Knowing Together: The Physician-Patient Encounter and Encountering Others: Imagining Relationships and Vulnerable Possibilities


Norman Quist


In this essay, by example of the physician-patient relationship and drawing on the work of D.W. Winnicott, I explore what may be possible together in relationships, and in the pursuit of health and flourishing, at understanding what we need, and getting ourselves and the other “right”—what we are afraid of and how we get each other wrong, and the distance or gap between “what has been” and “what might be.” In pursuit of these questions, I consider what both physicians and patients might endeavor to do together to address this distance: to recognize and respond to each other, and to identify and address common needs and felt distances. And, how, along the way, we may be able to better identify and understand fundamental challenges to all relationships. Finally, I ask the reader to imagine a physician-patient encounter (and all relationships) as vulnerable possibilities. And I suggest a method for a way forward. While we may not always get what we want in a relationship, perhaps our earnest effort at knowing together will open a potential space for us to get what we need. This is where I imagine that the physician-patient relationship begins: where all relationships begin.



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