The Move Towards Balance, Unity and a Holistic Health Paradigm07/02/2013 08:58
By Blair Lorimer (GNC Editor) © 2012 All Rights Reserved
We are all born into this world, with our cultural systems, structures and inherited knowledge already in place. Many do not question the seemingly concrete apparatus that is here when we arrive, that we grow up with, get indoctrinated into and then join fully when we enter adulthood.
Our society is a construct from a left brain outlook. It is a technocratic hierarchy, multi-layered, male dominated, both in the physical and metaphysical sense. This has led to much technological progress, but emotional and spiritual evolution lag way behind in the consciousness of humanity. The rush towards the technocratic future, what Terrance McKenna (McKenna, 1992) calls singularity, is a mere symptom of this left brain, patriarchal power that has tried to guide the development of humankind (WingMakers, 2011). There is a danger that our lack of emotional wisdom will not give us the tools to properly use the technologies we create. Because of this imbalance, the feminine powers of the right brain are making their presence felt. It is a natural process, to be expected, and embraced. Creativity, nurturing, Earth and the eternal cycles of nature, knowledge that our ancestors had, is now starting to come back to our collective memory.
The sign-wave of history continues on its path (BonaccI, 2011). Once there were spiritually wise cultures, golden ages of Unity and Balance in life. We are now out of balance, with so much of our lives, that redress is sought, even if it is on an unconscious level. Feeling that things are wrong, that the hierarchy does not meet needs that are soul-satisfying, more and more people are seeking out alternative ways to meet those needs. Hence, the interest shown in complementary therapies. The human touch, time and space to heal, being valued, seen, listened too, cared for, are all exchanges in emotion and energy that humans feel a need to take part in.
It is important not to think of alternative and complementary therapies as a new idea or as a fad: they are old ideas, coming back to serve their purpose. That purpose is the healing of the fractured mind/body/soul of the human family. For the last 20 years or so, health care provision in the West has been slowly accepting a more holistic approach compared to the traditional medical paradigm that has dominated the field for the last century. This turning away from established hierarchies cannot be seen in isolation from a general shift in consciousness that is affecting all our institutions. Mainstream media has seen viewing figures plummet as viewers turn to alternative media for their information. The ‘one source’ hierarchy is being abandoned in favour of smaller ‘multi-source’ outlets. The realization of the disconnect between reality and what is told in the form of ‘news’ has made people take responsibility, so they search out information, instead of being passive consumers of it. Faith in the banking and financial sectors have been shattered, as people wake up to the fact that the worst crooks are on Wall Street and their crimes go unpunished. There are protests taking place in New York at the moment, which are getting very little coverage on the mainstream news outlets. The world of politics is viewed with cynicism by the public. The lust for power, control and the lining of their own pockets seem to be the most important reasons for seeking office. The lobbying influence by big business interests and the military-industrial complex , with the human interest coming way down in the list of concerns of elected officials, has corrupted the system from top to bottom.
Corporations are probably the worst examples of the hierarchical paradigm. They embody the most pernicious traits, and in fact, they are designed this way, with their sole purpose being to make a profit at the expense of every other consideration. In fact, a corporation shows all the traits of psychopathy in their nature. A lack of empathy, not taking responsibility for their actions, predatory instincts, always having to be number one, the comparable checklist goes on and on (Mokhiber and Weissnan, 2004).
All the problems that face these hierarchies are due to being run on a lack of care, humanity, trustworthiness, values, principles and being divorced from real human need. It is no surprise that this has affected the health care system, with major changes to policy being suggested to satisfy public demand, to remain viable and better serve the function for which it was created (Black Report). The growing acceptance of complementary and alternative therapies reflect this changing world view of healing, with the integration of a more holistic approach. It should also come as no surprise that health care leads the way, compared to other institutions, in implementing major changes in its structure and outlook. For its priorities are the ‘health’ and ‘care’ of the population after all, and in comparison to other structures, there are many people working in it who care.
