Thursday, January 13, 2011

Healing & Wellness

Healing: I have noticed a strange trend afoot in popular New Age culture. For several years I have been keeping an eye on this area with a sort of morbid fascination, always wondering what silly new quack trend will surface to fleece gullible marks. Along with the internet, I read paper publications like Natural Awakenings, Body Mind Spirit Guide, CoSozo Living, and formerly the now defunct Phenome News. I find these free magazines in the entrance of my nearby WHOLE FOODS, the grocery store with the homeopathy department. These magazines are a mix of stories about nutrition, psychology, most anything from rearing children to pet care, yoga to weight loss. The advice given ranges from obvious things like eat vegetables, exercise, don’t smoke, etc., to soundly debunked notions like human energy fields, crystal therapy and astrology.
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These publications use key buzz words like holistic, alternative, integrative, intuitive, which to me are red flags of magical thinking. In some ways it reminds me of optimistic business-speak like “leveraging synergies to energize new paradigms.”  When done correctly it can fill a page without actually saying anything meaningful.
      What strikes me is their use of the word “healing”. On the front page of CoSozo Living is always the phrase “Healing Together”. I wonder what they mean by healing. I bet it is not healing a broken bone or a bleeding cut, but rather a vague psychological kind of healing which would respond to placebo treatments. Who is the typical mark, er, client for such things? It seems to me that these publications aim mainly for suggestible middle aged women who are feeling the years, don’t eat right or exercise enough and are gaining weight. They seek magic bullet “treatments” to relieve the little chronic pains (both physical and emotional) of aging, where a placebo is well suited to provide temporary relief.
    Just what do they mean by healing? Steve Salerno, in his blog “SHAMblog” said, “…women’s magazines and their collective assault on female body image and the like…”  Then perhaps the word “healing” is an attempt at emotional recovery from the combined damage done by women’s magazines and the popular “self help” movement, which critics claim has done more harm than good. I perceive a vicious cycle in it all; women’s magazines and self help books do the damage, then the victims seek relief offered by those advertising in the magazines named above. Of course since it was all in the mind anyway, the placebo “treatments” seem to heal the damaged psyches.  
    New Age is religion in a jump suit, and offers an amazing range of laughable “healing modalities” such as “channeled healings”, “energy healing for animals”, “reconnective healing”, “spiritual healing” and “crystal healing therapy” to name a few. Deep down, I feel sorry for those who pay good money for some ditzy “energy healer” to essentially play ouija board with them.
     Wellness: More alarming is the use of the word “wellness” by mainstream health care providers. It seems to me that they should use only the word “health” in describing a patient’s condition, but more and more the word wellness is creeping in. What exactly do they mean by wellness? To me it suggests that they are making room for quack providers of “healing modalities” in to what used to be scientific evidence-based medicine. So when you go to the hospital for a broken leg, you will not only get the leg set in a cast but also have a session with a therapeutic touch provider, a Reiki master, and an acupuncturist. The quacks have been pounding on the door of HMO companies and hospitals for decades, they want their piece of the huge pie that is the US health care, $2.5 trillion each year.
     I get a kick out of all these “energy healing” claims. If they can heal anything then they should go to hospitals as teams of ten and go from patient to patient, stand as a group around each bed and do some healing. Show the world that energy healing works! Look at how well scientific medicine works; antibiotics and surgery and all the rest. Thus far, no energy healer has ever done anything beyond a placebo! 
     It is shocking that we as a society are wasting so much money on quackery when we need to be going the other way. We need to be getting the most bang for the health care buck. 30 years ago I would have thought that by 2010 medical quackery would have faded away to oblivion, but the opposite has happened, it is becoming more and more widely institutionalized and we are all being forced to pay for it. From “faith based” government to “energy healers” in hospitals, the quacks are creeping in day by day. The quacks want to ride along conventional medicine as does a sucker fish ride along with a larger fish. Quacks know they can’t stand alone and help anything, so they want to have “integrative” medicine where both conventional and “complementary” medicine are used, and then if the patient improves the quack can take some credit, even though it was only conventional medicine that was effective.

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