Jan 31 2012

Blank Healing

I come across many different healing claims or requests for me to evaluate such claims. They are depressingly similar. You can essentially put the word “healing” after just about anything and insert it into a boiler plate article about how fabulous it is. Here is a credulous article about one self-styled healer, with the specific reference removed:

“Lhoest, one of Pucci’s blank students, had pain in her back and feet from the stresses of work and child rearing. She came to Pucci’s home for blank healing. Others around the world use similar techniques with different instruments, such as blank or blank. Pucci uses blank like a “focused laser” because it is the best tool she has for the job.

“It’s really hard to explain this because there is no language for it. In a way, it’s magic. All I know is that it works,” Pucci said. “Sometimes people cry because it allows them to release something they were holding on to.” There are schools for blank healing, but Pucci never went to one. Aside from reading books and taking a few workshops on the subject, she has been on a self-taught journey for 30 years. She makes a living as a blank and doesn’t advertise herself as a blank healer. In fact, she practices blank healing only on her students and others who are close to her. “It is so special to me that I don’t want it to become commercialized,” said Pucci, holding back tears sparked by that thought. “It’s like this magic I do that I’m very careful about.”

This article could be about anything – of course you have to open with a warm and fuzzy anecdote, and portray the practitioner as a saint who just wants to help people. In this case Pucci may in fact be sincere, in other cases the practitioners are clearly making a living from their claims.

Pucci’s attitude is typical – I don’t know how it works, it’s like magic, all I know is that it works. Well – actually she doesn’t. This, of course, is the core fallacy of the magical healer – thinking that because anecdotal experience makes it seem as if their ministrations are working, that they are. This ignores all the various mechanisms of self deception that largely make up placebo effects, such as regression to the mean, assessment bias, and wishful thinking. Also there are non-specific effects just from relaxing and getting kind attention such as the laying on of hands. It is supremely naive to think that one can conclude a treatment works simply from subjective anecdotal reports.

That, however, is the default assumption that people make. We appear to be hard wired to do so, to be compelled by personal stories. It takes an education in science (and particularly medical science) and critical thinking to beat such assumptions out of you over time. Even still, many doctors manage to get through their training with their naive default reactions to anecdotes largely intact.

Here is a description about this modality from a website dedicated to it:

Blank  healing is an effective and proven modality that uses blank to help reduce stress, alter consciousness and create a deep sense of peace, well being and better health. Blank has also been shown to be effective in the healing process for cancer patients by reducing stress and aiding in pain management. The modality dates back to Tibetan Buddhism where blank were used for consciousness transformation and healing.

Now we add the argument from antiquity – the modality has been used by some culture for hundreds or thousands of years, so it must work. They also add unsubstantiated claims to be “proven,” and notice how they mention cancer, to make it seem like a serious healing modality, but really it only helps reduce stress. You could make the same claim about holding someone’s hand – it reduces stress, which would help any illness because illness causes stress.

It doesn’t really matter what the “blank” is. It’s magic. In this case the blank is “sound” healing. Pucci uses her voice to impart “vibrational energy” to her clients and this magically makes them feel better. Skeptical? Well, here is some more promotional material:

Science has proven that sound, or vibration, has a strong impact upon substance. For example, the study of Cymatics has shown how sound creates geometric patterns in matter. Dr. Emoto has proven that sound changes the molecular structure of water. However, more importantly, sound changes consciousness. Many ancient civilizations and modern indigenous cultures have used sound to heal and access higher levels of consciousness for thousands of years.

A nice vague reference to poorly understood scientific concepts makes the blank therapy sound all sciencey. Add another argument from antiquity and we have the best of both worlds.

There is an endless number of these bogus “healing” modalities. If I tried to examine each and every one, by the time I got through them all there would be another crop to take their place, with the same claims, just a different fill in the blank.


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