As my new show premiered last month, let me explain what this platform and opportunity mean to me. I have spent a solid chunk of my adult life trying to concoct the “secret sauce” that takes people from the basic facts about their health to a deeper awareness and desire to improve their well-being. This is the place where motivation lies, deeply hidden in our psyche. Yet few in the medical field have expertise in bringing this message alive; like most doctors, the extent of my training in human behavior was somewhat limited.
If we felt patients needed to behave in a particular way - say losing weight - our job was to educate them on the perils of obesity. Our reasoning was simple, but was it effective? Once understood, we felt the cold, hard facts would be sufficient incentive for someone to change their behavior. And, if that didn’t work, we dug our heels in, repackaged the facts to further underscore the urgent need for action; a tactic that we affectionately call the “wake up call.”
What most doctors don’t count on was that their wake up calls would be blocked by caller ID. Our calls were quickly being put on a kind of permanent hold. As physicians, our knee-jerk reaction was, “Don’t they get it? How can they ignore the facts?”
I then got my wake up call – a realization that information, in the traditional sense, is not the essential prerequisite for action. The processing of information is simply too slow to be useful. In the real-world environment, we sometimes don’t have the luxury of analysis. Instead, we rely on emotion and feelings to guide action. People often form a judgment about something by subconsciously asking “How do I feel about this?” The fundamental role emotions play in the thought process has been dramatically illustrated by research on brain damage. When certain parts of the brain’s emotional center are damaged, patients lose most of their emotional lives – when they should feel emotion; they feel nothing, yet their reasoning and logical abilities are intact. So what happens when these people go out into the world? Now that they are free of the distractions of emotion, do they become super-logical? Are they able to see through the haze of feelings that blind the rest of us to the path of perfect rationality?
No. It’s just the opposite.
They find themselves unable to make simple decisions or set simple goals, and their lives fall apart. When they look out at the world and think, “What should I do now?” they see dozens of choices but lack immediate internal feelings of like or dislike and therefore feel paralyzed. They must examine the pros and cons of every choice with their reasoning, but in the absence of feeling they were unable to pick one or the other.
Paradoxically, only because our emotional brains work so well can our reasoning work at all. What does this mean? That reason and emotion must both work together to create intelligent behavior, but emotion does most of the heavy lifting. My goal on The Dr. Oz Show is to marry both qualities permanently.
The shows are big, noisy, and playful, yet impactful and meaningful. Our programs will save lives even as folks smile through an hour of entertainment. We are showcasing real people with down-to-earth problems who, like all of us, crave is to be heard and validated. I’ve invited many experts and guests who know the path to wellness better than me and their stories will inspire.
In this way, we will gracefully and effectively share the responsibility for sharing the care.