From a nondual perspective, stress results from wanting a reality different from what is, which is clearly impossible. But we need to fully realize that. This conversation illustrates how this realization dissolves stress.
Jack: I want to ask you something about my job. I find it very stressful
Jonathan: What is the stress?
Jack: I have to make decisions.
Jonathan: Of course, all the time, probably some serious ones, but where is the stress?
Jack: I can’t make mistakes. People’s health and even life depend on me.
Jonathan: I understand. It is a very responsible job. Do you in fact always decide right?
Jack: I have to.
Jonathan: I understand. But do you in fact? Always?
Jack: That is my job. I can’t make mistakes. It is very stressful.
Jonathan: How long have you been practicing?
Jack: Over 40 years, including 12 as head of this department.
Jonathan: Did you ever make a mistake?
Jack: Yes. But I mustn’t. That’s the problem.
Jonathan: If you do in fact make mistakes, what do you mean by you mustn’t make mistakes? What does that mean?
Jack: That is my job.
Jonathan: Is it possible to be a senior physician with many years experience without ever making a single mistake?
Jonathan: How can it be your job to do something you know is impossible? What does that mean?
Jack: I see what you mean. Relaxes slightly
Jonathan: Do your decisions determine your patients’ fate?
Jack: Sometimes, yes.
Jonathan: Is it possible for you to do everything right and still your patient dies?
Jonathan: So how do your decisions determine your patients’ fate?
Jack: Yes, I see. But don’t I have influence.
Jonathan: Could you make a serious error but your patient might survive and recover. For example, if you prescribed the wrong drug late at night in an emergency, but the night nurse noticed your error and illegally corrected it, risking his neck to save the patient from your exhaustion?
Jack: I suppose so, yes.
Jonathan: So how do your decisions determine your patients’ fate? Is it possible that other people and factors also contribute to the result?
Jonathan: So what is the source of your stress? You seem to agree that you cannot in fact guarantee infallible decisions. You are, eventually, a human being with all its normal weaknesses. You also agreed there is no straight line from your decision to the patient’s fate. There are other factors. So where exactly is the problem?
Jack: How to decide right. Each time, if I was sure, I could relax a bit. I get tense and worry.
Jonathan: Do you understand that there is absolutely no way to guarantee a right decision? Even with all your knowledge and experience, you will certainly make more mistakes. It is an occupational hazard. And that you alone do not determine what will happen?
Jack: Yes. But how can I worry less?
Jonathan: Firstly by realizing that, deep down.
Jonathan: Then, knowing that you certainly will make mistakes, you do what you can to organize your shifts optimally, eat well, sleep well, include recreation and generally look after your own physical and mental health to the extent possible. It is not always easy in a hospital environment. You do what you can. You will feel better, and maybe even make a few less mistakes. That is the limit of your job. Is that acceptable?
Jack: Yes. That’s OK. I can’t do any more anyway.”