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Responsibility for Medical Treatment

We resist self-responsibility when we assume we are helpless in the face of a foreign invader." The belief that germs cause disease is still widely accepted. Disease is viewed as that something "out there" that "happens to" us poor, unsuspecting victims. We are told that our ancestors lived in terror of evil spirits and called upon the magical incantations of shamans to drive them away. An important element in any healing that took place as a result of these incantations was the shaman's easing of his "patient's" fears, thereby creating a healthier internal state. Given that modern-day placebos are sometimes almost as effective as the drugs to which they are compared, many of today's medical regimens may be promoting healing through easing our fears as much as (or more than!) through their actual physiologic effects. In fact, there is now a resurgence of interest in shamanism, faith healing, and other age-old forms of intervention that have fewer side effects than allopathic medicine.

Regardless of the modality, many of us are reluctant to take responsibility for our illnesses because we have lost touch with our reservoirs of knowledge and intuition, our physical body signals (both internal and external), and our gut-level, emotional responses. We mistrust ourselves and turn instead to the others who really know. The end result is a diminishment of personal freedom, a weakened self-concept, and a power-robbed existence - a high price to pay.

To accept responsibility for your health in no way implies that you should never seek the help of a doctor or a healer. To assume this is to misunderstand the concept completely. Your doctor, your counselor or therapist, a spiritual advisor or friend, a nutritionist or bodywork specialist - many others can be incorporated into a health team to work with you in moving toward wholeness. Each person can likely be a fine resource, offering valuable experience and knowledge that you do not have. It is up to you, however, to spearhead the formation of such a team, to assert your rights as a consumer in the medical economy, to ask questions, to seek other opinions, and to accept that you know yourself better than anyone else does.

And finally, there is just good common sense. Call it awareness, call it care - it is about self-responsibility. It shows itself by exercising safety with respect to ourselves, our homes, our automobiles, our children and loved ones, our environment. Sometimes, it is as simple as wearing a seat belt or removing poisons to a place that children can't reach. Sometimes it is more involved - a plan of escape in case of fire in your home.

[People] must begin to change from passive recipients of medical care to active, self-responsible participants; otherwise our goal of developing an adequate national health system cannot be realized. —Elmer E. Green, PhD, Menninger Foundation

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