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Posted on 04-28-2016
How the practitioner/patient relationship involves mutual trust, commitment, and responsibility - and when that happens, magical results do happen.
When someone comes into my office, it is always fascinating to see what the expectations are and how many questions they have. Some of my patients are new to alternative medicine and, understandably, are not quite sure what to expect. Some of my patients have been struggling for years to find that right fit, to find something that helps them heal, helps them manage their life and their questions are very different. But for both groups my answer usually boils down to a simple, yet difficult, question: how much do you REALLY want to heal?
On first glance, that seems obvious. Of course if you are coming in for a treatment, you want to heal, right? Most people will answer a blatant, “Yes!” But let’s take it deeper. How much responsibility do you take for your own life, your habits, your health situation? How much are you willing to change those patterns? How much are you willing to spend the time, effort, discipline to help your healing take root and really hold? Or are you expecting someone else to magically come and fix everything without you having to do a single thing?
I do not blame my patients if they expect the magical fix. The Western medicine system is one that holds the doctors with all the power and the patients with very little. The patients are told to take this pill or have this procedure and all will be fixed. Of course, the problem is that often it does not get fixed, or it gets worse. So here they are, in my office, looking for a different route, a new perspective, and new way to heal. And the good news is - yes, there is another way, and I’ve seen it help people that have struggled for years or decades without seeing any hope. The caveat is: it’s partially your responsibility too.
Sometimes it’s a gentle process, leading someone to the realization that their relationship with me is a partnership. Sometimes it’s more like a splash of cold water on the face that wakes people up with a jolt. Yes, I do expect you to change detrimental lifestyle habits if they are harming your health, especially if they directly relate to the issue you are seeking to improve. You can call this harsh, you can call this mean, but I call it being a true healer and a true guide along the healing path.
Now, this does not mean I judge you, or the habits. I judge no one. We all have our vices, our weaknesses. But I am here to gently remind you that you have much more control over your health than you realize. For some, this is scary. All of a sudden all of our choices we are held accountable for, and we can’t wave them away with a magic wand (or a magic acupuncture needle). We are in partnership. The treatments will help tremendously - have no doubt. But you have to keep up your end of the bargain. You have to commit to change, live the change, be the change. Try not to let it scare you. Let it empower you!
Too much of the Western medical system is based around disempowerment. You are at the mercy of the insurance companies, the specialists and their crazy schedules, of the fear of what will happen if you don’t follow their recommendations. My relationship with my patient is completely different. We are on a TEAM. If you come in once a week for acupuncture but you continue to eat horribly, drink alcohol to excess, never exercise, never take the time to relax, breathe, or meditate, never take the recommended herbs or supplements - your improvement will be much less than the person who changes all those habits.
I know that’s it’s hard. In many ways, it’s easier to hand your responsibility over to another person: you make the decision, you do all the work, that way I don’t have to change. I’m here to say - yes, you may have to change. And at first it might be scary. At first it might seem impossible. But YOU CAN DO IT. You can. That way, the healing you are looking for is REAL. It LASTS. Do you want to be dependent on any form of treatment for the rest of your life? I don’t want patients that are dependent on my treatments. I want them to heal deeply and fully so they only need to come in for ‘tune-ups,’ for improvement as their bodies change thorough life. Not because they are afraid that if they stop treatment they will get worse again. No relationship based on fear will ever last, or will ever heal anyone.
The other morning I was watching my three year old son attempting to zip up his coat. It’s hard, it’s frustrating. How tempting it was to step in and zip it up for him. Sure, that would have helped him in the moment. But how does he learn to care for himself? How does it help him if I fix all his problems without teaching him in the process? What if I gently watch him, support him, guide him as he figures it out for himself, in his own way? Then I get to watch his face beam at me as he says proudly, “I did it!”
It is my responsibility as a practitioner to help you as best I can while you are in my office. I give you a treatment, information, advice. For the rest of the 99% of your life that is your own - that is your responsibility. This is not about guilt. It is about empowerment. Change can be slow. But it IS possible. I’ve seen it in the unlikeliest of people so don’t write yourself off. ANYONE can do this. THIS is where the magic happens - this is how to HEAL.
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