Mind Medicine — Challenging the Medical Model
So you have a serious illness. Perhaps you may even be facing the reality of your own demise. The revelation that death may be near is a huge shock, and the doctor's diagnosis keeps being played, over and over again, in your head… a mantra of fear and hopelessness. Your mind is so frozen and confused that you can't think straight. Often you won't even know that you have any choices, and you will meekly accept whatever advice or treatment you are given. At times like this, it is essential that you not necessarily reject but challenge the medical model. Ideally, you embrace what is called "Mind Medicine", the medicine of the future. In this way, you will maximize your chances of survival.
THE OTHER DAY, I was reading a promotion poster for the charity Cancer Research on a tube train: it stated that more people are getting the "all clear" than ever before. The obvious implication is that the proverbial "war on cancer" is being won by increased medical research and trends are being reversed. It forgets to mention that the primary reason for a slight decrease in cancer rates is the reduction in smoking, not better cancer treatment, and as more people are now undergoing screening, there are naturally more "all clears" as well. In fact, due to an ageing population, the actual numbers of people dying from cancer continue to rise. As leading medical academic, John Bailar, has written, "Our decades of war against cancer have been a qualified failure." So Cancer Research's ad is somewhat misleading. I suppose it is understandable though: if the public knew the real truth about the "war on cancer" they might stop donations to these orthodox cancer charities altogether and look for something more effective to support.
According to the World Health Organization, over 80% of all deaths in industrialized countries are due to cardiovascular disease and cancer. In other words, four out of five of all of us will die from just one of these two conditions. What is more, these statistics are not improving, despite the billions of pounds being poured into vascular and cancer research every year. In a few years, cancer alone is predicted to take one in three lives.
Why is modern medicine, despite all its expensive techniques, drugs and research, powerless to make any significant dent in these statistics? Much of what we think we know about the medical establishment is actually garnered from a slick PR job — a PR job that, in any other industry, would be heavily restricted by legislation. And it is that PR job that helps the medical establishment to maintain, not only its monopoly in healthcare, but its standing and authority in the eyes of the public. But how long can the public's credibility be stretched in the face of such dire mortality statistics?
Not long at all, if the numbers seeking alternative treatments is to be believed. Many of us are have already lost faith in much of the current medical establishment and its treatments, which is why the market for alternative and complementary treatments, as well as lifestyle advice and nutritional supplements, is growing exponentially. People are fed-up watching friends and relatives dying of degenerative diseases whilst receiving the best and most expensive high-tech medical "care", or ending up in hospital from the side effects of medication, which, according to Guylaine Lanctot, is responsible for one third of all admittances!
Of course, nobody willingly gives up a monopoly, especially one worth trillions of pounds worldwide and one that carries so much prestige and power, and so there has been and continues to be a vicious orthodox backlash against alternative medicine, lifestyle treatments and nutritional supplements. The orthodox medical establishment maintains its position of power on the backs of the unimaginably wealthy pharmaceutical industry which has the resources to effectively lobby government to maintain this medical monopoly; the power to threaten and harass anyone, doctor or otherwise, who questions the status quo; and the influence to encourage the media to present exaggerated and spurious dangers of natural healthcare. And yet, despite all this resistance, the alternative health industry STILL flourishes.
There have, however, been casualties: pioneers in unorthodox medicine have been jailed, their reputations trashed; alternative therapies have been outlawed or stifled under a blanket of restrictive legislation; and, as is happening here in Europe, food supplements are being outlawed. Pioneers of the alternative world that come to mind are Royal Rife (his books were officially burned as late as 1955 in "the land of the free"), Max Gerson, Antoine Bechamp, Gaston Naessens, William Kelley, Edward Bach, Paul Bragg, Linus Pauling, Stanislaw Burzynski, Hulda Clark, Matthias Rath, Carl Simonton, Larry Dossey, Bernie Siegel and Guylaine Lanctot (who simply walked out of a witch-hunt trial stating, "I am a free physician"). The new inquisition has fought tooth and nail to stop this medical mutiny. But it will fail. Revolutions have a habit of completing themselves, no matter what the opposition, because of new blood. (Thank God for human mortality!).
Who is responsible for this sorry state of national ill health? We all are: generations of our forebears gave away responsibility for their health to an official group of health professionals — the medical establishment — in much the same way that previous generations gave away responsibility for their spiritual expression to the Church. But any "public service" that becomes institutionalized ends up becoming a cancer to society, its tentacles forever reaching forward to extend control whilst its original raison d'etre is buried behind bureaucracy and immoral profit margins.
Of course, just because a doctor is orthodox does not mean that he or she does not greatly care for his or her patient. But if all a person has is a hammer, pretty soon everything looks like a nail, and despite the very best of intentions, remedies and advice more in the interest of the pharmaceutical industry than the overall and long-term health of the patient are being recommended because these are the only tools in the doctor's bag. That is why correctly prescribed orthodox medication is now the third biggest killer after cancer and heart disease, an official statistic that is outlined in Bryan Hubbard's book "Secrets of the Drug Industry").
