“Change the way you look at things, and the things you look at change.”
~ Dr Wayne Dyer
Dr Dyer’s quote invokes the famous double slit experiment in physics. When scientists look, on a microscopic level, at a light beam passing through a pair of slits in a panel, their observation of the experiment changes the behaviour of the light beam from either a wave (movement of energy) to a particle (movement of particles) or vice versa. This is in the area of quantum physics, where science is not only stranger than you think; it is stranger than you can think.
Video of a simple explanation of the double split experiment from “What the Bleep Do We Know?”
Our health is an example of something that can change as a result of the way in which it is observed. I’d argue that there are significantly different outcomes for our health depending on how one looks at it.
The mechanical view dominates our society’s understanding of how our bodies function. This view tends to see the body in terms of its separate parts, albeit working together; and specialises in focussing on a specific part of the body when faced with a crisis. This view is reflected in our medical system.
Alternatively, there is the wholistic view, which includes the mechanistic approach but adds a broader, more interconnected interpretation of how our bodies work. Emotional, mental, social and environmental aspects are included in a wholistic perspective of health. A wholistic understanding of health doesn’t “throw out” the mechanical view as there useful parts to this approach that can be included within the wholistic view.
A good illustration of the differences in the two approaches is the way we look at our bones.
Here is an image of an x-ray of a neck.
After looking at the image, a medical practitioner would commonly diagnose “arthritis”, and would suggest that any pain experienced comes from the condition of the bones as seen in the x-ray. This interpretation reflects a mechanistic view.
However, if we regard the body as a responsive, adaptable system we can describe what is shown in the same x-ray as follows:
- there have been stresses that have impacted on this area of the spine
- the stress may have occurred through an injury
- the stress has a postural component and relates to other stresses – mental, emotional, nutritional (poor nutrition or the body’s response to toxicity.)
Importantly, what appears on the x-ray relates to many aspects of one’s life and not just the bones in one’s neck.
There is no scientific evidence of the presence of spinal degeneration seen on x-ray correlating with the patient’s pain or other symptoms.
Judging from the x-ray, I would also suggest that the body has “done its best” to cope with the stresses in the neck. In fact, it is the body’s response to stress which has led to the diagnosis of “arthritis”, manifesting as pain.
Looking at the same x-ray from a wholistic perspective, the observations change:
- increased density of the bone around the joints is the body’s way of strengthening a weakness (seen as more whiteness on x-ray)
- bone spurs – which are actually ligaments containing extra calcium which the body deposits to give strength and stability to a stressed joint.
- disc narrowing and reduced movement – which has the effect of providing more protection to the spinal cord than a thicker, unstable disc.
These things are the body’s way of adjusting (positively) to the negative effects of stress.
The two different interpretations of the same x-ray provide choices about the way we look at ourselves and our health. The mechanistic view tends sees limited options for change as the “arthritis” is something that is immovably set in place. with relief coming from the outside in the form of medication. The wholistic model suggests our bodies (and our whole selves) have the ability to take control, learn, adapt and create change from within.
The wholistic view includes the mechanistic view but adds the knowledge that “arthritis” reflects more than what appears in the image on an x-ray.
A wholistic approach encourages a view of health from a wider perspective – one that embraces change – changing the way we look at things and in turn changing the way we choose to live.