The Clinical Process: Plodding On…

What happens when all that energy you’ve been using to find help is no longer needed because you’ve found someone and are starting to improve?

Sometimes, odd as it sounds, it can feel like an anti-climax.

You’ve been on high research/seeking/hopeful mode for so long that it can feel quite discombobulating when you suddenly don’t have to do that anymore. Now you’re on a road to wellness – and it might be a long one – you’ve got to find a way to deal with the consistency, the daily grind almost, of pulling yourself forward one tiny step at a time. It doesn’t need hyped up energy – in fact, that will hinder your progress – it needs steady and calm dedication.

It is those people I find in-clinic who will get well the quickest, actually: think of the hare and the tortoise!

Anyway, here’s the post – another from the fab Dr Yanuck – that made me think of that. Here’s how he puts it:

When a patient has started to improve,… you now have a challenge. For some patients, the steam that was driving their engine was all about “somewhere out there is someone who can help me…” That’s the emotional fuel of the epic journey. But what happens when they find you, you do some things that are starting to be clearly useful, and the patient starts to trend toward improvement? That’s a move toward a more ordinary experience. It’s great and it’s what they’ve been hoping for. And yet, it can really mess up their “I’m on an epic journey” narrative and rob them of the energy-to-continue that their narrative was providing them.

You’ll even see some patients try to stay in the epic journey mode, by tinkering with your plan, adding supplements, surfing the net to try to find other solutions, and generally making changes that can interfere with their progress, all in the name of maintaining themselves in the epic journey frame of mind. This can seriously interfere with the progress you’ve helped them start to make. 

What do you say to that patient?

The first thing is just to name what’s going on. “You’ve been on a quest to find solutions for your health problems. Now that we’re on the right track, even if we have ups and downs, we understand enough about your case that you’re not in epic journey mode anymore. You’ll need to register that in your mind and in your body. Your task now is simpler and less epic-feeling, so you’ll need a different fuel for the day-to-day work of tending to your case.”

There’s an interesting book called “Mastery” that I suggest to patients. Here’s what I tell them…

“There’s a great book called Mastery. Don’t bother to get it. I’ll tell you the punchline… The author interviews people who have done remarkable things… Nobel Prize wining physicists, concert violinists, the Dali Lama, and so on. He asks them all, “What’s the chief obstacle to mastery?” They all say the same thing. “The chief obstacle to mastery is boredom.” It’s not how hard the physics was to figure out. It’s not how hard it was to meditate for hours or how hard it was to play the violin. The chief obstacle is that, if you want to master something challenging, you’ll have to work on it every day. And one day is much like the next. So you’ll have to tolerate how boring it is to apply yourself day after day.

In managing your health, you have to apply what works every day. Once we’re on the trail of figuring out what works for you, the excitement of the epic journey, the excitement of solving the puzzle, those things aren’t there anymore. There’s just the daily work.

So, at this stage of your case, the key to success is being consistent. Don’t tinker. Don’t start supplements your friend told you about. Don’t get slack with your diet. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other. You’ve done great work getting to this point. Now focus on approaching your daily work in a frame of mind that matches what’s necessary to keep you trending upward.”

Dr Yanuck

Absolutely right. Keep calm. Keep focused. Don’t go off on tangents. Just keep plodding on and doing the work of getting well.

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