Sunday, August 29, 2010

Addressing the symptom

One of the biggest challenges I have with the way our health system has evolved is that most doctors now view our symptoms as the problem that needs to be treated. The pharmaceutical industry is on to this trend and they make drugs largely for the same purpose - they alleviate our symptoms, yet do little to nothing to alleviate the problem that caused the symptom. In some cases the fact that we no longer are experiencing the symptoms of sickness may even cause us to put off the rest and proper nutrition that we should be doing so that our body can heal itself. Our quest to make ourselves rid of the symptoms can actually prolong the problem.

But I wonder if our penchant for treating the symptom rather than the disease stops with physical ailments or if it doesn't continue into other areas of our lives. A good friend of mine - whom I generally highly respect - made an argument against facebook this morning, by saying that to fraternize on there with people from your past can lead to extra marital affairs. While I respect my friend, I have to disagree with him on this one. Facebook does not cause anyone to have an extra marital affair any more than a bottle of rum in one's cabinet causes an individual to become an alcoholic. The affair or the alcoholism are merely the outward symptoms of an inward condition. Can we keep the problem at bay for a while if we limit access to the internet or hide all the booze? Yeah, sure. But has that fixed anything? I don't think so. If anything, all it has done is to use bondage to further mask the problem. I know the human soul longs for freedom and I am convinced that no emotional or spiritual problem is ever cured in the absense of freedom. While we can prevent one symptom from manifesting by removing access to it, invariably what happens is, unless the problem is healed, it merely manifests again as a different symptom (i.e. alcohol addiction might manifest as prescription drug addiction). Nothing has been cured - the condition that caused the person to look for an escape is still there - its symptoms have only been managed.

Holistic medicine works with the body not by treating the symptom, but rather by creating the conditions by which the body will heal itself - seeking to re-establish balance. By nourishing the parts of your body that do the healing and removing the nourishment from the things that harm it, it brings the body back into balance and harmony with the way it was intended to function. Maybe a good healthy dose of holistic medicine is what we should learn to apply in our emotional and spiritual lives. Can facebook be used as a crutch that sends nourishment to parts of our body that is causing us harm? Absolutely. I think there are also times when it can bring the nourishment to our deficient emotions. How does one determine whether it is healthy or unhealthy? I don't know that there's any easy answer to that question, but perhaps we can look at how our symptoms have changed as a guide when the "medicine" of facebook is applied. What happens when we change the "dosage"? If nothing else, asking these questions will help us to know ourselves a bit more.

I guess because we've become so results driven we feel as though we've accomplished something when we can see a milestone achieved - therefore making the conquest of a "symptom" all the more attractive. I know that where I am in life, I prefer being around people who are aware of their problems and are working to fix them to those who are problem deniers, always trying to make their symptoms "presentable" and "manageable". We're all in various levels of sickness. Let's just admit that right now. The question is, what are you going to do about it? Are you content with polishing up the exterior of the status quo? Or are you okay with a little constuction dust in your life while the remodel is being completed?

Do you have anger issues? Addiction issues? Chances are pretty good that those are NOT your problems - there's something deeper that's prompting you to respond with these behaviours. Fix that and most of the time the symptom goes away. Cover the symptom up, and the underlying issue consumes like cancer.

The bottom line, as I see it, is that no positive and permanent change ever occurs in a life without first experiencing the freedom that comes from humble submission. A person has got to be allowed to be free to fail and even to embrace failure. It is only in that free state can the truth in love be spoken and heard. And it is only in that free state that lasting change will ever come. There are a lot of things that people can point to that are "good" or "bad" but I think that kinda misses the point. Instead, we should be focused on submitting ourselves to God to be filled with his spirit. The presence of various symptoms merely let us know that we have not fully arrived, yet. Dwell on that, meditate on that, and the rest will fall into place on its own.