Friday, 11 July 2008

Body mind and spirit?

Working in mental health as I do, I come across the term “holistic” all the time; holistic models, holistic care, holistic assessments, values and what not.

In being holistic we’re supposed to view the person not as a conglomeration of symptoms, but rather as a human being – as a whole and with ordinary human needs. Such as to have meaning, purpose, relationships, physical health, hope and happiness as well as good mental health.

It’s a no brainer really. Quite why anyone would think you can treat a person’s depression (and other ailments) simply with medication, whilst all around them their life falls apart is beyond me.

Anyway, this isn’t my beef for today.

It’s Holistic Medicine.

Because Reiki therapists or the numpties who waggle crystals or the idiots who dilute stuff into nothingness before telling you their wares have potent effects have adopted this word as their own.

Holistic Therapy my arse.

You see, holism works when you think of it in Bio-Psycho-Social terms. When we take into consideration the complex interplay between the body and its brain and how it relates to other bodies and brains, we begin to get a grip of well-being.

These ‘holistic therapists’ however, invoke a fourth, karmic component to the whole – the soul, or the bit of being human that we might call spirit.

Which apparently responds well to lavender.

They work with the bit of the body that simply does not exist. We may think we have a spirit, but we’re mistaken in the same way Descartes was when he argued the mind was distinct from the body.

That isn’t to say having your feet massaged with essential oils has no value. Far from it. Just last week I had my skull rubbed by an Indian Head Massager and I’ve must tell you, I floated out the room in a blissful, wobbly state of mildness.

Having someone make you feel pampered and relaxed for an hour is wonderful. If this improves your ‘holistic’ health then all well and good. But please don’t manipulate my chakras or pretend that my purple energy is out of alignment for fuck sake, because this is nothing more than bullshit and placebo.

Which of course begs the question – if you know that they’re placebo, then does the effectiveness of these ‘holistic therapies’ reduce?

Mind, I’ve arranged my next head rubbing session for the week after next…

Whilst we’re on the subject of holes – I’ll leave you with this thought;

If female pole dancers dance round their poles for metaphorical reasons, then why don’t male strippers dance round a hole?


Anonymous said...

I think the common component of these alternative "therapies" is relaxation of the body and or mind, whether it be actually massaging of body parts or any particular service (waving of crystals, palm reading, sage burning, gah, even colonics!) The patient wants to receive the benefit, they are open to it; therefore they mesmerize themselves into a heightened state of relaxation. Relaxation as an end product isn't a bad thing necessarily, I think it's the nefarious practitioners that sell it as something more than it is that unfair, right?

jamon said...

There's nothing wrong at all with relaxation being the end product - it's the means used to achieve it that irk me.

If these 'therapists' marketed themselves as purveyors of theatrical relaxation, then I'd be all for it.

They don't, though.

Thought Room said...

I could be wrong but is not Holistic therapy, like watching a movie. If we willingly enter a suspension of belief, we find ourselves entertained, it does not matter if has ultra special effects in a sci-fi flick or the salt of the earth, art movie. When we feel cheated is when we assume from the movie trailer, and the film reviews that a movie is more wonderful than it actually is. I realize, health is more important than entertainment, but marketing is quite ruthless like that. A dream to sell something for more than what it is. Thanks for visiting and leaving a comment.

jamon said...

You're right of course and make a good analogy.

I do wonder however, how ethical it is to market these things as non-placebo to those who buy in to them hook line and sinker - as opposed to the wise who suspend disbelief for a while?

Anonymous said...

The concepts of "mental health" and "spirit" have more in common than you might realize. They're both equally as non-existent. The real difference is the idea of having spirit or a spirit has been around for thousands of years, whereas the idea of having mental health is a relatively Johnny-come-lately idea invented to sell snake oil.

jamon said...

It depends Murph. An awful lot of snake oil has been flogged in the name of "mental health", however make no mistake - "mental illness" exists.

Why it exists is a different matter entirely.

As ever, the problem's with the language. Poor "mental" health is rarely just "mental". People don't get depressed for no reason any more than they become 'psychotic'. Which is why this 'holism' notion makes sense.

I've much sympathy for the anti-psychiaty view, as it's where I'm most comfortable, however pragmatism and experience has moved me away from it somewhat. Though I'm still attached with elastic chord ;)

Neo Conservative said...

maybe... sometimes you just do "what you can"... not... "what you should".


jamon said...

Hi Neo Con. I've been tempted. Oh, so many times ;)

Spiritual Atheist said...

I struggle with this too. Part of me want's to embrace these alternative holistic therapies, but my skepticism won't let me enjoy it. I covered my thoughts on this in an post about tai chi and skepticism i wrote on my blog a few days ago.
I sometimes wonder if skepticism is both a blessing and a curse.

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