Throwing the baby out with the bath water.


Polarization... no, I'm not talking about your sunglasses.

In psychology, the term "group polarization", relates to a behaviour of a group split by opposite views on a subject. As time goes on, members of the group become more and more extreme in their views and the split widens. Fewer people remain in the common ground area and the two groups pull further apart. This word is commonly used in politics, but could be just as apt in many things we are facing in society today.

In my life, I have probably seen examples of this idea in a few different areas, but the one that I have been noticing the most clearly is in people discussing health.

There is a group of people who rely on medicine, doctors, science and studies. I guess I'll use the term "western medicine" – although that makes no sense to me at all – everywhere on earth is west of somewhere! This is probably the more mainstream and in some places more common.

Western Medicine, uses proven medicines to treat illness but these can sometimes have rather unpleasant side effects
There are medicine's, like antibiotics that are a proven and reliable treatment for bladder infections, but still have known side effects

On the other side of the coin there are people who rely on natural remedies, traditional practitioners, and self testing. This is often called alternative medicine.

Alternative Medicine, often uses things that have been used for centuries but have not been proven by our new standards
There are alternative medicines that have been used successfully for treating bladder infections for centuries but don't hold up to current testing

These groups are not firm and fast. A lot of people I know, do things that fit into both. But I do worry about a widening gap between the two.

Topics like vaccination, fluoride in the water supply and natural remedies, seem to have a really polarizing effect on people. When you feel passionately about something it is difficult to calmly discuss your opinions and hear both sides. When there is pressure from the media, the government or people in respected positions, trying to tell you what to do, it's easy to fall into one of two routes. Going along with what you are told or feeling frustrated as if you are being controlled.

There are some amazingly intelligent, passionate people involved in both sides of the debate. They care deeply not only about their own health and the health of their families but about the health of society at large. But that same passion, can make people forget to listen, to close off and dismiss what doesn't fit into their pre-conceived ideas.

An example of this is "evidence". An argument I often hear on why a bladder infection home remedy won't work, is that there is no scientific evidence to back it up. There have been no conclusive tests or studies with control groups and measured data has either disproved it or as is often the case, there has not been any testing. And who wants to be someone to recommend something that might not work or might be dangerous?

Logically, I can completely understand this. As humans, we all want proof that what we are doing is right and will work. This is especially important when you are sick, scared or in pain.

However, I also know that controlled studies cost time, effort and money. Years of work can go into producing a study without conclusive results. I also know that a lot of funding for these kind of projects is done by pharmaceutical companies who have no interest in providing a cure from something that can be grown in your own backyard. If it cannot be patented, it will not be funded.

Lemons can be great for preventing bladder infections and are easily grown in your own backyard in many countries
Lemons are cheap, easy to grow and cannot be patented...I hope!


More than that, I have tested many of these remedies on myself and got the results that I wanted.

I know that they work because they have worked for me, but I can't "prove" it.

Some people choose the route with the proof and the back up studies. Some people choose the route to "take a chance" on something unproven and decide if it works for themselves. Theoretically everyone is happy, choosing what they decide suits them best at that time.

But there are two main issues.

Firstly, each group seems to want to convert the other to their way of thinking.

Resentment grows and the truth gets diluted as each tries to outdo the other, with scaremongering in the media and social forums and biased documentaries. The gap between the groups grows wider, as both groups dismiss what the other has to say, based on a previous track record rather than hearing out each idea out on it's own merits.

Sadly, most of this is brought about by the fact that each group really wants what is best for everybody. There is talk of conspiracies to control and manipulate, but by and large, I believe that most people genuinely want to help their fellow human beings.

If history is anything to go by, this gap only widens as each group begins to say nastier things and up's the ante. This is no fun, and is incredibly confusing for everyone at a time when you most need support – when you or your family is sick or injured.

The second issue, which may be more important, is that we miss out on an opportunity to come up with the best solution. There are valuable things to be learned from both sides but as they seem to swing further and further apart – we miss out on the collective knowledge available not only from each group but what they could produce together.

Meaning that everybody misses out.

By using elements from both groups and coming up with a win-win solution that suits everybody, we could move beyond this into an even better result than we could in either group alone.

What if, instead of dismissing a home remedy as having no proof that it works, we decided to crowd-source a test that would prove or disprove it? What if instead of relying only on one type of evidence, we discovered a way to make anecdotes and real life experiences of people into a manageable system of analysing if something is worth trying or not? What if instead of throwing the baby out with the bath water*, we worked together to find a solution that works for everybody?

The real missed opportunity lies in not having our "best and brightest" working together for a solution that could help all of us. At this stage, humans are the most technologically advanced as we have ever been. With the internet, we have easy access to a vast history of healing from cultures across the world. And with social media, we are able to spread an idea across the world like no other time before.

Surely if there was ever any time in history to be creating health and wellness, it's now.




*Just in case you have never heard the term "throwing the baby out with the bath water", I'm not being cruel and unusual to babies. It's simply an expression for throwing out the good things with the bad.