My wife came to work recently, and observed me ‘at work’. We had a nice, brief conversation, and I went back to medicine in the ER.
That night, we had the following enlightening exchange:
Wife: “When I saw you first, you were on the telephone; I listened, and you were pissed. Then, when we talked you were your normal self, and then when you turned around you were pissed again.”
Wife: “Yes, it was remarkable.”
Persona, per the Encyclopedia Britannica:
in psychology, the personality that an individual projects to others, as differentiated from the authentic self. The term, coined by Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung, is derived from the Latin persona, referring to the masks worn by Etruscan mimes.
For the record, so far as I know this is the first time Carl Jung has entered my life.
And, one of my private concerns seems to have come true. I’ve often heard of docs who were ‘different at work, but not in real life’, and hoped it wouldn’t be me. Alas, I have a public and private personality, and they’re different. (For the record, my wife’s definition of pissed (I asked) is me using my stern voice: no shouting, just the ‘I’m not tolerating any crap right now’ voice).
Since then I’ve been more aware of my ‘at-work’ persona, and I have to admit it’s not the real me. The real me would laugh and joke with most of the people I meet, be they patients, staff or housekeepers. Having paid more critical attention since the enlightenment, I actually only laugh and joke with the housekeepers and the secretaries. The patients get the friendly but all-business me, not quite Joe Friday (just the facts, ma’am), but not a long way off either; the nurses get the mildly pleasant but mostly-business me.
There wasn’t a conscious ‘I”ll be a different guy’ moment, and I think this began in residency, but it’s real. Now whether, and what, to do about it. I’m not sure it’s bad for me or my patients, but it’s not a happy realization, either.