Don't become a doctor #2 - the Doctor is OUT

Every now and then, you'll meet the stereotypical doctor's kids. I think it's more the exception than the rule, but it illustrates my point well. These are kids that are simply starved for emotion. And it's no terrible surprise that this happens.

Throughout the whole process of learning and practicing medicine, we develop habits and strategies to deal with the horrors surrounding us. Some people become very emotionally labile, crying one minute then laughing the next, but most become emotionally distant, detaching themselves from patients. We learn to keep the world at an arm's length. And sometimes, with some people, it spills into the home, and either we've got nothing left to give, or have spent so long keeping everyone out that it's hard to let anyone in.

And so you'll meet some doctor's kids one day, and they'll be emotional vacuums, leeching emotional content from whomever is nearby. And what do you expect when parental affection is so sparse and emotional generosity is so unrewarded. It's easy to become a one way valve. It's not the rule, but it happens.

And the reason I mention this is that when your business is taking care of the sick and suffering, it is very hard to be emotionally available for the people in your life, because you've learned so very well how to suppress it all. And worse yet, you've learned how to fake it. You've learned how to put on the show, and 'be there' for someone without ever risking your emotional being.

And that's part of being a doctor too. And the best of us learn how to be a human again when we leave the hospital. And the worst of us are divorced 3 times and buy sports cars to make life seem more bearable.


Anonymous said...

As a son of two doctors, I completely disagree. I think that it is horrible to stereotype doctors as detached, and emotionally crippled. The doctors that I know are great parents, lots of fun, play baseball on weekends, aren't more frequently divorced than the regular population. Maybe it is because most of the doctors that I know are from a Cuban background and are happy to just have their freedom here in the United States. However, I still can't get over the fact that you would say such things about regular people who just happen to love medicine.

incidental findings said...

I wrote a long tirade of a reply to this comment, but I just don't have the heart to post it.

I think I have to get used to the idea that someone can read every word but still miss the meaning completely.

J. said...

I absolutely know those "doctors' kids," and you're totally right - it's not all of them, but once you meet one, everything in this post makes sense.

As I start in medical school and try to keep my idealism, reading these kinds of posts is really good for me.

Anonymous said...

incidental findings....

Can you please elaborate and share on what you were typing as a response? I need to know an insiders view, my father is a classic case of being clammed up. Your input is invaluable in this field, and I do hope you share your thoughts.