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Ten Thousand Years

Ten Thousand Years

This week, a new patient asked me, "So when did life become so complicated?" I was not quite sure what she meant by that question. Her words were simple enough; I wondered if she was asking how ancient man became a modern plasmoid machine driven by so many diverse ego constructions or was she asking about her personal life and its up and downs, lack of boundaries and generations of dysfunction.

I being a closet existentialist and looking to break the ice with a new patient, "About ten thousand years ago, man began to domestic animals and farm. That's when it all got really crazy." The patient looked at me a bit puzzled, smiled and said, "I thought the earth was only three thousand years old." I almost sank into my chair, "No, I think the earth's roughly 4.5 billion years old." She sat shocked, looking at me as if I had given her a fact that demolished the very foundations of her consciousness.

She then asked, "How many years has man been on the planet?" At that moment, what I thought was a facetious answer to a simple personal question turned into an anthropology class. It goes that way sometimes talking to patients. What often seems to be a meaningless meandering walk through the troubles imbedded in a patient's mind may often turn out at the end to be an extraction of some ancient cosmological construct that is weighing the patient down.

I replied, "I think the Homo group including our own species Homo Sapiens began arising more than two million years ago." She was more shocked, desperately stating, "I thought man was created about two thousand years ago. I went to a bible study class. We discussed the issue. Two thousand years ago. Not two million years ago. Am I wrong?"

I realized we had wondered into a clearing in the forest of Religious Dogma of which she had internalized. It is never my intention to disturb a person's religious beliefs since those constructs are built on Holy ground. But there are times when facts matter, especially in health care. If she was mistaken about planet Earth, there may be a host of other perceptions in her world view that lead to her question in the first place, "So when did life become so complicated?"

I looked at her with reluctance, "I believe our species was distinguished about 200,000 years ago. We managed to survive. Thrived despite climate change." I paused, "It's my understanding man started migrating out of Africa about 60,000 to 80,000 years ago." I smiled, "I'm not sure when people got to the South here." She and I laughed. But what I had said disturbed her, not in a bad way, a good way.

I looked at her, "You're not wrong, just misguided. People are misguided all the time. It's part of living. It's part of Life. It's part of why healthcare is so screwed up."
She looked at me as if I had opened her mind to something profound. "So what other things am I misguided about?" I replied, "I don't know. Certainly your worried about something. What?"

"My twenty-four year-old son is in rehab for the fourth time. My daughter is having a baby by her boyfriend. She wants to come home to live. She doesn't have a job and she's got another kid. My husband lost his job two weeks ago. I think he's an alcoholic. I'm sick all the time. I just want to get better. I pray all the time. God doesn't care. I think you care. What can I do?"

She is not alone. Unfortunately I hear these sad tales of dysfunctional families that are grossly enmeshed. It is as if the entire family unit works together to create and maintain chaos. She is so desperate to have some ray of sunlight warm her spirit so that she can take on another day. If she were in a hunter-gatherer family unit, she probably would not have experienced these kinds of emotional traumas leading to her illnesses of fatigue, joint pain, weight gain, insomnia, brain fog and abdominal pain.

I suspect it took every ounce of energy by each member of a hunter-gatherer family to forage and survive. We now live in an age of abundance thanks to those who have perfected our way of community living. Perhaps her son is trying to cope with his stress by taking drugs and checking out, the daughter is coping by having sex and trying to birth a child that will give her unconditional love, the father is coping by drinking alcohol to drown his sorrows associated with his distorted ideas of being a failure as a man and my patient has lost herself trying to help the rest of her family cope which is making her ill. This is not a God thing, this is a Human thing that began ten thousand years ago when farming began.

My advice to her was simple, "You have to put you first. Do what's best for you. Create boundaries. Learn how to say no and mean it. Find a place you can have quiet and peace. Hold on to life. Your son and daughter are grown adults. Let them sort their own lives out outside of you. Your husband needs help. Not your help. Professional help. He needs to seek help. Stay out of it. I will help you get better one step at a time."

"The pastor at our church says I have to stay married. I have to take care of my family. It's God's Plan. Do you believe God has a plan for me?" I looked at her and smiled, "God doesn't care about you or your pastor's beliefs. It sounds like your pastor has a flock of dysfunctional and disturbed people. Keeping them unhealthy and in turmoil keeps him in business. If he's the one who told you Earth was three thousand years old find a new pastor. Man showed up two hundred thousand years ago. You better find another church. In the mean time I've got a plan for you. A human plan. We'll let God take care of God. You need to take care of you."

She said with tears in her eyes, "Thank you. I trust you." As I walked out of the room, I looked at her, smiled and said, "We've got work to do. Gotta fix ten thousand years of chaos in two or three months."

Her next appointment is in two weeks.

Doc
Posted by Amanda Sanders at 9:32 AM
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