Witness to suffering

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As a doctor, a lot of the care that I provide has nothing to do with prescribing medications or performing procedures. Sure, they form a significant part of my training and my day to day work. However, there are also many times where all I can provide for the patients is my presence, to be a witness to their suffering and to create space for them to grieve and mourn.

This was a huge revelation to me in the earlier stages of training – recognizing that there are many things we can’t just “fix” in medicine, and that care doesn’t end with telling a patient “I am sorry, there is nothing we can do”. I never realized how difficult it is to be truly present to witness someone’s suffering until I had to do it myself. It is so easy to give into the temptation to comfort, or to give false hope or even mislead. At the beginning, I told myself that it is because I care deeply about the patients, and it was difficult for me to watch them suffer. However, the more I did this, the more I realized I was NOT helping these patients by quickly wrapping up their suffering in a neat package to replace it with something prettier – I could see how this made them feel confused and lost. Why then, was it so hard for me to change my behavior?

Problem solving engages the prefrontal cortex of our brain – the part that allows us to reason, filter and regulate our emotions. Being forced to turn away from problem solving therefore leaves us feeling exposed, out of control and yes – vulnerable. However, in turning away from problem solving, we can truly be present and focus entirely on the suffering of the individual in front of us. In psychiatry, this is called “holding space”. Having the space to grieve without feeling pressured to go into problem solving mode can be a deeply therapeutic experience that allows one to just “be” and not be judged.

Think about our daily lives – how often do we simply listen to our friends, family or significant others and be fully present to witness their experiences? As children, how many of us had the luxury of this experience when we tried to share difficult experiences with our parents?

I tried to imagine what it would feel like to have someone fully present to witness my suffering, to have an understanding of how this could help my patients. My mind shifted to when I pray or meditate at my altar. Sometimes, I am looking for answers – but more often than not, what I desire is to have the time to sit in my grief and to let it all out, and to have someone sit WITH me in my grief. The sheer presence of my goddesses and spirit guides had always comforted me in my darkest times, and this is what I could do for my patients when there is nothing else I could offer as a doctor. Simply being present in their suffering was a service I could provide in those dark moments.

Now, when I deliver bad news, I sit with them, quietly, with a tissue box in my hand. I stay present with their grief, and in doing so I hold space for them to process their suffering.

It is true that this is much harder with family and close friends – those who we consider part of ourselves and can make us feel particularly vulnerable when they share their suffering. Practice makes perfect and I am still working on it.

Sitting with your feelings

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I was reading “Maybe you should talk to someone” by the brilliant Lori Gottlieb this morning just before work, my little morning ritual, when one message really struck me: it is horribly difficult to sit with one’s own feelings, even for psychotherapists. I am no psychotherapist, but as a doctor, I always ask patients to reflect on their actions, thoughts, and feelings, and encourage them to do mindfulness exercises where they try to notice their thoughts and body without judgement.

The practice of witchcraft also asks one to recognize their thoughts and feelings, so that they can be used to enhance one’s craft and power. An aware witch is a powerful witch – she who rules herself can rule the world.

Why then, is it SO HARD for me, to sit with my feelings? I spend most of my days reading, watching TV, scanning through Youtube, or scrolling through my phone when I am not working in a desperate effort to distance myself from my emotions. In a way, working is almost an escape, because focusing my attention entirely to my patients shifts me away from thinking about myself.

A common concept discussed in psychodynamic theory and in family therapy is that a child who grows up learning that their feelings are invalid, internalize this and grow up to be adults who cannot tolerate their own emotions. The act of noticing and acknowledging their internal processes become associated with deep shame, rejection, and feelings of being misunderstood such that they learn to cope with this by becoming avoidant, not just of their own emotions but of that of others as well.

The difficult part of this is that our thoughts and emotions influence our judgement and worldview whether we acknowledge them or not. Being able to sit with, notice, and acknowledge our internal processes help us realize why we see ourselves, others, and the world the way we do, and lovingly readjust if there are biases at play.

