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sympathy -vs- empowerment


Sympathy Empathy

  As defined by Webster’s, the word ‘sympathy’ means, “the feeling of caring about and being sorry for someone else’s trouble, grief, misfortune, etc.”  Wikipedia says that it’s, “the perception, understanding, and reaction to the distress or need of another life form.”  What I have found over the course of 25 years of practice is that most people with physical challenges do not want your sympathy or pity.  They want just a little bit of understanding (empathy) and the ability to be able to live as normal a life as possible.

One of my favorite examples of this was my father in law, GLYN GILMAN.  Glyn contracted polio when he was 7 and spent the better part of a year at Jefferson Barracks near St. Louis, much of it in an iron lung.  Although he recovered, by the time I met Glyn 22 years ago, he could only walk very short distances, and only with great effort (leg braces, two canes, and an exhausting amount of exertion).  Eventually he ended up in an electric scooter, also having to deal with the severe shoulder problems that resulted from him using his arms in ways they were never meant to be used because his legs did not work properly. 

The amazing thing is that Glyn was like Job.  He never complained and only increased in his faith, even as his body and health deteriorated.  Although I knew he had “cut a wide swath” during his lifetime, I never realized just how wide until the evening of his visitation.  The line stretched out of the church and all the way out into the parking lot — for three straight hours.


Wellcome Images V0007138 Thomas Inglefield was born in Hook, England (about 50 miles west of London) on December 18 of 1869; exactly 202 years before my brother.  But unlike my brother, Inglefield was born with neither arms nor legs.  Interestingly enough, this was believed to be the result of a scare that his mother received while pregnant — a common explanation for birth defects at the time.  After receiving a good education (his family was wealthy), Inglefield became a professional artist. 

By the age of 18, not only did he have a private studio in London, it is said that he often worked where the public could watch.  This was because his unique style of work could always be counted on to draw a crowd.  How does a person with no arms or legs create drawings and engravings — his two areas of artistic expertise?  He was said to have put the pen or engraving tool between the stump of his left arm and his cheek, using the muscles of his mouth to guide it.


Wouldn’t it be great to make the MEDICAL MERRY-GO-ROUND a thing of the past, like in the picture above?  I deal with many patients who have struggled for a very long time — SOMETIMES DECADES — with CHRONIC PAIN.  Because many of the problems I deal with are based on MICROSCOPIC SCAR TISSUE — often times of the Fascia — it’s not so surprising that the medical community is failing to help these people.  FASCIA is a tricky tissue because it is not only the most pain-sensitive tissue in the body, it does not show up using standard advanced imaging techniques such as MRI.  As you might imagine, this has the potential to set people up for a disaster. 

At least part of this disaster is that doctors look at you as though nothing is wrong with you.  In essence, because your problems does not show up on an MRI or via blood work, you are given a label —  malingerer, scam artist, drug seeker, looking to get on Social Security Disability.  The truth is, there are dozens of such labels.   In some ways it’s almost easier for the person with no legs.  Everyone can look at them and realize there’s a problem.  

Unfortunately, any number of serious health-related problems (CHRONIC HEADACHES (including MIGRAINES), CHRONIC NECK PAIN, CHRONIC LOW BACK PAIN (or HERE), FIBROMYALGIA, SKULL PAIN, FACE PAIN, RIB TISSUE PROBLEMS, MUPS, WAD (Whiplash Associated Disorders), HEAD INJURIES, SYMPATHETIC DOMINANCE, many cases of THYROID, INCREASED INTESTINAL PERMEABILITY and other problems of the GUT, PARISITOSIS, HYPOCHLORHYDRIA, CANDIDA OVERGROWTH, INTOLERANCE TO BLACK MOLD, ADRENAL FATIGUE, ESTROGEN DOMINANCE, NCGS, various forms of DYSBIOSIS, not to mention a host of others that can cause “OCCULT INFLAMMATION“) are in this same general category.  They will not show up with standard medical testing / imaging. 

Ultimately, this leaves you with a choice.  You can buck up and try and do something about your health, or you can continue in passivity, trusting (wishing, assuming, hoping, praying) that your doctor has your best interests in mind, and is trying to find solutions.  The problem with the later is that when it comes to the health issues listed in the paragraph above, most doctors are not going to go beyond standard medical fare —- namely prescribing; most commonly the “BIG FIVE“.  Although I always want to be empathetic as a clinician, I do not want to fall into the trap of looking at my patients with pity or even sympathy.  In the May 2015 issue of Psychology Today, Dr. Neel Burton (an MD) writes in his article Empathy -vs- Sympathy that……

“Empathy is often confused with pity, sympathy, and compassion, which are each reactions to the plight of others. Pity is a feeling of discomfort at the distress of one or more sentient beings, and often has paternalistic or condescending overtones. Implicit in the notion of pity is that its object does not deserve its plight, and, moreover, is unable to prevent, reverse, or overturn it. Pity is less engaged than empathy, sympathy, or compassion, amounting to little more than a conscious acknowledgement of the plight of its object.  Sympathy is a feeling of care and concern for someone, often someone close, accompanied by a wish to see him better off or happier. Compared to pity, sympathy implies a greater sense of shared similarities together with a more profound personal engagement. However, sympathy, unlike empathy, does not involve a shared perspective or shared emotions.”

A decade of dealing with chronic foot pain led me on a quest for a solution.  Thankfully I was eventually able to find someone who could help me (BTW, thanks Shawn — I love you man!).  That experience changed me and created a drive to help as many people as I can, get out of the same sort of pit that I myself was in.  My ultimate goal is always the same — to empower you to lead a better life — a ‘normal’ life if you will (whatever the word normal really means for you and whatever you  are dealing with).  Pity is a disservice to my patients.  You’ll see why if you take two minutes to watch the video below.

Chronic pain and illness are thieves. They drain you.  They rob you physically, mentally, and emotionally.  Sometimes they can even steal your will to live.  Although I certainly don’t have all the answers for every individual or situation, I believe that there is someone out there who does.  It’s just a matter of finding them.  Finding ‘that’ person has been made ten thousand times easier thanks to the world wide web.  For many of you, I’m that person (HERE). 

And even if I can’t help you like the people in the link above, there are any number of ways that you can help yourself.  In fact, I’ve created a generic template to help you return to health by getting your INFLAMMATION under control.  But it’s up to you.  No one (YOUR DOCTOR INCLUDED) can do it for you.  Take the bull by the horns and empower yourself by creating a personalized plan of action — an “EXIT STRATEGY” if that’s what you prefer to call it — and start taking your life back.  Today!


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