Monday, August 24, 2009

Nada Te Turbe

I've been thinking a lot lately about the what stresses me out most in life.  It's not the tough clinical scenarios, busy days, practical aspects of maintaining a household, or parenting responsibilities that get to me, I find.  It's the toxic nature of certain people.

I tend to get very strong "vibes" from, and have equally strong reactions to, other people.  I'm not claiming that the vibes I sense are always accurate - though my husband and I believe they are, actually - but only that they can create very strong feelings in me, and sometimes the intensity of these feelings causes me great stress.

Today I had the kind of day that might have been stressful for a number of reasons.  I had to come in extra early to relieve the night doc.  I was the physician in charge today and that, in and of itself, usually raises my blood pressure a few notches.  There's always a lot of busy work to do as the charge person, with constant interruptions by beeper tones, phone calls, surgeons with questions, nurses with questions, patients with questions.  Moreover, we had at least two clinically difficult patients in the rooms today, one of whom almost coded on me.  But I wasn't that stressed.  In fact, I was pretty calm and content.

And I knew why.  The absence of toxic coworkers made all the difference.  

There have been a few people in my work life, at other hospitals and at my current one, who are like poison to my day, for any number of different reasons - lack of integrity; pathetic or non-existent work ethic; arrogance; contentiousness; snide or critical speaking tones; biting hostility; back-stabbing tendencies; bullying; hypocrisy; narcissism; disrespect; a lazy or indifferent attitude to patient care.  When I sense "vibes" of this nature from other people, I tend to develop very strong feelings about their behavior patterns.  More than anything else, the effects of their actions on the quality of my day, and the feelings they inspire, are a noxious presence in my life - largely because I allow them to be.

I know, however, that I have some control over that.  That I can train myself to choose not to let my strong reactions to toxic people have such a hold on me.  I know I can be a little less perturbed by the scripts others are acting out and just focus on my own.  But like any spiritual habit, this effort to reclaim an inner peace, this way of living in the world with less reactivity and stress and greater mindfulness of what's truly at work, is going to take time and practice.

Pray more, said a voice in my head when I was meditating during Mass this weekend.  I guess that wouldn't be a bad way to start; after all, prayer - or meditation, or focused awareness, or connection to the sacred, or whatever label suits your understanding - does have the power to transform us, whether or not anyone seems to be listening.  I've been too content with the idea of my entire life being a kind of prayer; I haven't been proactive enough, like an athlete training to keep her body in shape.  It's time to stop neglecting that dimension of my life and start practicing a little better.


HugeMD said...

It's true. How we react to these things is within our control. It's hard to remember that sometimes. Like you said--takes practice. It's a hard balance-- the thing with rude, nasty people. How much do you let slide and just try to learn to not let it bother you? When is the best thing to confront the behavior because it's just wrong?

Perceval said...

I agree, "pray more" is a very good course of action. In buddhism, there's the practice of lovingkindness meditation, which takes the sting out of people like these.

T. said...

HugeMD - that last part's the really hard part. Sometimes I think you HAVE to confront people precisely BECAUSE the behavior is wrong and one shouldn't stand for it. There's a fine line between espousing placid lack of judgment and not caring whether people walk all over you...I'm all for non-reactivity, but I'm NOT a big fan of indifference; I think people should CARE, too!

Perceval - I know intellectually that people who tend to provoke strong negative feelings probably need a lot of compassion on some level. I have to work on getting there...while balancing the totally valid and true concerns brought up by HugeMD...

Anali said...

I really like this picture. Very calming. Have you visited the labyrinth lately? That's very relaxing and meditative.

Old MD Girl said...

I think you can try to control how you react to negative people to a certain extent, but it is probably impossible to do perfectly.

You just have to hope that the good interactions will outweigh the bad, and try not to contribute to negativity yourself.

Sometimes I've found that when I get a strong negative vibe from a person, I can flip them by being especially nice. It can be really rewarding when it works, and you have a new ally. Too bad it doesn't always work out that way though, and you just have to stay away!

T. said...

Anali - I haven't even had a chance to LOOK at the labyrinth from the window lately. :(

OMDG - I've found the same: honey does usually work better than acid. I've gotten some great feedback from people who seem to enjoy working with me despite the stressed of our jobs. But you're right - it doesn't always help!