This of course, doesn’t come easily at all. I realized my own tendency to avoid my feelings when a supervisor pointed out how I tend to get flustered if I don’t know something I think a patient wants of me, and how I would completely shift my behavior without even noticing that I am doing this. My supervisor asked me to sit and slow down, and notice the thoughts that arise in my head when this happens. This was an EXTREMELY difficult exercise – at the end, I identified a DEEP SENSE OF SHAME that arose when I felt that I wasn’t giving the patient what she/he wanted. Because this emotion was so difficult to tolerate, I avoided it completely, not even giving myself a second to think about it – unfortunately, this did not stop shame from influencing my behavior. Once I did notice the thought, also called “hot thought” in cognitive behavioral therapy, which in my case was “I am a failure”, I was able to lovingly tell myself: it’s okay to not know everything, you are doing the best you can. In slowing myself down and lovingly readjusting myself, I was able to be more present and authentic with my patients, which in turn made them happier.

When practicing magick, we ourselves form as much of the spell as the ingredients, incantations, and the spiritual forces that we summon to help us. When dark thoughts reside behind the spells that we cast without our knowledge, these thoughts can cause the spell to be weakened or even backfire. See the parallel here?

I still find sitting with my emotions extremely challenging, but I consider it an important part of my journey as a physician and a witch to become more self aware. I will be sure to keep you updated on that journey – wish me luck!

Magickal cooking

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It has been grey, grey, GREY the last few days, which, in combination with my monthly cycle approaching, has just sapped the magick right out of me. I used to be REALLY ashamed of admitting that my spirituality waxes and wanes with the rhythms of my body, highs and lows of my life, and of course, the sun and the clouds of the sky. As I grow older, I am however learning to be more accepting and compassionate towards myself when this happens.

Cooking, for me, is the most accessible way to reintroduce magick to my life in times like this. After feeling drained and uninspired for the past week or so (as you may have noticed from the lack of blog posts), I decided to head to our small but cozy kitchen to cook up something magickal.

Truthfully though, what I cook for magickal purposes is actually not much different from what I would cook for sustenance. The biggest difference is the intent that I put into every magickal herb and plant that goes into that large soup pot – my favorites being celery, cilantro, lime, oregano, basil, bay leaf, thyme, star anise, cinnamon, and of course, rosemary. Having my husband, a green witch whose chosen goddess is Hestia, blow on these magickal herbs before they go in adds an additional oomph to my magickal cooking.

Yesterday, for example, I made the soup of protection and prosperity – which really was Laksa, a traditional Malaysian soup. Today, I made soup of love and health – a tomato spring vegetable soup, and soup of prosperity and protection – basil tomato cream soup. See how it works here? These soups are just soups, using regular ingredients that one can find in most kitchens. What makes them magickal is the intention to harness the plant spirits and blessings of Hestia to add spiritual meaning and purpose in our lives. The added protection, prosperity, love, and health of course does not hurt!

I truly believe that magickal food does, in fact do what they are intended to do if the intentions are true and present during the cooking process. After eating my “love” soup, my husband and I had a lovely afternoon cuddling, napping together, and making art. Yes, one may call this confirmation bias or positive psychology – but really, who cares? It makes me happy, it makes my husband happy, and invites a sense of spirituality, peace, gratitude, and wonder to our home. If that is not magick, then well, I don’t know what is.

Until it happens to you

No, this blog post is not about Lady Gaga’s timeless song, “Til it happens to you”, although I would encourage any soul to check it out.

I feel that we, as humans, are motivated by our survival instincts to engage in victim blaming. Aligning or identifying with the victim feels like admitting our own vulnerability, because if the victim was “victimized”, and we are like the victim, then we are also vulnerable to being victimized.

To cope with this fear, one points out the victim’s flaws, whether it be regarding the victim’s character or behavior, trying to make the victim as unappealing of a human being as possible, one who we can’t possibly be similar to. In short, we dehumanize the victim so that we can feel safe.

I have certainly been guilty of this myself. I did not come from money or anything special, really, and my academic achievements used to be the only thing that made me stand out from the herd and gave me a sense of belonging and identity. Because of this, I had absolute faith in my ability to tolerate whatever hardship my research or academic career otherwise would throw at me. Unconsciously, I was TERRIFIED of ever admitting that I could face a situation that I couldn’t tolerate in academia. Therefore, when I heard about other trainees leave their abusive supervisors, I used to immediately go into victim blaming mode for my own survival, thinking that the abused student/ trainee was “weak”, “useless”, and probably deserved the bad treatment anyway.

