"The penalty good men pay for indifference to public affairs is to be ruled by evil men." attributed to Plato

"Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing." attributed to Edmund Burke

Let's between us make the world a better place.

Saturday, 7 May 2011

Doctors who feel your pain heal more patients

This should hardly come as a surprise to many people but " doctors who feel your pain heal more patients." I quote: "Empathy is often seen as a nice — but nonessential — part of medicine. Indeed, for surgeons in the operating room, seeing the patient as a human being may actually be an obstacle to successful performance. At the bedside, however, doctors who are more empathetic actually have healthier patients, according to a new study published in the journal Academic Medicine.

For earliest man physical illness was inextricably linked with the mind, with spirituality and with religion. The original belief was that disease came from the gods as punishment for invoking their displeasure in some way. Amulets found alongside the remains of Paleolithic man were almost certainly used as charms for healing purposes, a recognition at that time of the importance of the mind to the cause of illness, a precursor of modern psychology long before it was known as such!
Later, but still long before the birth of medical science, man called on his religion to heal his pain and suffering. He sought wholeness of the body, a holistic approach to healing.
Medicine largely lost this holistic wisdom with the advancement of medical science, not to be rediscovered until the second half of the last century. In this new millennium I believe that in time we will come to marvel at how we could have lost this sense of the soul’s healing significance for so long.

Carl Jung understood very well the essential empathic link between doctor and patient when he wrote: "The patient’s treatment begins with the doctor…in any ongoing analysis the whole personality of both patient and doctor is called into play. There are many cases that the doctor cannot cure without committing himself. When important matters are at stake, it makes all the difference whether the doctor sees himself as a part of the drama, or cloaks himself in his authority. In the great crises of life, in the supreme moments when to be or not to be is the question, little tricks of suggestion do not help. Then the whole being of the doctor is challenged…the Doctor is effective only when he himself is affected…‘the wounded physician heals.’ But when the doctor wears his personality like a coat of armour, he has no effect."
Elsewhere he went on to say:
"Without too much exaggeration a good half of every treatment that probes at all deeply consists in the doctor examining himself, for only what he can put right in himself can he hope to put right in the patient…It is his own hurt that gives the measure of his power to heal. This, and nothing else, is the meaning of the Greek myth of the wounded physician."

Jung’s followers proceeded to give the term special significance in their work and thinking and it was Jungian analysts who apparently started referring to the Wounded Healer Archetype as a recognized tool in the healing process.
Jung’s ideas were specifically developed in the context of the doctor and his patient in psychotherapy, but his wisdom articulated in these passages should surely be recognized to be just as relevant today within the context of the general medical practitioner’s relationship with his patient."
Do you agree?

The Jung quotes are taken from:
Jung, Carl G., Memories, Dreams Reflections (London: Fontana Press, 1995) pp.154-156.
Jung, Carl, from The Collected Works of C G Jung, volume 10 The Undiscovered Self; Princeton University Press, 1970 pp304-305 as quoted in Claire Dunn: Carl Jung: Wounded Healer of the Soul An Illustrated Biography (London: Continuum, 2000) p.199.

© Eleanor Stoneham 2011

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