The following is an excerpt from my upcoming book "Right Brain Rescue: One physician's journey from burnout to bliss", due for publication 2020. It's a modern exploration of our medical system and the healing power of creativity and neuroplasticity. Learn how to train your brain for more creativity, happiness and joy at www.rightbrainrescue.com
Humans have a "soft reset" button. It's called NDE (Near Death Experience).
It realigns your perspective with immediate urgency to demonstrate that 99.9% of our human suffering is shaped by our interpretation. Remember the surge of anger as you stepped on a Lego that morning? The boiling frustration from a political meme posted on Facebook? The irritation you felt when they spelled your name wrong on your Starbucks cup?
Yeah, not so critical now.
Imagine a world where doctors could prescribe a NDE....
The closest thing we have in our culture is a Midlife Crisis. That’s gotta have similar pharmacodynamics, right? There’s a distinct Before and After. You are reflecting on your life until that point, pivoting, and then making conscious decisions to live the remainder of your life differently. Our western culture doesn’t allow for much growth or reflection. We don’t seek out vision quests (unless you’re a celebrity willing to pay for a personal ayahuasca pilgrimage through Peru or sweat it out at Burning Man). Changing your mind is treated as a sign of instability, craziness. Something amiss, wrong, or perverse. Western culture falls in love with commitment and shuns the power of letting go of what no longer serves you.
What if we swallowed an NDE-lite every 2 years and reflect on the current state of affairs? Make it just as routine as an employee wellness physical, a class reunion, or renewing the lease on your car. What if we treated our lives with intentional and routine reflection. A planned checkpoint in the road with the option to take another lap or veer off to a new course.
I can practically see the pharmacist at the Check-Out window now, holding the prescription for NDE in plastic bottle, unfolding the package insert with tiny 5 font typed text:
“Hi there,” he clears his throat unceremoniously, adjusting his bifocals and peering at your demographics, “I see your doctor prescribed NDE-lite. Since NDE isn’t covered by your insurance, NDE-lite is a less-potent version of an NDE without the white light, angels and long tunnel,” his tone is monotonous from years of repeating the same instructions. You notice he has dry cuticles and his nose hairs whistle with each expiration.
“And, since you’ve never taken this before, let me explain the dosage and side effects. NDE-lite begins working immediately after administration. You will experience heightened focus, timelessness, selflessness and richness (also known as flow state). As a result, you have immediate feedback on all your utility in relationships, career, family and goals. Once NDE-lite has worn off (half-life varies with individuals), you will resume normal activities with a renewed perspective,” he squints his bushy eyebrows at the prescription, “No refills on this prescription unless covered by your insurance.”
Pharmacist continues, “NDEs can rewrite your self-narrative and change the trajectory of your life. You’ll be able to organize your priorities with more accurate discernment. But research has shown that we we don’t need extreme situations like a flatline on EKG or visions of angels to glean psychological benefit from them. NDE-lite was designed to with the risk/benefit ratio in mind: no prolonged comas, medical bills, or chronic disability, and the NNT (number needed to treat) is very small. Each person who receives NDE-lite will gain benefit.”
The pharmacist would clear his throat once more, “I’m sure you know there is a generic available for NDE. No prior authorization needed. The generic version provides the same perspective shift with similar side effects: you’ll experience a wide spectrum of emotions from despair to elation, you’ll learn to focus on only what is important, etc etc. But, it doesn’t act as fast as NDE-lite and unfortunately has a very long half-life, which makes it an unpopular choice. Results vary. This long half-life also dilutes potency, so many don’t even realize the benefit of this life-changing effect,” he would pause enough to notice my rapt attention.
He continues before I would ask, “It’s called parenthood.”