If you read my previous blogs, you will know that the goddess eventually decided to teach me a lesson and gave me an obstacle that I could not overcome. I, for once, could not tolerate the abuse that was thrown at me and had to leave that position, the learning opportunities that came with it, and the possibility of a good evaluation in that rotation. When I shared this story with my colleagues, some were sympathetic and offered me words of support and advice. Others however, looked at me with judgmental eyes veiled by fear, almost wanting to scream at me “You deserved what happened to you, that would NEVER happen to a normal resident”. They interrogated me to find out what I had done wrong to deserve this outcome, so that they could be reassured that it was my fault, and that it would never happen to them. It did not escape me that I had also felt the same urge to judge when other colleagues would confide their struggles to me – I was being taught an important lesson that would stay with me forever.

My work in providing compassionate care to my patients as a physician DEPENDS on my ability to identify with them. If a patient with an extensive substance use history walks in the door with yet another overdose – I cannot hope to provide empathy and support that the patient needs in that moment unless I feel a kinship with them. The patient was likely living in highly marginalized conditions with multiple social stressors – the substance use was a way of coping when they had no other resources. I have also been at the end of my rope at the mercy of strangers for my next meal or a roof over my head. This person could be my brother, sister, mother, father, or even me.

What do I do though, when that survival instinct to feel safe is so deeply engrained into my biology? This is when I dig into my identity as a witch and ask for the help of my goddesses and spirit guides – to allow me to transcend beyond my human nature to recognize that we are all children of mother Gaia. Spiritual leaders in witchcraft and other paths often come from dark pasts – I deeply believe that this is no mistake. I believe that these individuals are angels sent to earth to learn a lesson, so that they can alchemize their suffering into healing light.

At the end, brothers and sisters, we are ALL human. We are ALL vulnerable to the same misfortunes and follies, to the same depths of sorrow and loss. This was one of the many lessons the goddess had planned for me when I came to this earth, and I hope to share it with you today.

Have a blessed new moon, child of Gaia. I embrace you.

Shadow Work and Projection

Lately, I have been noticing that “Shadow Work”, a concept originating from psychoanalytic theory, has been appearing more than ever in mainstream media. I often hear it in the context of Wicca, a modern religion combining witchcraft practices and psychological principles, as well as many other spiritual paths.

In psychology, the Shadow is an analytic principle that identifies the part of one self that has been split from one’s conscious identity. While it is hidden from one’s conscious mind, this Shadow forms a significant part of one’s personality and how they relate to the world. While different branches of psychoanalysis calls the Shadow by different names, they generally agree that identifying the shadow is an important part of psychotherapy as it brings into awareness one’s behavioral patterns, in particular in relationships with others, that has been hidden from their conscious mind. For example, imagine a girl who has been raised by an unpredictable mother who would swing from being verbally and physically abusive to the most loving creature in the world within a split second. A belief forms in her that adults, or authority figures in general, are dangerous and not trust worthy, and that she is not worthy of receiving unconditional love and care. This belief, this way of seeing the world is so painful for her that she represses it deep into her unconsciousness – it becomes her shadow. As an adult, she has recurring issues in her life resulting from rejection of authority figures and accepting love or care from others, particularly from those that remind her of her mother. Unconsciously, she projects her belief that authority figures cannot be trusted and that she is unworthy of love and support whenever she meets a person or a situation that triggers this shadow to reappear, lifting her away from reality and making her see the world through the veil of her shadow.

Shadow work as a Wiccan principle centers around identifying one’s shadows and bringing them into consciousness, so that one can ask for help from spirits, gods and goddesses of the highest good to integrate the shadow into one’s true self. Working through one’s shadow is thought to allow for the emergence of a more whole, and integrated self, which makes them more aligned with the Universe and their magick more powerful.

The concept of the shadow has existed far before modern psychology and Wicca. Many spiritual paths dating back thousands of years and religious teachings have identified the role of the unconscious mind in how we see the world. Many meditation practices, in particular, focuses on making room for one’s shadows to appear into the conscious mind so that they can perceive the world as it is without the cover of the shadow. In Buddhism, it is said that when Buddha was born, he looked up at the sky, down at the earth, and said “Between the earth and the sky, only I exist”. There are a number of different interpretations for this saying. My favorite one is that Buddha understood that he himself, was most responsible for how he sees and relates to the world; that he understood that only himself is the true builder of his Universe.