For too long there has been a separation of the body from the mind, with an unnatural, mechanized view of the human body. There has been an alienating attitude towards patients, where the physicians have been encouraged to distance themselves from human emotion, thus protecting their own feelings from the pain caused by feeling too much (Davis-Floyd, 2001). There has been a reliance on technology in all sections of the health services, from childbirth to cancer treatment. This has added another layer of separation between physician and patient, to add to the emotional detachment that is actively encouraged by the training methods of some medical associations (Griffin, 2010). It is well known now, that touch and the exchange of human emotions are powerful factors towards the general well-being of humans, whether they are suffering from illness or not.
Wellness has traditionally been seen in the framework of disease, in its prevention and cure. If you were not ill, not needing medical assistance, then, you were well. You were free to continue with life and only when disease manifested itself would the experts be called. This can now be seen clearly as outdated and one dimensional in its perspective. It was body-orientated and did not take in the wide spectrum of qualities like mind, spirit and emotions. There is now a much more complete picture understood about our definition of well-being, bringing social factors like occupation, culture, access and availability of health provision into the mix. Also, the behaviours, attitudes, lifestyle, beliefs, expectations and diet of the individual have been incorporated, as they are seen as vital to the ability of patients to respond positively and play their part in their own healing.
This patient-centred approach towards health and well-being is an acceptance that everyone is an individual, and the old viewpoint of body as machine, one fix fits all, is wholly inadequate. It is natural then, for the holistic paradigm to be implemented more and more into all forms of care provision. Mental and emotional well-being are just as, or more important than, physical well-being. It is now widely accepted that a person’s attitude to life in general can have a knock-on effect on their health, and that the power of positive thinking can help determine the outcome and recovery time from disease and illness. The quality of care a patient receives, in the context of emotional connection, will have a huge impact on their ability to get well and stay well (Lamoure 2011). An attitude of keeping ones emotional distance by healthcare workers can have a deep impact on the patient/client and work counter to the objective of making them well again. These feelings of disconnect between physician and patient were beautifully summed up by Anatole Broyard, a dying man:
“To the typical physician, my illness is a routine incident in his rounds, while for me, it is the crisis of my life. I would feel better if I had a doctor who at least perceived this incongruity. I just wish he would give me his whole mind just once, be bonded with me for a brief space, survey my soul as well as my flesh, to get at my illness, for each man is ill in his own Way “ (Lamoure, 2011).
Only when the patient is at the centre of a holistic approach with physicians and health workers giving treatment with their whole mind, will they be able to offer the knowledge and empathy needed to achieve better care. The need to value diversity and have the ability for cultural self-assessment will be key qualities for healthcare professionals. Combine this with the ability to be flexible, a willingness to adapt and be sensitive to the feelings and world view of their patients, healthcare workers can provide better service for the public, with a more satisfying outcome for all.
We can see these multifaceted approaches being adopted by government agencies and healthcare institutions worldwide, as they promote prevention and self-responsibility through education. Advice is given to the general public so they can be pro-active towards their own well-being and hopefully teach their children good habits, thereby easing the future burden on healthcare systems. This method to empower the population by raising awareness of healthy diets, exercise and general lifestyle choices is essential if costs are to be kept at a manageable level.
All healthcare systems must be seen in the context of the wider cultural values of their societies. Since the industrial revolution, we have seen that our healthcare systems in the West are orientated towards science, economic profit, the use of technology and run by male dominated institutions (Floyd, 2001). There has been a separation of the mind and body, with the body seen as a machine, needing to be tuned up now and again. A very left-brain concept and another imbalance created in the constant divisive culture of the hierarchical paradigm. With the mechanization of the human body and defining medical treatment through this world view, it has freed the techno-medical practitioners from experiencing any emotional factors when dealing with patients.
However, attitudes are changing, even if it is a begrudging and slow process. Those invested in the hierarchy may be the last to come on board as changes are implemented and a more holistic paradigm starts to form. Drug company cartels (Griffin, 2010) with their money driven mentality, doctors who are ego driven and cling to status as a way of defining who they are, may feel threatened by the incremental changes they see taking place. It is vital, however, that they know that their knowledge and expertise is valued and that they play an important role in the future of healthcare. The holistic paradigm is all inclusive and everyone has a contribution to make. All health professionals are here for the benefit of the patient and public, not for self-aggrandizement and a selfish search for profit.