So what is the standard medical model and why is the medical establishment so fierce in upholding its dogmas? In the standard medical model, the body is seen as a biochemical machine, or, as some have put it, a hairy bag of a soup. The mind is regarded merely as an emergent property of the brain, and all disease primarily as biochemical imbalance or infection. (Ironically, this description actually represent the view of some alternative practitioners which also can have a pretty mechanical view of the body, although their emphasis is usually on helping to prevent biochemical imbalance with natural methods such as nutrition.) The modern medical establishment differs from "mechanical" alternative therapists in that it believes that there are only three main ways to correct imbalance in this biochemical machine: chemical solutions (medicines), surgery and radiation — poison, slash and burn. (Every other mode of treatment is disparagingly dismissed as "alternative medicine".)
Our bodies are very complex systems. So complex that nobody understands exactly how they work, despite centuries of worldwide scientific investigation. Whilst it is true that the base sequence of specific human DNA has been recently identified, we are a still a long way off from understanding exactly how these sequences determine our physiology and biochemical fingerprint, in much the same way that although we know the brain is a network of neurons, we don't understand how those neurons give rise to mind (if indeed they do at all).
Any "systems" physicist (or mathematician) would be aware of the emerging study of chaos and complex systems. The human body, and indeed all living things, comprise a complex system. Complex systems are notorious for behaving unpredictably, with small changes in one part often making unexpected large changes in another. This unpredictability or non-linear aspect of complex systems means that they can only be imperfectly understood from a linear, "A affects B which affects C", perspective — the very perspective at the core of modern medical and biochemical understanding. In other words, the medical model is inherently incomplete, which is why, despite the unimaginable detail, complexity and funding of modern medical and pharmaceutical research, complex diseases such as cancer and heart disease never seem to yield to drug solutions, and is why prescribed medication is now the third biggest killer. Side-effects are inevitable when linear solutions are used on complex systems — a 1 or 2 dimensional remedy at best well never be entirely right for a 3 dimensional problem, and at worse, are more harmful than the disease itself.
This does not say that medication is without merit. Sometimes the side-effect in relation to the disease itself is the lesser of two evils during an acute stage of an illness or disease, but the problem is that these side-effects themselves are unpredictable. What is the lesser of two evils today might not be tomorrow. Medication, therefore, should be given very cautiously and its effects continuously monitored. Everything is in flux, and considering that the side-effects of medication is one of our biggest killers, it would seem that this is an issue that the medical establishment must face up to, and face up to it publicly. The problem is that if we severely restrict the drug arsenal of a doctor, or limit its use, then there is not a lot left for him to use because his training has almost exclusively focused on medicinal solutions. For example, the average medical student receives just 6 hours lectures in nutrition during his entire 4 or 5 year training, so she is unlikely to value or recommend nutritional solutions to disease (outside of the proverbial and unhelpful advice to eat a "well-balanced diet").
Trying to control a complex system by influencing some of its parts is not a good idea if you are after a specific and consistent outcome. We need to be able to influence the whole, all at the same time. Generally, this is done with holistic treatments — remedies that take the whole person into perspective. If you have a problem with your liver, for example, rather than just treating a biochemical imbalance in the liver, a holistic therapist would use a treatment program which would take the whole person into perspective. Such a program might include diet, supplements, homoeopathy, acupuncture, herbal remedies, massage, shiatsu, lifestyle changes, reflexology, breathing techniques, visualisation, affirmations, flower remedies, and orthodox medical drugs (provided that they are part of a holistic program and are frequently reviewed). The solution must reflect the dimensionality of the problem, and as the body is a complex system, few problems can be solved satisfactorily with simple, linear solutions such as medicines.
Of course, there is one aspect of us that is entirely holistic and non-local — one that links every part of the body and is able to make non-linear and non-local changes. That part is our mind. The mind is severely underestimated in orthodox treatment with its effects being relegated to "placebo" — derived from the Latin "I will be acceptable or pleasing." The term "placebo" has become something of a pejorative term, the fly in the ointment that can skew research results unless it is carefully eliminated. What an insult to the power of the mind; rather than trying to eliminate the placebo effect in medical research by use of double blind tests, we should be finding ways to optimise it! Surely that would be in the interest of the patient?
Most people, including doctors, severely underestimate the strength of the placebo effect. Research indicates that placebo effects are often as high as 40% for patient improvement and sometimes as high as 80 or more percent. Considering that Allen Roses of GlaxoSmithKline has publicly stated that 90% of drugs only work in 30-50% of people (and no doubt he presenting an optimistic view here as he is part of the industry) and one realizes just how important "mind" effects are in recovery. In fact, if the placebo was a drug, it would be called a miracle cure by the medical establishment!
