LOOPY, a JEWISH Teaching & Anesthesia

 I had a routine medical procedure this week. The good news…Everything thank G-d is good. The challenging news…I was sedated and am still a bit loopy. When I came out of anesthesia yesterday, I was super confused how the nurses could touch a patient (that being me) via ZOOM! I was convinced I was on a virtual medical appointment and that the nurses somehow reached through the ether and were actually touching me in real time – removing IVs, etc. I was shocked that the technology had advanced to this level.

I’m fascinated that the mind can have this gap in grasping reality. Especially interesting is that I did not question the FACT that we were on Zoom. I only questioned how technology could have advanced to this level.

Within a minute, I did “come to” – and realize that I was in an outpatient clinical center. Still…It makes me question how much and how little I really know. We accept so much as de facto truth and then build our worlds on that assumption. This little mind-bend poked a hole in my certainty. I rely so heavily on what I can see and touch as my foundation. With the given that my mind was under the influence of anesthetics, the touch point still was that I was unquestionably sure of what I knew. Since I am inclined towards G-d these days, this experience further supports my belief that there are worlds beyond my perception.

I just found something lovely from Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn (*linked here) about anesthesia and how it can relate to human relations. From my understanding, this teaches that if I need to give someone a correction, I shouldn’t just spit it out directly. Instead, like with anesthesia, I can create a way to reduce the pain when delivering a “rebuke”. Always be thoughtful and mindful of another’s feelings. This reminds me that although  it might seem like nothing to throw out some advice or “constructive” criticism, I am not in the other person’s shoes and I don’t know how it lands for them. Just as the anesthesiologist needs to take into account their patient’s history, physical condition and such, so should I take into account the person with whom I am talking…what is their sensitivity level, how do they best receive information?

Here is a short story that really impressed me and has stayed with me for years.

My sons had an amazing baseball coach in high school. He was as smart as they come, extremely talented, KNEW how to connect with the players, and he cared deeply for them. Funny, because when you first met him, he acted quite brusque and was not in the least warm and fuzzy. The team won the state championship under his guidance and the guys LOVED him. He respected the young men, was honest, generous, tough AND kind. His standards were admirable as he expected the players to be decent people on and off the field. 

He and I were chatting one day while the guys practiced and he passed off this gem.

Most people speak their intention to the other person’s perception.”

He elaborated that most people do not check to see if what they are saying accurately express what they mean in their minds. Conversely we all have a lens through which we view the world. Whether it be idealistic, pessimistic, frightened, entitled, optimistic…, we hear things through that lens. Most of us are not aware of our “lens” and don’t realize we color communications in a way that may or may not match the actual message. Simply put, there is a double whammy risk for misunderstandings to occur all the time.

This thoughtful coach said, when I give the guys a correction, I think about how I need to say it so they will hear it. This coach did double duty. He not only thought about what he wanted to convey and how to make it clear, he thought about his listener and how they need to hear things in order to receive it. “For example,” he said, “when I talk to Joe, I need to give him a compliment sandwich, when I talk to your son, I need to first answer all his questions before he’ll hear me, and when I talk to Charles, I have to yell at him for him to take in my message.”

When I (Vivi) give people “constructive criticism”, I often forget this wisdom. Just yesterday on my way to the doctors I explained to my friend why his “tailgating” was causing the car ahead to slow down. I felt a teeny weeny bit of push back and realized afterwards I just basically blurted out my “back seat driving”.

It’s a challenge to remember to be thoughtful when addressing others. In rereading the Rebbe’s teaching, I realize I missed an important detail. He said ‘”the rebuke is meant to strengthen the soul.”

I’ll let that sink in. My loopiness is easing. Thank goodness.  ©

Love, Vivi

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*gros Kodesh of the Previous Rebbe, Vol. 2, p. 476, adapted by Dovid Shrager Polter at Chabad.org

Cover Eggs Photo by Tengyart, Hands Drawing by Claudio Schwarz, Hands Photo by Elia Pellegrini, Boxing Photo by Xuan Nguyen, Little Dancer Photo by Solen Feyissa, Baseball Photo by Keith Johnston, Photo by Raindom

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