Mary Ellen - Bend, Oregon
Entered on February 26, 2008
Age Group: 50 - 65
Themes: question

I believe in questioning. Born into a tradition where children were seen but not heard, I had a natural tendency to challenge others’ ideas and beliefs. Whether this trait is inherited or acquired, it seemed important to examine issues from different points of view. Although I was not intentionally contrary, if my mother proclaimed, “Because I said so!”, a question would pop out of my mouth.

What is viewed as cuteness or curiosity in a child, can easily be labelled as rebellion in a teenager. Fortunately, my father, a teacher, realized that this inquisitiveness could cultivate intelligence. He patiently allowed me to question family, religion, country, and life itself. This was afterall, the late 60’s and 70’s, when freedom of speech and thought were some of our most prized possessions. In college, I developed further respect for independent thinking rather than rote memory as a way to genuinely solve problems. Smart people, I found, could ask questions and use reason to find solutions, rather than be told what to do.

My heroes became Benjamin Franklin in philosophy, Mark Twain in literature, Gandhi in politics and more recently, Mother Teresa in spiritual belief. Each has questioned the ideology of their time, and through personal struggle, improved the world through their wisdom.

After college, I had my own test of mental fortitude when I entered medical school. Many preconceived notions about health were put to the test. Doctors can be healers, but what of all of the medications that they dispense? Isn’t there a better way to enable the body to heal itself, rather than overwhelming it with drug therapies? As interns, we were cast back into the “Be seen and not heard” system of childhood. Once again, I felt the questions appear, and intuitively rebelled. The medications that we were prescribing often seemed to cause more problems than the original disease itself.

I embarked upon a path to discover ways to support the body in self healing. Good fortune followed when I met a physician who studied holistic medicine. This practitioner exposed me to ways in which to integrate the best of naturopathic and Western medicine. Once again, there were questions; this time, there also seemed to be answers. My profession took on a new excitement, as freedom and flexibilty of thought evolved. I saw my skills as a physician grow and learned that true healing is possible.

But questioning also belongs to others. By allowing patients to ask questions, relationships can improve and they are encouraged to actively participate in their health care. Instead of feeling annoyed when someone arrives with pages of information from the Internet, a ready exchange of ideas can ensue. I have seen harm done when a patient is afraid to ask. Problems can be avoided by allowing just a few extra minutes for discussion.

So, I believe in Questioning. It opens the door to change; through questioning, we learn.