What are you changing?
What do you think you're changing?
You can't change things, we're all stuck in our ways
It's like trying to clean the ocean
What do you think you can drain it?
Well it was poison and dry long before you came
But you can wake up younger under the knife
And you can wake up sounder if you get analyzed
And I better wake up
There but for the grace of God, go I
Okay, let's try this again. I'm reminded of the performing violinist who, puzzled but pleased by repeated calls of "Encore!" from the audience, obligingly played his piece several times over. Finally he heard a hectoring voice cry, "Encore! You're going to sit there and play it until you get it right!" (I've decided to institute an annual joke here at the blog; that was it for 2009).
So my musings yesterday about the blog title brought to mind one of several oddities about being a psychiatrist (and by psychiatrist I always mean a therapist of any kind). (Sometimes people ask if I mind the designation "shrink." I really don't, and it isn't offensive, but as a word I've always found it to be somehow stale and antiquated, very 1970's, sort of like groovy, although I'm not in fact sure when the word arose.)
Many are fascinated by what drives a person to pursue psychiatry, or by implication, what sorts of people are drawn to field, but fewer reflect on how the active practice of psychiatry, or the sustained adoption of the role, could change a person (for better or worse). I will defer that deeper issue, but merely observe that, compared to other professions, that of psychiatrist has the potential, in terms of social perception at least, to hijack the identity.
Perhaps this is because the presence of a psychiatrist tends to make the layperson self-conscious. I would imagine that apart from celebrities of any sort, this is true of only a small number of occupations: priests or ministers mainly, but also perhaps police officers, judges, and teachers also (and tellingly, psychiatry could be said to comprise elements of all those roles).
I can think of plenty of other occupations that would provoke greater admiration or even interest, but not necessarily more self-consciousness. Not long ago I read a blog post by an English professor who complained that everyone she met suddenly seemed apologetic about their grammar or knowledge of books. But I don't think that if I were a plumber (talk about a road not taken!), people I met would feel self-conscious about their pipes. Psychiatrists, preachers, law enforcement types, and teachers foster transferences (of the psychological, religious, legal, and academic kinds, respectively) wherever they go.
After I got married some years ago I was surprised by how many women asked my wife what it was like to be married to a psychiatrist. Can you imagine asking anyone what it is like to be wed to a teacher or an engineer? No, because they're assumed to be regular folks. No, this was like asking what it was like to be mated with a giant millipede, or perhaps a demented taxidermist. The answer is presumed to be titillating, but likely not pretty. No, my wife always answers (with, I never fail to note, something less than delectation in her voice) that it's pretty much like being married to any other man (as if that weren't the lily that couldn't be gilded in the first place).