Face Making

Artist Gwenn Seemel’s bilingual blog about art, portraiture, free culture, and feminism.

On the New Age approach to healing

2014 . 03 . 03 - Comments / Commentaires (6)

The idea that you can cure all illnesses with your thoughts is as damaging as it is extreme.

If you’re interested in learning more about how little control we actually have in our lives, please check out Kent Greenfield’s book The Myth of Choice. And for a fun look at the role of chance, check out this recent report on NPR about how quality doesn’t necessarily drive popularity in art.

Also, the chronic illness that I’m referring to in this video is endometriosis. This condition is still not well understood, has no cure, and affects millions of women worldwide. March is endometriosis awareness month, and the two most important things that everyone needs to know about this illness are these:

  1. Early diagnosis is key to treatment. The major symptoms are pain with a woman’s monthly cycle and pain during sex. These symptoms can be caused by other diseases, but they are never normal.
  2. If a person reveals that she has endometriosis, be gentle. It isn’t easy living with chronic pain, and one of the more difficult aspects of this disease is feeling like no one understands what you’re going through.

- The real danger in not standing up for yourself
- Pity versus understanding
- Making a choice / Faire le choix

CATEGORIES: - English - TOP POSTS - Endometriosis - Feminism - Philosophy - Reviews - Video -

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(6) Comments / Commentaires: On the New Age approach to healing

-- Libby Fife -- 2014 . 03 . 03 --


That was a good vlog, thank you. I am a little nervous for people who believe that positive thinking alone will heal them. Particularly children who may not know any better and who are dependent. I don’t believe it myself so that is where that comes from.

Thank you too for talking about endometriosis awareness month (as well as the symptoms). Abnormal pain is never normal:)

And finally, you are right. There are often a set of circumstances at work, acting behind the scenes as we make our decisions. I live with two diseases, (one that could kill me and one that won’t), as well as the specter of a past disease. I’ll just say that it is possible to look at people who disregard their health (or take it for granted) and be annoyed. Or to feel unlucky as you mentioned. Or to be irritated with wackadoodle cures and suggestions. I hope I am polite. I mostly just carry on and try to focus. I try:)

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-- Laura -- 2014 . 03 . 03 --

Thank you for this! I often worry that the “if you were thinking positively, your life would be better” falls under the same big umbrella as the idea of the Prosperity Gospel—as well-meaning as it might be, it ends up blaming those not well-off for their outcomes. This is a natural human tendency (the “Just World” theory/cognitive bias) but it is very frustrating to see play out, as well as it actually contributing to further marginalization of those already at a disadvantage.

On a more personal note, as someone with endo as well, I get frustrated with this and other suggestions (specifically “energy healing” and similar.) I often want to snap
“If those things actually worked, people like me (with chronic conditions) would flock to them in droves, tell all our friends, etc.”

(to be fair, a lot of people *do* flock to such approaches, but the results are just not there.)

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-- Jessica -- 2014 . 03 . 03 --

I hear you on all of this, I SO hear you. I actually had an article published (you can read it online here: http://bit.ly/1aHmqfL) about my journey out of New Age/New Thought philosophies. I group it all into “magical thinking,” and I feel that any of that, in any form, whether it makes someone feel good or not, is damaging.

I’ve been told by one person many, many times that I just need “positive affirmations” to cure my endo symptoms. I followed that line to its natural endpoint: that my illness was CAUSED by me and my thoughts. Which is insanity. It’s damaging, and unfair, and it’s a “philosophy” created by people who through luck ended up with healthy bodies and economic opportunities. They then created a philosophy that they sell to gullible people to make them feel badly about themselves, like most self-help books and programs. (I put the “Myth of Choice” on hold, thanks for the rec!)

The person in my life who talks about affirmations also told me that if I thought about breast cancer I would “activate the gene” and GIVE MYSELF CANCER, because “we invite all of the bad things that happen to us by our thoughts.” I then asked her if all of the people who died on 9/11 “thought themselves” into burning alive and having to jump to their deaths out of 100-story windows. She had no response.

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-- Gwenn -- 2014 . 03 . 04 --

@Libby: I’m amazed by how many people still believe that pain with your monthly cycle is normal.  What purpose would that serve evolutionarily speaking?  Do women deserve monthly pain?  On a different note, bon courage in your healing journey! smile

@Laura: It’s amazing to me how those who subscribe to these ways of thinking don’t see it as bullying or as oppression, which is exactly what it is!  And when it’s pointed out to them, I’ve found that they often don’t have the ability to even entertain that perspective because they are so entirely self-centered—after all they alone are in complete control of their lives.  My thoughts are with you Endo Sister!

@Jessica: Great article!  I think the bit about purpose is key.  We all want it in our lives, it seems, and some of us choose religion as a way to find it.  If I remember correctly, the book The Meme Machine by Susan Blackmore talks about why people search for purpose—though it’s been a long time since I read it so I’m not positive.  Clearly I need to reread it and it might be of interest to you too!

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-- Claire -- 2014 . 03 . 06 --

Thank you for your insights, and especially for your two points in bold. Point 1 is extremely important for ALL women, and point 2 is tremendously important for EVERYONE -men and women- to keep in mind (myself included!!). Thank you for the reminders!

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-- Gwenn -- 2014 . 03 . 08 --

@Claire: smile

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