There are two kinds of patients – well maybe three…

hamlet john barrymore

Hamlet: to Do or be Done To?

I published this article on my regular blog, and thought it may be of interest here too.  Vera.

To Do or to be Done To – That is the Question:

I was recently reading an article by Peter Drucker on self-management. He said, amongst many other useful things, that you have to know whether you’re someone who learns through reading written material or through listening to others. Really that you have to know who you are managing before you can actually do the job with any success. Brilliant? Hardly. Solid common sense without which you cannot really move ahead in any activity? Absolutely.

If you go against your nature, you either have to have a really good reason for doing so (I too occasionally stop eating chocolate) or you’re just setting yourself up for failure. And that, gentle reader, leads to…let’s say, disappointment.

How is this connected to deciding what treatment to go for when you have given up on conventional medicine or for whatever reason have decided to check out the alternatives?

My experience, both in homoeopathy and in my previous life as a reflexologist, medicinal aromatherapist, and – yes! – Reiki master, has taught me at least one important thing.

People are different.

Oh, you were expecting something more? Well, here’s more…

As far as treatment is concerned, most people seem to fall into two broad, somewhat ragged groups: Those who want to “do”, and those who want to be “done to”…somewhat inelegantly termed, but you get the idea, I hope.

Those who want to “do” usually don’t want to be undone, so to speak. They don’t want to loosen their clothing. They don’t want to lie down on that table. They don’t want to be kneaded, touched, poked, prodded, have anything stuck into them, or be asked about deep emotional issues. They certainly don’t want to take off any clothing. I usually have a treatment bed in my clinic – these are the people who on coming into the room for the first time look highly askance at that piece of furniture, unsure whether they have made the wrong choice…

(A propos clothing, when I was studying reflexology, a fellow student on offering a free treatment to an elderly man who lived nearby was a little surprised when she came into the treatment room to find her beaming patient had removed every article of clothing except the items he should have removed – his socks…)

Those who want to “do” want to be actively involved in their treatment. They are happier with any form of treatment where they are “doing”, whether they’re taking a medicine, following a diet plan, or doing a regular program of exercise.

Patients who want to be done to, now that’s a very different kettle of…er…patient…

Sometimes it’s personal preference. “Done-to-ers” want to be touched in treatment. Massage, needles, finger pressure, in water, out of water, bring it on… When there is no touch in treatment, even the light sting of a penetrating acupuncture needle, it’s as if there is nothing going on, or not much. Even pain may be welcomed. I was surprised as a reflexologist by the number of patients who would say, pleadingly (and perhaps somewhat creepily), “press really hard…hurt me…I can take it…”

Sometimes it goes beyond that. Very often, the people who prefer to be “done to” are extremely busy, whether in their lives or in their thoughts, and just do not have the mental and emotional space needed to be fully involved in their treatment. Giving feedback in-between treatments, being actively involved in monitoring their process, learning and following instructions (whether written or verbal) is something they just do not have time for. Their lifestyle doesn’t allow for it, and their headspace cannot make room for it. Can’t I just lie down and have you fix it? is the unspoken message.

By the same token, sometimes those who want to “do” want to maintain total control over the treatment situation, which is why it may be personal anathema for them to lie down on that table and have any kind of treatment, gentle, painful or weird (let’s face it, some forms of healing seem weird, just saying…). When I practiced reflexology many years ago I’d notice that there were those who would lie down and basically fall asleep after I’d been working for five minutes. Sometimes it was difficult to wake them up after the session. Then there were those who would ask if they could sit up so they could follow exactly what I was doing…

Sometimes it can be a good experience to try the thing you are not into. It can be good for the “do-er” to deliberately relinquish control and consciously lie down on that table in the spirit of trying something new which may be helpful. It can be a very positive process for members of the “done-to” preference to go for treatment where they must be more actively involved and follow through. But if you don’t understand up-front which group you belong to, you won’t be able to get the most out of the experience.

Homeopathy really is for patients who are willing and able to “do” – or in the case of infants and children, dementia patients or those who happen to be comatose during treatment, who have those willing to “do” for them. Those who come expecting to be “done-to” in some way will usually be disappointed. But those who know which group they belong to and understand that this will be more challenging for them are already in a better position to achieve good results from homoeopathy.

The results of treatment are so connected to knowing which group you belong to. In my experience, the best results in homeopathy are with patients who follow instructions, give regular feedback, and are happy to be part of the process. Homeopathy is entirely based on information I get from the patient. That information includes what the patient says (and sometimes what his or her spouse says…), what I see, hear, and sometimes smell (OK, TMI… no further elaboration here) during the session and the information the patient gives me during the treatment process, after starting to take remedies.

When I take on new patients I always say:
Me: while I’m working with you I’ll ask you for a lot of feedback after taking remedies. Are you OK with that? (or words to that effect?
Patient: Of course, I can give feedback and follow instructions (and in the thought bubble – what does she think I am, a moron? Who can’t give feedback or follow instructions?)

My homeopathy patients do best as they learn the process, so the nature of the emails they send me changes dramatically during the process.

Beginning patient: I took the remedy and then had a headache for two hours!! I haven’t had those headaches in years!!! I took four Advil!!! What should I do???
(not all use multiple exclamation marks and question marks, but I digress…)
Me: Did the headache come back?
Patient: No, I’ve felt really good since then…

Experienced patient: I took the remedy and had a headache for two hours. It’s an old symptom, didn’t come back and I feel great. That’s good, right?
Me: Yes, old symptoms can come and go during treatment. As a rule they won’t last long. Did you take anything for it?
EP: No, I drank a lot of water and saw if I could wait it out. I had Advil in the cupboard if it became unbearable but I didn’t need it.

In homeopathy, the do-ers enjoy being fully involved. But those who are really done-to-ers and don’t acknowledge it are miserable. Even though most are certainly well able to follow instructions and be involved in the process – they don’t like it. They don’t have time for it. And therefore usually don’t do it.

As with any theoretical construct involving two groups, there is always a shadowy third (as in Tevye’s legendary third hand in Fiddler on the Roof): Those who neither want to “do” or be “done to”. I will leave you to ponder on that thought… or on Tevye’s third hand, whichever you prefer…

The choice is always yours.

And because you read all the way to the end, click here for the link to the Peter Drucker article:

Click to access Drucker%20Managing%20Oneself.pdf

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