Government agencies have taken a pro-active approach to the healthcare needs of the population. Realising that preventative measures and education can save them vast sums of money in the long run, much has been done to promote healthy living and empower people to take better care of themselves. Local health bodies have been given powers to tackle issues that reflect the needs of their specific populations, free from political influence, so that continuity of service can be provided, no matter which political party is in power (Black Report, 1989). They have sought to address the wider issues that effect health, like unemployment, disadvantaged communities and the growing multi-cultural nature of society. There have been moves to include the communities in their own decision-making and encourage preventative measures with more communication and better allocation of resources (Towards a healthier Scotland, 2011). We can see the implementation of these ideas with national surveys on diet patterns, drives to improve the health of children with changes to school meals and targets being set to assess the impact of these measures. In tandem with changes in laws and regulations, like the smoking ban, the hope is to help people sustain and improve their health.
Focusing on disadvantaged communities, programmes have tried to ensure better local health care and faster access for those who need it most. Using a patient- centred model that strives to be more effective, enabling, co-operative and collaborative in the service that is provided. This more holistic paradigm is now seen as essential to improving health and improving the patients journey, as they interact with healthcare professionals and the systems put in place for their benefit (Wade, 2011). Unfortunately, there seems to be a disconnect between government policy suggestions towards the holistic approach, and the implementation of these policies in the National Health Service (NHS). As local NHS Trusts are free to adopt or reject certain ideas and treatments, it becomes a postcode lottery as to whether certain complementary therapies are part of the provision in any given area.
It must be understood that we are at the very early stages of a paradigm shift. Despite the many academic papers written, the demand from the public and forward-thinking government policy ideas, the overall picture from a UK perspective is one of inconsistency. There are established forces unwilling to concede ground on some issues with sceptical attitudes still to be changed, uneven access to care and many problems still to be resolved. Concerns about complementary therapies are understandable and should be seen in a positive light. After all, it benefits the wider alternative healer community and the general public if we are scrutinized and held to a high standard. This is what the established hierarchy is having to endure at the present, as their methods and attitudes are under discussion also.
Anything that can be done for complementary therapists to be taken more seriously is a good thing in the long run. More in-depth education, registered training and services through professional organizations and proper certification, can help serve a wider, more inclusive client group. As we work out these issues, a more holistic model can be implemented and everyone shall play their equal and important part in health care provision, with the patient at the centre.
In conclusion, we can see that the many conflicting forces at work give the impression of a chaotic system that falls short of ideal patient care. There are many powerful entities, so dependant on the survival of the hierarchy, that they will fight to protect their vested interests until the bitter end. Short term profits and short-sighted attitudes among the beneficiaries of the outdated paradigm will only speed up the process of change, with every selfish push against new ideas making their power and influence diminish (Sircus, 2011).
You cannot fight against nature and the evolution of consciousness. The current global awakening is manifesting itself in many forms, as we work out what is important to the human family. Refusal to engage in this conversation, no matter your social standing, will see you left behind, as the rest of humanity evolves past the current fear-based paradigm of control and power.
Ancient civilizations practiced the disciplines of holism and for many ages giant leaps of consciousness laid the foundations of their societies, until, once more, the natural flow of the universe deconstructed all the progress they had made (Tsarion, 2006).
This is the cycle of development from the spiritual to the materialistic and back, that the knowledge of the Vedas refer to (Kali Yuga, 2011). Knowledge was lost to the shifting sands of time, but is now being reclaimed by current generations who once again feel the ever powerful forces of nature, balance and unity pulling them towards the future.
The ideas in this essay are rooted in both Eastern and Western philosophy. The Buddha did not teach about good and evil: instead, He drew the dichotomy between what is skilful and what is unskilful (Sangharakshita, 1980). Good intentions and good feelings are not enough: the ‘good’ life must include elements of knowledge and understanding. Heraclitus, who said “everything flows”, maintained that the senses are sources of true knowledge (Lewes, 1880). The new paradigm of health care must recognize and appreciate the sensuous skilfulness of well trained practitioners of complementary treatments.
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