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Author: Peter Fenton
Title: Healing

Healing is a mystery although its physical manifestation occurs generally according to a prescribed pattern. It implies a temporal progression towards an innate state of equilibrium or wholeness and would ideally encourage looking within for self healing rather than to external sources for 'cure'.

The term is often linked with 'holism' which appears in the alternative field as frequently and as imprecisely as 'organic' in food and nutrition. It proposes philosophically that a complex system is more than the sum of its parts, and by implication a disease is more than the sum of its symptoms; the aim of holistic medicine therefore, is to consider the whole person, including social and psychological factors, rather than merely the treatment of symptoms.

The problem here is:-

(1) that the 'whole' is indefinable. cf John Donne 'Man a mystery, a whole universe wrapped in two yards of skin'

(2) that certain aspects of being, perhaps the most vital, are both incomprehensible and inaccessible to 'therapy' in the accepted sense.

(3) that holism is often practiced eclectically as a variant of medicine.

(4) even accepting a 'layered', or facet view of the organism, no therapist could relate to it on all these levels, and multi disciplinary approaches introduces complexity via multiple relationships and symbolism.

(5) 75 % of medical presentations are due to psychosocial stress and are not defined as disease but 'Life'; stress will respond to life-style modifications but psycho-social are (empathy accepted) beyond medical remit.

However there is a shift, amongst more self critical members of medical orthodoxy, to a less adversarial view of healing viz. the credo of the BHMA is that effective human healthcare must involve prevention, move away from the a solely body perspective and incorporate thoughts, feelings, relationships and spiritual life, and also recognize the importance of practitioner care, deprivation and environmental decay.

How far this is applicable is debatable, but thought precedes action. So how do we appraise Donne's 'mystery'? How does self healing work? And how do we as practitioners facilitate its effect?

Most paradigms of the human constitution embrace the concept gross to subtle, involving a 'layered' concept, with the Divine as immanent or transcendental according to religious conviction. All alternative therapies can be placed within such a paradigm. viz, biochemical, morphological, electromagnetic, vital, emotional, mental or supramental, and most assume a (subtle) defect which can be 'fixed' or an imbalance rectified. Many become preoccupied with 'sharpening their therapeutic tools', fewer work solely with the more idealistic concept of vitalism, facilitation and 'intelligent leaving alone' which to reductionists equates with criminal negligence. Symbolism, or cure from outside - parallel the fetish in primitive societies - subtly reappears, and, even if harmless, creates misplaced emphasis, and entraps rather than empowers i.e. fixes rather than facilitates. Thus fear and dependence may enter the equation, both fertile areas for financial exploitation. Symbolism also triples the complexity of the therapeutic encounter from a mutual patient- therapist interaction...

Within this therapeutic gamut the naturopath's role is complex, even more so when the profession has been re-defined in the public eye by health 'gurus' equating health with the fixing of biochemical defects, or otherwise 'assisting the life force'. Without symbolism the naturopath is reduced to apparent clinical naiveté, struggling both to explain these close copies of the truth and also generates a marginal income.

The consulting room - a social lens- also suggests that practice building is now more difficult with the further complication of the EC, bureaucracy, competition, the distortion that naturopathy equals prescription, also clinical presentations are increasingly complex due to decline of essential vitality, pollution, allergic sensitivity, sociological change, stress, corporate exploitation of its work force, desynchronisation of biological computers via non-natural births and, as a post-script, 50 years of antibiotic over-prescription.

What is the way forward then for naturopathy? And how can the health seeker be directed towards a valid therapeutic interaction?

For survival and preservation of its philosophical purity naturopathy may have to move with the spirit of the times and encourage diverse roles for its practitioners e.g. counselling, sports training, yoga, tai- chi and Pilates teaching, drama and art therapy, body work, Alexander or psychneuroimmunology i.e. psychological or postural/ exercise interactions.

Historically and now, naturopathy has been underpinned by osteopathy, and chiropractic in America. How should the health seeker proceed in assessing a therapy? Valid questions would appear to be:-

(1) Does it reflect common sense?

(2) Is it harmful?

(3) Does it respect and understand natural law, vital constraints and self-generated catharses? (healing crises).

(4) Does it recognize that absence of and return to health reflect cause and effect, and thus encourage cause removal?

(5) Does the modality provide for fundamental needs e.g.optimum cellular nutrition /oxidation via high alkaline diet, and possess a normal relationship to the body?

(6) Does the therapy empower the health seeker, educate, encourage positive life style reform and encourage faith in a self healing ability?

Naturopathy backed by a century of clinical experience matches up uniquely to all these criteria.

Note; 'BHMA' British Holistic Medical Association.

Peter Fenton is a Naturopath Practitioner.

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