Intellectual Growth: a problem with our modern health-care system.

“Scepticism is as much the result of knowledge, as knowledge is of scepticism. To be content with what we at present know, is, for the most part, to shut our ears against conviction; since, from the very gradual character of our education, we must continually forget, and emancipate ourselves from, knowledge previously acquired; we must set aside old notions and embrace fresh ones; and, as we learn, we must be daily unlearning something which it has cost us no small labour and anxiety to acquire.”

– The Odyssey of Homer

Today I had an appointment in Toronto with my primary care physician. Over the past two months or so, I have, in our meetings, expressely stated in no uncertain terms that I was afraid; I made it known that I have anxieties. I also established that I believe in many intricate ways that several of my pathologies are influenced by my own cognition.

I am a psychology major first and foremost. To me, psychology is both a passion and a promise. I have a gift. I am a very adept problem solver and listener. I have a high degree of integrative complexity, so when I match that up with my eclectic bank of knowledge, and my natural ADD tendencies, I can often find more than half a dozen novel solutions to any given problem. Although this talent extends to all areas, for whatever reason I find it works particularly well when applied directly to humans, and to human psychology. (Let the record show that for every virtue I claim to have there is a matching vice of equal tempo).

Now, the reason I say this is becuase in my meeting today I noticed that my doctor has developed an availability heuristic which he comes primed with when I make the long trip to come meet him at his office. He sits down and evaluates my complaints. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy; he projects a scepticism towards my claims of illness and feelings of foreboding pathology, and I pick up on that and as a result respond in a timid, side-ways type of way.

Basically he thinks I’m kind of a hypochondriac. I pick up on that, and act like a hypochondriac would, thus confirming his suspicion.

I see this time and time again in the healthcare system especially. I wrote a paper for my intro to social psychology class last year (one of the most influential and benifitial courses I have ever had the pleasure of taking) on problem solving in the health-care system. I shared stories and integrated like four social phenomena. I got an A, but most importantly, I learned a lot about myself and doctors and the doctor patient relationship.

I explained to my doc. that I wasn’t returning to school this semester because I have an oustanding balance and its not their policy to allow students with an oustanding balance to continue with their education – at least not until their is proof of payment, or of funding, or if the balance is cleared in full. I don’t mean to make my school look badly; they quite graciously went against this very policy and allowed me to return to my studies in the fall semester with an oustanding balance on my account.

Anyways, my doctor told me that I was going to go crazy (faceteously, of course) with nothing do all day – which I fervently affirmed. He mentioned that I should try and set up some sort of project to keep my mind busy. I agreed; but in sort of the hollow ‘I’m only agreeing becuase I don’t really want to talk about it’ sort of way.

But the appointment got me thinking. And tonight as I popped open my Kobo Desktop software and started to read the Odyssey I started thinking. The line ‘to be content with what we at present know, is, for the most part, to shut our ears against conviction’ caught my eye. My doctor, as most doctors do, abstracted a general principle in regards to my character, and without question, applies that heuristic every time he evaluates my health.

The strongest force working against knowledge is the illusion of knowledge. My doctor is going to miss out on enhancing his diagnostic skills. He’s going to miss out on helping me the best he could. He’s basically going to miss out on opportunities that would have led him straight in the direction towards self-actualization.

I get the feeling that this situation isn’t unique to my relationship with my doctor. I get the feeling that its a widespread infection. An infection with no cure. Becuase when the patient revolts against the affronts he perceives directed towards him from his apathetic doctor, he meets a brick wall. Not to be too banal with this analogy, but our healthcare system, specifically ‘best care practice guidelines’ and ‘patient-doctor relationships’ require a fix.

I’m not so arrogant that I believe I am that glue that can hold everything together. But I have the resources, a certain degree of skill, and most importantly, the time and determination to really put a dent in this problem. I’m going to spend the next eight months really getting to the root of this problem, and finding a way to help solve it – for the good of both the patient and the doctor.

And this difficulty attaches itself more closely to an age in which progress has gained a strong ascendency over prejudice, and in which persons and things are, day by day, finding their real level, in lieu of their conventional value”. 

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