ASK ABDI: HOW TO DEAL WITH FEELINGS OF UNWORTHINESS AND JUDGMENT?

QUESTION: I am dealing with feelings of unworthiness and judgment. I am a physician, and I recently feel like I've failed a patient of mine by possibly suggesting a procedure that might have been contraindicated. I feel overwhelmed and want to stop practicing, either for a while or maybe even permanently.

I am working on my lessons and dealing with my judgment. I definitely have a belief that I am working to dismantle: that I will never just "be happy". I have come to believe that there will always be something to diminish whatever joy I have. It’s the way my life has gone thus far. That being said, I am incredibly blessed and grateful for what I have and have experienced.

I was planning to cut down on practice, and really not wanting to work with people with serious illnesses, as it is difficult for me to remain detached from the outcome. So I have a question that I can’t figure out… am I wrong to want to get out of practice? Will I ever be able to just have peace and not have to work on my “stuff”? I’ve been working on my issues for so long. I would really like to just coast unconsciously for a while. I guess I feel like as long as I am in practice, I have a responsibility to my patients to do my personal work… and I want a break from that… at least for a little while.

ANSWER: First off, my heart goes out to you and your struggle. Obviously this is not an easy time for you. As to your question of “am I wrong to want to get out of practice?” - there is no right or wrong, as long as you are not hurting another. What do you want? What are you looking for? The idea of “coasting unconsciously for a while”, while you have become conscious, will not work. Life has you by the ear now. Listen to what the lesson is. All one can do is change one’s reaction to the situation. In my own experience, when I have run away from a situation, life has brought the same situation to me almost immediately in another disguise. Over and over. So you can take a step back and take a breather, but fully removing yourself from a situation will not work.

It is normal and healthy to care deeply for those we tend to. Yes, it hurts when it does not go our way or they don’t get cured, but we can always assist in healing. Even if they become more sick or die as they heal. Be very clear - that curing and healing is not the same thing. And always remember that we do not know what actually heals someone. The biggest gift that we can give to our patients is to be fully present in the moment - in all times that we are in their presence. That simple and arduous task is what allows the healing to take place.

Let yourself be human. Step back, take a deep breath and rest, and dive back in. Regardless of the external trappings, you will have to face this.