What can we do then, once we become aware of this shadow? Freudian psychoanalytic theory states that bringing the shadow into one’s awareness, also known as “insight” is enough of a treatment in itself to alleviate the impact of one’s unconscious influences in their psychopathology. Internal family systems talk about making space for the shadow in one’s mind by accepting it and allowing it to co-exist peacefully with the other parts of one’s identity, so that they can be integrated into a more mature and resourced part of themselves. Dialectic behavioral therapy, which incorporates a significant amount of its techniques from Zen principles, suggests that one should mindfully notice, without judgment, one’s shadows as they emerge, accept and honor them, AND at the same time, make an active effort to see the world without the influence of their shadow. In Gabrielle Berstein’s “Universe has your back”, she shares a mantra/ prayer where she beautifully demonstrates this principle of honoring one’s shadow while a making a commitment to see the world without it.

In ancient witchcraft or paganism, the influece of the Shadow or the unconscious was at times descirbed as being “posessed” by the evil spirits and energies from one’s past. For example, exorcims or banishing spells were often targeted at expelling the evil spirits hunting a person’s mind that originated from a traumatic event(s) from their past, such as war or rape, producing anxiety, depression, and even psychosis.

As a physician and a practicing witch, I find myself adopting both approaches. As you have probably already guessed, the above example of the abused and neglected girl is my own story, my own shadow. Using the psychoanalytic theory, I recognize that unconscious beliefs originating from my childhood trauma influences how I relate to others and the world. I try to keep this in mind when I find myself suddenly spiraling into fear-based decisions and judgements of others so that my world is not always covered by my shadows. I embrace my younger self and tell her, Of course you had to guard yourself from trusting authority figures, because trusting them was not SAFE. I understand and honor you, and I also recognize that we are at a safer place now where we are surrounded by wonderful mentors and have the resources to defend ourselves. I also recognize that I am still hunted by the evil spirits of my past, the spirits that hunted my mother, and hunted her mother. I ask for strength from my goddesses and higher spirits to help me see the world in its truth, and to shine light in my path to banish the evil spirits of my past. I used to struggle with consolidating magick and medicine especially with matters of the mind, seated in the brain which we understand so little about. Now, I understand that they are in fact two slightly different paths that ultimately aim to get us to one shared destination – moving us closer to peace and love.

Embracing the darkness

Wow, two blogs in a row! I am quite pleased with myself. Although I must be honest and admit that my algorithm (yes, the same one as yesterday) is still running on my desktop, forcing me to use my energy elsewhere while waiting for my poor computer to sort through this giant dataset.

My first dabbling in intentional magic (I was having visions and interactions – wanted or not – with spirits before this thanks to my witchy genes) came when I moved back to my country of birth after having lived years in a foreign country, attending international school. Having been, if I may say so myself, quite popular in the international school, I thought that I would enjoy the same welcoming in my hometown. I was terribly wrong – to these students, I was a spoiled, entitled brat with a stuck up nose and a funny accent. After they grew tired of asking me questions about “foreigners”, their customs and language, and having determined that I am just a big show off and there is in fact, nothing special about me, I was mercilessly bullied. Three years of bullying, in fact. In my “home” country, there is a term describing a student who is bullied by the entire class, and a separate term describing a student who is bullied by the entire school. I was the former, and my best friend was the latter, so you can imagine the kind of humiliation and painfully disfiguring abuse we went through on a daily basis. My mother, well meaning but very unwell, swung from one day, feeling motivated to help me and inviting my bullies over to try to make good with them, to making fun of me and humiliating me for being friendless, which of course, makes me “worthless”.

In this darkness, and being inspired the Harry Potter series sweeping across the country at this time, I decided to conjure up a spell of my own. I studied runes, talismans, goddesses, elements, and sigils. Looking back, I was embarrassingly green, barely understanding the basics of the aforementioned topics. Maybe it was Karma, or maybe my spell did work, but magickally, one day, my bully became the bullied. She was a terror no more, and I was happy to be able to to hang out with my friend at school without being afraid of being sworn at or otherwise humiliated. To be completely honest, this didn’t last long, as it didn’t take long for another bully to make my life a living hell again. Looking back at my life, my magick was always the strongest in my times of darkness, and for the longest time, I resented this. There were exceptions to this, of course. I have been fortunate to have money mysteriously flow in during times of desperation, for things that seemed impossible to just “work itself out”, for people who were obstacles to somehow disappear from my life, etc. It did bother me, however, that when I had dark thoughts about someone, willingly or not, there was a high chance that something bad would happen to this person.

