Illness or Wellness

There are basically two philosophies when it comes to healthcare. The first is an illness based philosophy. It assumes that the body is not very clever and not very well designed and sometimes it just goes wrong or forgets how to work properly. In this case we must go and see a doctor who has studied many years to understand all these design faults and like a good car mechanic, can fix the problem. I once took my Fiat to a garage and the mechanic said “oh all Fiats seem to have this problem.”  “Oh this is common at your age” say some doctors as you take your aches and pains in to be ‘fixed.’  Is age the cause of health problems? Why then are some old people very healthy? Are health problems the result of our design faults? Is nature such a bad designer? 

Since the majority of medical treatments include drugs or surgery, the assumption is that if you have a health problem, you must be lacking a chemical, or have a dodgy part. Ever heard someone say; “my dicky heart, bad back, bum leg, dodgy knee”? Not very endearing terms for a system that nature took millions of years developing. However, modern medicine has taught us to have a relationship with our body based on fear and distrust. The popularity of this model of thinking is that it allows the patient to be the victim and the doctor to be the saviour. It means the patient is at the mercy of the doctor.

This brings us to the second philosophy of health, a ‘wellness’ based philosophy. This philosophy states that the body is perfect and never really makes a ‘mistake’ and that nature never plans for failure. This philosophy says that the body was not designed to be healthy or sick, but was designed to survive. All activity within your body is based on a survival strategy. If you eat poisonous food and spend the whole night throwing up, this may not be a comfortable experience, but if we could not throw up, how would the poison come out. Is vomiting a sign of bad health or a survival strategy? If you have a fever, has the body forgotten what its temperature should be? Fever is a vital part of the immune response as invading bacteria and viruses cannot reproduce effectively in higher temperatures, making it more difficult for the enemy. Even cancer is an intelligent survival response, but that’s another topic in itself.

The purpose of pain is that the body wants to tell you that something physical or emotional is not working to our benefit and a change in behaviour is needed if further damage is to be avoided. Have you ever felt a part of your body hurting more when you are stressed? A health crisis often happens when we are at a crossroads in life. A great doctor once told me that when your future self will no longer tolerate who you are being, a health crisis happens. Are our symptoms our enemy or our guide?

With the predominant approach in healthcare today being an illness approach it’s not surprising that there is so much illness, mental and physical. Ok we don’t have great epidemics like the great plague anymore, instead we have AIDS, cancer, autism and depression. Where is our approach to health care really leading us? Drug companies are finding that it is leading to the continued use of their products and with drug companies virtually ruling the medical system, the ‘health care’ system itself is not very ‘healthy’. Drugs allow us to be comfortable and unaware while things are going quietly wrong. Drugs take the battery out of the smoke alarm. They teach us to look outside of ourselves for answers to all our problems. Drugs often give us more years in our life but rarely more life in our years. Is this health?

Medical practitioners in conjunction with the pharmaceutical industry have taught us that disease is the cause of bad health and we must attack the disease with the drug. The pharmaceutical industry has become a trillion-dollar industry based on this idea, without ever really addressing the question of what causes disease.

So what’s the alternative? Is alternative health care really the alternative?  My experience as an alternative healthcare practitioner is that every alternative healthcare discipline has its own story about what causes a person’s bad health. Chiropractors talk about spinal bones being out of place and pushing on nerves, Osteopaths talk about bones out of place and pushing on blood vessels, massage therapists talk about muscles being tight and tense, nutritionists talk about nutritional imbalances or sensitivities, acupuncture talks about imbalance of energy flow or chi in the body, a psychotherapist will talk about how you are still angry at your mother or father and so on. Paradoxically, they are all correct according to their own way of thinking. But what caused the cause? If you go to several different therapists with the same set of symptoms, they will all find what they have been trained to find wrong with you. I am not trying to make anyone wrong, but who really knows the cause. If someone jumps of a building and kills themselves, what was the cause of death? Was it the jump, or the sudden stop at the bottom? Or was it the factors leading him to jump, and what were they and what caused them and why and we can go on for ever looking for the real cause. The truth is that people can get well without trying to figure out the cause and this can be liberating because looking for cause can lead to blame, anger, guilt and shame which holds the body in defensive physiology which blocks healing and recovery. True healing can only occur when there is spontaneous forgiveness of the cause anyway, especially if our own behaviour is the cause.

Whether we have headaches, back pain, indigestion or cancer, if we are attempting to eliminate this symptom or disease based on the philosophy that our body is making a mistake then we are making the mistake, not our body. It doesn’t matter whether you use a dangerous drug, an herb or acupuncture or whatever. If the objective is to restore yourself to a previous state before you had symptoms then the assumption is that the symptoms were inconvenient annoying obstacles in life, rather than opportunities to learn where we are going wrong and how to improve. In reality, its our ‘previous state’ that lead to the crisis in the first place, who just wants to go back there? Every disease or symptom or crisis is an opportunity for a personal evolution. One of the most empowering experiences in life is to turn what you thought was a curse into a blessing. That’s true wellness.

By Roger Smith and Nikos Kalogeropoulos