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Empathy, Not Intellect

by Mar 16, 2017

It’s easy for us to get too comfortable with what we’re learning. It becomes second nature to intellectualize what the healthcare profession is. Don’t get me wrong, the intellectual aspects of our profession have their time and place. But, don’t let this way of thinking cloud the crucial human component of what we do. People place their trust, their health, and their lives in our hands. I think keeping that reality close and in focus every time we interact with a patient is so very important. I struggle with this myself. So often the intellectual route is the route with emotional security. This reflex is a strong one for me.

GregoryComing out of the military, I found it hard to emotionally invest in people. But, emotional availability is a two-way street. I found that I couldn’t shut down the incoming traffic without shutting down the outgoing, effectively isolating myself in my castle of rationality. It’s our emotional acuity and ability to truly empathize that make us uniquely human. I felt as though I had lost a part of me to some degree, that part that allowed me to truly connect.

So when you find yourself taking a step down that path of intellectualization, stop and ask yourself what it is you think you’re protecting yourself from. You’ll find that the only thing that you end up “protecting” yourself from is taking part in that breathtaking human tapestry of emotional connection.

Stop the retreat. Be here. Be now. Your patients will thank you.

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Gregory Swets

Gregory Swets


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