THE BLOG

Snake Oil or Miracle Cure?

A recent Wall Street Journal article exposed the influx of visitors coming to Peru to experience ayahuasca, a hallucinogenic plant, with the hopes of relieving physical and psychological pain. If you have read my book, From Type A to Type Me: How to Stop "Doing" Life and Start Living It, you know about my personal experience with ayahuasca. The intention of this post is not to legitimize or demonize the plant or the use of it. What I would like to explore is our desperate search for miraculous healing; the desire to have our lives perfect without exerting any effort.

During my experience with a reputable shaman who worked with and without the controversial plant, I had thought the ayahuasca and the other experiences in Peru provided me with healing.  What I quickly realized is they were just a tool in my healing. Like a cast over a broken arm, these tools gave me the support I needed to heal myself. Our bodies and minds are designed to heal themselves. We have the inherent power to heal and improve the way we experience our lives. Whatever the medicine, it is not a cure, it is only a tool. You do the work. In my case, although the experience in Peru provided me with relief, I soon realized I had to make changes in the way I thought and acted to maintain that relief. I had to do the heavy lifting. I had to do the work.

Seeking something outside of us to provide healing gives our power away and if there is any relief the problem usually comes back because we have not changed ourselves. Take for instance someone who has gastric bypass surgery but who continues a sedentary lifestyle and eating in unhealthy ways. It will only be a matter of time for the weight, or more serious problems, to come back. The surgery is only a tool. It is a powerful support for someone who wants to change their life. And it is up to that individual to also make the psychological and daily habit changes to ensure the new level of health is maintained.

Our physical and emotional pain can be overwhelming and there is no stigma in seeking support. The point is to see it as support -- not a miracle -- and to accept and embrace that you need to do the work to make long-lasting changes in how you experience life. It is easy to be lured in by the claims of the latest diet pill, ancient grain, exercise craze, or Dr. Oz magic bean mostly because we want to feel better without the work. I wish this was possible, but it is not. No matter the snake oil, ancient cure, or modern medicine, they are only tools. To truly find healing and a cure, look to yourself. Don't be taken by the promises of a quick and easy fix that will magically transform your life. If something seems to be too good to be true or promises a quick and permanent change without you having to lift a finger, someone is just trying to make money off you.

Next time a shiny object in the shape of a miracle pill or miraculous tea catches your eye, stop. First, research the item thoroughly to substantiate the claims and determine the actual results versus the promised results. Second, look at what you are trying to cover up. What feels too overwhelming to address? What is causing you pain? What is the root issue creating the unbearable symptom? Then seek out the right tool to support you as you do the heavy lifting to address the root issue.