The Dopamine Made Me Do It

Posted by Bill Esteb on Mar 25th 2018

A common theme among chiropractors whose practice growth has stalled or has hit an invisible barrier is that they care too much. Perhaps early on they heard that “patients don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.”

So they care.

And boy, do they ever.

This keeps their practice manageably small so they can “parent” patients and monitor their follow through, making sure they’re drinking the chiropractic Kool-Aid and staying on the straight and narrow.

These are the same chiropractors who desire to help more people—but for whom larger numbers seem elusive.

Granted, as a professional caregiver, you need to care. However, caring too much does something far more destructive than merely frustrating attempts to increase the number of people you help.

Because such chiropractors have a drug addiction.

The Payoff of Self Sacrifice

These aren’t opioids or even recreational drugs. It’s something far more intimate and personal: dopamine.

It starts with a patient raving about the results they’re experiencing from your chiropractic care.

“I can’t believe it!” gushes the patient. “This chiropractic thing is incredible. Why don’t more people know about this? It’s amazing. I’m going to name my firstborn after you!”

As the dopamine is released, you have a temporary out-of-body experience as you bask in the love and adoration. “This is why I endured four winters in Davenport, Iowa!” you think to yourself.

Heady stuff to be sure. Even addictive.

Practice becomes increasingly about self sacrifice so as to be there when patients realize you were able to do something no other practitioner was able to do—while getting your fix of Mr. Feelgood.

The Real Hero

Actually, you’re stealing from God when you take credit for what happens when you reduce nervous system interference.

Of course the patient doesn’t know this. They’ve been well trained by the medical industrial complex to credit the practitioner, the drug, the surgery, the therapy, the widget or virtually anything else other than themselves.

This mistrust of their body gives rise to all manner of manipulation, whether it be the food pyramid, immunization, germ phobia, routine caesareans or surrendering all critical thinking to blindly follow “doctor’s orders.”

The result is a form of idolatry in which there is greater confidence in the artificial and the man-made than in the natural and inborn wisdom of their body.

Which is why it’s so easy to get seduced by a patient’s adulation.

The Dark Side

You’ve probably heard the classic chiropractic axiom, “Take no credit, take no blame.” It’s great advice. Because should you fall victim to the hormonal rewards produced when your ministrations create the outcome patients want, you must also assume the responsibility when they don’t.

It’s a huge confidence stealer.

No wonder you may be inclined to walk on eggshells and constantly worry about the patient’s steadfastness!

Do you tend to care too much? If a patient observes that the speed of their recovery is unsatisfactory, and you’re tempted to take on even the slightest amount of defensiveness, you’re probably afflicted.

Naturally, you’d be interested from a clinical perspective and genuinely curious about what’s going on in their life that might be interfering with their body’s ability to express better function, but you won’t accept even a hint of blame.

You would have explained to every patient that they bring more to your table (the ability to self heal) than what you do on the table.

Consider just a few of the many factors that might impede a patient’s healing response:

Their problem – certain health issues take longer to resolve than others.
Their health – their recuperative ability may be depleted from years of neglect.
Their age – older individuals (psychologically not chronologically) heal slowly.
Their lifestyle – what they do between practice visits can have a profound impact.
Their stress – physical, chemical or emotional burdens make your care palliative.
Their attitude – do they believe chiropractic is something that can help them?

In other words, the speed of their recovery is way outside your ability to control. To assume such an obligation—either by omission or commission, is either hubris, egomania or an unhealthy co-dependency.

Are You a Care Bear?

It’s so easy to fall in step with the allopathic culture we live in and the expectations that patients bring to your practice. However, if you want to help more people, recognize that you’ll want to better explain to each patient where your responsibility ends and theirs begins.

If you don’t want to help more people, that’s cool too. It’s just that you can’t have it both ways. You can’t be a “care bear” and double the size of your practice.

Pick one.