Major Sidney Freedman was often the perfect psychiatrist at the perfect moment – all consultants wish we were as effective as Sidney. Major Freedman, most often referred to as Sidney, was a recurring character on M*A*S*H who comes to the 4077th a few times a season. Sidney always seems to know what his patients need; he has the perfect thing to say, while being compassionate to whoever he’s there to help (including himself).
Near Perfect Treatments
The breadth of Sidney’s skills are staggering. Sometimes simple talk therapy is all that’s needed. So when Hawkeye’s nightmares become too much Sidney pops in visit for a few sessions. And when Potter fears his surgical technique is fading a conversation with Sidney is all he needs. When everyone at M*A*S*H is stressed by their work load, a few minutes with Sidney and a prescribed bonfire steadies everyone’s nerves.
But when a really tough case comes up, Sidney is still your man. During one episode a wounded bombardier becomes convinced he’s Jesus. Sidney not only provides an emergency diagnosis but puts his career on the line to defend the man. Faced with a highly decorated soldier who is suicidal, Sidney’s quick hypnotherapy session stabilizes him. The show credits Sidney with advancing treatment of “combat fatigue” (we’ll ignore his treatment was standard 30 years before the Korean Conflict and the work of combat medics); we see him around several related patients (eventually including Hawkeye). He even remembers enough of his medical school training to pinch hit as a surgeon and offer up advice on his way out the door.
“Ladies and gentlemen, take my advice: pull down your pants and slide on the ice.”
Sindey Freedman’s best known piece of advice. Oddly fitting in the moments offered.
He even cares for himself with compassion. When patients are mad at him for his care, he knows it is part of them getting better. When he losses a patient, he knows to take a break at the 4077th and write a long letter to Sigmund Freud.
We all want to be Sidney
Everyone who works in consulting wants to be our own version if Sidney. We all want to be the person who knows exactly what’s needed at exactly the right moment. We want say all the right things. Ask the questions to get to the important truths about a project. Laugh when people are funny, then serious when we need to be. We hope to create or find the latest cutting edge solution that will provide exactly support for our client’s problem. And we want to leave them smiling and wanting more of our help.
Of course, unlike Sidney, we do not have a team of writers providing the lines. Our work doesn’t fit into tidy 22 minute episodes. New cutting edge solutions we find often don’t always work as advertised. When we are tired or frustrated, we make mistakes. When we are fresh and well rested, we still make mistakes.
The best we can do is try to follow Sidney’s example. He stays calm under stress. He stays current with his field’s research. Most importantly, he cares about his patients and provides them the best care he knows how. He even remembers to care for himself when suffering from burnout.
If you didn’t know, or can’t guess from context, my wife and I are M*A*S*H fans. We grew up with it. We bought the DVDs as they Fox released them. It’s our go-to for something comforting to watch. It’s entertaining, and full of great lines and moments to borrow for life examples. As part of marking the show’s 50th anniversary this is part of a short series of posts using consulting lessons from characters in M*A*S*H.
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