April 15

Pediatrics, Veterinarians, and Relationships

April 15, 2016

Personal Growth

When I was in medical school, I considered the pursuit of a number of specialties. I was a father at the time, and fond of children, so I did think about becoming a pediatrician—a doctor specializing in the care of children. But then I did a rotation in pediatrics, and I discovered that children were simply awful at providing perhaps the most important information of all in making a diagnosis: a medical history, where—among other things—the patient details their symptoms, past and present.

When I asked a child, “Does it hurt here?” the answer was “Yes.” “Does it hurt there?” “Yes.” Everything hurt, and the child had no idea how long it had hurt, nor could he describe the nature of the pain. It occurred to me that being a pediatrician would be like being a veterinarian. Fortunately, there are people who love taking care of children and animals, but I’m not one of them. I preferred to communicate with patients who could tell me what was wrong.

Many years later I learned that adults are no smarter at communicating their emotional problems than children are at describing there physical ailments. When adults are afraid, they get angry, lie, withdraw, criticize, and act like victims. They don’t even realize they’re afraid, and they certainly can’t describe what they’re afraid of.

My friends who are pediatricians tell me that with experience they can pick up on symptoms and signs in their patients that I wouldn’t notice. And so it is that we can learn to pick up on the signs that people use to demonstrate their fear. Then we can do what it takes to eliminate their fears and help them along on their way to peace and happiness.

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