In my last two articles: Literally, Revolutionary. The Law of Attraction & Mindset., I opened the discussion of what it’s like to have an illness in the New Age health community. I think being on the same page with definitions and having a common language is key to having any intelligent discussion, so here goes, a discussion of the common terms any healer should know, guidelines for the Wounded Healer community, and what it all means exactly.
16 Terms Every Healer Should Know
1. New Age Illness Shaming: Placing ‘fault’ on a someone that has an illness, for having the illness. The belief or insinuation that someone should have known better, or could have avoided their illness, but chose not to. There are MANY forms of Illness Shaming in the New Age community, including: Mindset Shaming, Illness Quizzing, Spiritual Bypass via Law of Attraction Reversed, Gossip, and Unsolicited Health Suggestions (among others!).
2. Mindset Shaming: A form of Illness Shaming. The belief that someone caused their illness by not being positive enough. The belief that a client has a ‘low vibrating consciousness,’ as evidenced by their having an illness. Using an illness as ‘proof’ that someone’s mindset is faulty in some way. The belief that illness is a ‘choice’ and that a client is ‘choosing’ to be ill, as evidenced by their illness. The faulty belief that Illness is always ‘low vibe.’ It should be noted, that Mindset Shaming is commonly done to people that New Age practitioners literally have just met. If you do not KNOW someone, you cannot KNOW their Mindset. Mindset should not be discussed publicly, and it should NEVER be discussed unless you know the person IN DEPTH.
3. The Law of Attraction: The Law of Attraction is a theory popularized by the movie, The Secret, that has helped many! But. There are some problems with how it is commonly applied in the New Age community, which often results in Illness Shaming. Note: Stating the Law of Attraction to someone with an illness as if they've never heard it before is a form of Illness Shaming.
4. The Law of Attraction Reversed: A form of Illness Shaming. The socially acceptable practice of Illness Shaming in the New Age community, that if we get good things in life by good thoughts, getting bad things in life must be caused by thinking bad things, and therefore if someone is experiencing something bad (like an illness), it’s ‘their fault’ because they are ‘thinking bad things.’ The LoA Reversed is the practice of Reversing the logic of Law of Attraction and applying it to an illness. The ‘proscription’ to reverse, cure, or prevent illness, according to LoA New Agers, is to think good thoughts because obviously someone was thinking some crappy thoughts to get such a crappy illness. If thinking good thoughts doesn’t work, then the person is told that they must not be thinking good ‘enough’ thoughts. Law of Attraction Reversed can be seen as a defense mechanism to help people without an illness, to feel more in control of their life and feel more safe from illness themselves. The role of God, chance, fate, Karma, Soul Contracts, genetics and/or environment is not seen as relevant because according to the Law of Attraction Reversed, health is a choice, every single thing in our life is a choice, so if you are sick, you unconsciously want to be sick and it’s YOUR fault.
5. Spiritual Bypass: A form of Illness Shaming. When a person uses a spiritual concept to bypass feelings of discomfort that they'd rather not examine. Spiritual bypass can also happen when a person uses a spiritual concept to explain away another person’s experience, when they’d rather not do any in-depth analysis of the problem. A complex problem is often reduced to a simple quip about life such as, “what you think about, comes about.” (with the obvious ramification being that the person brought their illness on themselves). Not cool. Spiritual bypass often trivializes another’s experiences, feelings, and/or physical and mental condition, unbeknownst or beknownst to the spiritual bypasser. Spiritual Bypass involves not examining another person’s viewpoint, and also not examining the deeper feelings the bypasser themselves has around an issue. Often the Spiritual Bypasser is projecting their own beliefs or fears onto another person, without regard to the facts. Spiritual Bypass can be a defense mechanism.
