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The Way We Make Health Decisions Need Not Be All Or Nothing

I want to respond briefly to all the people who have responded to me lately with criticism, contempt, and sometimes abuse because “I trusted you to promote health sovereignty and now you’ve sold out.” Or “You teach about the dangers of fear, yet you’re going to kill me by scaring me every day when you talk about how many people are dying of Covid.” Or “I thought you were critical of corruption and capitalism in health care and Big Pharma, yet you’re promoting Big Pharma’s vaccine, so you’ve let me down.”

Let’s take a minute to consider comments like this. It suggests that we have two choices- personal freedom to choose what’s best for our individual bodies OR giving our power away to health authorities and complying like Sheeple with doctor’s orders or public health guidelines. We either feel fear and die OR we choose love over fear. We either fall at the altar of drugs and conventional medicine OR we’re critical of the whole shebang.

Perhaps people mistakenly interpreted my bestseller Mind Over Medicine as blindly promoting the former, while they now see my posts about following Covid public health guidelines as evidence that I’ve drunk the conventional medicine Kool-Aid and am now turning on them. Perhaps because I wrote a book called The Fear Cure about the link between fear and disease and the importance of keeping our limbic systems calm, people feel like I’m turning on them by failing to “choose love over fear” or scaring them about the dangers of Covid.

The Dangers of Black & White Thinking

But there’s a cognitive error in such binaries, which are based on black and white thinking, something I’ve never promoted. I never have and never would suggest blindly following doctor’s orders without checking in with your four Whole Health Intelligences- not just your mental intelligence (which experts can help strengthen by educating you with science), but also your intuitive intelligence, your somatic intelligence, and your emotional intelligence. I also never have and never would recommend blindly following your intuition without employing critical thinking and educating yourself about medical expert recommendations, public health guidelines, your doctor’s experienced opinion, and the impact of your health decisions on other people.

I think it’s important to be aware of the link between fear and disease, as I wrote about in The Fear Cure. AND I also evangelize Internal Family Systems (IFS) and Advanced Integrative Therapy (AIT) as ways to heal and treat the traumas that amplify fear beyond the healthy survival fear we SHOULD be feeling this year-as a way to optimize physical and mental health. [Read this and this to learn about IFS. Read this to learn about AIT.]

I have always tried to offer a nuanced approach, which I’m realizing more and more is rare in health conversations.I have always offered a nuanced approach, which I’m realizing more and more is rare in health conversations. [I spoke a bit about the psychology of black & white thinking here].

The Importance of Nuance & Why I Feel Like A Unicorn

I had an inkling when I first left the hospital and came on the public scene in 2009 that I was a bit of a unicorn. The internet seemed firmly divided into two camps- the “follow conventional medicine guidelines or risk being written off as a heretic” camp versus the “follow your intuition and mock science and medicine or risk being kicked out of the New Age” camp. Because I think both conventional medicine/ science and spiritual healing/ trauma therapy/ mind-body medicine can work in tandem and amplify the efficacy of the other, I have always tried to be the voice of no camps.

During the pandemic, I saw the binary split in a few obvious conversations. Either you believe in germ theory OR you believe in terrain theory. [Read about germ theory PLUS terrain theory here]. Either you trust and respect public health guidelines OR you trust your intuition and are anti-mask and anti-vax. Either you stand for personal health sovereignty OR you stand for public health. Either you take zero responsibility for whether your body is healthy enough to help you survive a potentially lethal virus, waiting for Daddy Medicine to save you with a drug or vaccine, OR you believe you’re not vulnerable to the virus if you eat your vegan diet, do yoga, meditate, and keep your vibe up.

The Opposite of Black & White Thinking = Both/And

I, on the other hand, believe in the scientifically-proven germ theory AND I also believe that creating a body terrain that is optimized to resist and recover from germs and other diseases is tantamount to long-term health and disability-free longevity. [Read I believe in following public health guidelines and respecting the medical advice your doctor gives you- because doing so impacts the whole and doctors are experts in science and medicine, AND I believe that you should not give all of your power away to health experts, that you need to make individualized choices about your body, your health, and your medical decisions using all of your decision-making capacities. I believe it’s important to be informed by the objectivity of science and apply critical thinking, AND I believe in tuning into spiritual guidance, inquiring inwards with regards to what is best for you (true intuition always also includes what is best for the collective) and staying open to your intuition (without being so open that your brains fall out.) I believe in the value of the objectivity of science AND I believe there are subjective aspects of healing that the scientific method does not account for and cannot be measured, like the healer-patient relationship and the consciousness of the healer.

I believe we must take responsibility for our health and not be surprised when bad habits, poor nutrition, lack of awareness about our traumas, a chronically jangled nervous system, and a stressful lifestyle lead to illness. AND I believe we need to have trauma-informed empathy and understand that marginalized individuals- like BIPOC, LGBTQIA+, and the socially disadvantaged- often have little access to trauma healing, are more likely to live in food deserts, are less likely to have the option of a healthy diet, expensive supplements, or fancy yoga retreats, are impacted by collective traumas like racism and socio-economic disparity, and do not benefit from being blamed for their chronic illness or shamed about the poor health habits that are often the result of a heavy trauma burden.

We Don’t Need to Split Into Camps

So please, I ask you to understand and offer empathy to people like me who straddle the fences in a way that makes you feel like I’m betraying your camp. Maybe I have a big glaring blind spot, but I do not see myself as selling out. If anything, I’ve had to sacrifice belonging because I wasn’t willing to throw either camp under the bus in order to win approval from the other. I respect ethical doctors. I respect ethical energy healers. It is my professional opinion that patients have the best outcomes when they weave all of the tools in the world’s medicine bag together and make good medical decisions about which tools to use when in ways that impact both personal and collective health.

