November 5, 2012

Ask the Expert: Be Present While You’re Present. ~ Michael Finkelstein, M.D.


Put the phone down.


My husband is a wonderful man. We have an extraordinary partnership, he loves our children desperately and works incredibly hard in his career, but it seems that whenever we go out for dinner, he always has one eye and one ear on his BlackBerry. I’m thrilled that he’s so driven and committed to his work—in fact, it’s one of the qualities that attracted me to him in the first place—but I wish he didn’t feel so much pressure to be at his boss’s beck and call. This can’t be healthy, and it’s really starting to take a toll on our evenings and essentially our life, together.


Thank you for bringing up such an important issue. It’s one I hear often and its impact is at its most apparent in today’s technologically saturated culture.

I have no doubt that while he’s at the dinner table, every glance that your husband shoots at his phone is rooted in his desire to be the best he can be, including the best husband/provider he can be. As I have heard many times, he might genuinely feel that the energy he funnels into being at work long after the office is closed is a worthwhile investment, unpleasant and inconvenient as it is, as a necessary step in being able to provide adequately for his family. It’s a sacrifice that manifests in many forms and scenarios, having become so commonplace that to some it’s offered as a defense and an excuse to maintain the behavior. Sure, on the surface it makes some sense. But, clearly it doesn’t feel right and I would submit, is not a successful strategy long term. Indeed, your concern is valid.

But, where do we begin? Because the truth is, people who do this are hard to convince otherwise and the source of the behavior, much like an addict’s, runs deep. The first step, however, is to validate his feelings; to him they are real. Losing a job, or underperforming, is a real concern he might have. We need to acknowledge the terror that can produce; however, it deserves testing. Is it a realistic concern, is his boss that much of a jerk, is it the right job anyway when you consider its demands? Perhaps more relevant, even if it is the right job and the boss is who he is, has your husband maintained his off switch?

If you and your husband were on vacation, off the grid, in a resort on a remote island, would he still have that one eye so intently focused on his phone? Would the call of duty be heard over a sermon led by your religious leader on the holiest day of your faith’s calendar, or heaven forbid, at the funeral of a loved one? That quality that drew you to your husband may in fact be what’s getting in the way, not his boss. The pressure that’s placed on him to be ‘on’ all the time could in fact be coming from within himself, and once he realizes that he’s the one in control, it will be easier to turn off at the appropriate moments. Setting these boundaries for ourselves can be difficult, but are imperative for a more balanced, skillful way of life—even in a world where the competition is so fierce.

At SunRaven, we’re just concluding a quarterly juice fast, one where we detoxify our systems of unneeded things that we’ve picked up recently, eliminating the clutter that’s holding us back in some regards. I’m going to suggest that your husband take a “fast” from his phone for one evening a week, then two evenings a week, then more until he’s developed the necessary restraint over his urge to be connected and just checking in when he needs to. It’s an exercise of great discipline, but the rewards will in turn make him more refreshed and productive at work, and enrich his personal life beyond compare. And by the way, make sure you join him.


 Michael Finkelstein, M.D. has gained acclaim for his pioneering approach to integrative medicine, since beginning his private practice more than twenty years ago. Board-certified in both internal medicine and holistic medicine, a Fellow of the American College of Physicians and a graduate of the Associate Fellowship Program in Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona School of Medicine, Dr. Finkelstein is a self-professed “Doctor of Common Sense.” He is a dedicated healer who views health and well-being as a wholly singular unit, one that must be taken seriously and considered with compassion, intention and commitment. Dr. Finkelstein’s concept of “skillful living” applies this holistic approach to overall well-being – the business of living must be developed, like a skill, with mindful, dedicated attention. To read more from Dr. Finkelstein, sign up for his bi-monthly Moon Letter here or for further information visit his website.


Editor: Jennifer Townsend

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