Care, Cure, and Self-Sufficiency

by Lawrence Gold

Associate, The Novato Institute for Somatic Research and Training

We who grew up with Twentieth Century medicine tend to think in terms of "cures". With the growth of complementary and alternative medicine, people increasingly think in terms of prevention, health maintenance, and wellness. To think that way makes economic sense because, "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure"; it's more economical to maintain health than to treat illness. We are wise to think that way because the most common and costly health conditions -- stress related disorders such as back spasms, muscle pain, and headaches -- cannot be cured because they are (usually) not medical problems; they are (usually) problems of lifestyle and conditioning. To use a term no longer much in use, these days, they are problems of grooming -- of self-care.

Just what does that mean?

These days, the term, "grooming", has a cosmetic connotation -- but it was not always so. In the past, a person might be "groomed" for a job position or for a position in society; the term had the broader meaning of personal cultivation that had larger consequences in a person's life than mere appearance.

Viewed in the context of health, "grooming" becomes "hygiene" -- the regimen of things that should (or should not) be done to maintain or improve health. Grooming (and hygiene) fall into the realm of personal care (and self-sufficiency) -- beyond the role (and reach) of medical practitioners. Where care fails, the search for a cure begins.

The idea of "cure" implies that a problem beyond the body's ability to cope has been has been permanently fixed by medical intervention. The idea is that the illness was a random occurrence having little to do with a person's lifestyle. A patient who has been "cured" may expect to go about his or her life as before without expectation of recurrence or relapse.

This idea seems true because of the idea of "immunity" -- the resistance a person has to a disease they have already had, particularly one from a virus or bacterium, such as measles. It does not apply to functional disorders, such as asthma or arthritis, whose cure remains always in doubt under conventional medical treatment. Nor does it apply to diseases that result from excessive stress, improper diet or insufficient exercise, such as headaches, indigestion, heart disease, common back pain, muscle aches or muscle imbalances. Such diseases are not "cured"; they are "controlled".

"Control", in that sense, is not a second-rate solution applied because no "cure" is available; it is the necessary lifestyle requirement for health, given our genetics, strengths and weaknesses, and environmental conditions. It is not something done to us clinically to rid us of disease; it is the way we live to enhance and preserve our health.

The prestige of Twentieth Century medicine rests upon medicinal and surgical cures for emergency medical situations. Its greatest challenges, this century, have been infectious diseases, violent physical trauma, and deformity, and it has met them well.

The next challenge, degenerative, chronic, and stress-induced diseases, fall into a different category and cannot be "cured" without a change of lifestyle -- which means that they cannot be "cured" at all; but they can be "controlled" through intelligent self-care, physical and psychological awareness and development, and lifestyle choices. Such "control" can produce new levels of health that redefine our concepts of health and disease.

The field of somatic education is dedicated to improving the standard of health and aging and to reducing the need for medical care. It's a kind of education that enables people to groom out the effects of stress and to improve health to superior levels. Like yoga or other physical disciplines, it involves practice, but its effects go deeper and actually improve the benefits of athletic or other health disciplines.

Information about somatic education:
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