Our emotions evolved as purposeful behavioral responses that are designed to ensure survival. Our emotions are automatic. Our emotions are designed to protect us from being hurt, physically and emotionally. Our emotions are generally “me” centered. In the work of care giving, our focus needs to be squarely on the other, and this is why our emotions and our automatic knee jerk reactions can get in the way of our giving care.
Jill Bolte Taylor tells us that “We live in a world where we are taught from the start that we are thinking creatures that feel. The truth is, we are feeling creatures that think.” Which is actually a great thing for us, because we can use our thoughts to change and control our own emotions. Thoughts are of a higher order than emotions, and therefore, thoughts always trump emotions. This is how we can gain control over our emotions, and actually use our emotions to our advantage, so that we can create the emotional state that we need in order to be effective givers of care. Using our thoughts to control our emotions is the whole idea of mind over matter.
That is why I developed the tools and perspectives that I included in my book, “Back From Burnout,” where I use the R.E.F.L.E.C.T. pneumonic to describe the framework I use that always allows me, helps me, to lift myself out of my automatic emotions and automatic reactions. R.E.F.L.E.C.T. gives me the power to rise above the emotional effects of burnout, (the exhaustion, the irritability, the cynicism, and the resentment), and move to the place where I truly want to care. You soon will come to see like me that it is always easy to care, when you are clear enough to want to care.
The process is simple enough and there are only seven steps. To make them easier to remember and use in real time while at the patient’s bedside—or even at the family dinner table— I used the mnemonic “R.E.F.L.E.C.T.”
First we Remember why we came here to healthcare in the first place, and we reconnect with our pure and simple desire to care, to make things better, to help and to make a difference. Next werealize that it’s up to us to Earn our own satisfaction: no one can give satisfaction to us, only we can create the satisfaction we crave. Next we recalculate the transaction of care and Formulate our plan for it. Then we reframe our interaction with our patient when weLook to see if we are the cause or the effect inside the patient encounter. Next we Evaluate our situation to see if our care is making a difference for our patient and making us feel good; if it’s not, then we start the process again as we Circle back to the beginning. Finally we restore and renew ourselves by learning to Take care of ourselves, giving us new power to transcend our present limitations so that we are ready to face a new day in a new way.
We use that framework to find our way back to the emotional place we need to be, where we simply want to care. We can use the R.E.F.L.E.C.T. process to heal ourselves from burnout and compassion fatigue, to find our way back to a full spectrum healthy emotional experience of life again. We can use the R.E.F.L.E.C.T. process to move from our broken dreams, and broken lives, to become whole and emotionally competent again. From that place we can generate and deliver and endless supply of the intangible stuff of True Care.
Here is a brief look at these 7 steps:
The Seven Steps of REFLECT
- REMEMBER what you came here for. Reconnect with your desire to care. Remember what you want from your work: the feeling good that comes from truly caring for others.
- EARN your satisfaction. Realize you are responsiblefor your own satisfaction and that for it to last, you have to earn it.
- FORMULATE your plan. Recalculatethe transaction of care using the Perfect Equation. Free yourself from your hidden agenda
- LOOK at your position within the transaction of care: are you the cause or the effect?Reframeyour position inside the interaction with your patient.
- EVALUATE your results. Recognize what you bring to the encounter. Is your giving care effective? If not, go to step six and begin again.
- CIRCLE BACK to the beginning. If your not being effective, remember what you want and execute the first five steps of REFLECT again, with this same patient. Regroup when the encounter is over so you can do it all again. Remember your desire is to care. Look for a fresh opportunity to care again.
- TAKE CARE of yourself. Restore and renewyourself by applying the quantum skills you’ve learned to energize and elevate every part of your life. Apply the tools of transformation so that you can transcend your present limitations.