There are always two centers of action within people, the head and the heart. Medical statistics appeal to the head, but the heart keeps its own counsel. In recent years, alternative medicine has won much of its appeal on the basis of bringing back the heart, using love and caring to heal.
The great drawback of proclaiming that we need to bring the heart back into medicine is that it punishes people for their emotional weakness. The heart can be very frail; it can be hardened by suffering, or just by life.
Books on holistic healing like to say that sick people “need” their sickness. Mainstream psychiatry points its own finger when it says that chronic diseases can stand symbolically for self-punishment, revenge, or a deep feeling of worthlessness. I will not argue these insights, except to suggest that they may be harmful to the healing process rather than helpful. It is hard enough for any of us to face up to our emotional fallibility even at the best of times. Can we really be expected to reform when we are ill?
The deeper issue is that anything can function as a nocebo (a placebo inverted into a new term to refer to a dummy drug that the doctor has said isn’t going to work), just as anything can function as a placebo. It is not the dummy drug, the doctor’s bedside manner, or the antiseptic smell of a hospital that does harm or good; it is the patient’s interpretation of it. Therefore, the real war is not between the head and the heart. Something deeper, in the realm of silence, creates our view of reality.
The basic understanding most of us have about ourselves comes from thinking and feeling, which seems only natural. But we know very little about the field of silence and how it exercises control over us. The head and the heart, it seems, are not the whole person.
Adapted from Quantum Healing: Exploring the Frontiers of Mind/Body Medicine, by Deepak Chopra (Bantam Books, 1990).