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How well-meaning, non-scientific memes can slow your learning.
A friend asks:
When you do healing technique, how do you keep from messing up your own energy? Particularly when you’re working with someone with a terminal illness?
This a popular meme, but it’s not a real concern. Energy healing is about shifting the energy signature of living tissue (the “biofield”). Shifting someone else’s biofield doesn’t affect your own, just like massaging someone’s neck doesn’t create knots in your neck.
But where does that meme come from? Here’s my best guess: If you imagine energy healing as transferring some finite quantity of “health,” then the healer would have to get sicker to make the person healthier.
When I started this post, I’d intended to refute the “health transfer” idea. But I realized that, while inaccurate, it’s actually an honest attempt to explain some problems healers can face:
First, energy healing takes focus, and it requires engaging ethereal muscles. In new healers, those ethereal muscles aren’t strong yet, which is tiring in a different way than playing a sport or taking an exam. If a healer isn’t consciously aware of their ethereal muscles, they’ll experience an unusual fatigue but not understand why.
Second, just like you can cause side effects in the person you’re working with, you can cause side effects in yourself. It happened to me, too: When I started practicing energy healing, I’d build the healing energy in my own body. Everything I did to the other person, I also did to myself. Combine that with an inexperienced healer using slightly-off energy signatures, and you can get headaches, nausea, fatigue, and similar problems. I mostly avoided those, but I’d already been using energy for a decade.
(New healers: Remember, none of these side effects are serious, and most go away if you return your energy to normal afterwards.)
The healer, perhaps new, perhaps experienced and teaching new healers, sees these problems. When they work with a tired person, they also become deeply fatigued. When they work with someone with a headache, they too sometimes develop headaches. An explanation is needed, and it sounds so simple to say that the health and illness are transferred.
A trained scientist will do two things. First, they’ll ask, “How might that work? What mechanism?” And they’ll notice how really, incredibly complicated this would be to implement. Second, they’ll try as hard as we can to refute an idea, knowing that an idea they cannot refute is probably true. They’ll ask, “Are there times when I work with an injury, but do not get the symptoms myself afterwards? Does the level of headache I get afterward correlate with the level of headache my client had? Do I ever get headaches when the client had none?”
But that takes training, and experience, and a desire to be accurate rather than think you’re right. That’s hard. I don’t always live up to that goal, and I don’t know anyone who does.
But most people don’t do that. The default for humans not trained in science is to look for confirmation, thinking of times when they worked with a particularly bad headache and got a nasty headache themselves, or times when they worked with an aching knee and then (coincidentally) had their own knee ache. It’s called confirmation bias.
Of course, they don’t consciously say, “I’d rather feel right than be accurate, so I’ll ignore evidence.” The human brain just does it automatically and unconsciously.
They repeat their stories, and their warnings, intending to help other healers avoid these problems. And the story, “I worked with this person, then got the condition they had” is so compelling. Much more fun than, “I worked with this person, then nothing else happened.” And it gets retold, each retelling adding to the perceived evidence, until “health transfer” becomes a meme, implicit in our beliefs without ever being explicitly taught.
There is no villain to this story. Just common, very human errors.
This is the danger in trusting popular memes. I suspect it’s also a danger of trusting ancient wisdom.If you liked this post, consider visiting my current blog at mikesententia.com.