Last week I performed a reconstruction of a chronically dislocated AC joint. I thought the surgery went well, until I glanced at the postop X-ray taken in the recovery room. What I had perceived as a perfect reduction was indeed far from it! The negative internal dialogue in my mind started immediately and my inner critic was saying everything from you call yourself a shoulder surgeon to you are a worthless piece of cow excrement!
Needless to say, my mood dropped about seven orders of magnitude.
How did I recover? Well, I used all that I learned from my experience from cognitive behavioral therapy and the spiritual principle of the gift.
Cognitive behavioral therapy
My knowledge of cognitive behavioral therapy enabled me to recognize that in times of anxiety and depression, we are not to believe a thing our minds tell us. Thoughts that evoke depression, for example, are erroneous and contain a lie. For example, I really am not a piece of cow excrement (despite what others may feel).
These thoughts are not to be resisted, for that merely gives them more power and attention. Rather, the thoughts are allowed to play in the background of our minds and recognized for what they truly are: lies. Then we can gently return to the present moment. When we get back to the now, the negativity will ultimately dissolve because our mind is engaging what is happening in this moment not what happened in the past.
Great spiritual writers expound on the principle that whatever happens to you in your life is really God or the universe bringing to you a potential gift. That is, if we look for the good in any situation or occurrence, we will find it. For me the gifts of this case were many. First, I refined my technique so that I would be less likely to gain an imperfect reduction. This knowledge will undoubtedly benefit future patients. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, this case allowed me to grow and be more gentle with myself. As a perfectionist in recovery, I now recognize that we must continually strive for excellence. However, perfection is an illusion. No surgery is ever truly perfect. Although my X-ray was not what I had envisioned, I am certain I still helped this patient. Our calling is to continually strive to do our best, but consider suboptimal results a means of growing and learning. When we beat ourselves up, we kill our confidence and are surely less prepared to take care of ourselves, our families and future patients.
Manage your mind and look for the gift whenever things dont go the way you envisioned. You will much more empowered to handle what lies ahead.
Now if you will excuse me, I need to prepare for next weeks cases.
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