“Number 4 spawn,” my mother said to me many moons ago, “there are certain discussions you never enter into with the intent of changing anyone’s opinion; politics and religion.”
Mom almost had it. She forgot hair color, bra size, who ate most of the Halloween candy, good-looking guys, and whether those pants really make my butt look fat. I’ve also added integrative medicine to the list because it seems to bring out the beast in people rather than the best. After all, we’re passionate beings – especially with certain issues.
A couple weeks ago I had occasion to be part of a discussion panel with all kinds of medical types sitting in the audience. The discussion was about integrative medicine and its place within traditional medicine. I won’t lie; I was scared out of my Victoria Secrets. My only credentials are that I write about doctors and how their belief systems influence their lives and treatment of their patients. Given that my book presents the pros and cons of this issue, the event organizers felt I’d be an interesting addition to the panel, which was comprised of docs of all disciplines who utilize varying forms of alternative healing methods in their practice.
So I sat down feeling pretty good, comforted that it would be the docs to the right and left of me who would take gas. Nothing could have amazed me more than to become a target for one particularly disagreeable type. Without preamble, he stood up and told me that I was “little more than a member of the lunatic fringe,” and “who the hell are you to advocate this integrative medicine bullshit.” He finished up with, “there’s no scientific data that proves its efficacy, and your real purpose for being here is to sell books.” Well, okay, he’s got me there on the last point. I don’t know of a single author who doesn’t. I was particularly saddened when he denigrated a respected surgeon I’d researched with as being unintelligent because his opinions differed from that of my blathering detractor.
He reminded me of an anonymous doc I encountered on a blog recently. Anonymity is such a lovely tool because it grants anyone carte blanche to behave as badly they want. I’ve never hidden behind anonymity – though there are plenty times that I wish I did, but I digress…
His wrath hurt. Right to the core. This man knows nothing of me or my book, yet he flipped a middle finger to the sanctity of good behavior in order to humiliate me and accuse me of being disingenuous. I understand that he feels integrative medicine is dangerous and is promoted by snake oil artists who rip people off. He’s scared and angry, and I empathize. That’s precisely why this seminar had been offered.
I’ve been speaking to groups for a long while, and I know nothing good comes from confrontation. No matter how passionately someone feels about a particular subject, screaming at someone with an opposing view only proves that we aren’t listening. Where’s the exchange of ideas? At that point, why bother?
When people speak in absolutes, they are basically stating there’s snowball’s chance in hell their opinion will ever change. “Anyone who believes in integrative medicine is an idiot, and because I said so makes it true.” Is this a case where we can agree to disagree? Like politics and religion? Is it remotely possible? I do all the time with many of my doc friends, but there’s a level of mutual respect.
Hey, it may very well be that integrative medicine is a bunch of hooey. Then again, I can’t speak in absolutes because I’ve witnessed to too much to believe that and so have a lot of docs and other medical professionals. That’s why I sat, dazed and shocked, at this man’s spew. As he was being shown the door, I thought about other doors, metaphorically speaking, that were also being shut. So much for discussion about controversial ideas.
I wonder what Mom would think about that. Then again, I think she dropped me on my head when I was very young…