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Book Reviews: Holistic Health, Natural Remedies

Finding My Way

Nancy M Turchich
2000: Bez Publications, Prescott, AZ
261 pages

          Finding My Way is a book about a young female who survives a terrible fall during a hiking trip, and physically improves with her condition while learning to deal with both the physical and emotional trauma of the accident. It is a book that’s an autobiography, a source of information, and a source of inspiration. The book touches on a lot of different aspects of both conventional medicine and holistic therapies. Therapist Nancy Turchich gives various accounts of what happened to her in the hospitals and outpatient clinics between the accident and the final stages of rehabilitation. The holistic therapies discussed in the book include: water, massage, colon(ic), music, trauma, polarity, unwinding, sound, aroma, flower, and craniosacral. In addition, there are other therapies discussed such as: homeopathy, herbology, chakras (reiki, overlapping with polarity therapy), yoga, and reflexology.

          There are many things to fear in the world, but it seems that accidents often take a back burner to more common fears of cancer, heart attacks, etc. However, accidents are the number one killer of Americans under 40 years old. Part of the reason why accidents affect so many younger people is the feeling of invincibility many of them have (which is normal, for better or worse). They often have not had any serious health incident in their life, and so their outlook may not be as cautious as someone older and more experienced in the ups and downs of life. Nancy’s accident happened to her when she was still a teen, but the silver lining of it is that she had plenty of time afterwards to learn and grow from her hiking accident. Luckily, Nancy can walk and make full use of her limbs now. The months of clinical rehabilitation are sheer torture, however.

          During her long recovery, Nancy decided on entering the holistic field as a massage therapist, as well as learning and practicing many other holistic therapies. She believes that “Therapy is all about nurturing and identifying with self”. In some ways, this is true; you have to listen to and understand your body in order to start any complicated healing process. However, one has to be careful of misinterpreting her definition of therapy with selfishness, which is a hallmark of mental illness and personality disorder. There needs to be a balance between self-help and reigning in one’s ego, and Nancy does talk about letting go of one’s ego in her book.

          During the medical therapy part of her recovery, Nancy spent time in a few different hospitals, stating that the nurses and attendants “…went about their business like I were an inanimate object.” This is a common complaint among both inpatients and outpatients when they visit a hospital or clinic. The regimented, insurance-based routine of doctors and nurses today is a far cry from the family doctor that made house visits a couple generations ago. Unlike the old family doctor, the doctors and nurses of today don’t get to know their patients; whether they would like to know them or not, they don’t have a choice or a chance due to the patient quota they must meet under the HMO rules. This depersonalization of medicine has led tens of millions of Americans toward the holistic field for a more caring, individualized experience, not to mention therapies that have far less side effects than the ones utilized in conventional medicine.

          Soon after the accident, Nancy describes being consumed with fear and worry, during the beginning of her college studies as a physical therapist. She later decided to switch to massage therapy and abandoned the more traditional career as a physical therapist. This is a common occurrence for someone who is an intuitive person; they ‘feel’ that something is wrong at the moment, when in reality it’s the long-term goal that is in question. Once an intuitive person has found their path, a lot of daily worries end up melting away. Intuitives need to know that the big picture is in place for them in the future. Nancy also realized that after the accident, it was difficult for her to separate her emotions from her true feelings and thoughts. This is a very important theme in being able to help yourself. Negative emotions often spring directly from biochemical imbalances in the nervous system, and when a person first experiences them, they may think they are going crazy because they’ve never had thoughts and emotions like those before. What many people realize later is that those emotions and thoughts are not really their own; they are simply deep, primal, animal reactions to stress that happen to materialize as emotions and negative thoughts. As Nancy writes, challenging these negative patterns requires both strength and self-love.

          Interestingly, when Nancy left a physical therapy program to pursue massage therapy and natural healing education, a main goal was to simply avoid full-time work. This is a sign of an intuitive person that doesn’t fit into the standard 9-5 routine. For an intuitive person, everything in life has a flow to it, and many things in life don’t benefit from having rigid constraints put on them, including work schedules. Natural therapy also drew Nancy closer to understanding herself, which is a very common reason why people immerse themselves in naturopathy, either as a client or a practitioner.

