Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Heal thyself

Many books, like Louise L Hay's You Can Heal Your Life, posit that poor physical health is caused by one's psychological outlook.  They even go as far to give a definitive list of physical complaints from acne to heart disease and the corresponding emotional blockages and disordered thinking which cause them.  It's the basis for a whole industry dedicated to generating shiny thoughts for health-giving purposes, like the medical arm of The Secret.

There's just one slight problem.

It has the potential to cause far more suffering than it alleviates.

Union Hospital in New Ulm, Minnesota, Has Five Up-To-Date Intensive Care Units Such as the One Shown...
Didn't think enough happy thoughts
 
I'm in a position to know this because over the years I've been subjected to an array of woo and wild speculation dressed up as fact in relation to my own health issues.  I think the actual problems might have been diagnosed a few years earlier without the interference of well-meaning but ill-informed folk trying to realign my chakras, teach me EFT tapping, and lecturing me to stop and smell the roses.

A positive outlook can influence one's health, but its influence plays in with the influences of diet, physical activity, financial and geographic situation, genetics and proper medical care.  If there's a problem with any of those other factors, all the sunny dispositions in the world can't be expected to paper over the cracks unless all the other elements are brought in to help.  It's much like reciting affirmations - they can help, but they're not a magic wand that can fix all your problems with no effort outside saying the words.

If there is a genuine health concern which requires medical attention, then advising someone to instead heal themselves with the power of their mind is irresponsible.  It has the potential to delay medical treatment, so something which could have been treated easily in its early stages is left to fester and worsen until complications arise.  

For conditions which already have baggage, like mental illnesses, it also adds another layer of blame and guilt and unnecessary angst for those affected to wade through before they seek help.  There's still a real stigma attached to needing something as simple as antidepressants.  If you've never experienced it, you've never had someone lucky enough to be born with perfectly balanced neurological chemicals lecturing you about 'big pharma' brainwashing.

And the final problem?  It's an insult.  It assumes that people living with disability, with chronic pain, little children with cancer and grandmas with dementia, somehow brought this on themselves through some fault or incompetence of their own.

Does a positive attitude have a role to play in physical and mental health?

Yes.

Is it the foundation and source of all physical and mental health?

No.