This morning, Seth Godin writes about how his friend brought plastic scorpions to his home recently (“a reminder of a recent adventure”, he says); this friend placed them in locations throughout the home that were intended to elicit a fearful, or anxious response. Seth was (apparently) busy doing other things and simply moved or ignored them.  Only after encountering the third scorpion, did he pause to realize that his friend had been trying (disappointingly, I am sure) to have some fun at his expense.

He writes:

This is one reason we feel the need to yell ‘surprise’ at a surprise party. Because we all have blinders on.

The people who are the very best at noticing what’s happening notice it because they’re looking.

As a therapist, I immediately began to consider: “What am I going to miss when I work with my patient today?

Of course, shortly after that, I began to think about how humans are very adept at finding patterns and meaning in things that we think we see and feel, even when such patterns and meaning are absent. This is why science is so important as it empowers the clinician who may otherwise chase their own tails when engaged with yet another patient with yet another complaint. Sure, I could more closely examine each and every patient with increasingly exquisite detail and formulate a very complicated explanation for why they feel or move the way they do – after all, isn’t this what the ‘elite’ physical therapist is supposed to be capable of? Unfortunately, the more elite I try to become with each ‘sample of one’ patient, the less likely science is to support my hypothesis.

So what is my solution to Godin’s ‘blinders dilemna’? I don’t have one, but while I try to remain aware of the fact that I may have blinders on, I will be certain to take off the earmuffs, sit down, and listen. At least then, the patient not have to yell ‘surprise’ for me to hear what they need to say.


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