Issues in complementary and alternative medicine
Issues in complementary and alternative medicine

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Issues in complementary and alternative medicine

2.3.3 CAM and the ‘tyranny of health’

Some commentators criticise the very idea of the ‘therapy culture’. The issue for them is not how to get people more involved with their health and the therapeutic relationship, but the unhealthy attitude many people have towards seeking perfect health in the first place. How healthy is it for people to constantly turn to professionals or therapists for advice on health care and lifestyle? Should people believe that being in the best of health is the main concern in their lives? The cultural acceptance of purveyors of the various kinds of health knowledge can be interpreted as suggesting a growing dependency on ‘experts’ to deal with everyday, normal problems of living. Health may become an unending quest for feeling good, balance and a sense of being understood. As everyone's life involves some degree of conflict, problems, sad and upsetting events, and adaptation to difficult circumstances, when will the quest ever end? Rather than health being a fluid experience of the body and mind, Michael Fitzpatrick (2000) argues that it is now sought and valued above all else. He coined the term ‘tyranny of health’ to describe the moral imperative that everyone faces to take good health seriously and seek it at all costs.

There are consequences of living in a world focused on ‘good health’. Lee-Treweek (2003) uses the term ‘tyranny of healing’ in developing Fitzpatrick's original concept to indicate how many people who have chronic health problems are pressurised never to give up seeking their former health. Friends, family and colleagues who want to support a person with a chronic illness often encourage them to keep trying new CAM, herbal and vitamin products, etc. Also some CAM modalities and practitioners are more than happy to advertise being able to help with a multitude of symptoms and ills. In the marketplace of claims about health products and CAM, it can be hard to accept that healing may not occur; and other people may even interpret such acceptance as the chronically ill person ‘giving up’. However, in some circumstances, chasing the dream of total healing is psychologically and emotionally distressing, economically unviable and ‘unhealthy’ in itself.

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