I was talking with a young man in my office. He is in his twenties and on medication. He was complaining about the side-effects of the medication. He wanted to know why didn't they leave the side-effects out of the medication. "Why did they put those in?" He wondered if they were putting the side-effects in the medicine so they could control him or maybe so that they could make him die sooner. In this case "they" was the government who was giving him money on a monthly basis due to disability. He figured if he died sooner then the government wouldn't have to pay him so long. "Why don't they help me find a job I can do instead of put side-effects in my medicine so that I won't draw social security so long? Then I could work and not have to draw money from the government."
I tried to explain that medications were made in this case to compensate for a deficiency in certain chemical levels that he had. The symptoms of the low chemical levels were what brought him to us and the medicine was trying to compensate for that. If the medicine is successful then the symptoms will lesson or possibly dissipate.
He was unimpressed and wanted to know why they put in the side-effects.
I explained they made the medication to combat the symptoms and the side-effects were unintentional results that they didn't know would happen or they didn't know yet how to make the medicine so it would work without having those unintentional results.
Still he was unimpressed. He seemed not to understand what side-effects meant or maybe he was purposely being a pain in the goiter.
I was starting to get irritated and that is very rare for me in this setting. Then it dawned on me what he was really saying. Sure he doesn't like the side-effects but even more he doesn't like to have to take the medication. He knows, however; that if he stops taking the medication he will have consequences he likes even less.
So I started talking about the disappointment he felt in having to take medications. How it made him feel different than others his age and why it was worth it for him to take the medicine anyway. Now we were talking about the same thing and we had a good meaningful conversation that may have been helpful to him.
It occurs to me that in life we have a variety of side-effects to things. Mostly we use the term side-effects to refer to something we didn't expect. Sometimes we use the phrase to refer to consequences that were going to happen but we didn't know it. Either way we are often surprised in life by what happens. Even when our intentions are the best we can be deeply surprised at what results.
Once I went to the doctor with some ailment. He prescribed medication. I had side-effects that I didn't like and would find it very hard to function with. So he gave me another medicine to cure the side-effect. Ultimately when all was said and done I decided that I could manage the original ailment better than the risk of side-effects.
And that is the thing we must weigh in life. If I do this for the purpose of having this result will I be happy with the consequences or the side-effects? I may well get the desired result but I may not be too pleased with other side-effects. We like to know what is going to happen so we can make an informed choice but most often we only know in part and sometimes even that "knowledge" is based on faulty reasoning and we find all kinds of things happening that we didn't expect.
Sometimes in Science Fiction or fantasy stories they approach the question what would happen if we could go back in time and we purposely or inadvertently changed something. What would happen. There are lots of good stories about that idea, one of my favorites is Pastwatch: The Redemption of Christopher Columbus by Orson Scott Card. You might want to try it if you like thought provoking Science Fiction.
Each day we are creating history in our daily lives. We are determining some of the future now. And that future will eventually become history. We need to carefully choose now so that we can stand by what we do regardless of the results or the side-effects and then once again we must take responsibility when things go awry.
As in the case of medications the side-effects can sometimes be good. I am aware of a medication that is prescribed at least as often due to the side-effect as it is due to it's initially created intended effect.
Will we live our life and do the best we can and then recognize the good that will come and then correctly evaluate the side-effects or do we think that life should be totally predictable--no side effects added? I enjoy the opportunities and challenges that come by the unexpected (uh... much of the time). I hope I can be as positive when things don't turn out in a way that appears desirable.
What about you? Do you need to have things work your way to find the joy in life or are you able to find the joy and challenge of the unexpected "side-effects"?