6. New Age Illness Quizzing: A form of Illness Shaming. The attempt on behalf of a healer or friend, to ‘get to the bottom’ of what habit or pattern has caused an illness. The idea behind illness quizzing is that the client didn’t think of something simple, and that the answer can be discovered easily, in a matter of minutes, by often intense and public questioning in front of others. Illness quizzing consists of question after question, often literally 20 questions in a row, about diet, lifestyle, mindset, or meditation etc., in an effort to ‘pin’ the blame for an illness on a ‘faulty’ habit that the person has. Illness Quizzing can feel like an interrogation. The best solution for Illness Quizzing is never to do it. The only exception to this would be if you are specifically asked to by the person themselves for help figuring out the cause of an illness. If they do ask your help, it is vital to ask them if they’d prefer to discuss it in private to protect their privacy.
7. Ableism: A form of Illness Shaming. A set of practices and beliefs that assign inferior value (worth) to people who have developmental, emotional, physical or psychiatric disabilities(as defined on stopableism.org), [These can be either visible or invisible illnesses or conditions].
8. Invisible Illness: A factor in Illness Shaming. When a health or mental condition cannot be outwardly seen in the appearance of a person. Illnesses such as Multiple Sclerosis for example, can be considered an invisible illness. MS, which can be very serious and even cause death in some instances, cannot be seen with the naked eye. There are MANY illnesses that cannot be seen with the naked eye. This does not mean that because an illness is ‘invisible’ that it is any less serious. Yet, people with invisible illnesses are often put down, shamed, dismissed or openly discriminated against for their illnesses. Not all illnesses and disabilities can be seen. Invisible Illness can be an issue with Handicapped Parking spaces, using elevators, or requesting accomodations. Ageism can even come into play, when young people ‘don’t work’ or young people need a wheelchair at a store, yet are expected to give it up the chair or other device to someone who is older. People with an invisible illness may be prevented from working, but because the illness is invisible, they can face extreme discrimination. This discrimination one faces from not working in society is openly acceptable, and many people with invisible illness try to hide their illness or condition as long as possible to avoid being openly discriminated against and Illness shamed. Note: people with an Invisible Illness would often prefer to remain anonymous about their illness & continue hiding it, yet people with an Invisible Illness are often portrayed as ‘wanting attention.’ Often times, people with an Invisible Illness only disclose their illness when absolutely necessary, yet when they do, often negative stereotypes and labels are attached to that person.
9. Unsolicited Health Suggestions: A form of Illness Shaming. When a person is not your client, and has not specifically asked you for health advice, any suggestions given are unsolicited health suggestions. This often happens when someone discloses that they have an illness either intentionally or unintentionally, (such as, they need to disclose their condition for an accommodation in a class, for example). The person doesn’t actually ask for advice or health suggestions, yet are met with advice & suggestions anyway, because the subject ‘came up.’ This commonly happens in classes, circles, churches, health food stores, or any other event where New Agers conglomerate together. The conversation is often dominated by health discussion, without regard as to if the person themselves would like to discuss their health in the first place. Choosing to disclose a health condition, is never an invitation for health suggestions. Sometimes health conditions cannot be hidden, and this is not an invitation to single someone out. It is a coach’s JOB to specifically ASK the person in this situation, if they would rather discuss the issue in private. Plain & simple, Unsolicited Health Suggestions are the most common form of Illness Shaming, and should never take place. As a coach or concerned friend, simply ASKING a person if they would like your health suggestions (and then respecting the person’s answer), will be helpful in avoiding this type of Illness Shaming.
10. Solicited Health Suggestions: Not Illness Shaming. When someone discloses their health condition either intentionally or unintentionally, and specifically asks for suggestions & advice from a group of people or an individual (ie: What do you guys think?). Any type of health suggestions should ideally be done in a private setting so that a client has a right to privacy with their health conditions. If in doubt, ask.
