I would like to take you on a personal journey. It is a journey I am hesitant to make as I will need to admit some things from earlier in my life that I would like to leave behind. Those of you who follow me on my Twitter account are probably aware of my vocal and adamant position against the practitioners of alternative medicine and energy healing. This is the story of how that opinion came into bloom and my personal experiences in the pseudoscientific world as a healer. In short, this is a story of me.
To be believable and memorable any story or anecdote needs only the faintest whiff of truth and a hint of possibility. Given these things and a dose of time folk tales become legends
Didn’t you always want magic to be real? I think in some childlike way we all did. It explains the popularity of fantasy movies with dragons and wizards, vampires and werewolves. Hell, it even tells us why Hollywood can sell us the same clichéd story of love conquers all over and over again. Maybe I never lost that desire or, more likely, I was one of the people still willing to admit that I wanted those things to be real. For me, there was a joy in this longing. It was always there like a muse, enticing me to abandon myself to the whims of the world. This naive and seemingly harmless lust for the divine led me into a world that, at first blush, was everything I had been dreaming of, but it also had a dark and dangerous side I could not have imagined. This is not the story of good vs. evil. Instead, it is a story of reality vs. delusion. It is the world of alternative medicine, energy healing, and pseudoscience.
In hindsight, I fell into the world of the healing arts because it fulfilled my need for mystery and the supernatural to become a reality. To be able to then harness those things under the guise of helping others made it irresistible to me. At the time, however, I was convinced that my entire life, everything I had ever learned, was in preparation to be a healer. This seems like an appropriate time to make this point: Never once during my practice was my intention dishonest or intentionally manipulative, (of course, by its very nature, healers are manipulative, both to themselves and their clients) I honestly believed in what I was doing. Healers tend to live in a world that is an echo chamber of clients (not patients because that implies too much) and other healers, heaping praise and adulation onto one another in a merry-go-round of confirmation bias, false authorities, and conspiratorial comradery.
It didn’t take much to fall into the trap of meta-magical thinking. I had been primed my entire life by both society and the human proclivity for belief. In other words, it was a case of nature and nurture. (I have addressed this in another post here) I wanted to believe, so finding people and ‘evidence’ to confirm my bias was a simple task. There are books, websites and anecdotal accounts of the magical world of healing. I am and always have been an information hound. Devouring every book I could and playing connect the dots between ancient healing arts, religion, and suspect scientific equivocation I quickly became ‘the guy with the answers’ in a large community of spiritual healers. Like many people, they ran on intuition and hearsay but did little, if any, research. They tend to rely on the false authority of others to support anything they want to believe. Much to my ego’s delight, there were healers of all stripes asking my advice on any number of medical and spiritual maladies. What I could not answer immediately I was happy to do the ‘research’ for them. In an unfortunate way, I was the polar opposite of Carl Sagans ”Baloney Detection Kit“, calling into play the proverbial ‘They don’t want you to know’ and citing every pseudoscience provocateur on the web to make my case. So began my spiral into the depths of what, in hindsight, looks like insanity.
It became apparent very quickly that starting my own healing practice was what I needed to do. It was stunning how quickly I could find support for my ideas on how that method would look. From a very young age, I was always drawn to music and how it seemed to hold sway over our moods and emotional states. Combining this ‘knowledge’ with my background as a musician and an electrician and buoyed by my foray into ancient healing arts, the idea of Core Vibrational Healing was born. Well and truly under the spell of the fallacies: Appeal to Tradition and Appeal to False Authority.
