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The Self-Denial/Overindulgence Cycle

"I am owed this" is a magnificently dangerous sentiment and has led to disaster for literally thousands of physicians.

Gary Simmonds, MD, Wayne Sotile, PhD In  The Thriving Physician, Simmonds and Sotile name a physician landmine called the 'Self-Denial/Overindulgence Cycle.'   It works something like this:  You have a week where call is a nightmare; your patients are challenging, you have to cover for a colleague, your scheduler messes up, etc. etc.  You deal with it professionally, putting personal (and possibly family) needs to the side.  Because of this self-denial, you then overindulge in some nonhealthy way because 'you deserve it.'   

We all have our own ways of unhealthy indulgence.  Maybe you drink too much or eat terrible food or lose the entire weekend to Netflix.  Maybe you 'indulge' in yelling at your nurse, the aforementioned scheduler or a family member. The unconscious mindset is, "Because of how hard I have worked, this is ok."   Simmonds and Sotile are clear that many forms of indulgence are good and healthy.  "Soothing your wounds, restoring your energy banks, and turning your mind to things other than medicine are all critical to your wellness.  But just be aware of the dangers of this cycle."  They suggest: Be on the lookout for justifying potentially harmful indulgences with the notion that you owe yourself said activity. When tempted to indulge in maladaptive behaviors, ask yourself some questions:  Why you are doing this?  What will you gain and what are the risks?  Is it harmful to you or others?  Are you proud of this activity" Would your loved ones be hurt if they found out" Does it put your job at risk?"Scan the millions of positive indulgences that can lead to your own personal growth, health and happiness-like those that connect you with others and those that bring you calm but also energize.   Most human beings deal with the self-denial/over indulgence temptation.  But physicians are high risk, because the demands of the work are so great.  Questions for Reflection and Conversation: When are you most at risk for over indulgence?  What represents good and healthy indulgence, and where are you tempted toward unhealthy indulgence?


David Specht

Listen, reflect and connect.

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