Monday, March 7, 2011


By Lise Alschuler, ND, FABNO
AANP Past-President (2008-2009)

Photo by a.drian via Flickr, used under the Creative Commons License.
I have come to believe that it is very hard for doctors to be truly and authentically humble. Our days are typically filled with instructing others in various ways that they can tame the unruly pathways of disease. We are, in effect, attempting to exert our control over illness. We may refer to this process more gently as empowering our patients, but, even still, our attempt at dominion over illness remains an integral part of these empowerment efforts.

This force that we exert requires that we declare unspoken allegiance to our underlying beliefs and understandings about illness and about health. And holding this allegiance together is our ego, which, with any investment of attention, quickly becomes an attachment. Here is where things get dicey. Our attachment to our ideals about healing can blind us to other possibilities, and can make us feel overly confident in our direction and position.

I would go so far as to suggest that every healer worth her salt has displayed this ego-driven behavior. It seems a natural consequence of having the will to attempt to heal. Nonetheless this determination, while perhaps necessary at times, will ultimately impede our effort. When we start to lose that edge of wondering whether what we have recommended is actually the best recommendation, or when we find ourselves talking a lot more than the people seeking our care, or when we find ourselves feeling bored or uninspired, or when we start treating diagnoses instead of people – we have succumbed to our egos. We have lost our humility in the face of disease. With that, I suspect that the healing that we each uniquely offer when we are fully present and compassionately attentive is muted, if not mutated.

I think that Bill Mitchell, ND, may have had it right when he spoke about us as being our most powerful medicine – if we don’t get in our own way. True humility - with each other, our patients and, yes, with disease, too – affords us the best opportunity to support the Vis and allow healing in.


  1. Thank you, Dr. Alschuler. Thank you, Dr. Mitchell.

  2. What an inspiring sentiment. With humility we all can heal the world - even those of us who watch from the sidelines as you amazing NDs do the tough stuff.