper) and coffee pondering some personal issues. I was a bit “down” and perhaps feeling a bit sorry for myself (I try to minimize these feelings but we are human afterall). The issues were not all that significant in the scheme of things, but tell that to our ever rambling minds.
Next to me was a large, middle aged man with tattoos, a shaved head and a few earrings. Deep into my own thoughts, I barely noticed him but his gravely voice got my attention. The young woman who returned his change said to him “have a good day”. He turned to me and as he spoke to the few assembled WAWA customers that early morning. “I woke up this morning. It’s a good day”. His face was weathered, his voice perhaps the product of cartons of smokes and six-packs of beer. A wry smile cracked his gruff demeanor. I smiled back.
Like a Buddhist koan which ignites enlightenment with its simplicity, it woke me from my self-indulgent gloom. Not a bad piece of wisdom from an unlikely source, in an unlikely place.
A guess its all about recognizing truths when we need to hear them.
Not that much different from finding inspiration from the Bible…..or a fortune cookie.
The New York Times recently reviewed a book by Dr. Danielle Ofri “What Doctors Feel” exploring the universe of physician’s emotions and their implication for the world of health care. Would anyone be shocked to learn that we are human beings with powerfully human reactions to the pain and suffering we experience as part of our daily rounds?
Ofri points to the particular experience of being sued for malpractice. As someone who has personally been the recipient of such actions it is not an understatement to underline the power that such an experience has on the practitioner and their overall emotional well-being. It is a life altering trauma. It causes even the most competent and well-balanced physician to question their own abilities and to rage at a system which actually encourages such actions. Ofri apparently (I have not read the book yet) writes of her own bitterness and despair over being sued and the sense of betrayal (yes, betrayal).
It results from the consequence of deeply committing oneself to the healing process and being blamed when outcomes are imperfect. She offers the analogy to a death and the healer’s subsequent grieving of a loss of innocence–one based on a naive belief that best intentions and efforts should rule the day.
The physician’s response to being sued are often downplayed. “They should be used to it by now” or “that’s why they have malpractice insurance” or “they’re rich and arrogant anyway”….. The reality is quite different. It changes the healer in a profound way. Trust is lost in the process. Compliments from patients are not viewed as trustworthy. Thoughts of leaving the profession are abundant.
There are ways of dealing with patient dissatisfaction and poor outcomes. They can take into account the litigious nature of American society and yet de-traumatize the experience for physician/healers. If not don’t be shocked if your healer is in need of healing.
How does that make you feel now?