How To Help People Grieve

Photo: Beverly

After a prolonged, debilitating illness, two weeks ago my father–at long last–died. As a physician, I’ve observed many people experience loss, but this is the first time I’ve lost someone close to me. This has, not surprisingly, put me on the receiving end of many condolences. Yet unable to rid myself of […]

How To Give And Receive Feedback, Redux

My student’s voice trembled as she answered my question. “How do you think you’ve done so far?” I’d asked her. We’d been together on the general medicine inpatient ward for two weeks—the midpoint of the rotation—and as was my usual custom I was giving her feedback on her performance by first asking her to rate […]

How To Forgive Others, Redux

Photo: Hamed Saber

A few years ago I found myself thinking about what would happen if as an adult I encountered some of the children who terrorized me when I was in 7th grade (an experience I wrote about in an earlier post, Breaking Free Of The Past), wondering if I’d be able to […]

The True Cause Of Cruelty, Redux

Photo: Pink Sherbet Photography

In seventh grade I once found myself in the school gym locker room changing before class when a group of my classmates began bullying a boy named Pino for having breasts (a condition called gynecomastia that sometimes occurs in young boys at puberty, usually resolving spontaneously). I failed to rise […]

What Compassion Is, Redux

Photo: pedrosimoes7

Several years ago, I was out walking my son in his stroller (he was somewhere around six months old) when a homeless woman approached me asking for money. I’d seen her before in the neighborhood many times, including behind our condominium using drugs. So I turned down her request and continued walking […]

Your Neighbor Is An Alcoholic, Redux

Photo: peteSwede

My patient smiled a toothless grin and told me, “I feel fine, doc.” But he was far from it. His liver enzymes had risen into the thousands, his skin was a pasty yellow I didn’t need the benefit of sunlight to see, and his albumin (a protein whose level indicates the liver’s […]

Our Best Defense Against Tragedy

Photo: Lel4nd

Like most Americans, when I learned that twenty children and six adults had been massacred in Newtown, Connecticut, I recoiled. Like most parents, my next thought was for my own son, the image I retain of his happy, smiling self for one moment replaced by an image of his tiny body lying […]

Delivering Bad News, Redux

Photo: Pink Sherbet Photography

My heart began pounding as I listened to the sound of the dial tone in my ear. After three rings a woman answered groggily and uncertainly, “H-hello?”

“Mrs. Peterson?” I asked. My voice trembled slightly. It was 2 a.m., and I’d awakened her from what I imagined had been a […]

Why I Don’t Drink

Photo: Mickey**

When I was ten I once found myself walking with my brother on a Lake Michigan beach when we came upon a half-empty bottle of beer. Curious, I picked it up and looked inside at the swirling dark liquid. Then, impulsively, I took a sip. It was hot, having baked in the […]

Unconditional Positive Regard

Photo: DonkeyHotey

As the U.S. Presidential race begins to heat up in earnest, the thing that’s been mostly on my mind isn’t the economy, foreign policy, or the deficit, but rather something that’s not just absent between the two candidates but also among the people who support them: what psychologists call unconditional positive regard.