Saw an article today from a 60 Minutes show about a drug that reportedly decreases the pain associated with memories of traumatic events. It’s actually a drug that’s used to lower blood pressure, assuage migraines, and slow down hearts that beat too rapidly. Apparently, it does this by isolating or decreasing the amount of adrenaline in the brain. (note: don’t read this like a medical research item, because I’m not a medical researcher and the terms I’m using aren’t meant to be technical) The theory is that this decrease in adrenaline response will in turn decrease the strength at which the memories are ‘inked’ into our brains.
As I saw the article, my synapses were flooded with questions. What memories would I want to erase? What did I learn from bad experiences that would also be lost along with the pain? How would I know I’m not going to erase the good memories? What if someone used this to mess up a ‘witness’ so they no longer could remember to what they need to testify? Is there a ‘desktop trashcan’ somewhere in my brain’s hard drive where I could recover memories I wish I hadn’t deleted?
But it also got me thinking about the great lengths we’ll go to in order to avoid pain. We’ll drink the pain away. We’ll work so hard or so much that we don’t have time to think about it. We’ll indulge in more destructive patterns of behavior in order to ‘normalize’ the pain. And maybe in the near future, we’ll be able to take a little pill that makes whatever memory that’s causing us pain virtually disappear.
Two problems I see: 1) This never deals with the issues causing the pain – it just covers them up. 2) When we spend so much of our lives and selves trying to avoid (or alleviate) pain from our lives – we also cease to experience the joy of living. We spend so much time and energy trying to find ways to avoid getting hurt that we in effect avoid living at all.
“Whoever wants to save his life will lose it...” Peter had the same pain aversion that we do. When Jesus said, “I’m about to go to Jerusalem and suffer and be killed.” Peter protested forcefully. Then Jesus told Satan to get out of the way, told His disciples to stop thinking of their own well being and follow, and headed for His death in Jerusalem. Jesus knew the rest of the phrase. “But whoever loses his life for me will find it.“
I think we’d do well to heed Jesus’ words. We must lose our lives to Him if we are to have any hope for living a life that matters eternally. A life not dulled but full. There was a movie back a lot of years with this bipolar ski guy. (Someone must have slipped me a propranolol because I can’t remember the title of the movie.) That guy was a wuss – whiny, scared of everything, hypochondriac… Then he’d turn into this crazy, fear-nothing ski-slope daredevil. As he’d wrestle with himself he kept repeating the phrase, “Taste death, live life.”
I always liked that guy.