≡ Menu

Human suffering

Every day at work we doctors and nurses are exposed to human suffering which the rest of society tries to avoid. (i)

We cannot avoid the fact of suffering: pain, disease, injury, fear, anger, stress, anxiety, depression, dying and death.

We can try not to let it affect us, but that is usually only possible by suppressing our emotions (which in itself is exhausting), distracting ourselves from them or numbing ourselves with drugs, none of which deals with the underlying causes of suffering.

We can try to distract ourselves from how our work makes us feel, but the emotion is still there in us and it can gnaw away inside.

Rejected, ignored, refused emotion builds up in us until it becomes unbearable and then?

And then we start to break down.


Burnt out, lacking energy, loosing our motivation with morale dropping away. Life that was exciting, exhilarating, our true vocation has become a chore full of stress and we can’t find a way out of it.


We would give anything to return to the idyllic life of just starting out in a career as a doctor or nurse, but that doesn’t exist anymore – not for us.

That idyllic honeymoon has happened and it can’t happen again. Now we are trying our best to survive and care for the sick, injured and dying.

We push on and drive ourselves to exhaustion and despair.

Are politicians and managers and the overload of work the sole arbiters of our fate?

The answer is ‘No’.

Is there hope for us? Can anything be done to improve our lot?

The answer is ‘Yes, but’ …


With suitable guidance we can learn how to work with and deal with the emotion that lives in us; the emotion that used to motivate us, drive us, fill us with enthusiasm but now renders us stressed, anxious, angry or depressed.

A way for this is Adaptation Practice. You can read about here – but first you can read the report of a small pilot study on teaching doctors to cope.


(i) BJMP – Adaptation Practice: Teaching doctors how to cope with stress, anxiety and depression by developing resilience‘ (2016) by Clive Sherlock and  Chris John. A pilot study on how doctors can learn to overcome stress, anxiety and depression without drugs or psychological therapies.

For information, advice or help, please contact me, Clive Sherlock, here.

Return to the top of this page.

Copyright © 2019 Clive R F Sherlock – all rights reserved.