In defense of those, like me, who also choose nuance, neutrality, and not siding with a camp, let me just express that, with all due respect, empathy, and sensitivity to those who struggle with mental illness, we should at least be aware that black and white thinking is a trauma symptom that can be linked to personality disorders, developmental trauma, and regression. Children are supposed to think in black and white terms, and adults are supposed to outgrow that phase, maturing in their thinking process to be able to think abstractly, tolerate paradox, and apply nuance.

There is no shame in regressing during a triggering, bewildering, and disorienting global pandemic. If you’ve found yourself falling into this tendency towards black and white thinking or joining one of the above-mentioned camps, that’s understandable. Tribalism and hating the other side can give people a false sense of belonging, and when we’re all as lonely as we are, it would make sense that you might want to find your tribe and judge the other. But please, let’s try to resist that understandable tendency.

Just because I still stand for your right to make a reasoned and personalized health choice for yourself does not mean I do not also have firm opinions about public health and considering the collective health when you make personal choices. I have always tried to allow my health recommendations to reflect both.

Sovereignty PLUS Doctor’s Recommendations

For example, I’m all for making your own unique individualized choice when it comes to your cancer treatment or how you handle having a heart attack- because, aside from whether or not your death will impact your loved ones emotionally (which is, of course, huge), your choices about cancer treatment or heart disease only impact your body, not someone else’s body. On the other hand, the science is clear that choosing not to wear a mask or socially distance has consequences for other people, and as part of a collective society, we are not free to harm other people with recklessness in the name of personal freedom.

Vaccination seems to be a contentious issue between the camps because it makes it uncomfortably obvious that health decisions are both personal and collective. In the camp that is obsessed with the self- personal freedom, personal intuition, personal sovereignty, and self-improvement- a pandemic makes it obvious that we are more than a separate self. This is why spirituality is so important to my views about health- because it takes a certain level of spiritual development to understand that your personal self is also a fractal of the Great Self, and you are not now and never have been free to make a personal decision that does not also impact the whole. This has always been a Universal Truth, as the Indigenous people have known and taught for millennia. This is part of why Asian cultures have fared better during the pandemic than self-focused Western cultures- because honoring the collective is a stronger part of the Asian belief system than it is in self-obsessed West. Now 2020 has penetrated the idea of the separate self and forced us to see the personal and collective consequences of our choices.

I see this as a good thing. That this consciousness is finally dawning on the West is long overdue. But it is also uncomfortable for those who have not had at least one direct experience of Oneness or non-duality in the spiritual realms.  At a certain level of consciousness, there is no such thing as personal sovereignty, no personal freedom to defend- because every personal choice has collective consequences.

Yes, I Violate Some Public Health Guidelines

This is why my personal choice is that I vaccinated my daughter as a baby, and my family will get vaccinated with the COVID vaccine when we are offered it. I have also made the personal choice to reject many public health guidelines, like routine mammography- for myself. Part of my reason for making these personal choices is evidence-based (read the book Overdiagnosed if you’re curious why I don’t get mammograms when I’m asymptomatic.) But my personal choices also include my consideration of how my choices impact other people. I’m aware that I have sometimes made bad choices that could have hurt other people- and I feel shame about that, the kind of shame that motivates me to be more attuned, not only to what I want, but to what is wanted of me as a responsible global citizen.

A Return To Personal Freedom Requires Collective Cooperation

The irony of the situation the United States finds ourselves in now is that our binaries have collapsed. Those who think you’ll ever have personal freedom without complying with public health guidelines are deluded. Because we messed it up so spectacularly in the beginning, the only way I see anyone regaining personal freedom is if enough of us comply with public health guidelines and get vaccinated. Perhaps if, years ago, our government had prioritized socialized medicine, educating patients and offering funding for better nutrition and healthy lifestyles, pressed the health necessity of effective trauma healing and paid for it, offered funding for research and application of effective alternative medicine options, taken medicine and pharmaceutical companies out of the for-profit system, ended white supremacy and the dire health consequences of it on BIPOC, and regulated the income disparities in our country, perhaps things would be different now and we’d have more personal freedoms.

But no, we as a country did not choose that. Terrain theory and regulating the nervous system so the body can heal itself requires planning ahead and investing in prevention. We are too late for that. Right now, we need crisis intervention, and from my point of view, mass vaccination is the only solution- an imperfect and incomplete one, but a necessary Band-Aid so we can stem the hemorrhage and employ MASSIVE health care and government policy reform so this can never happen again. Hopefully, once 3000-4000 people per day stop dying- we can focus on doing what we must to make sure we do a better job protecting every individual in this country, rather than only prioritizing the privileged.

I hope this breakdown of how I view health decisions helps you make a reasoned, intuitive, personal and collective choice for yourself and the world. So…I will continue to share cutting edge public health guidelines as science learns what to recommend, based on the evidence. And I will continue to encourage you to clean up your terrain if you’re privileged enough to have that option. I will continue to encourage you to educate yourself about science, and I will continue to encourage you to learn how to tune into, follow, check and discern what your Inner Pilot Light guides you to do. If doing so makes you think I’ve sold out, I’m sorry you feel that way. But I don’t feel like I am. I devoted myself to healing others when I was the 7 year old “Squirrel Girl,” and every day, I wake up impassioned with my commitment to helping others heal, now more than ever. I hope my devotion shows and that my nuance helps you apply nuance to your own health and life decisions.

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