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Managing anger and forgiveness in the imaging suite

November 27, 2020
From the November 2020 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine

Easier said than done, to be sure. For one thing, we sometimes encounter angry patients amid our own tough days, marked by frustration, fatigue, and perceived failures of one kind or another. It can be difficult to meet anger with calm when patience seems exhausted and we feel at the end of our rope.
The key to letting go is to avoid internalizing the conflict or allowing our internal struggles to project them-selves onto the situation. We need to remember that, in most cases, anger is not about us. It is about frightened, bewildered, frustrated human beings in an unfamiliar environment seeking recognition of some unfairness they believe they have suffered.

Often anger can be likened to a kind of illness. We need to recognize when someone is speaking and acting from anger. Instead of widening the breach, we need sympathy and compassion — not becoming swept up in anger but understanding and accepting the patient’s distress.

Forgiveness and healing
There is an African parable that says, “The person who forgives ends the quarrel,” an English version of which reads, “The greatest vengeance is to forgive.” Another source puts it this way: “Holding onto anger is like taking poison and expecting the other person to die.” In most cases, clutching anger is not good for people.

What is it like to let another person’s anger go? I imagine that the angry person is handing over a scalding-hot pan. Grasping it and holding on to it is only going to cause more damage. The only way to avoid harm or saddling the angry person with guilt is to let it go. Only then can we focus our energy on serving those in distress.

Dr. Richard Gunderman
About the author: Dr. Richard Gunderman is chancellor's professor of radiology, pediatrics, medical educa-tion, philosophy, liberal arts, philanthropy, and medical humanities and health studies at Indiana University. He is also John A. Campbell Professor of Radiology and in 2019-2021 also serves as Bicentennial Professor.

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