An individual's capacity for compassion and empathy is portrayed as a powerful tool in “The Compassionate Connection: The Healing Power of Empathy and Mindful Listening,” written by University of New Mexico Professor and Chair for Family and Community Medicine David Rakel, M.D.
Throughout the book, Rakel tells a series of stories from the medical field, delving into the power of empathy and expanding on the relationships individuals create with those they meet both medical professional and patient.
“Even though these are lessons learned in the medical field, these can be translated to any relationship,” Rakel said.
Rakel’s opportunity to be a part of the care of individuals over the years taught him a lot about not only how important the story is that contains the symptom, but also how misdirected individuals can become trying to turn off the symptom without listening to the story, he said.
“That has led to a lot of medication and a lot of potential harm when sometimes we could have an efficient path if we really connected and listened to these human beings in a way that allows us to (get to) the root of the problem,” he said.
Furthermore learning how to do this well individuals can use their communication with other people to really set them on a path of health and healing, he said.
“When we do that for others, we do it for ourselves,” Rakel said.
He said he started his career in a small rural mountain town in Idaho where he was one of two physicians in a 14-bed hospital.
“The beauty of (starting in Idaho) was that you knew everybody, and you knew everybody’s story,” he said. “That insight allowed me to make a more accurate diagnosis, and it reduces the need to try a temporary and automatic fix for a problem that is much more complex.”
Rakel’s career expanded from his days in the rural mountain town, and the opportunity to come to New Mexico has been a wonderful experience, he said.
“It’s a very diverse culture with a lot of different beliefs and ethnicities,” Rakel said. “It seems like New Mexico, more so than other cultures, (is) more accepting of that diversity.”
Furthermore, there is also some historical trauma in the state, as New Mexico is a state with a lot of overthrown cultures, he said.
“This book also teaches us how to recognize how we’ve been conditioned to the past,” Rakel said. “It helps us let that go so we can really respect with compassion to other human beings so we can get to a better place together.”
While “The Compassionate Connection: The Healing Power of Empathy and Mindful Listening,” is Rakel’s first public publication, the ties it has to the medical field are still strong.
Health care is more of a business in America, and in the past there has been a fight to fix that, Rakel said.
“Now we realize we have a very expensive health care system with a high harm rate,” he said. “What I hope this book will teach us is how to add value, that being better value for the lower cost. When we use this compassionate connection in an artful way, often we simulate self-healing mechanisms in the body, and we don’t need as many things. As many medications or surgeries, we don’t need as many things outside the human body to keep us healthy.”
Proceeds from “The Compassionate Connection: The Healing Power of Empathy and Mindful Listening” will be reinvested into education, particularly in the medical field, Rakel said.
“This book shows that our human connection and the art of how we connect may be more powerful than any drug we use and can enhance the effectiveness of any drug we use,” Rakel said. “This is really teaching us how to use ourselves as a therapeutic vector towards helping others.”
Nichole Harwood is the culture editor at the Daily Lobo. She writes for both culture and news. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Nolidoli1.