The ageless conquest of oneself

Before examining possible critical variables for the doctor, let’s recap Gallwey’s suggestions for the golfer in “The Inner Game of Golf.”

Impediments to a fluid swing are over-tightness due to anxiety about the swing or the score.  To improve, Gallwey says play as Bobby Jones claimed to play it-a conquest of oneself and Gallwey suggests the following practises:

  • Focusing on tightness in our bodies with a myriad of critical variables; (Gallwey advocates 20 minutes of focus, with each practice, on something that only takes two seconds to complete. We doctors seldom focus on critical variables of attitude during our consultation with the patient).
  • Noticing for change of pitch and volume when humming during the swing. This is a tuning fork to see if we are tuned for a relaxed swing. (What barometer[i] or tuning fork[ii] do we employ when tending our patients?)
  • Gallwey writes, “If you can’t feel, you can’t heal.” If you can’t feel the over-tightness, hire an experienced observer to find our blind spots. (We hire coaches for our hobbies, and we take refresher courses such as Pediatric Advanced Life Support, Advanced Trauma Life Support – all necessary. But when did we take a refresher to improve our poise with our patients?)


The critical variables for the doctor are mainly: listening, being non-judgmental, being patient and being thorough. The impediments to these critical variables are: being tired, being hurried and cradling one’s self-esteem. To improve, to begin the unending conquest of oneself one might practice some callisthenics listed below towards. (These are suggested in Medicine, Mistakes and the Reptilian Brain):

Practice to attempt to conquest of the self. (While this attempt is quixotic, we must nevertheless, strive in order to honour the nobility of our profession and the sacred contract we have with our patient).

  1. A day of monitoring one’s irritability levels by employing one’s Irritability Barometer. This corresponds to Gallwey’s humming to monitor for tension.
  2. A day of monitoring our interruptions of patients. Can we listen for three minutes without interrupting? Listen as we do to our mechanic or stock-broker.
  3. A day of spotting our labelling of staff, patients, and their relatives with a pejorative label. Gallwey claims we see more of the green when we see with “soft eyes.” We will see more when we view the patient with “soft eyes.”
  4. A day without time pieces.
  5. A day of noting the seduction of the easy way.
  6. A day of observing how attached we are to our self-image. How ready are we to accept challenging questions from our patients? Gallwey says, “I want to play with less ego interference“.
  7. A day of reviewing our ability to appreciate the whispers of doubt. Doubt is a form of sincerity.
  8. A day practising vigilance to the task at hand, for example, while dressing, commuting and walking. Gallwey asks the golfer to practice this for 20 minutes a practice.

Striving for aequanimitas,

John Mary Meagher

Ps. In the next, my last post regarding “The Inner Game of Golf,” we shall look at Gallwey’s key  elegant take on Zen. I am anxious to learn what you think?

[i] In Medicine, Mistakes and the Reptilian Brain, an Irritability is recommended.

[ii] Epictetus,”Will not the musician retune the lute when it is out of tune?



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