The Muser: Do Alternative Treatments Work?
By Daisy Colquhoun
I grew up in a household where religion wasn’t forced on me. My grandparents were strong Christians so I was christened, but I wasn’t forced into pursuing it. My mother, on the other hand, was a holistic goddess who believed that anything from reflexology to massage could benefit you. She was often criticised for her alternative ideas, but if it worked for her she was happy. In today's society, 40% of the population is non-religious, clearly a much greater proportion than 100 years ago. While there has been a decline in religions such as Christianity, alternative beliefs in themselves are generally much more widely accepted. If people accept beliefs in God or Krishna, surely alternative treatments like Angelic healing and Reiki should also be accepted? Granted, it has taken many years for established religions to get to this place, but alternative methods like yoga have become much more widely accepted as beneficial, with classes in most towns. So, what should we think about alternative approaches to healing?
Believing in alternative methods for me makes sense, even if it is placebo. If you gain something, then it is well worth pursuing. When I was younger, I was critical – my brother even more so. But I was still hopeful. If there's a chance of something working, surely it's worth trying? Alternative treatments can be so easily criticised, but I guess that's just how anything remotely different is interpreted. It goes back into history that many people don’t like change, but once you start to look into it, these holistic approaches are not new – they go back years to when wise women performed traditional treatments.
Applying the word ‘religion’ to these treatments means many things. Some interpret ‘religion’ as the workshop of superhuman, while others believe it is a particular system of faith and worship. Personally, my religion is in spirits and alternative treatments. I believe that there is energy in the world and that spirits are all around us. Yes, this may sound very hippy, but I am happy with my beliefs. Believing that unique treatments work brings a new type of peace and wholeness with it. I believe that the traditional religions have haunting bad karma, and none of their beliefs particularly intrigue or touch me. But believing in angels, energy and spirits: that interests me, and makes me feel whole and not alone.
My family has a history and tendency towards mental health issues, so this is a partial reason for us exploring alternative methods. Mental health treatment services under the NHS can have a ridiculous waiting list. Someone within my family was suffering from depression and she needed treatment as soon as she possibly could, but she was put on a sixth month waiting list. If you are suffering, you want to find a solution, and this starts many journeys into alternative treatments. Other causes which push people from the accepted into the non-traditional are pain relief or a wide range of mental health issues. You go to the GP and they ask you: ‘Are you exercising?’, ‘Are you eating healthily?’ And then if you answer ‘yes’ to these, you're sent on your way. This is hardly a conclusive treatment.
The first alternative method that entered my life was aromatherapy. I was extremely suspicious about it and whether it would work. Why would different smells affect someone substantially? My mum and I would go on many adventures to find places which sold aromatherapy oils, and slowly they’ve been infused into my life, whether it was through bathing or just drops over my pillow before bed. I did wonder whether we were wasting our money because for all we knew it was just water. I did find aromatherapy a bit too alternative for my liking, but I did also find that it introduced some relief in my life, and I did sleep better. These effects could be coincidences and that's what I believed. I was highly critical, and I still am slightly, but with the years of experience my views have developed.
I have, along with my mum, done many tarot card readings, which I know is a practice that is widely criticised. I know they probably don’t work, however when we have a decision with which we’re struggling, tarot cards guide us – as well as having some fun layouts and designs. It persuades you to do things you otherwise may be too scared to do, and it just gives you that little push you need to make a decision.
Recently I suffered from a concussion and I went into the GP and they told me I had to rest and drink lots of water, and that my head-splitting headaches could continue for at least three months. I felt terrible, and I couldn’t do anything about it. My mother had recently visited an angelic healer in Henley as a suggestion from a great friend. This friend had been through chemotherapy, which had led to her becoming infertile. This friend and her husband had been searching and applying continuously to adopt a baby since then, until she visited the angelic healer and within a week the perfect baby was found and the paperwork completed. This baby looks so similar to her it's uncanny. Yes, you could say that was just a coincidence, but that was enough to make my mum visit. My mum had a similar experience and her visit was entirely successful, so she thought I could benefit from seeing the healer. I was extremely sceptical as we drove up her drive to reveal her huge mansion of a house, and I thought, ‘Well – she’s just earned this from ripping people off.’ However, when she answered the door I was sold. She was about sixty, but looked about thirty. She was just radiating health. Glowing. She had an aura surrounding her which was one of relaxation. You couldn’t feel stressed when around her. We started by having a brief interview to answer her questionnaire, then she got me to lie down on a massage bed. She said it was fine if I slept and I thought, ‘How on earth will I sleep on this? It's so hard! Yet, somehow, after two minutes, I fell asleep.’ This was at 11 am. I’ve never had such a deep sleep. I woke up and I felt extraordinary like I’d been woken over and over again. I was zonked. She then told me a list of issues she’s found while healing me, and when I tell you they were close to my heart, they really were. These are things that only I, in the deepest parts of myself, know. It spoke to me. This was what sold me on her. The fact was that she found these random facts about me that were so true while barely speaking to me.
I was talked to a friend about my treatment, and he said it probably was a placebo effect and that she probably just told me things that everybody struggles with, but it still feels unbelievably personal to me. Some things the healer raised where to do with love. My friend said that everybody struggles with love in their own way. Mind you, he wasn’t negative about my treatment, he just said that sometimes we need to feel like somebody ‘gets us’, and we need these experiences to realise the big issues affecting us. I agree, yes, this may be a rip off, but it's my rip off, and it definitely made me feel better. The angelic healing was one of my most recent successful experiences.
I have done many alternative treatments: meditation, reiki, chakra healing, hypnotherapy, reflexology, vision therapy, cranial sacral therapy, kinesiology, homoeopathy. All of them have worked for me in their own unique way, and most surround the idea of energy and having deeper spirituality. Spirituality is, to me, a creative pursuit, and being creative makes me feel better. Every time I write, sing and dance, I feel a release of stress and anxiety. If believing in something benefits you, why not believe in the energy which radiates through everything I do and guides me through the day to day, while keeping me sane?