          Nancy describes a number of natural therapies in the book. Shiatsu therapy is a form of acupressure that stimulates circulation. This is the therapy that led her to learn more about energy medicine in general. Nancy later tried homeopathic flower remedies. She noted that she did not feel well the first week after trying the therapy. Most people do not know that homeopathic therapies draw out the negative aspects of whatever disorder they have, in order to purge the disorder later. Although some people swear by homeopathic remedies, please use caution when trying them; they can have powerful and unpredictable side effects.

          A main therapy discussed in the book is polarity therapy. Related to polarity therapy are the Chakras (‘spinning wheels’) of traditional Indian energy medicine. There were also many different variations on massage therapy that Nancy learned which helped her personally and also allowed her to help others after she started her practice. Although Nancy gives polarity therapy extensive coverage, it was generally described in a relaxed conversational style, and some readers may prefer a more systematic analysis of this interesting subfield of energy therapy. For example, she states that polarity therapy helps balance the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems, but doesn’t explain why or how.

          Nancy describes the effort and frustration to obtain a license to practice in the 1980’s. Many of the laws and regulations are still outdated when it comes to naturopaths practicing their specialties with the public. Since more people see a holistic practitioner than a clinician on average, it’s obvious that the laws and regulations need to be updated and streamlined. Unfortunately, since the holistic field has minimal to no support among the political action committees (which means no cash in the wallets of the politicians), the Byzantine treatment of the holistic field by federal, state, and local agencies continue to this day. This ignorance by the government is also shared by many laypeople, as Nancy has pointed out, but the bright side is that educating people about the holistic field often dispels the skepticism some originally have. Some people have told Nancy that she has ‘dived too deep’ in her holistic journey; but how would they know if they have never walked in her shoes? As mentioned earlier with youngsters and accidents, if someone has never had a serious, traumatic event occur, they often tend to be ignorant of reality, both their own and the reality of others. Similarly, adults who have not had to deal with traumatic events (yet) can be dismissive of others that devote energy to helping themselves and others that have been traumatized.

          Nancy states that she’s had a great deal of both personal and professional growth in the holistic field, and most of the time she doesn’t separate the two part of her life. This is the ideal situation for a professional: to practice what they preach. Far too many professionals feel that they have to completely separate their career from their personal life, and that often leads to deep contradictions that weigh on them subconsciously. Nancy also commented on how too much intellectualizing can actually impair proper emotional processing, and that “…emotions get looped into thought patterns”. Some professionals are excellent at analyzing concrete entities, but have trouble with processing emotions. Natural therapies may help them to become more balanced and psychologically healthy. Nancy also comments that forgiving others for past transgressions is important to help discard past negative events. One thing that was interesting is that Nancy believes that re-experiencing a traumatic event needs to be done slowly and carefully, as opposed to the blunt ‘exposure’ therapy that many psychologists recommend.

          In the conclusion, Nancy states that she has helped many people, while some continue to search for help or simply give up. Either way, Nancy feels that she’s done the best she could with each person. This is really all one can expect from a naturopath, and from a conventional practitioner as well. No matter what system or methods a health professional uses, some people will be helped and some won’t (at least they won’t consciously realize that they have been helped). The human mind and body is so complex that more than one professional may be needed for even one disorder, let alone several disorders. Education on the various holistic therapies that are available can help prepare someone for what they feel is the proper specialist. Nancy’s book helps a person’s education in this manner.

          In summary, Finding My Way is a great book to read for certain groups of people, including people who are interested in: massage therapy, recovering after a spinal injury, recovering from an accident in general, and general holistic therapies. Nancy’s style is straightforward, warm, personable, and easy to understand. It is a book that touches on a very wide variety of physical, psychological, medical, and holistic issues, and does it relatively smoothly. This book is a relatively easy and good read for the average layperson. A clinician or scientist may want a bit more detail in the various therapies described in the book. I would certainly recommend the book to anyone interested in the four main topics (spinal injury, accidents, massage therapy, general holistic therapies).

The ratings below are not designed for an interpersonal book like this one, and so the overall rating should be taken with a grain of salt.

Ratings:

General Importance to Field of Nutrition: n/a
Importance to Bio-Medical Field: B
Importance to General Public: B
Quality of Information/Data/Research in Book: C-
Quality of Scientific References in Book: n/a

Overall Rating: B-

Book Review - Finding My Way

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