After becoming an adult, I declared that I will only use my magick and intentions for “good” and reject/ suppress all my negative thoughts, cleansing and purifying them with whatever method was trendy at the time. Smoke, essential oils, singing bowls, crystals, tuning fork – name it, I’ve tried them all. It is only recently, emerging from the tribulations bestowed on me during my residency, that I have begun to feel the darkness again, rising from the depths within me. One of the reasons why I switched from an entirely research-based career to medicine was that I was being consumed by this darkness – the cut throat competitiveness and general toxic personalities that research unfortunately tend to attract grew so much anger inside of me that I felt like I was losing myself in it. I thought dedicating myself to medicine, to a more stable career where the goal is to care for others, where one does not have to step on someone else (supposedly) to make an earning, would help me abandon this darkness all together. However, life has its surprises. After 3 distinct, rather catastrophic events (without exaggeration) that happened in the earlier stages of my residency, I have, yet again, started feeling the darkness consume me. At the beginning, I tried to run from it – I meditated, cleansed, and had lavender running on my diffuser 24/7. I tried reminding myself that darkness can only bring about more darkness, that I must stick to the way of the “light”.

The point of this blog is to tell myself, and you, that I have chosen to take an entirely different path. I have realized, from reflecting on my life, that my magick is in fact, the strongest in the darkest times of my life. As witches, some of us are called to the light, some to the dark, some both, and some to absolute neutrality. I have come to accept and embrace that I have been called to the dark, and that there is no escaping it. My life, as thankful for it as I am, has been, to use the words of a psychiatrist that I saw for a single consult, “mostly traumatic”. In this life that I have been given, I have learned to live and even thrive in this darkness and to reject it would be to reject my entire being. The four goddesses that I look for guidance is a good representation of this. Hekate – goddess of crossroads and guide to those heading to the underworld. Persephone – a young maiden and goddess of spring taken by Hades to the underworld by force. At the beginning, she is a victim, but she emerges from it victorious by accepting her situation, embracing the dark and emerging as the goddess of hell as an equal to Hades. Psyche – a naive young woman emerging as a goddess of the mind (psyche – psychology, see the link?) and metamorphosis after going through literal and figural hell and arising from the ashes. Isis – goddess of magick and medicine going through the grief of having her husband cruelly murdered and dismembered, but using this grief to amplify her magick and power to restore her husband to become the rightful ruler of the underworld alongside Osiris. See a theme here?

Trauma work in psychiatry has two steps – first is to learn the coping skills to manage the devastating effects trauma has on one’s mind. Coping skills in stage one includes – wait for it – grounding, mindfulness, and drawing boundaries. Sounds familiar? Yes, these are the basic skills that any good witch book will have as one of the first steps of becoming a witch. Second part of trauma therapy is actually revisiting the trauma and learning to process and even harness positive changes from it ONCE one has obtained the basic skills to be able to hold and maneuver the trauma without completely succumbing to it. I am lucky that by practicing witchcraft, I have learned how to ground myself by extending my roots into mother Gaia, and how to co-create my reality instead of being a victim to circumstance. As the author of “Initiated” has wisely put, I need to “stop looking to escape the underworld”. My next challenge is to use these skills to harness the darkness for my highest good without letting it take control over me. One of the elemental forces, fire, stands for transformation and producing light from darkness. I started the practice of harnessing my darkness by asking the element of fire to turn the darkness rising from inside of me into a bright flame, which I then used to invoke the three fold law that I mentioned in my last blog. I am hoping that this becomes a precursor to my journey in embracing and ruling the darkness instead of running away from it.

Wish me luck!

Using Magick to stay sane

First post! I always dreamed of starting a blog but never had the courage to put my words out in public. At the same time, I always felt like I have a lot to say and share. Alas, being mortifyingly socially anxious and introverted, I knew that I would never get a chance to do this in “real life”. So here goes.

I am in the midst of a “vacation”, which in my field in the stage that I am in, means that I get to stay home instead of at the hospital while pounding away at yet another research project. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE research – it is one of the few things I truly believe I can’t live without. This project is special though – I am forced to step away from the computer as this algorithm that I have running on my poor, old, and very abused computer is running now for 2 days with no signs of finishing anytime soon. Because of this, perhaps for the first time in years, I have been forced to step away from research and medicine to read something other than the two aforementioned topics.

