Instant Placebo

I have found in all my years of service as a doctor I could not find The Cure. This is the pill that makes everything better. I mean not just feel better, but become better. It's the cure that soothes the body, mind, and soul. It makes us believe we can do anything and then go out and do it, dream the impossible and then accomplish it.

But I'm just a doctor. I've seen priests, best friends, teachers, and true lovers accomplish greater things than I could ever hope for. They dispense closure and hope. And I can only watch on in awe.

Like the fountain of youth or the sorcerer's stone, I began to think that The Cure was a thing of myth. But then someone recovered from depression by taking a Placebo, a sugar pill, a fake medicine just because they believed the pill was real.

That's when I decided to become a psychologist.

~ Anonymous


We have come to the realization that life is complex and getting more complicated as time goes on. There are so many dimensions to worry about including sustenance, shelter, health, nutrition, family, social life, learning, career, community, faith, personality, etc. I find that claims of how a diet pill, an exercise program, some training, a website, or so on can change your life incredible. But the claims occur often enough that we hold some small hope that we may find happiness, hope, courage, or purpose.

But like so many other offers they provide temporary solutions. We witness and are slave to behavior such as taking Tylenol instead curbing a drinking habit, buying a toy to curb a child's tantrum, mowing the lawn instead of pulling up the weeds. But in the process we also witness the aggregation of problems. We have gotten exceedingly good at polishing up surfaces and ignoring the tumultuous activity under the ice. It is a risky and dangerous gamble. It will only be a matter of time before explosions.

With realization comes the acceptance that a multi-faceted problem cannot be cured instantaneously. If you were to build a high tower without letting the foundation set, the tower would collapse. Gravity works on its own schedule and no amount of shouting will speed up the process. This was a problem with only three variables: brick, mortar, and force distribution.

Likewise in addressing an issue in life will require giving up the idea of efficiency. Replacing it will be a lot of constant investments in deposits of trust, constant maintenance, constant housekeeping, constant learning with relearning, constant small adjustments, and a lot of patience. Efficiency is linear, but we cannot expect to flip a switch to obtain astounding results. People operate effectively and cohesively in cycles.

It is this small important fact that is forgotten in hopes that linear efficiency will bring progress. But you can only build a tower so high before widening the base to prevent catastrophe. And yet we witness people on the verge of collapse still investing in efficiency because an efficient solution is popular and readily available. Perhaps it is stubbornness or pride, but at some point I hope understanding that efficiency is not working takes place.

It is an uneasy but important revelation.

It is a revelation that is cause for action. But how to begin facing a hydra is a frightening question. Most sources begin with housekeeping. This action requires a self-examination into morals, values, philosophy, the ones you hold to be important and the reason why. It may require some writing, unpleasant memories, and evaluation. This is defining a core or essence. It is made up of a personal history, environment, other people, but most importantly a glimpse into your own rose-colored glasses.

The study of self then gives way to the study of interactions. From this we can choose the things we like, identify the things we dislike and have the courage to change around things. I am fond of the atom analogy in the previous chapter. To me the electrons that are changeable can be defined as small action adjustments while the nucleus becomes the defined core.

But it is only after the important housecleaning that flaws become obvious. The destination, the intention, and resulting actions naturally become truthful. With truth comes trust, trust in self as well as interactions. If we can manage this I hope one day we come to address community, environment, the world, and beyond.

The Cure is not out there, but right here in ourselves; in hearts, memories, important people, and the stories that we want to tell. We are our own optimal solution.