Self-fulfilling

“Whenever you hate something, it hates you back: people, situations and inanimate objects alike.”

David Cain

It’s not animism, nor paranoia. It’s neurology and psychology.

Everything that is our consciousness is perceived by our senses and decoded through our mind. And a lot of the processing done by this filter is automatic. I write “pink elephant”, and your mind helplessly manifests a colourful pachyderm.

For some people, this elephant will appear as a barely visible ghost, present for but a moment, exorcized after the comma; for other people, it will not have left yet. But for everyone without exception, it was an involuntary creation that was real enough inside the head, as a passing thought. And it was summoned by a mere couple of words.

If a couple of words lead you to involuntarily generate a large technicolor mammal, what kind of havoc can a strong emotion – such as hatred – wreak in your mind? How much of your consciousness goes through that filter, when you carry such an emotion in the center of your mind. How will it color your experience as a human being?

Karma is instant – it is literally built in – and hate consumes everything as fuel, until nothing is left.

On Medicine and Being Late

Sometimes I feel like I have the best patients in the world. Especially when I’m late. “Don’t worry, doctor.” “That’s the way things go, doc.” That’s what I’m told. But I can’t stop feeling bad about any delay.

The truth is that delays are inevitable in healthcare, but that doesn’t mean lateness should be normalised.

A good doctor, a doctor who does the best he can, will always choose to spend a few more minutes with a patient if it means that he is giving him or her a higher quality treatment – even if it also means that those in the waiting room will have to wait a little longer.

Things take time. There are thirty minute jobs, there are one hour jobs, and there are hour-and-a-half jobs – and so on. Often, you’ll only be able to properly scope the time needed after starting.

In this respect, a delay can even be seen as a sign of quality – as a mark of the doctor who cares. Other times, the delay happens because of an unpredictable situation: an unwilling child, a wound that doesn’t stop bleeding, a stitch that doesn’t stay in place. It’s rare that a patient is delayed because the doctor felt like going out for coffee.

So I am grateful for how understanding my patients are. They realize that if I had to, I would also spend extra time with them, on their appointment.

Even so, I hate being late, and it’s something I always try to avoid. Because I have the notion that a delay doesn’t result in a localised effect – if I delay a person, I am stealing time from everyone who comes next. What’s more, I’m making these people late for their affairs, stealing time from those who are counting on them. Delays have a domino effect that reaches far more than those immediately involved.

Likewise, I am sympathetic to my patient’s delays. Life does not always work the way we want, and even with the best intentions, accidents happen. But when someone starts coming in late repeatedly, then I have to draw attention to it, not only for my sake but for the sake of the other patients who are delayed as a consequence.

In the end, common sense and tolerance are the principles I try to follow, and I see that most of my patients do so, too. And in the rare case where someone complains, I try not to take it personally, because we must never forget that the other people’s time is as valuable as ours.

This article appeared in its original form under the “Secrets of Oral Health” column of the newspaper “A Gazeta das Caldas.”

Blame & Responsibility

“Every problem you have is your responsibility, regardless of who caused it.”

David Cain

That’s the danger of distorting words, the danger of words changing throughout the ages. There are many concepts that we only know through words. And sometimes words converge, and we lose useful meanings.

Responsibility used to be something of value, something to be trusted to people of value. To have responsibility was to have power – it was to be recognized (or to self-recognize) as competent, as in control of destiny – as a person with self-determination.

But over the years, responsibility has become a dirty word. Something to throw at others’ faces. “You’re responsible for [something bad]!”

Responsibility is not the same as blame. But we made it sound like it is. We misused the word, and saw the word to be misused, and did not correct the error, and now an entire generation does not know the true meaning of responsibility – and so it runs away from it.

And woe unto him who dares say that a victim – victimised by another person, or by an illness, or an accident – is responsible for their situation! What heresy! Have these people not suffered enough?

But they are responsible. We all are. No one can fix our lives, our sorrows, for us. Even incurable diseases or irreparable hurts – are they the responsibility of the sick and the hurt?

They are. It’s not their fault – never that! – but it is their responsibility to confront the situation.

We are responsible for our problems. We have to be. Other people? They have their own.

Painting: “The Deluge” by Michelangelo Buonarroti

Writer. Podcaster. Marketer. Dental Surgeon. Gamer.