Knowledge is my jam. My “to be read” stack of books is like a yeti in my apartment- skulking around, using up oxygen, staring at me from the corner while I read trash fiction. My “to be learned” list of topics is worse- like a kraken, it has endless tentacles and threatens to drown me daily. When I find a research article that sparks my mind, my captive husband listens to me gush about it like a preteen watching a BTS music video until the torrent of words runs dry.
But sometimes when I learn I’m wrong about something I become viscerally, skin-blisteringly furious. This unfailingly happens when I receive edits to my writing, and when I blithely repeat outdated-but-still-sounds-good information. It also happens when I realize I’ve gotten lazy in my critical thinking and have subsequently been called out.
The fury is contained. I try to isolate myself for the few minutes it lasts and certainly don’t answer any phone calls while it plays out. I’ve learned over time that it’s a shame reaction, and that I have to get that staring-into-myself-with-self-loathing part over with. Knowledge is part of my identity, and when that is threatened I get upset, defensive, and stubborn.
And then I get over it.
I will never be comfortable being wrong, but I have been practicing how to do it for years. How to swallow the shame and remind myself that I am only human. How to tuck the hurt feelings away for later and concentrate on assimilating the new data. How to find that spark of joy from learning new things and let it rebuild the hearth fire that fuels my passion.
Massage uses ostriching as a default response to being wrong. MTs will confidently go to their graves telling you that water will flush the toxins they just released from your body. They will insist they know better because they took an 8-hour course one time ten years ago and got a piece of paper to prove it. They will ignore new information if it’s inconvenient, and they move in modality-based herds for safety.
A profession that wants to be taken seriously as healthcare should not act this way. So why do we?
I think shame is a large part. How can you be a magical being full of healing powers from the universe if you are ever wrong? Your instructors were never wrong -- they were wise like Yoda. People who teach CEs are never wrong -- they sprinkle knowledge upon you like water from the fountain of youth. Our entire profession has managed to silently enforce the idea that to be wrong would mean you don’t belong and has built a towering pyramid scheme in the process.
The theme in the Healwell Community this November is “How to Be Wrong.” We’re exploring ideas about cognitive bias, wrongness in research, serendipitous wrongs, why it's important (and difficult) to admit to being wrong, and how to recover from the feelings wrongness inspires. Join us!