Panaceas are the Holy Grail in life-change

by phil on Sunday Jan 11, 2009 2:57 PM

I have a belief, either rational or irrational, that panaceas exist for improving the quality of your life. A panacea is defined as "A remedy for all diseases, evils, or difficulties; a cure-all." While there technically can't be a solution to all our problems, people seem to find things that certainly feel like panaceas.

This has basis in anecdote. The most classic examples come from the domain of religion. The concrete examples I can conjure are Constanine's Vision and George W. Bush becoming Born Again. We seem to hear, all the time, of people whose lives become irrevocably changed through a religious awakening.

Examples also come from the secular domain. I'm recalling this report from someone who discovered St. John's Wort; An Astoundingly Improved Life:

I really can't believe how I could have suffered from depression for years and a great help was sitting next to the Tylenol in the grocery store and cost about 10 cents per capsule. There isn't a 'cure' for depression in anything or anyone, but for me this has been an amazing way to help control and dramatically improve my everyday life. If I had only have found this 4 or 5 years ago... but since I can't go back in time I'm just glad I discovered it when I did.
You also hear of people who have been dramatically changed by a psychiatrist, movie, or weekend retreat. This one thread on MetaFilter asks "Life-altering experiences. Can you point to a single experience in your life, as a child, which you can define as having contributed to the person you are today?"

I wish there was a good study on game-changers in people's lives. Perhaps it's a really tough problem to unravel. How do you identify "dramatic life-change?" And how do you isolate the method. It seems that people's lives can be changed by simply listening to an album. For other people, a year of tending to someone who is dying will do the trick.

Personally, I'm constantly on the hunt for this panacea. I can think of at least 50 times when I thought I had found a panacea, but only, a few weeks later, find that the change was only superficial. This is why I'm reading The Purpose-Driven Life. Hopefully one day I'll find my panacea(s) and be able to share it with others.

(I'm also aware that fantasizing about panaceas may be a symptom of another problem, or it may be a cause of problems, in of itself).

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