Am I responsible ?
When things go wrong, we make sense of them with 3 possible explanations
* I am responsible
* Someone else is responsible
* No one is responsible
I have been brought up to believe that if something goes wrong with my life, then I am responsible — and I should try to fix what I can. In Tamil, this is captured by “தீதும் நன்றும் பிறர் தர வாரா”. Children, of course, are unable to take responsibility and always blame others for their problems.
This centripetal blaming — blaming self, before everyone else — has its pros. It propels you to do whatever you can, to change the current trajectory. However, it can be counterproductive in medicine.
I saw a patient today, who had brought her son for a hormonal problem. His voice has feminine, and he had no moustache. The mother was concerned, that somehow her brought up is to blame. She asked, “ Is there anything in the food that I gave him ? Could it be the snacks or the phone ? “ I told her, there’s nothing she could have done to prevent the condition — a tumor in the pituitary. It wasn’t her fault or her son’s fault — no one knows why people develop pituitary tumors. They are like microscopic accidents in the DNA — one the tissue could not fix.
She was distraught, asking me repeatedly if the boy will be 100 % alright. I gave an evasive answer, smack in the middle of that gray zone between brutal truth and kind lie. The boy didn’t understand the gravity of the situation, he seemed non chalant. Ignorance is bliss after all.
As we grow older, we realize that the arrow of causality isn’t straight. It’s a veritable Gordian knot. There are many intersecting vectors — culminating in a problem — and tracing all to a single source is often impossible. Chaos doesn’t respect our need for explanation. Closure doesn’t come from explanation, but from acceptance of the fact that sometimes, there is no explanation.
Sometimes, no one is responsible.