Spring break is one of those times in a medical student’s career that keeps the student both sane and human. Many of my peers would attest to my confession that spring break is a time to catch up with life, friends, family, and also to prepare for the final push of the semester. Fortunately as a first-year medical student, I can afford to spend some of my days during spring break for personal use, and one of those days I had used for watching movies. As the title of this entry alludes to, I watched the Green Lantern movie starring Ryan Reynolds during one of those days back in March. Although I wasn’t expecting much from the movie, I have always enjoyed the Green Lantern as a superhero and ultimately, did find the movie entertaining. However, there was one concept in the Green Lantern philosophy that the movie emphasized which caught my attention, and that was the will of the Green Lantern.
As the movie describes, The Green Lantern Corps. received all their power and energy from their rings that was sustained through a source of energy that was defined as will – the will of the universe and the will of individuals. For those bearing the responsibility of a Green Lantern, the powers gained from the ring are only matched by the strength of the user’s will to execute whatever is in mind. This idea that power was synonymous to will struck oddly to me. I am sure that most of us have seen this concept proven in dramatic endings to movies where the idea is “if there is a will, then there is a way.” Actually, most movies that we watch portray the protagonist struggling through a conflict and finally being able to resolve him/her through his/her “will” to succeed. Examples of movies that come to mind include the Rocky series, The Lord of the Rings, and Star Wars. Not only do we come across these concepts of “power equals will” or “the will to win” in movies, but we also see it distinctly in medicine.
Over the years, after having read a few books on people’s experiences with medicine and in addition to my personal experiences, I have grown to believe in the principle that the “the body follows the mind.” How many times have we heard of patients who are battling and fighting cancer and eventually survive their terrible disease and treatment? One thing that may be emphasized from most of these patients is their desire and will to live. For some reason, if we had two patients of the same demographics struggling with cancer and one of the patients had a more optimistic outlook towards recovery than the other, all bets would probably be placed on the more optimistic patient for a better outcome and survival than the other patient – and more often than not, this would be true. For some reason, it has been noticed in medicine that a patient’s will, mentality, and outlook greatly affects prognosis. We are trained in medicine never to give false hope or information; however, as modern healers, it should be a great thing to experience our patients beating the odds. We can try to explain this phenomenon that the body responds greatly to the mind through molecular pathways and effects of neurotransmitters, or maybe through the idea that spirituality and psychology may be substantial factors. Whatever the reason may be, our wills may give us the edge for success.
A great metaphor to the idea that “the body follows the mind” would be the placebo effect which many of you may be familiar with. Sometimes when a patient takes a pill that is missing the active ingredient of a real medication, for implications that the patient may believe that he/she is taking the real medication when in fact not, the patient may actually experience an improvement in his/her health. The power of the mind and the personal psyche has also caused a paradigm shift in the way that medicine is taught presently with a formulation called the biopsychosocial theory. As students and future doctors, we are taught to not only view illness in a patient as something entirely biological, but to also consider psychological and social effects that are specific to the patient that would affect his/her manifestation of the illness. There was also a physician who once wrote that much of medicine involves the inability to cure patients, but in essence to help the body help itself in healing the patient. We would obviously love to cure people of diseases, but the fact remains that there aren’t many diseases that physicians can outright “cure” with a silver bullet.
This interesting idea that “the body follows the mind” has always interested me. Maybe there’s a scientific term for what I’m describing (if you know, please share!), but the fact remains that the will of humans can be very strong. Through our will, we can build skyscrapers, we can venture into space, we can uncover deep mysteries of oceans, and we can greatly affect the health of our own bodies. Much of what I described would not be considered “evidence-based medicine,” but it is a principle that I have come to believe and experience. Ultimately, all of us and our loved ones will experience illness and death, but if we can harness our own will for benefit, there are certainly greater things to be hopeful for.