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The Saboteurs in the Doctor’s Mind

Cecilia Cruz, MD MPH write about certain neural pathways that are commonly entrenched in the minds of physicians that lead to negative reactions, thoughts and emotions.

If you are a physician, I am willing to bet that the Hyper-Achiever is one of your most prominent saboteurs.

 

Why?

Because of the the amazing strengths that you have.

In order to have made it as a physician, you are likely focused, goal-oriented, pragmatic, and driven.

You are highly skilled in motivating yourself to do what needs to get done, and also very good at inspiring others.

These are all wonderful strengths and characteristics that have served you well throughout your lifetime, especially in your medical profession.

More likely than not, at an early age you discovered that when you performed well on something you were given recognition and you felt special.

So, you continued to rely on your abilities to perform and achieve in order to obtain validation, and by the time you were a young adult, your Hyper-Achiever saboteur was well entrenched in your mind. 

 

In order to have made it as a physician, you are likely focused, goal-oriented, pragmatic, and driven. Click To Tweet

 

 

The Hyper-Achiever saboteur is dependent on constant performance and achievement for self-respect and self-validation.

For the Hyper-Achiever, self-validation, self-acceptance, and self-love are all conditional; conditioned on continual performance.

Oftentimes this is the result of children getting the sense that they are loved in return for achieving, obeying the rules, having good manners, etc., rather than unconditionally.

Or, it is simply the result of a child enjoying the recognition he/she receives when they achieve something, and relying on this tactic to maintain a sense of worth.

 

So what’s the problem with this?

The problem is that the Hyper-Achiever saboteur is a relentless task master.

It makes us believe that in order to be worthy, we have to constantly be performing, doing, achieving, and there is never any rest for us. It makes us harbor thoughts like:

  • “My success is what makes me valuable.”
  • “I need to be the best to continue moving up the ladder.”
  • “I need to make a name for myself.”
  • “I should be faster, smarter, more efficient, etc…”

And, as a result of these constant thoughts, we lose our sense of peace and joy.

All of our happiness is conditioned on: “I will be happy when…”(fill in the blank with the next achievement). 

 

The problem is that the Hyper-Achiever saboteur is a relentless task master. It makes us believe that in order to be worthy, we have to constantly be performing, doing, achieving, and there is never any rest for us. Click To Tweet

 

It is exhausting to live like this.

And, unfortunately, I believe this is how most physicians live.

And, because of this same Hyper-Achiever Saboteur, in conjunction with our Judge saboteur, it is difficult for us to even admit to ourselves that we are exhausted, that we are tired of “having to” perform, and that in order to find the peace and happiness that we so desperately yearn, a change in how we approach our life is necessary. 

 

Fortunately, there is a way to end this cycle through implementation of Mental Fitness.

Mental Fitness is the process of growing and strengthening the neural pathways in our brain that enable us to face life’s challenges with more creativity, curiosity, empathy, clarity, and purpose, while weakening the neural pathways that are reactive and create stress- the saboteurs.

 

It is difficult for us to even admit to ourselves that we are exhausted, that we are tired of “having to” perform,

 

As we engage in the practice of Mental Fitness, over time our mental “muscles” get stronger and we are better able to command our minds to choose which neural pathway we want to follow.

We become increasingly capable of dealing with progressively “heavier”, more challenging  issues without falling into reactive thoughts and behaviors that only create more stress and anxiety.

The neural pathways in the parts of our brain that generate negative reactions, thoughts, and emotions, begin to atrophy; while those that generate positive reactions, thoughts, and emotions hypertrophy.

The structure of our brain is literally changed. 

 

In addition to the Hyper-Achiever saboteur, there are nine other saboteurs that hide within our mind.

Again, these are neural pathways that lead to negative thoughts and reactions.

The Judge is the ring leader in everyone.

Then there is the Controller, Hyper-rational, Pleaser, Stickler, Hyper-Vigilant, Restless, Avoider, and Victim.

 

The Judge is the ring leader in everyone. Then there is the Controller, Hyper-rational, Pleaser, Stickler, Hyper-Vigilant, Restless, Avoider, and Victim. Click To Tweet

 

Every human being has all of these neural pathways in their brain, but based on our personalities and life experiences some are more prominent than others.

From my own experience, as well as that gained by coaching physicians, a few of these neural pathways tend to be more prominent in doctors as a group, showing up as their top saboteurs: the Hyper-achiever, the Controller, and the Stickler are amongst the most frequently encountered.

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