Through the last months of 2012, you saw a lot of interest building up around the release of The Cure Is… , a documentary on the mind-body (mental/physical) aspect of health, featuring interviews with some of the most advanced thinkers and researchers in fields such as epigenetics and energy medicine. Its central idea is profound:
What we hold in our thoughts, beliefs and unresolved emotional conflicts maybe one of the most significant factors in determining our health and wellbeing or whether you experience disease in your lifetime.
This is undoubtedly true, as scientific research has shown. As mentioned before , it was Einstein who demonstrated that energy and matter are not two different things but different expressions of the same thing. Once we wrap our thinking around this, it makes sense to think of ourselves not as some kind of biological machines but, in the words of my colleague Dr. Gary Verigin, “dynamic energy systems vibrating at specific frequencies that can be affected by positive or negative energy. We are likewise affected by our nutritional intake, living environment, emotions and spiritual beliefs.”
In other words, anything that affects those frequencies affects our whole being, physical, mental, emotional and spiritual.
Yet one thing I’ve noticed in some talk around this new film is how easily the science gets reduced to the banal hope that thought alone can reverse the course of disease – that we can think ourselves healthy just by thinking the right thoughts. This is known as the Law of Attraction , a metaphysical tenet that’s taken various shapes through the hundred or so years of its existence, most recently in The Secret.
The law of attraction is the name given to the belief that “like attracts like” and that by focusing on positive or negative thoughts, one can bring about positive or negative results. For example, if a person opened an envelope expecting to see a bill, then according to the law of attraction, the envelope would “confirm” those thoughts and contain a bill when opened. A person who decided to instead expect a cheque might, under the same law, find a cheque instead of a bill.
Although there are some cases where positive or negative attitudes can produce corresponding results (principally the placebo and nocebo effects), there is no scientific basis to the law of attraction.
But add some genetic and biophysical buzzwords such as “epigenetic” and “quantum,” and it can sure seem scientific, fresh and cutting edge. It’s still magical thinking.
And it’s not hard to understand the appeal, especially when it comes to health. As the inherent flaws and contradictions of the establishment’s money-driven medicine come into ever brighter light and starker contrast, people lose faith in its promises. No one can endure lost faith for long. Something must replace it.
Many begin to explore so-called “alternative medicine,” where it can be difficult for the newbie to separate the wheat from the chaff. Meantime, quick and easy “miracle” solutions garner undue attention, for we humans do like shortcuts and tend strongly toward short-term thinking. What could be quicker, easier or more miraculous than thinking yourself well?
Also appealing is its cost: free. No paying doctors or clinics or so-called “healers.” No buying expensive supplements or drugs. Just think yourself well!
Frankly, this sounds a little like The Music Man – a 1950s musical about a con artist who sells small town yokels band instruments, uniforms and such on the promise that he’ll teach their kids to play in a band. No musician himself, he instructs the kids in “the think system”: Think the tune, and you’ll be able to play it.
When it comes to health, this approach can be downright dangerous. If it takes the place of actual medical treatment, it can end up a route to suffering and death.
Think about it: Those who embrace magical thinking as a substitute for legitimate therapeutics essentially make the same critical mistake as those who embrace conventional allopathic medicine in hopes of actually improving their health. Both types exclude certain aspects of healing. Allopathic medicine so privileges the Physical, it neglects our Emotional, Mental and Spiritual aspects. The “think system” approach does just the opposite.
Optimum wellness encompasses much: health and vitality (Physical); wisdom and presence (Emotional); knowledge and skill (Mental); and peace and harmony (Spiritual). Would you say either of these two individuals is on a path to achieve it:
The typical “muscle-head” in the gym who works out to the extreme, focused solely on the Physical, strengthening muscles and shaping his physique?
The quintessential starving mystic in a cave, meditating to the extreme with no care for the material world, focused on Mental life?
The obvious answer is no, neither.
And it’s not that chemistry, physiology and other Physical factors don’t matter. They do. So do intention, belief and other Mental factors. But they matter ONLY in the context of their relationships and interdependence with the Emotional and Spiritual aspects that make us who we are. Those define our needs and how our bodies actually work, and hence, how best to support the healing process that only our bodies – Physical, Emotional, Mental and Spiritual – in concert with The Divine can achieve.
Context, as they say, matters. In fact, it means everything.
Whenever we ignore the pragmatic truth of our holistic design and unique role each aspect of our being fulfills, we get into trouble. Each is important. Each must be acknowledged, honored, appropriately assessed and appropriately worked with to engender the greatest degree of healing possible.
This is the antithesis of magical thinking. Healing requires more than just thinking or praying, meditating or feeling. It requires action.
What we THINK and what we DO together generate the momentum of our lives. If we don’t like where the momentum of our past thinking and behavior is taking us, then we need to change what we think and do in the now. This alters momentum in order to generate new desirable outcomes in our lives.
We cannot merely use vivid mental imagery to take the place of real world pragmatism. The mind is a powerful thing, to be sure, but just thinking about drinking water won’t keep you hydrated, nor just imagining brushing your teeth keep them clean. Mind is only one of the Four Essential Aspects of Humanity, and only when allowed to function in its proper station and relation to the other three is true healing enabled and the restoration of health achieved.
As Goethe wrote, “Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Willing is not enough; we must do.”