So why is the medical establishment so dismissive of the power of mind? When somebody tells an oncologist, for example, that they are doing visualisation, they will usually get some patronising remark or condescending smile — it isn't even worth the vitriol that is reserved for the rest of "alternative therapies". The mind is a joke from the establishment's point of view. And yet, billions is spent every year on double-blind protocols to take this effect into consideration, or rather eliminate it.
The modern biological paradigm still sees the mind-body interface as light-weight. In fact, this is probably a runoff from Descartes' original scientific philosophy that neatly separates mind from body. The body is complex enough without having the mind involved in the equation as well! Of course, many an old-time family doctor used the placebo effect to good measure because they were aware of the mind's influence, but in the modern age, with the commercialisation of modern medicine and the strong focus on profit rather than cure, expensive medicines have become the order of the day. There is just no money to be made in mind medicine.
But the mind is the medicine of the future, and one day it will be in the forefront of medical research. According to Lynne McTaggart, author of The Field, there are over 150 studies confirming that distant healing works. Larry Dossey documents very clearly in his books the research that demonstrates the effect of mind on living systems. Of course, if you have some materialistic dogma to defend, or if you are on the payroll of an organisation which profits from reinforcing a materialistic dogma, then you can always come up with some reason to dismiss the validity of these experiments. A sceptic always has the right to be sceptical towards the truth in front of his eyes. It is time to leave these sceptics behind and move forward in the interests of humanity.
Apart from the profit issue, which is the overriding factor, the other problem to the orthodox medical establishment about "mind medicine" is that it is difficult to control and erodes the authority of "the establishment". (It is to health what free-energy machines are to physics.) Mind medicine reinstates the individual as the creator of his or her reality, and encourages a direct relationship with God or All That Is. Francois Mitterand once said, "The health of citizens is a commodity which is bought and sold." That commodity is worth trillions to the pharmaceutical industry, but give mind medicine its rightful place in the healthcare system, and human beings would be a far less profitable harvest.
The first step in realizing mind medicine is attitude: we have to take it seriously if we want to see good results. (Many current experiments in mind over matter clearly demonstrate a correlation between outcome and the belief of the experimenter.) Mind medicine needs to be picked out the rubbish where it has lain for a century and more, dusted down, polished up and put back in place of honour on the centre of the mantelpiece. To relegate the mind to an interesting curiosity that is worth a try as an addendum to "proper" treatment — conventional or otherwise — sabotages that very power of belief that needs to be harnessed. There is nothing more important than our expectations and beliefs in disease outcome, period.
The second step is focus: we need to live, breathe and eat the wholeness that we seek. With our minds, it is the strongest and most persistent thought that "solidifies" into shared reality, and so it is important to focus wholeheartedly. One of the unfortunately characteristics of the modern mind is its unfocused nature and its passive need to constantly be entertained. Focus is essential if we are to control this complex system that is called our body. There are many books on the techniques of focus but perhaps the best way to attain good focus is through the practice of meditation (or if you don't like that word, deep prayer).
As a general rule, we need to be able to visualise and see ourselves as whole. If we have cancer, for example, this might involve visualisation of cancer cells being destroyed by our white blood cells, whilst at the same time following our intuition as to a treatment program. Some of us might feel that chemotherapy is the right thing to do, but we ourselves must come to this decision through a combination of our feeling self and our rationality, and not through fear or the false belief that there is no alternative. We must get in touch with our intuition, and this can only happen when we are not overwhelmed by feelings of fear and hopelessness. For most, this will occur when we see our illness from the perspective of our religious or spiritual beliefs. From that perspective, we are a small part of something great, and the outcome of our disease loses its importance. When this happens, we are free to make the right choice for ourselves.
And the third step we need to take to ensure our minds are given the best chance to heal our bodies is to get away from anybody or any information source that would weaken our mental resolve. That, of course, includes rationalists that think they know everything, and indeed anybody who does not respect what you are trying to do. I am not one to quote the Bible but I do like the quote from Jesus, "Whoever will cause one of these little ones who believe in me to stumble, it would be better for him if he was thrown into the sea with a millstone hung around his neck." Unshakable faith and belief is essential to the power of the mind. Most of the people who have been successful with mind medicine insulated themselves from doubters (those doubters often being members of their own families). In a society often cynical with regards to the power of the mind, mind medicine can be a lonely journey.
Putting mind first, through these three steps, does not exclude the use of medicines or other treatments. In fact, with our mind's cooperation, these treatments can be many times more effective. But the individual mind must be honoured first and foremost because this places the Self back into the centre of the healing equation, rather than having it cowering at the periphery of a treatment that has been insensitively imposed from an outside authority. In this way, the full power of individual is focused towards health, rather than wasting energy on potential and imagined negative outcomes, and fearful emotional states.
Mind medicine is the medicine of the future, but if we are courageous enough, we can have it today.