11. Privacy/Confidentiality: Often breached in Illness Shaming. All personal health discussions (ie: about a specific person’s illness), should be discussed behind closed doors to preserve confidentiality. It is virtually impossible to get honest client answers about a personal health condition in a public setting. Also, it should be noted, that soliciting private health information in a public setting is considered Illness Shaming, and puts people in the very awkward condition of being expected to answer very personal medical questions publicly. It is a New Age practitioner or community members’ responsibility to ASK and give a person the OPTION to ‘opt out’ of public discussion of their health conditions, or discussing their health conditions at all, ever. No one should be expected to disclose their personal business to anyone, at anytime, for any reason. Proper consent is required and respect.
12. Gossip: A form of Illness Shaming, where members of a New Age community gossip about a person’s condition behind their back, and even may speculate the ‘real’ cause of their illness. It should be noted, that as a healing professional, if you discuss another person’s health condition behind their back in the form of Gossip, (even if they are not your client) that that is especially unprofessional, and should NEVER be tolerated in a healer or among ones’ peers. On the flip side, if you are a person who uses New Age healing services such as massage therapy, yoga, reiki, health coaching, etc., this is a HUGE red flag and be VERY wary of a coach or practitioner that gossips about another person’s health condition. If you own a Mind Body Spirit center, and you find one of your New Age practitioners is gossiping about another’s health condition, they should be immediately reprimanded.
Illness Voyeurism - discussing another person's illness in a social situation as a form of entertainment, curiousity, or boredom
13. Illness Voyeurism (non-consent): A form of Illness Shaming. When a person is singled out for having a health condition, often in front of others, and is expected to answer personal questions about their health in a social setting. Their consent has not been given for giving advice, or asking personal questions, or openly discussing their health, yet they are expected to answer personal questions about their health, publicly. This can be seen by the person with an illness as using their illness as a form of entertainment, because other people are simply bored or nosy, or in need of a dinner party topic. Illness Voyeurism can be very related to Illness Quizzing except with Illness Voyeurism, here the motive is entertainment or basically people being nosy, where Illness Quizzing may come from a sincere desire to help, despite it’s inappropriateness. i
14. Intentional or Unintentional Disclosure of a Health Condition: When a sufferer of a health condition discloses this condition to others, either intentionally for example telling others when asked how they are doing, or unintentionally for example, because they cannot hide the condition, or a circumstance came up where they must disclose it. An example of this would be needing a reasonable accommodation in a class or training session, or diet requirements when going on a residential retreat. In this example, notice the distinction that the person disclosed their health condition, but they did NOT ask for advice. A disclosure of a health condition should never be misconstrued as an invitation to advise, question, treat, or enter into a discussion. If in doubt, err on the side of NOT advising, and if you really must, respectfully ASK the person if they would like your advice before giving it.
15. Client: (Often a factor in Illness Quizzing form of Illness Shaming). Someone who has specifically asked for, and explicitly signed up for, as in signing a Client Contract, to be a Coach’s or other New Age practitioner’s client. An agreement/consent to treat. Without a person being a formal client, it is inappropriate discuss a person’s illness, especially publicly, without first gaining explicit permission from that person to discuss their illness in front of others. It is a New Age practitioner or community members’ JOB to ASK and give a person the option to ‘opt out’ of public discussion of health conditions, or discussing health conditions at all. If a person is not your client, they do not owe you any explanation about their health.
16. Consent: When person willingly chooses to be advised or treated by a new age practitioner, or agrees to speak about their condition either publicy or privately. Consent is NOT given if the topic simply comes up in conversation or cannot be hidden, such as a person having a limp, or a diet requirement that is disclosed for a dinner party for example. Consent is given when either: you ASK a person whether they would like to discuss their condition publicly or not, or when a person has signed a client agreement with you as their practitioner. A person’s willingness or unwillingness to discuss their health publicly, or not, is always respected, without exception. Anyone has the right to NOT consent to their health condition being publicly or privately discussed.
So there you have it. Did any of these New Age Illness Shaming definitions surprise you?
Let us know in The Wounded Healer, our Facebook group for all things Woo Woo, Spoonie, & New Age Healing xx