In medicine and the wider world of alternative medicine, the fashion now is for healers of every variety to deliver the truth and the whole truth to their patients so that they will not continue under ‘false pretenses.’
In fact, in America doctors can be essentially breaking medical code of practice, if not the law, by withholding the bald prognosis of a patient’s situation. And patients have been encouraged to find out ‘the truth’ about the eventual outcome – mainly so that they can get their affairs in order.
I consider that approach utterly contrary to the job of a healer in every way.
We now know that wellness or illness are a product of a myriad of internal and external factors. American integrative specialist Dr. Leo Galland established the ‘4 pillars of health,’ which not only included such elements as diet, exercise, detox and environmental pollutants, but also a person’s external emotional connections – the state of their relationships and wider community.
Every medical condition is dynamical, affected by all those factors, for good or ill, at every moment. Depending on the changing nature of these four factors, you are either being healed or made more ill, minute by minute.
But during an illness, perhaps the 5th and most vital pillar at this time is the relationship between the patient and the person he has sought out to heal him, whether medical doctor or alternative practitioner of any variety.
I recently heard of a patient who went to see a therapist with expertise on the lower back in order to confirm whether the mobility issues client was experiencing had to do with back issues, which had troubled her for years, or whether it was her hips. Opinion had been divided among the doctors and other specialists she’d diligently consulted in the few years since she’d had the condition.
The therapist was a no-nonsense type, who wanted to make sure the patient got the full picture. She fired off her prognosis rat-a-tat-tat. The problem, in her view, was definitely the hips. But she also said that her client ‘may have left it too late’ for surgery – something she repeated several times.
And all those doctors and specialists who had said it might be the woman’s back? They’d done so, said this therapist, just to tell the patient what she’d wanted to hear.
Based on these statements, the woman’s take-away as she left the session was that it may be too late to do anything surgically about her condition – so she can look forward to a walker or eventual wheelchair (even though a surgeon had told her otherwise just the week before).
But worse of all, she was left with the thought that despite her diligence in seeking out a variety of opinions and therapies to correct the issue, her deteriorating condition was somehow all her fault.
The therapist was so relentlessly downbeat that her client left the practice in a flood of tears.
The therapist was operating under the best of motives. She genuinely thought she was being helpful. She didn’t want to treat this client under ‘false pretenses.’
One aspect of therapy that is seldom factored in the profound connection between mind, body and healing. The power of a therapist’s inadvertently careless words and thoughts can be devastating and highly deleterious to the well-being of a patient.
There’s plenty of scientific evidence showing that natural killer cells dip during even minor conflicts, and they also affect the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal gland axis, which regulates disease.
What is a true prognosis?
The profound effect of all these factors on the body at every moment begs a basic question, when it comes to any sort of prognosis: what exactly is the ‘truth’ about a possible outcome? What can any therapist predict with any certainty?
During 30 years of running What Doctors Don’t Tell You, and after writing two books on the body of thought, my magazine and I have reported on literally thousands of people who have defied the gloomiest of odds.
There were spontaneous healings – many where people were healed, literally, in an instant. Or, in the case of cancer, patients who turned around their cancer by turning around their lives: ditching the dead-end job or the abusive husband. Finding their true purpose in life. Rediscovering the joy in their lives. Getting re-acquainted with the idea that life can be good again.
As I’ve described before in these pages, my 79-year-old mother-in-law was one such person who beat the odds with end-stage breast cancer. She was given three months to live – too late for any conventional therapies. We took her to see the late Dr Patrick Kingsley, who’d treated thousands of cancer patients successfully with diet, supplements and high dose intravenous vitamin C.
When he examined her – and I was in the room – he saw that her ravaged breast resembled raw meat. Her GP had recoiled at horror when he’d first seen it.
Patrick did not say: ‘Oh my God – this is terrible.’
He did not say: ‘You left it too late’ (and she’d hid the condition from her family and her doctor for months).
What he said with offhand confidence was, ‘Oh, I think we can handle that.’
Yes, Patrick’s methods had some scientific evidence of success. But the most important factor of all, in my view, was his steadfast refusal to characterize the likely course of her illness – to make a judgment call about how long it would linger or how long she would live. He was, purely and simply, her cheerleader.
The best medicine
Whatever his methods it had the single vital ingredient conspicuously left out of every diagnosis dispensed by doctors and therapists today: hope.
Hope is the most important medicine there is.
Hope is what healers used to provide before they presumed to have the knowledge to determine exactly how many months anyone’s got left.
The point is, no doctor, no therapist, knows the ‘truth’ about any given illness. No healer, no matter how learned, can predict with any certainty how a given patient will respond to the challenge of healing. No doctor can say with any certainty who will live and who will die.
That back specialist told her patient: ‘I just didn’t want to give you false hope.’
There is no such thing as false hope. There is only hope.