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Assumptions and Differences of Opinion

My brother kindly sent me an article.  It is entitled “Pass the Facts” and is dated from December 2018.

It discusses how to argue cohesively with a member of the family during the festive period with whom you might disagree on hard, scientific facts; arguably a member of the family who might hold strong “right brained” views on topics such as climate change, HIV and vaccinations.  This particular member of the family may be someone who believes all they read on social media, be carried away on a wave of emotion after seeing a friend’s child experiencing serious vaccination side effects (possibly now autistic) and have formed a strong opinion as a result.

The job of the left brained “scientific” member of the family may be to seek to debunk the myths that have perpetuated and correct the thinking for whatever motive / outcome they might be seeking – perhaps so that society can then function “normally” with correct opinions being bandied about rather than ill thought out, emotion-biased myths.  (check out https://fullfact.org/)

My work as a psychotherapist involves providing a safe space for people to explore conflicting thoughts and opinions, people who might be in conflict, people who may feel a weight of disagreement, allegations, intrusions of thought, depression, anxiety and a social feedback loop that has fed into them so strongly they have no idea who they are any more, and thought patterns give rise to extreme anxiety such that they find it hard to function on a day to day basis.  Self-loathing and low self-esteem are such strong emotions that our work together is in teasing out the aspects they DO know they are good at and looking at the feedback they have received that helps to reinforce this.  Little by little I aim to help them rebuild confidence and learn to discard thoughts that do not serve.

I am in danger of making assumptions as to why he sent me this article.  Does he believe me to be so right brained in my thinking to be unaware or ignorant of scientific facts? Or does he believe that in sending me this article I can help others who hold fundamentally opposing views?  I assume the former.

Differences of opinion on hard scientific facts are the least of my worries in my work.  Since I have listened first hand to people with heart problems diagnosed with high cholesterol and prescribed statins – the “hard scientific based facts” community would have you believe that statins save lives.  Let’s not forget that finances play a huge part in prescribing medication that may have serious side effects.  There are counter arguments that present the “facts” that statins are less necessary than one might believe.  Is this a myth, is it going against scientific evidence?  Perhaps our diets have a lot more to do with good and ill health than some medical experts would have you believe.  Here are two such divides: https://utswmed.org/medblog/statins-answers/ and http://doctoraseem.com/the-great-statins-divide/ (since it is useful to read the article my brother sent and look up links as suggested within the article).  Research is vital if we want to continue making improvements in our bio-psycho-social existence as humans on this planet.

The vaccination debate is not going to go away either.  There is big money in developing, marketing and selling vaccinations.  I appreciate that medicine has a place; many clients are on anti-depressant medication and it plays a part in recovery, but the majority I personally see in my consultations would rather not be medicated.  Some people may well need medication for the rest of their lives due to a particular condition – obviously it is not in my jurisdiction to tell them to come off medication, I would be failing in my ethical duty were I do to that, but certainly to keep updated with their doctor as to any progress being made.

We need to accept that side effects can and do happen with medication – vaccinations, tablets and of course on the operating table.  Risks are taken into consideration by the medical team and occasionally we may not know what risks are at stake.  Human beings may have “generalised” ways of working but there’s no accounting for individuality.  Risk assessments are done on the knowledge that we have and chances or not taken where there may be too high a risk.  That’s what we hope if we do not understand ourselves if we are non-medical; we would trust doc knows best.  That doesn’t necessarily mean blindly trusting if we are cognisant beings, it may mean asking, researching and making an informed decision, not one simply based on gut feelings. (more about the gut / brain another time)

There *are* stories of people claiming damages from vaccination side effects; we are told that the vaccination gives a “small dose” of the illness so it would stand to reason there might be some sort of impact!  Also we are told that it’s important for herd immunity to give three or even four different strains of illnesses within a single vaccination – there are books (beyond the “discredited” studies of Andrew Wakefield) citing infants and children experiencing extreme side effects together with law firms who have succeeded in achieving financial damages from vaccination firms. Scaremongering or fact?  How would the average person on the street refute this?  This is what the great divide is all about.  Fact, opinions, stories…

Are we seeking to play God in wanting to cure the world?  Or is this a case of individuals with a very individual reaction that we could never have known?  Did autism really occur in a batch of unvaccinated children in Japan?  Was there an outbreak of measles after the introduction of vaccination or after vaccination was refused?  Did the incidence of measles decline “before” vaccination?  Is measles the killer we are taught to believe?  Does immunity get passed down from mother to child whether they had measles or the vaccination?  Does artificially immunising against measles mean we will now always have to be vaccinated against the disease or will the disease die out?  If the disease dies out does this give rise to other auto immune disorders?  Are cancers, alzheimers, and autoimmune diseases on the rise?  Are their more people diagnosed with autism and aspergers or is diagnosis simply more prevalent? Are there any correlations?  I guess I’d need to be a medical researcher to find out all the information.

I don’t know the answers.  I will sit with people who have a decision to be made or an argument to resolve and invite them to read all the information they can get their hands on so they can make a decision that suits them.

We cannot change people’s opinions by simply providing a counter argument, we have to feel our way and invite them to challenge opinions.  And even then, your opinion may have flaws.  Is it fact or is it opinion?  As I say to people “check in with yourself”, challenge assumptions and beliefs, check the facts as far as you are able.  Even then there may be a catch.

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