Thanks to this fortunate/ unfortunate circumstance, I am now half way into a biography called “Initiated” written by Amanda Yates Garcia, a hereditary witch. The author writes of living in a world where taking part in LSD/ marijuana-driven house parties and large orgies were quite ordinary. As a reader, especially in medicine and science, it is difficult to NOT question if the spiritual experiences she had at the time were not in fact products of intoxication or withdrawal. Having said that, I come from a long line of witches and oracles, so I know that the world is so much more vast and richer than science can explain. Hallucinogens have been used since the dawn of time to invoke spiritual experiences, and it is difficult to explain how much of their visions were the product of rapid alterations in brain chemistry induced by these substances, and how much of it was a product of communication with realms beyond our own. I ask this because I have had two difficult interpersonal experiences lately – with two different supervisors, who, I am sad to say, have truly gone out of their way to bully me, a lowly learner. It is hard to explain why – It could be because I come from a science background and have progressed further in this area than they have despite being more junior in medicine, and/or because I outwardly rejected their abandonment of efficiency over “obtaining a deeper understanding of patient experience”. Mind you, I agree that there is certainly a place and a time where such endeavor is desirable and productive. However, I find it hard to agree with this sentiment when I know that there is a mountain of patients who would benefit from urgent care who are not receiving it simply because each physician is only seeing 6 patients a day in the particular institution that this occurred. I was quite literally told that I could do whatever what I want once I become staff, but until then, continuing as I am now will “get you flagged”. In an environment where co-learning is encouraged, and this was in fact, a matter of difference in philosophy and not competence, I was surprised that this resulted in a negative evaluation. The manner the evaluation occurred, was also quite baffling to me – this supervisor contacted my evaluating supervisor to ask her to give me a poor evaluation (despite my evaluating supervisor having already given me her feedback that she would give me a good evaluation).

As a practicing witch, I have a choice in how I want to interpret this situation. Do I take the road of the aforementioned author, and believe that this woman has been possessed by evil energies and spirits, and hence cleanse, forgive and move on? Would choosing to see the world with this magickal lens (fortunately or unfortunately without the help of psychedelics) take some sting out of the “evils” of the world? Do I accept that some people in this world are truly “nasty”, and begrudgingly hope for a better supervisor next time? Do I take the most realistic approach, and accept that the way to get through this period of training is to suppress my own philosophies and values and follow whatever the supervisor says is right, so that I don’t have to be “flagged”? Accept that my voice is never appreciated, and that some educators become educators so that they can feel that their way is the “right way”? Reflecting on the last point, I remembered some nurses commenting that this staff had been very anxious as a trainee, which impaired her ability to function quickly due to her need to know every detail before proceeding. Perhaps this feedback was given to her either directly or indirectly, and she became an educator to convince herself that her way was in fact, the right way, and others were wrong all along. Maybe this is why when she saw that I rejected her approach, it was so triggering for her.

In either case, I took the middle approach. After much reflecting and suffering over this incident, I cast a spell to invoke the three fold law – that she will receive three fold what she had done to me. I am a strong believer in Karma. Growing up, the many bullies in my life always received the poison they shared. When I spread poison, then I received it back as well. So, in invoking this spell, I chose to leave it up to the Universe and let it solve itself out. If she had truly meant ill will, well, she will receive it three fold. If her intent was truly, to educate, then she will receive that three fold as well. I will leave the wiser spirits of the Universe decide which one it was. My balcony gnome, who I recently became acquainted with, was watching me approvingly as I meditated on this spell, so I would like to think that it was the right way to go. I also decided to be a pragmatic and accept that to be a successful trainee in my field, I must become a master mime and a puppet, and accept that some educators enter the field for self-gratification, and therefore to be liked by them, I must, at all cost, make them feel good about themselves as much as I can. That means that I certainly DO NOT get to disagree with their philosophies in patient care (which would make me a bad learner).

I hope that I don’t lose who I am as a person at the end of this – it is one of my greatest fears. Did my three fold law spell take the sting out of having to accept this sad reality? Of course it did – it gave me back some sense of control. Magick, real or not, helps us believe that we can shape our own reality. It helps me be a more responsible and yes, less bitter person, which I think ultimately has a positive effect on my life as well as those around me. Especially being in this stage in my training where most of my sense of control over my beliefs, time, and basic rights (like sleeping and going to the washroom) have been stripped away from me, Magick keeps me sane – it keeps me human.