That Time You Cried at the Eye Doctors’ (On Questioning “Tough Love”)

As a woman, it is engraved in me by my environment (I’m looking at you, media) that I am an emotional being.

I’m told that my instincts or reactions shouldn’t be trusted because I will react in an emotional, and therefore irrational, way.

So why is it that many people – from strangers to family – feel compelled to push certain emotions onto me? Why do they feel preying on my emotions is the quickest way to get what they want?

I think that is the point of “tough love,” right? The initiator intends on creating an emotional response out of the other person. Whether the point is to provoke fear or guilt or sadness or reality, the threats or tones are used to extract a certain feeling.

But, you know, the thing I’ve noticed about trying to elicit an emotional response from someone is that you have no control of what emotion that person will extract. What if you just wind making them angry…or numb?

I will admit, I rarely need help feeling. Emotions protrude out of me.  So when someone tries to inject an emotion into me, I think it can backfire.

In reality, what I need most from people who are trying to show me some “tough love” is facts. I want to know why they are worried or why I should be scared. I think in terms of mental maps and cause and effect plays a big part into that. Naturally, I respond best when my mother tells me the specifics of why she feels taken advantage of because I learn how to prevent it in the future.

So today, when my eye doctor wanted me to know my situation was dire and that I needed to take his advice very seriously, I wasn’t prepared to respond to a firm talking-to. The doctor wanted to alleviate me of my poor use of contacts and teach myself to be more careful, lest I wind up with severe cornea damage in only a few short years. “Your eyes are priceless, right?” he asked me. But a stranger offering me “Daddy’s tough love” (his words) only made angry. The more he spoke, the more defensive I felt of all the factors leading up to the situation. I got that things were bad. I knew I had been doing something wrong. That why I was there!

In this case, I think I wanted a doctor. I wanted someone to tell me the facts of how everything led up to where they were. I wanted a game plan of how to remedy my poor infected eyes and how we could proactively prevent this from happening again.  I wanted to feel comfortable coming back to a team treating me like a patient, rather than a scared teenager afraid of being yelled at. Additionally, I wonder if I would have guilt-tripped myself worse than any stranger could have provoked out of me?

The whole thing has me thinking about how there seems to be no formula on the proper way to treat a patient. On the one hand, I think several people do need an emotional wake-up call or intervention. I hear this much about people recovering with eating disorders. On the other hand, I can’t help but think of the obsese patients at the physician’s office who probably know what they’re doing to their body is wrong, but are looking for how to stop and how to know when they’re doing something right.

So what do you think? Am I being a baby or responding out of embarrassment? Should I take someone’s general concern and try to listen and not react? Is it just that doctors are too overloaded to begin with? Or was this doctor wrong to assume an emotional role to get his point across?

Ps. By the way, I kind of think that a man who told me that my eyes naturally water because they are dry shouldn’t expect anything but tears.

5 thoughts on “That Time You Cried at the Eye Doctors’ (On Questioning “Tough Love”)

  1. I’m totally with you on this. And seriously, there are SO MANY shitty doctors with shitty bedside manners out there. I have chronically enlarged lymph nodes that ‘enlarged’ themselves out of nowhere 3 years ago – all of a sudden they were HUGE even though I wasn’t sick. Naturally I was concerned and went to an ENT who literally sat there and lectured me about overreacting. Um excuse me?!?! Anyway I was SO embarrassed that I just dropped it until my GP brought it up and said *he* was concerned that it could be an indicator of cancer. (It’s not.) And I hear stories like this ALL the time working in a doctor’s office. You should write a bad review about that doc on one of the doctor-reviewing websites (vitals, rateMDs). 😉

    • Sable, I’ve been wondering what your response would be knowing that you work at a doctor’s office! I took a class on Health Communication (something I bet you would like!) and it talked about hospital bedside manner. It was really interesting to learn how patients responded best.

      In this case, I know the doctor was coming from a place of love, because while the doctor was a stranger to me, he has been treating my family for years. I think that’s why I though so much about this.

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