My immediate reaction to Joe Brolly’s article ‘Curing Covid’ (published on the Gaelic Life website July 23rd) was the same head-slapping frustration one would have watching someone repeatedly put their food waste in the plastic recycling bin. It’s just no-longer a valid, progressive or even helpful way of thinking, Mr Brolly sets out to nobly debunk frauds and charlatans – who are using mass public fear of Covid-19 as a means for lining their pockets – and then continues to brandish anything ‘alternative’ (that asks for belief as the keystone to its effectiveness) ‘pure bollocks’ and ‘bullshit’. I broke character and sent an email to the editor of Gaelic Life, saying how disappointed I was that they had printed something so judgemental and damning about a field that I work in, ‘alternative’ therapy. And like any good editor, Mr Scott defended the article, and defended Joe’s right to talk about his beliefs.
And therein lies the crux of the whole thing – beliefs. Beliefs are things. Joe Brolly was expressing his belief, and his belief was made manifest through the printed word. And whether he likes to admit it or not, the fundamental error of his article is the existence of the article itself.
All good science is based on reactions, observations and measurements, and here we have proof already that belief is quantifiable – my annoyance alone at his article can be measured chemically by the hormones secreted in my body. Beliefs are real, substantial, tangible things that have both positive and negatives quantifiable effects. The positive measurable effect is called the Placebo, the negative effect the Nocebo. And both have been verified and ‘double blind’ tested by science.
But before we get into the body of this article, let’s get something very basic out of the way – Brolly’s statement that “positive thinking can no more cure cancer” and that proven medicines are the only way is as harmful to health and hope as the frauds saying the opposite. Some cancers have been cured by ‘alternative’ methods, while a considerable percentage of patients who do chemotherapy and other types of proven “double blind” tested radiology have unsuccessful results. There are just as many ‘charlatans’ and ‘bullshit artists’ in the science that Mr Brolly endorses. It’s a cold hard fact, and the man who dissuades anyone in search of their own cure should accept his wrong doing and go fourth, silently, from thereon in – on that matter at least.
Brolly’s generalisation across the board of ‘alternative’ medicines is simply a lack of research and understanding. Grand statements allow for us to push the unknown or unexplained under the carpet. And the old brigade are frightened by the unknown. But let’s look at new science and turn the unknown into the known and proven.
Epigenetics, a new ‘double blind’ tested science, is starting to upturn everything we knew about the biology of human beings. Its principal discovery is that environment is the key factor in turning on or off genes. Simply put, your environment creates the biology inside you – everything from strength to sickness, mental health to disease. For example, you may carry the cancer gene, or the depression gene, but if your environment is one that doesn’t provide the necessary stress to create a protein to switch the gene on, cancer or depression will never be expressed.
And if your environment switches on the gene, then changing your environment will switch it off again. Have you ever wondered why so many sickly men and women, in the classics of literature, went to the countryside to heal? They needed a change of environment. And now scientists can actually explain why.
It all comes down to your beliefs. Beliefs control biology. You see, if it is our environment which signals whether or not a gene is to be expressed, then our responses to environmental stimuli are controlled by perceptions. And our perceptions are our beliefs. Let’s look at it like this – the difference between someone who has a fear of flying on a plane compared to someone who does not is simply their individual beliefs about what flying on a plane is. Passenger One believes that flying on a plane is going to kill them, Passenger Two believes that they are going to arrive at their destination safely. Internally, Passenger One is flooding their body with the stress chemical Cortisol because they are primed for danger, while Passenger Two is not. Make both passengers fly everyday for six months and the results will show that Passenger One’s body is less healthy than Passenger Two – it is the inevitable negative effect of Cortisol. It increases ageing on the body, and impedes the cells from repairing and rejuvenating – it is also one of the major causes of cancer and heart disease. The only difference between passengers One and Two is their belief about their environment.
In the world of science and medicine, belief has been equaling, if not out-performing prescribed drugs since day one. It’s called the placebo effect – the sugar pill – and it does the same thing as the doctor’s prescription. However, big Pharma, the bullies of the modern world, can’t bottle it and sell it. So, they discredit it, they call it names like ‘alternative’ or ‘bullshit’ and they try to turn us away from it, just like Mr Brolly. In fact, drug companies are so threatened by ‘belief’ and the incredible results of placebo sugar pills, that they want to eliminate completely the necessity of a placebo group from clinical trials. Pills mean money – pills are magical chemical bullets. Yet, the third biggest killer in the US last year was “double blind” tested medication. But a trillion dollar industry can easily silence any media inquiry into that sort of thing. The truth is, if they knew how to sell the placebo (belief) they would – it does the same thing as tested drugs, but is much cleaner, and has only positive side effects, unlike huge weight gain from anti-depressants, or reduced immunity from chemotherapy. In fact, scientists are now researching to see if all positive medical results can be attributed to the belief in the drug, rather than the drug itself – the only nay-sayers to these new experiments are of course those set to lose billions of dollars.
The undeniable truth is that belief has a fundamental role to play in everything. Mr Brolly calls the statement “that you and you alone are responsible for your own health, wealth and happiness” the “ultimate absolution” for charlatans, but those very charlatans asking for client belief in their process have scientific weight.
And a little side note – the article also lashes out at the credibility of energy healers, but quantum physics has proven that at the very centre of the atom is energy, and only energy. In fact, we, as well as everything else in this universe, are fundamentally built by energy. You and I, at our very core, are simply energy.
I don’t personally have any experience with energy healers, but I do, like Mr Brolly, trust in hard science, and the simple fact is that Mr Brolly is unfortunately still preaching from his old St Pat’s Armagh textbook, while science is racing forward towards new possibilities and new ways of healing. So I wouldn’t be so quick to write off something that we are only starting to understand.
It is true that Mr Brolly’s original intention was an honest and just one – to denounce those who are bent on defrauding the public in a moment of fear – but ultimately his own beliefs got in his way. They will do that, though, beliefs, negative ones at least, they will bring out the worst in you, in health as much as personality and the things you say and write – and they will make you want to negatively affect others around you too.
So maybe get on board a couple of positive ones and you’ll soon find that the only thing you’ll be relieving your bladder over is a jelly fish sting, on a beach somewhere. And if you believe that it’ll have a pain reducing effect, then it will.
Gareth Fox is a qualified RTT Hypnotherapist and Peak Performance Coach who works with inter-county footballers. In this column he will provide advice on the difficulties of confinement and offer ways to improve peak mental performance. For information on guided meditation or hypnosis audios contact firstname.lastname@example.org