“Our doubts are traitors,
and make us lose the good we oft might win,
by fearing to attempt.”
― William Shakespeare
Four months ago I did an examination called SOCA in my medical school, it stands for Student Oral Cade Analysis. Basically we have to study about disease, how it affects our body, and what we as doctor have to do about it. There are almost hundred of disease we have to study in detailed, the right dosage of drugs, and present it for fifteen minutes. I did study five months before the exam, I trained and have a group discussion with six of my friends for that period. There are 200 medical students in my university and we all worried that we wouldn’t make it. About ten percent usually didn’t pass the exam and have to do it again the next week (sacrificing our valued holiday).
Students who have failed in the previous exam were nervous that they won’t make it again, and there are students who failed in both of the previous two years. Our past experience does take a big role on our worry about the future, when we have the same challenge as we had in the past, we tend to reflect on what we did in the past and the results. Humans are programmed that way, we have an automatic thinking pattern that reacts in the same way we reacted in the past. When we failed in the past, it lowers our confidence level and it make us worry. But that’s not bad thing, there is good effect of worry. Worry make us work harder, think in a creative way we haven’t thought before, it push us beyond the limit we achieved in the past.
I did just that, I study harder and from sources I haven’t read before, beyond textbook and journals. After five months of group discussion with my friends, we are closer than ever before and become more supportive. Each day to study a disease, then the day after I have to study another different disease and the disease I studied yesterday. But time flies fast, one morning after another we did our best and week before the exam arrived. Some of us were having headache, stomachache, a slight of depression (although we didn’t pass the depression criteria according DSM V, textbook for mental disorder). On the day right before the exam, I observed an interesting fact happened, we didn’t feel stressed anymore. Logically we should have feel more stress than before, instead we felt relaxed like we have pass through the exam itself. I don’t know why or how it happened exactly, whether it was sort of hopelesness or not, but I do have a hypothesis. Most of my friends I talked with after the exam also said the same.
Perhaps we have accept the reality on that day, we have accept that we have done our best and that’s all that matters. We couldn’t affect something beyond our control, the best thing we can do is study from previous year exam cases and we did. We review the diseases we studied over and over again that we know where some information is located on the paper, on which page and whether the page had water stainned. Many of us actually take a break on that day, reviewing shortly then goes to sleep, although many also keep on studying and reviewing the materials. I don’t know whow my friends felt, but I felt a profound peace inside, like the world is on chaos and I’m meditating in the center of Times Square not responding.
You know what funny? After the “calm day”, which is our D-Day I had stomachache in the morning after I woke up. I knew that it is not because of the food I ate, because I didn’t eat foods I haven’t ate before exam day. I also had the same stomachache on my previous year exam, which assure me that it was caused by psychological stress. Panicly I went to the bathroom while on a quarantine (we were locked up together, two hundreds of us in a room without communication to the outer world to avoid cheating). I was worried about everything, about the time being not enough, about stuttering while presentation, falsely diagnose the disease, and the doctor not liking me. Of course neither of it is realistic, I have done this two times before, I have a presentation routinely, and I know all the diagnostic.
Reflecting back to four months ago, I think of myself as fool for worrying too much on a fields I’m competent in. Of course I passed the test, the doctor are neutral to me and to most of my friends. I had a relieve I haven’t felt in months, and overly excited for the holiday. Despite the lack of sleep, I didn’t want to sleep that day. The big question remains, does it necessary? All the worry and stress?
Perhaps it is necessary, to push us working harder in a creative way, giving us a better chance in reaching our goals.