Saturday, January 7, 2012

No such thing as a human machine...

[Part 2 of a trilogy, Part 1, Part 3]

We're trained very early on that to be wrong is to be bad, that we made a mistake, when we saw reality wrong, it's because there is something wrong with us. Getting the "right" answer and being able to show how you got the right answer is all important from the time we start school to well after we retire. But the truth is, no one knows what reality is. We're all observing this world with fallible human organs. We want to get things right so badly. We remember our mistakes so easily. This is a primal instinct. Figuring this stuff out is how we survive.

When a situation is new, we can feel overwhelmed. We can feel out of our depth. And we are so rushed in this culture that we never give ourselves time to acclimate. We want to jump into a situation and fix it now! But we're not giving ourselves time to learn what we're working with. We're so enthusiastic to show that we can do it, that we don't pay attention to what's going on around us. We're going so fast in our efforts to be wonderful, that we make simple, catastrophic mistakes. Our history is saturated with this behavior: Katrina, Afghanistan, Iraq (just to name a recent few).

I am insecure about my health problems. They're rare, they're difficult to manage, and they're interfering with my life in a major way. That's scary stuff. It's perfectly reasonable for my doctors to feel insecure too. But they have a culture wherein they always have to get the right answer or it's their @$$ on the line. The stakes are REALLY high for them. They have to have an answer, it has to be the correct one, and it has to make the patient better. When that doesn't happen, they freak out. They're out of their comfort zone of rightness. They "ran into the table" and the first person they're going to "scream" at is the patient. If the patient would just go away, the problem would go away. They never would have to face being wrong.

What a perfectly, self-sabotaging way to approach medicine. In this modern day of machine and perfectly pressed pills with the same microscopic amount... with all our amazing diagnostic technology that can see into the human body in ways we've never imagined... we've forgotten that medicine is an ART. With all these health programs and websites based on wellness, we've forgotten that people aren't one-size-fits-all. As a culture we've forgotten that what's good for your life may be bad for mine, and please mind your own business. We've place this expectation that because we have precision industry, because we have this diagnostic technology, because we've had all this very expensive education, that that somehow makes us immune to mistakes and immune to insecurity about the situation. Why?

Insecurity is okay. It doesn't mean there's anything wrong with us. It means we're in a place of learning. We need not view it as failure: to not know. We need not be afraid of this. That's where discovery lives. That's where wonder and surprise are. We need to not be so concerned with making reality match what's in our mind, and need to concentrate more on matching what's in our mind with reality. That takes humility. That takes vulnerability. That takes a willingness to be wrong. That take willingness to admit: there's no such thing as a human machine.

Edited by Brigg Baldwin

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