Helping patients deal with medical misinformation can be quite frustrating, especially when it causes them to act in ways that are dangerous. Here is a metaphor that helps me avoid getting into arguments and do something helpful.
Imagine that you have fallen off a sheer cliff. You have managed to grab hold of a tree limb that has grown out of the cliff face. If you look up you see nothing but sheer rock. If you look down you see a dense cloud concealing everything below your knees. Your legs vanish into that cloud, and no matter how far you extend your legs, all you can feel under your toes is empty space.
You hear a voice telling you, “The ground is only a few inches below your feet. Just let go.” What would it take for you to trust that voice? What would you feel as you loosened your fingers?
A patient who clings to medical misinformation is in the same position, whether the misinformation is about vaccines, pain medications, food, etc. . In order for us to help them change, we don’t need to prove that we are right, that we know more, or that we are so smart. We need to prove that we will be there to catch them