Before I talk about anything relevant to Molecule Man, I’d like to say thank you to Stan Lee for allowing millions of shy little kids like me to become adults that never grow up. Many others have stated this better than I could, so I’ll leave the topic there. R I P, and excelsior!
[Editor’s note: The Molecule Man episode and next week’s Dr. Strange episode were recorded before the passing of Stan Lee. We will pay tribute to the legend in our next recorded episode, fittingly enough the Incredible Hulk. – Anthony]
I recently touched upon the idea of a mental crutch, or anchor, that allows for reduced anxiety and improved function for some people like Molecule Man. Of course, for comic’s sake he had to take it to the extreme and become the essence of a crutch himself. That’s common in literature, and I’m starting to see it more in my psychiatric practice now that I have a reason to look for it.
The good ol’ pill. Medication. Drugs.
This is NOT a rant against medication
If you want to search for that slant on the topic, search elsewhere. I’m merely pointing out the placebo effect. Just the idea that you are doing something to improve your condition can have an impact on your perception of the condition, let alone the condition itself. It doesn’t have to be medication, but clearly that’s the crux of many baseline treatments in Western medicine so let’s go with it. We’re not exactly sure how this phenomenon manifests in the first place, other than to say that there’s no such thing as shutting off your perceptions. Maybe it’s the dedicated attention of a valued caregiver under the guidance of a trained professional that imbues some magical gift to a breath mint. Perhaps it’s the other way; the de-personalization of a lifetime of ills into a microcompressed space, and just as quickly swallowed, hopefully dissolved with no fuss. It’s all good…I think.
Does the premise fit?
We’re talking about a man who is capable of controlling the very building blocks of our universe on a whim, and he condenses the most finite parts of himself into a wand. Hmm…taking a fraction of what would be considered meaningful material and finding a way to make it nearly inert, in a compact form that, when in contact with others it has a greater impact than what would be expected. Sounds right to me.
But I don’t want to become Molecule Man!
Thankfully, no patient has ever said this to me. But I’ve heard classic variations:
-I don’t want to be a zombie
-These things slow me down
-I don’t want side effects
-Why would I take this when I can just take [insert any known substance known to man, and probably some unknown too] because it’s all natural and I already have some in my backyard?
Good questions/comments! I don’t have an answer, really. I mean, there are some instances where simpler is better. If you can control your blood pressure with biofeedback and a change in diet, awesome! But don’t be fooled by trading one perceived snake oil salesman for another. Those natural supplements don’t have to list all ingredients. Your local dealer has no obligation to give you anything you ask for. Heck, a physician gets calls from the pharmacy to justify doses of cough medicine nowadays; I’m not going to risk my license just so I can write out an extra prescription and get a slightly higher HealthGrades rating.
In that case, that’s too far
Sorry about the rant there, but I know that there’s a balancing act between providing my cliched “tool in the toolbox” and creating an addiction, irrespective of the medication involved. Without that balance, a person can come apart rapidly. I’ve seen it too many times.
What Have We Learned?
We all have our favorite molecules to manipulate. Ensure we don’t take it to the extreme.