Health and Independence

The same applies for the emotional well-being of a person. Health can be said to be a state of autonomy, an awareness of our relationships and the impact we have on life, a basic confidence in our ability to grapple with the every day challenges, a sense of knowing oneself. In other words, an ability to make choices and take the responsibility for the consequence of these choices. The goal may be expressed in the saying, "Know Thyself".

This experience of knowing thyself is sometimes challenging. We all face difficulties that require help, both physically and emotionally, but to have confidence in oneself can also be challenging today - in the era of the "Expert" - when there is always somebody, an organization, or government that purports to have special knowledge on a particular subject or situation, including our well-being.

One of the criticisms of modern medicine and the doctor-patient relationship is the tendency of the patient to give up authority and autonomy to the doctor, the apparent expert in the domain of the body. This "traditional" relationship is now changing, with more of a partnership relationship developing, and patients becoming more advocates for their own health. This development actually suits both patients and doctors as a healthier form of relationship.

However, it is not only in the domain of conventional medicine that this traditional form of relationship can exist. Any person stating they are an expert in any field inevitably holds some authority. That is not bad of itself as knowledge is necessary to do whatever they do. But it is still fraught with the same potential problems of developing an authoritarian relationship and possible dependency on the practitioner, as apposed to a more collaborative relationship.

Another part of this dynamic is the tendency of people to want to abdicate authority and autonomy, and to hold the idea that ongoing visits for long periods of time are necessary to "maintain wellness". This is often seen when people visit their alternative healer or therapist every week or more often, for many months, if not years.

If the purpose of healing is to allow people to stand on their own feet, to show them the way and then let them walk for themselves, then it has to be questioned how productive it is for people to continually see health experts for long periods of time, in order just to maintain themselves - to get by. Is that the highest ideal of health, when daily reality is not navigable without the support of an expert. This can create a form of co-dependency, often talked about in psychotherapy circles, but one that is very difficult to avoid when weekly visits to a therapist for many months are the norm.

It seems in some types of alternative therapies that frequent visits are built into the schedule for financial reasons and that this is taught in schools as part of practice management. When practitioners need to see people frequently in order to bring in the bacon, then this also questions the motives and judgement of the practitioner, even if it is unconscious.

In the end though, every person ultimately has to take responsibility for themselves and for their choices. In a culture where you can sue Macdonalds and win for burning your hands with hot coffee it would seem we should just give up and get a good lawyer. However, when we choose to visit any health care practitioner, we need to consider what are goals are and to be aware of the changes that occur and also to discuss with the practitioner their ideas of the treatment and the time involved in the treatment. In the end, we all have to be our own experts. It is our body.