“Fixing a whole” (Holistic health)


In the late 1980s, the word “explicit” became synonymous with the Tipper Stickers on tapes and CDs. By extension, it came to be associated with foul language. Yet explicit means clear and unambiguous, so words can be explicit without being profane and a person can be profane without being explicit.  

“You’re an asshole” is explicit, but so too is “I love guacamole.” In both cases, there’s no doubt about what the speaker is conveying. By contrast, a rambling, incoherent drunk could pepper his language with a profanity every fifth word and be the opposite of explicit.

“Explicit” bears an unwarranted stigma and another perfectly fine word that has been coopted by the agenda-driven is “holistic.” It essentially means considering the whole picture but has been embraced by pretend-medicine practitioners who claim they take a more complete approach than do their traditional medicine counterparts. They insist their holistic approach takes the entire patient into account, not just his or her symptoms. Like “natural” and “quantum,” holistic is a word with legitimate uses, but one’s quackery alarm should be blaring when hearing it in relation to supposed medicine.

Exactly what practitioners mean by treating the whole person is not exactly, um, explicit, yes that’s the word. I have spoken with several of them and found that even the most basic probing about their methods will produce sputtering and stammering. Most people who approach them are desperate for a fix that is quick, cheap, easy, and painless. So the practitioners are used to hearing, “What can you do for my knee pain,” as opposed to “How do you access the Reiki energy you say would cure my knee pain?”

When I have sought additional information on their whole person claims, I have received these types of replies:

“We look into what negative energy may still be trapped from an earlier trauma.”

“Your sense of well-being has been thrown off and we may need to make an aura adjustment to fix it.”

“We will look to optimize the conditions by which the body will tap into its natural ability to heal itself.”

 “Your mind, body, and spirit are connected and must all be regularly nourished or all three will suffer.”

This is usually followed by them flattening the straw man that they try and turn modern medicine into. They claim mainstream doctors treat only the symptoms, that they fail to consider the underlying reason for illnesses, that they don’t treat a patient’s mind and spirit, and that they don’t give patients the attention they deserve.

None of which is relevant to which of these is more likely to cure or mitigate a condition: A medical doctor grounded in Germ Theory and the Scientific Method, and who has access to vaccines, antibiotics, double blind studies, and prescription-writing privileges; or a naturopath who counters with agile fingers, sandalwood, and intuition.

Furthermore, the self-described holistic healers substantially misrepresent mainstream medicine, which does consider more than the disease, symptoms, and treatment. A medical doctor looks at a patient’s health history, habits, genetics, and state of mental health. He or she will also recommend a regimen based on diet, exercise, and healthy habits like handwashing that will lessen the chance of becoming sick.

Another tact under the holistic umbrella is to ponder why an illness arose in the first place. The correct answer is usually germs or congenital conditions, or perhaps something science is still working to unlock. But the alt-med peddler is inclined to identify the causative culprit as Qi blockage, toxin buildup, or mind-body disconnect.

The alt-med clinician and patient can spend weeks or even years undertaking a wild goose chase for the underlying cause. This plays neatly into the whole person ruse. The practitioner can probe, question, support, praise, amuse, sympathize, support, laugh, cry, and bond with the patient, doing everything for them except identifying a cure. The patient can love the practitioner’s attentive nature so much that they gloss over the fact that they are receiving their 20th aura cleansing, ear candling, or spinal adjustment. This approach might help if the problem is loneliness, narcissism, or hypochondria, but not if it’s shingles, cataracts, or gout.

Finally, alt-med is usually far more narrowly focused than the stuffy old doctors it rails against. There are alternative medicine branches that are tailored solely for the eyes, ears, feet, hands, lungs, head, veins, muscles, spine, chakras, or meridians. And proponents of each will claim that their particular area, and theirs alone, is the key to all health. To be explicit, that’s bullshit.

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