Headstrong & Helpless: a recovery program for hardheaded healers

Are you highly independent? Headstrong? Yet you feel helpless to change your life circumstances?

This is a common issue with physicians. It all starts back in medical school. You figure out very quickly that you don’t know enough. This is reinforced by your instructors. You are told how hard it is to learn what you need to learn, how difficult the testing will be. You are told what medicine looks like. What you can do and what you can’t do. And you begin to internalize the message that you are helpless to change the system—helpless to have power over your own life.

Abuse begets abuse. It’s easy to take on the persona of those who have bullied and abused you just to survive! It’s not your fault.

Defensiveness reigns. After being challenged at every turn, your self-confidence is shot. You feel like an imposter.

You fear making a mistake. You must be perfect or at least appear perfect. Perfectionism can be mistaken for arrogance.


Do you have trouble upholding your values at work, at home, within the world—and being true to yourself?

You’ve been perfectly groomed to give all your power away—to administration; to insurance companies; to office staff; and yes, even to inanimate software platforms. You have no power left. You have so deftly internalized the messages of insufficiency that you are helpless. You’re unable to help yourself and have no confidence in your next decision.

So, what do you do to cope with your lack of confidence? You take on a persona. It’s not really “YOU,” but it’s all you’ve got. You’ve been on the receiving end of arrogance and defensiveness at school, in residency, at work. You grab the cloak and wear the mantle. You have no choice at this point.

You join the abusers merely to survive. When asked a question you bark out the answer or grunt. When your opinion is solicited, you shrug. When someone else around you makes a mistake, you ridicule and shame them out of fear that their mistake might be seen as a reflection on you. You are tough as nails on the outside—and a quivering mass of insecurity and fear on the inside. You begin to fantasize your escape, packing up in the dead of the night and just disappearing. Every fantasy gives you momentary relief from the bone-crushing pressure.

Do you suffer from internalized arrogance and defensiveness?

Do you find yourself trapped in unnecessary drama at work?

Do you have trouble speaking truth to power?

If any of this seems familiar, please read this brief ebook: Headstrong & Helpless: a recovery program for hardheaded healers. Learn the 5 simple things you can do now to change your life—NOW. Understand the drama triangle that fuels the behaviors in you and others that keeps you locked into abuse cycles. Learn two simple steps to free yourself from drama so you can lead a confident and empowered life.

Don’t wait for a malpractice suit. Don’t wait for your spouse to leave you. Don’t wait for your anxiety or depression to become so severe that you consider suicide as your only way out.

Download Your Action Guide Now.

Sydney Ashland and Pamela Wible, MD, can help you escape your distress to live your dreams in medicine. Join us for our monthly coastal retreats and biannual hot springs retreats for confidential off-the-grid help (no EMR, 100% confidential).


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4 comments on “Headstrong & Helpless: a recovery program for hardheaded healers
  1. In some sense, intimidation in a benevolent way is part of the physician’s training curriculum, at the receiving end of demeaning comments on your knowledge and judgment by people who really intend to be your best friend not that far into the future. Worthy colleagues are created, and that is how physicians create them. The view at age 55 looks a lot different than the view at age 25.

    What has surprised me, though, is that the resilience intended by this training does not always last forever. We seem to be unable to pursue what Rabbi Heschel, z”l, termed Moral Grandeur, that tenacity to oppose the assaults of the insurers, the regulators, the people who wear suits to work and every other impediment to our best implementation of medical care.

  2. All primary care physicians or any Internal Medicine Doctor suffers anxiety, depression and frustration just like everyone else. Assuming we know what we need to do to overcome those feelings. We treat others and give the best advice. We feel lost and need to reconnect again for who we are and what our purpose.

    Get out and take a break. Reconnect with the nature again. We need to balance our mental and physical to be with our self again. Well written Pamela.

  3. Leon M. Hicks, M.D. says:

    I received surgical training from a respected, competitive, academic program at a large county hospital, where there was high demand to perform and the work hours were murderous-over 150/week. You were “weak/not tough” if you complained. During those exhausting years,I know I made judgment errors that resulted in patient harm, but I did survive the program. With that background, I established a solo sub-specialty practice in my town. I felt I was strong and could “take it,” being available on-call 24/7, never declining any call from another physician, accepting the most challenging patients. When the stress and demand became almost too much, I’d have a light few days/nights, and recover my composure. But after 21 years, the practice drove me to an “out-of-body” experience and subsequently a suicide attempt with oral and IV drugs. I survived because of a loving, astute spouse who found me in time. When I said I wanted to continue practicing, my hospital and colleagues were supportive, saying “it was just not your time, you have more good to do, let’s examine your life and how you got here.” With sympathetic psychiatric treatment, a wonderful family and office staff, and my understanding the need to restructure my life and practice, I did go on to have another 15 years of satisfying and successful work. I am retired now, happily finding self-worth and satisfaction in activities I had little time for before. I think the death spiral that I was in does exist in other physicians, with whom I would like to share my story and hopefully help them from having an “untimely end.”

  4. Yes says:

    Thought this was about healers, and NOT doctors… BIG difference. Grrrrrrrrr

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