Enormous amounts of energy are consumed in an attempt to get patients to do the “right” things to promote healing, advance their health and improve their well-being. Many professional caregivers seem bent on saving patients from themselves. Others seem resigned to the apparent fruitlessness of the effort and apply their ministrations with a detachment almost bordering on indifference.
Can you change the priority that patients place on their health?
Without looking through a spiritual lens, you might see the task before you as merely using the right videos to educate patients or delivering a persuasive rof. Certainly these can be helpful, but there is something else at work here that you might want to consider. And it may dramatically change how you communicate with patients.
I believe that the spiritual world is more real than the physical world that we see all around us. On a spiritual plane, there is a battle between good (God) and evil (Satan). This battle plays out in the physical world in many ways. Knowing the nature and purpose of the Enemy is important if you have any hope of being on the winning side.
Consult the scriptures and you learn that the purpose of the Enemy is to kill and destroy. One way to achieve this is to deceive as many people as possible about their bodies; their “soul package; their temple.” How? How about these for starters: the healthfulness of certain foods, beliefs about DNA, cholesterol, vaccination, the aging process and the nature of true health. Combine that with the Enemy’s incredible creativity and eternal patience and you have the makings of a formidable foe. A foe who accompanies most patients as they seek care in your office.
This is why many so-called “patient education” overtures are ineffective and to some patients, even annoying. Using physical armaments (videos, brochures, reports and the spoken word) to fight what is also a spiritual battle (how they see their body, their value as a human, their entitlement to health, predeterminism of genetics, etc.) is like showing up to a gunfight with a butter knife.
Does that mean videos and brochures are a waste of time? Of course not. They have their place. And like the coordinated efforts of aerial bombing and ground forces, these tools work better when you’re aware of the spiritual dynamics that are at work.
By the way, this isn’t about religion (man’s attempt to connect with God) but about the spirit (the unseen power that animates the world). If political correctness has caused you to overlook the spiritual dimensions of the healing process, you may find the following observations discomforting. However, I encourage you to consider...
Each patient is granted free will. Careful that you don’t swerve into judgment when patients make poor choices, or at least ones you wouldn’t make. Everyone has been given the freedom to tend to their soul package as he or she sees fit. From the self-abuser to the health “nut” who reveres his body as a living idol. Since it was their Maker equipped them with this faculty, careful that you don’t hijack it for your own purpose—whether to look good, get credit or be the hero.
Know your limitations. Thinking you’re responsible for what patients do is a serious boundary breach. You can only be responsible for what you are able to respond to. Thus, you have an obligation to offer a care plan, supportive home care procedures and suggest lifestyle changes. But you are powerless to enforce your recommendations. Using your limited social authority (doctor’s orders) or emotional leverage (shame, guilt or threatened abandonment) to coerce certain behaviors, justified in the best interests of the patient, will cost you.
What patient education can’t do. The decisions we make about our health are rarely the result of some left-brain rational decision! Instead, we embrace new health care habits because a recent death of a loved one has reminded us of our own mortality. A divorce has prompted us to improve our appearance and be more attractive. A DUI arrest has embarrassed us to clean up our act. These pivotal moments are outside your control and far more powerful motivators of change than virtually any so-called patient education overture. Instead, patient education is designed to give your intervention context and supply a new meaning to the symptoms their experiencing.
You’re up against a powerful foe. If patients don’t know who they are. If patients are disconnected from their bodies. If patients see themselves as mere mechanisms with a limited number of cellular replications. If patients see life as something to get through, rather than an opportunity. If patients buy into the outside-in cultural hypnosis promulgated by the media, your efforts to enlighten will miss the mark and merely annoy them. If you have any hope of profoundly influencing patients beyond ameliorating their symptoms, then you’re in the belief-changing business. Yet, patients rarely enter your practice thinking they have a flawed worldview, much less interested in a new one!
Show up curious. It’s counter-intuitive, especially for the most evangelistic chiropractor, brimming with philosophical enthusiasm. But injecting your chiropractic gushings into the unguarded ears of patients rarely produces the desired effect. Instead, hold your cards closer to your chest. Don’t be so quick to reveal the “punch line” that healing is an inside job. Instead, show up curious about the beliefs patients have formed. Help them live more consciously. Encourage them to be fully present to their bodies so it doesn’t have to scream so loudly to get their attention. When you’re curious, you open up possibilities and patients are more likely to lower their guard. Then you have the opportunity to help move them, at least incrementally, closer to the truth.
Give it time. Patients aren’t learning how to bake a cake or memorize the major battles of the Civil War. In fact, they enter your practice with the assumption they won’t have to learn anything. Many see their only responsibility is to show up so you can “fix” them. And why not? That’s how virtually every other encounter with a health care provider has played out in the past. Imagining that you can prompt a patient to jettison their mechanistic, linear, symptom-treating, germ-fearing, drug-taking beliefs over the course of 12, facedown visits is fantasy.
When these spiritual beings having a physical experience show up in your practice, try to look past the obvious that can be detected with the five senses. Consider the spiritual implications of their problem and how you show up to either fix or release, nag or inspire, take credit or assign blame, be responsible or simply be a resource. When you do, you’ll witness your own personal transformation from spine mechanic to healing agent.
What do you think?