Gender Roles in Medicine and Society

I had a really bad sinus infection and reluctantly saw the need to seek medical care. I went to an urgent care facility, feeling pretty out of it. I was very aware that I had a minor medical problem, in the overall scheme of things. My ears were clogged up and my hearing was quite impaired. What I realized later was that not being able to hear well made me rely more on my sight and feeling for the situation, as I looked for ways to understand what was going on. Any time any of us has an impairment in one of our senses, or a part of the body, we gain great understanding of how significant that part of our body really is and how we tend to take all of these gifts for granted.

One of the things that became clearer from my experience was about the male and female roles that are very common in our current medical system, and in our society as a whole. What I noticed was that females were primarily office staff and nursing staff, while the physician was male. This is certainly not unusual, even though there are more male nurses now and more female physicians than in times past. I could see very clearly that the female staff were holding back, guarded, not very expressive, uncertain, with poor self-esteem. If they were encouraged more, supported more, were given different role models, they would be inclined to be more friendly, warmer, more supportive and more compassionate.

Women (and men) in health care and other fields have been trained in a system that values objectivity, a "clinical" attitude that is very emotionally detached. This has been a completely male-dominated system, with a long history of male authority. Physicians have been trained to turn off their emotions, to distance themselves from their patients, to treat the body primarily as if it was a machine, in order to be technically astute.

The traditional medical system is based on science of the past, the Newtonian model, seeing the body as a highly complex machine. A tremendous amount of scientific exploration has garnered amazing results, incredible information, treatments, surgical options, and medications. However, it has overlooked a great deal that is valuable in the realms of human contact and interaction, holistic treatment options and ancient wisdom. All of these tendencies have created a huge imbalance and many limitations in the male-female roles, which reflect the same issues int he larger society, but for the sake of this discussion mainly in the medical fields. 

As women continue to recover their power in our society and in the medical arts, and as men rediscover their emotional lives and continue their growth in participating more fully in all relationships, this imbalance will be shifted in a very positive direction. Let's keep an eye on these important shifts and contribute to growth and positive change whenever we can!

Becoming less self-critical

I was scheduled to take a flight and set my alarm for 5:00 AM. Well, I woke up and saw with a start that it was almost 7:00 AM! For about 15 minutes I scurried around, throwing tings into their cases, thinking I could tolerate not having makeup on or hair in place if it would get me where I was going. Finally I realized that there was no way I was going to make it on time to get this plane. Wow, what a disappointment!

I called and found there was another flight I could get in a couple of hours, but it would cost me over $400 more. Reluctantly, I booked it. I began to be very critical of myself; it was something I had never experienced before. I used to be incredibly punctual, highly scheduled, and super critical of anyone who wan't the same way. A very good friend recently observed that TIME was my "weapon", that I used against myself. he gently and kindly told me that when I spoke of "not have enough time" that I practically hissed as I spoke, and that there was an intensity that often wasn't really called for in the situation I was speaking about.

That was a helpful, central observation that helped me make major changes in my expectations of what is reasonable, what is healthy, what is actually good for me, when I make my assessments of how I will use my valuable time. I became alot kinder to myself in many ways, which are outgrowths of changing my perception of time, actually putting it aside and not keeping in in my armaments.

Because of these changes, I was able to shift into looking at the positive features of the situation: I could take a shower, have coffee, breakfast, and be comfortable about getting to the airport. I would still get to my destination, with no serious problems. I had had the sleep I needed. Spending an unplanned $400 was a bite, but in the grand scheme of things, not the end of the world. Thinking of finances spread over many years, it is a blip on the radar, a painful blip, but just a blip all the same.

I was so pleased to find that I was able to be non-critical of myself, very accepting; I have an attitude about learning from my experiences how that is different from the way I was in the past. I also see the way I was before as simply a stepping stone along my path, a way that was useful and that led me to where I am now and where I will be in times to come.

If you are interested in this topic, check out a book: "Compassion and Self Hate" by Theodore Rubin, MD. I have recommended it to many of my clients. Those who have read it have found it to be very helpful and we have used the concepts in our work together. Dr. Rubin is a psychiatrist who describes his own struggles with being overweight and depressed, which was extremely revealing when he was published in the 1970's! Self Hate is a vivid way of describing self-criticism, which is rampant in our society; Dr. Rubin actually says it is "universal". It's incredibly helpful to know just how many of us are struggling with inner conflict and really awful feelings - you are not alone!

We are all a little nuts...

I bet you know just how this feels! This is what happens to all of us sometimes, we just want it to happen less.

When we don't take good care of ourselves and either just run out of steam or run into unexpected stresses, we hit the wall and end up feeling pretty much that we've come apart. This is just temporary and most of us have learned, oh crap I've done it again, I just didn't think it through, didn't take into account all the stuff I was trying to do, how much time and energy it really would take.

The major key element is thinking and feeling, deeply, that "I deserve- I need - I want" meaning that it is really seriously ok to relax, have some time to yourself, time to hang out with friends and family, TIME FOR YOU! When we feel we are stealing time, sneaking it, it feels like an addiction. We have an awareness running in the back of the mind, thoughts about other things that need to be done, and alot of guilt accompanying the whole song, thumping quietly, preventing real enjoyment.

One way to work on this personal issue is to craft some realistic statements that express the truth of your options. Something like: "I can relax today, I trust that with the rest I get today I'll be more in the mood to get stuff done tomorrow. I've done it this way before and it's worked out, so it should be fine". These are my words, a way that works for me; it needs to be your own words, your own truth. Just keep working on it, you'll get it and you'll love it!

Please tell me what has worked for you, I love finding new ways to share with others that really help - we can work together!