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Posts Tagged ‘anthropologist’

I don’t really want to be an “ist.” I don’t want to be stuck in a box as an anthropologist, folklorist, mythologist, hypnotherapist, religionist, spiritualist, or any other kind of “ist.”

I think that this sort of division plays a big role in our inability to heal and move forward, both as individuals and as a species. There are divisions within the divisions and everyone thinks that their perspective is the best one for everyone.

How dumb is that? While specialists fight over which form of therapy is best, people are repeatedly given the message that their own innate knowledge is flawed and not to be trusted. Don’t go with the therapist that “feels right” to you – go with the one with the most diplomas on the wall or the most empirical data behind their technique.

The same can be said for religions and philosophies, too. And though people seem to be more accepting of dogma in religion or philosophy, those same dogmatic stances are no more logical, effective, or “correct” than those held by therapists, scientists, etc. (Dogma is dogma, anyway you look at it).

While all of these “ists” argue, there are non-standardized forms of healing that rely on community and belief (in the form, in the community, or in the healer) that work just fine. There are no empirical studies, no rigorous tests to “prove” this form works, yet the people who use it swear by it and do just fine, thank you.

I want to be someone who sees beyond the divisions and helps people find what works for them. I want to erase those divisions and bring folklorists together with physicians, mythologists together with psychiatrists, herbalists together with nutritionists, all working together to create a network of wisdom that everyone can access and draw on in time of need.

Of course, in order for this to happen, we need to let go of judgment and fear. We have to stop judging other techniques as “quakery” simply because there have been no empirical studies. Remember, there have been no empirical studies on the efficacy of aspirin (they’ve all been anecdotal), yet at this point no one questions aspirin’s usefulness. And we have to let go of several fears: the fear that this other form will be injurious to those who use it; the fear that it is “only” the placebo effect (more on that later); the fear that these other forms will draw income away from our own wallets; and, lurking deep down inside, the fear that these other techniques actually work and all of our beliefs about them have been wrong all this time.

This is where I think the study of belief, culture, and folklore all come into play.

Alan Lomax said that, “the folklorist has the duty to speak as the advocate of the common man,” and while I think the common man or woman is perfectly capable of speaking for him or her self, there is merit to this statement. I would change it a bit, however, and give it a slightly different perspective:

Folklorists have the duty to illustrate the relevance of the common: the beliefs, rituals, music, stories, customs, jokes, food, art and adornment of the everyday person. Through this illustration we find commonalities and see each other as much more alike than not; as having similar needs, hopes and dreams; and of being more “human” than previously thought.

The diplomat needs to know these things if he is to be effective in working with his counterpart from a vastly different culture. The military strategist needs to know these things to understand when and where military action will be most effective and when it will incur the greatest retaliation. The teacher needs to know these things to better communicate with her students of differing backgrounds. The doctor needs to know these things to use every possible tool to aid in the healing process. The attorney needs to know these things to better defend his client. The traveler needs to know these things to enhance her trips abroad. The clergy need to know these things to make sense of the different ways that people express their faith. And I need to know them to better understand myself, my family, my nation and how we all fit into the web of existence.

Therefore, I propose to use some other form if self-identification, regardless of any degrees or training I may accumulate over my lifetime. Something that doesn’t put me in a box, clearly delineated for all to assume judgment upon. Something that does not, by its very existence, create division and suspicion in others. Something more suited to my perspective and belief. Something like: Observer of the Way Things Are and Seeker of Why That Is.

How do you identify yourself, in your heart and to the world?

About the placebo effect: when will we stop saying that it was “only” the placebo effect that created wellness in a person? Why on earth should we disdain the power of the mind to effect positive change without introducing chemicals or involving invasive techniques? Shouldn’t we applaud the placebo effect? Here we have people healing themselves from the inside, all because they have faith in the drug/technique/healing professional – I think we should be delighted and study the effect more closely to find ways to use it on a regular basis.

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