Over the years, I have crossed paths with many Medical Students, Registrars, Doctors, and other Health Professionals.
It’s not uncommon to see the struggles they have when fusing with the uncomfortable feelings of others, especially from their patients. So fused that they may take on the uncomfortable feeling as their own, or react to them with anxiety, helplessness, or even hopelessness. Of course, this is great for empathy, but it’s a sure recipe for “compassion fatigue” in the long run.
In Acceptance Commitment Therapy ACT, we can learn to hold these uncomfortable feelings more lightly, and with kindness, care and compassion like holding a crying child.
We allow others to feel how they feel, and with support, care, and kindness, they too may learn to hold their feelings and the feelings of others more lightly, and with kindness. Then in time, they may be able to shift their feelings like shifting gears, for more helpful action.
We can definitely lead our patients through thoughts, but we can also lead our patients through “feelings”.
Feelings are “contagious” in both directions, so being mindful of our own feelings is very important. If we want our patients to have self compassion, we can lead with compassion rather than judgement. If we want our patients to have hope, we can lead with hope rather than despair. If we want our patients to have more acceptance, we can do that too.