Gaining clients in the world of healing is really just a matter of having the endorsement of a few practitioners in your area. As my support for them had been ongoing for a few months and my partner at the time was a well-established Massage therapist and ‘Energy/Light Worker’ my practice flourished by word of mouth and association. All in all, I saw nearly a thousand clients over the next two years. When they come to you very few asked the questions you might expect of someone paying for a service which is expected to alter one’s health and well being. The few who did ask were easily satisfied by a few important-sounding words and a calm, reassuring demeanor. My statement to a client would be similar to the following:
All things in the universe are in motion, vibrating in a great synchrony. When that vibration is interrupted, the natural energy flowing in the cells becomes interrupted and this is when disease happens. Notice the word ‘dis-ease’? It is lack of harmony within the body. Using the vibrations from the tuning forks we can create a sympathetic background allowing your body to heal and return to its natural state of …
…And down the rabbit hole, we go! I would like to take a moment here to point out a few key things before we continue:
- It is a key tenet that it is the universe, God, spirit, etc. that is doing the healing. A good healer never takes responsibility for the results. This removes responsibility from the practitioner and places it in the hands of the aforementioned ‘forces’ and (key point) the client. My line here was simply ‘I am a conduit for the healing energy it is up to you to accept the healing.’
- I know this sounds like intentional manipulation of the client but let me assure you I really believed what I told the client. This is important because this is representative of the experiences that I had working with at least fifty different healers. They all believed they were helping people.
- The clients wanted us to help them, they were scared and looking for some measure of control over their own well-being.
The last little bit I would like to address is the underlying use of fear as a driver of the Alternative-medicine industry, and it is an industry, raking in more than $30 billion a year on alternative and complementary medicine. Intentional or not it is rampant and dangerous. The idea that energy healing and alternative medicines such as homeopathy, naturopathy are being suppressed by big pharma, the Illuminati, and government, engenders a culture of conspiracy theories and denialism. I have firsthand experience with the dangers of this kind of thinking. An Energy healer that I worked closely with convinced a client that the psych meds, the client had been prescribed, were poisoning her and blocking her ability to heal. The client stopped taking her meds and less than two weeks later burned her house down, with her family inside, in a failed suicide attempt. Luckily no one was seriously injured, but the cost to the family was incalculable. The other fear-based part is merely the ever-present bad energy, demons, alignment of the planets (this is a thing. check out the whole ‘Mars in retrograde’nonsense) and countless other ‘things to watch out for.’ In nearly every case it places the blame for whatever malady, illness, or bad day onto the victim. It is usually sold as allowing the bad energy/person into your life, which of course can be cured by purchasing the woo-woo trinket or essential oil and strictly following the instructions of the healer who sold it to you.
In closing, I would ask that you take the time to make yourself aware of just how pervasive this industry is. Probably everyone who reads this will have used some alternative healing method or knows someone who has. I challenge you to look into these practices before giving them your money. The guilt I still carry from charging people for these fraudulent and yes, dangerous practices is immense. I have often considered finding as many of my old clients as possible and returning their money. Funny thing is I know there are many who really feel I did something for them. Let’s be clear, I did not. Lastly please remember that many of these practices look very legitimate and are even endorsed by famous public figures and even some well-meaning doctors. Popularity in no way implies knowledge. You have a fantastic world of information at your fingertips. Do not be afraid to use it. I understand you wish to have some measure of control and/or say in your health and you absolutely should. Giving yourself over to the potentially dangerous world of Psuedo-healing may seem like an empowering thing to do. As someone who both practiced and used alternative methods, I can assure you it is quite the opposite.
4 Replies to “Taming the Tiger of Pseudo-Healing”
A thoughtful, well researched treatise. As usual, my proofreader’s eye caught a few things: in #1- the word is tenet, not tenant; egos should be ego’s. Then, just for my edification what does pe victim mean?
I did not realize you were that deeply into healing. I know you worked on me with the tuning forks, and as you have said so succinctly, I thought it was my deep skepticism and questions that kept it from working. You are taking on a huge sub-industry here. I hope people listen. You are amazing, Mike.
Thank you. I edited the post per your comments. It is a very big industry and we need as many people as possible to have a better understanding of the cost, both emotionally and financially, that we all incur.
This had to be difficult to write. I think it’s quite brave of you and I wish more former snake oil salespeople (for lack of a better term) had your courage.
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