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Author: Peter G La Barre
Title: Healing

A Commentary on Peter Fenton's Contribution to File 2

My intention is to help develop, extend, expand, question where I think there is ambiguity, seek clarification where I don't understand and confront where I think there is error and last but not least support and congratulate him on his contribution. My hope is to create an informed critical debate about a subject that is basic to all health care systems.

Hopefully others will join in, with anything from a two liner to a two pager.

“Life is not a problem to be solved - but a mystery to be lived” - Scott Peck - The Different Drum

I agree with you that healing is a mystery, but I am not sure that it occurs to a prescribed pattern, or that it progresses step by step to a conclusion. I prefer the idea that it reaches a state of dynamic equilibrium; this implies a state that is held in tension (acceptable stress) ready to respond to environmental change whether physiological, or psychological, and inferentially, spiritual. Is healing the process, and health the end product? As the relationship is in a permanent state of flux it bears out that old Greek's saying about not being able to step into the same river twice. To paraphrase the words of the 'master', health can never be static.

As you rightly point out, the word 'holism' is bandied about indiscriminately, not only in the 'health' world but also in many other contexts. This is mainly because it is erroneously thought of as an entity, instead of as an abstraction. Its condition is relative to its position in any given situation. A scale with the irreducible minimum, at one end, and total completeness at the other. Dependant on where you are stationed, you can see anything as either holistic or reductionist, even NC. The situation is either more holistic or less holistic, likewise more reductionist, or less reductionist. Unfortunately holistic medicine is still missing the point.

(1) Donne's 'whole' may be indefinable but is not indescribable. Whether he contains the whole universe within himself, I think is debatable. I believe that we can only understand a very small part of the universe, that part that we are in an aware relationship with. My bit is different to your bit!

(2) I can't understand what you are getting at here.

If certain aspects are both incomprehensible and inaccessible, how do we know they are the most vital? What is the accepted meaning of therapy?

(3) I would put it the other way round. Medicine is often practiced eclectically, and inaccurately calls itself holistic, as do many of the alternative and complementary persuasions including NC.

(4) I think that in order to be able to discuss, you have to agree some form of structure of being, even if later you may decide to change it to something else. The concept of vitalism can permeate them all, or do you see it as a distinct entity by itself?

Practitioners can be generalists with various levels of knowledge, experience and competence, and have some special interest in some aspect of healing; in fact I think most do.

(5) I think that psychosocial stresses are a component of most clinical presentations; these along with fear, loneliness, and ignorance create despair and confusion, which motivates a person to seek outside help. Their choice of practitioner is determined by many conscious and unconscious factors.

The problem that the BHMA has, is that despite its well-meaning approach to healthcare, it remains largely ineffectual and unsupported. There are many reasons for this, the difficulty in making any radical change to a culture that is looking for a quick fix, and with a history of 'trust me I'm a doctor'. Without challenging the academic and training programs with their emphasis on intellectual achievements at the expense of the more humanistic approaches, it leaves them with a group who are deeply committed to a scientific and linear (Cartesian) approach, which denies them the creativity of thinking outside the box. There are notable exceptions to this generalisation.

Is vitalism any more idealistic than any of the other 'isms' you quote? Vitalism as I understand it, stresses the potentiality of the individual, the becoming, the development and pluralism, not stasis or fixed viewpoints. Just what NC needs but unfortunately does not have. But falls back on out-of-date mantras. Many of the alts. and comps embrace more than one of the concepts you quote, their rationale seems a bit hopeful, but there is quite a lot of work coming forward which gives some support to their theories, Oschman's Energy Medicine, and McTaggart's The Field to name two. Few disciplines place the relationship between the two participants as central to the therapeutic exchange. For me it is the most important single factor in the equation. The personal qualities necessary in any practitioner, of openness, authenticity, ability to hear and listen without preconceived ideas, acceptance of your own limitations and the firm intention to give back power and free the person from your influence. These factors far outweigh any textbook solutions you might be tempted to impose. Whilst 'intelligent leaving alone' was good, but rarely practised, a bit like Henry Ford's choice of colours. I always thought Edgar Saxon's phrase the 'release of health' had more going for it. Symbolism is present in most, if not all transactions, the white coat, the discreet stethoscope, the bookcase with its learned tomes, probably unread; all go to create a symbolic situation, which can serve the function of reassuring the person that they have come to the right place.

I agree that to practice any of the alternative systems, (NC, Homeopathy, Herbalism, Chinese or Indian medicine), is more difficult and intimidating than previously. I believe that if the individual concerned is passionate in his desire to explore and attempt to solve some of the conundrums of health and disease, and is prepared to question what his own motives might be for considering such an occupation. Then the problems of the EC bureaucracy, Registration, and financial constraints will take a secondary place in his outlook. If money is central in the equation, he should seek some other occupation.

I seriously doubt whether NC has either a philosophy or is pure, but I do agree with you that its practitioners should explore any modality that will increase their awareness. Purity and perfectionism hark back to the days of Knox, Calvin and other control freaks.

Is osteopathy and chiropractic a part of NC? Do they blur the image? Can an NC practitioner do both conscientiously? In one you are being done to, in the other you are supposed to do the doing. Is the TK 'treatment' beneficial for other reasons, therapeutic touch, relaxation and confidence?

My response to your six questions:-

Does it reflect common sense?---Partially

Is it harmful?---Can be

Does it respect natural law?---What is natural law?

Does it reflect cause and effect?---At a very simple level

Does it provide for fundamental nutritional needs?--- Nutrition is a mystery

Does it empower the health seeker?--- Sometimes yes, sometimes no.

I realise that these notes pose more questions than they answer, but I feel that, until the more fundamental issues are debated openly, and the differences of opinion acknowledged, and if not resolved at least recognised and honoured as sincerely held, that the society will continue to decline, mainly because of its lack of intellectual curiosity and its defensive resistance to exploring ongoing developments. Unless such a spirit of inquiry can be created and by using such opportunities as the NC File, E-mail, workshops, focus groups, day or week-end meets can there be any chance of it recapturing it's rightful place in the health care spectrum?

At present the dead hand of NC fundamentalism reigns supreme.

Hope Springs Eternal

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