Sunday, September 16, 2007

Letter to a Health News Editor

Dear Editor: Your article in this morning's "Feeling Fit" section of the DeSoto Sun about using hypnosis by Tim Bartley to cure fibromyalgia is an embarrassment -- and dangerous. Tim Bartley holds no current professional license in the state of Florida that I can find. Your article says he "works at" a hypnosis center but doesn't list a college degree or any specialized training. Despite these obvious red flags, you've awarded him a free platform to advertise dangerous misinformation in the form of "news." Even his Web sites seem to be disabled. Bear with me and consider the following four or five things an editor should have done with this article -- before spiking it.
The text of the full article is below.

1. Use your general science knowledge. Think back to high school science classes. You learned enough anatomy to know if someone has "holes in the stomach" as Bartley describes, the person would likely be retching blood, bleeding internally and in extreme pain. None of these symptoms are appropriate for hypnosis. Furthermore, any current "medical editor" knows that in the last 20 years, researchers have demonstrated beyond question that a bacterium causes many cases of ulcers and they develop unrelated to stress. Bartley offers no insight as to how he can possibly distinguish between a bacterial infection and a condition brought on by stress.

2. Use your knowledge of history. Think back to high school history classes. They taught that Freud (Sigmund, although you-the-editor have failed to ask this writer to identify him or his daughter Anna Freud, also a practitioner) developed his psychoanalytical theories in the 1880's and 1890's -- more than a 120 years ago. This is a very distant hook for Bartley to hang his hat on. Perhaps Bartley is not familiar with any newer research regarding the fascinating and complex connections between mental and physical conditions.

3. Do basic fact checking. As an editor, you have access to any number of information resources, but even a simple "Google" quickly locates a dozen articles about fibromyalgia. Choose three, say from Mayo Clinic, NIH, and PubMed -- relatively reliable sources, all. Compare those reports about the causes and cures for this condition: cause unknown, treatment unknown. Compare those science-based medical reports with Bartley's claim to have personally "fixed" fibromyalgia "in his office yesterday." He sounds pretty silly to any editor who has done her homework.

4. Use critical thinking skills. Even cursory research turns up an important characteristic of fibromyalgia: For many suffers, it comes and goes, even to the point of being better in the afternoon! Its symptoms are often vague and mimic other serious diseases. Vauge and intermittent conditions can appear to be "fixed" when symptoms fade or change.

The people who undergo Bartley's apparently unlicensed hypnosis and seem to feel better also did a number of other things just prior to feeling better. But they were smart enough to figure out that, for example, driving U.S. 41 while listening to a Mozart concerto on PBS didn't cure their intermittent disease or even send it into remission, even though the drive and music transpired shortly before they began to feel better.

Remember, quacks claim "cures" only for intermittent conditions, ones that frequently go into remission for unknown reasons. This characteristic tempts desperate people to buy into the very strong delusion that a cause-and-effect relationship exists between spending money on a nice "healer" and feeling better a few minutes later. For example, I usually feel better after talking to my nice doctors. It feels good and reassuring to have them thump on my back, wave that cute little stethoscope over my chest, poke up my nose and peek into my ears with a warm little lamp, look me in the eyes and say "Hmmm." Afterwards, I often feel less headachy, stiff, and yes, even a little less mean and grumpy. But I may still have a terrible disease. That's what Bartley is doing, except he's probably doing it fraudulently and is clearly operating from a position of great misinformation and even ignorance.

5. I could go on. Bartley's explanation of stress and emotions wouldn't get him a pass on the state's FCAT science section. But his most dangerous claim that "unresolved emotions" causes tumors is worse than a fraud. He tempts people who may have a possible cancer to try hypnosis (cheap and accessible) instead of seeking a proper diagnosis and treatment (expensive and time-consuming).

The article:
Fibromyalgia and other physical pains that can be helped with hypnosis by Tim Bartley of Renaissance Hypnosis
Okay, I just saw a commercial with people crying because they have fibromyalgia. I also know that I just fixed this in my office yesterday, again. Is this pain real? Yes, it is. How could this be generated from the human mind? Freud stated that all psychosomatic illness -- psycho meaning mind, soma meaning body -- is hidden from the conscious mind. That is so true!

Think of a common problem, such as an ulcer. Ulcers are holes in the stomach brought on by feelings of stress. No one can feel stress unless they first feel overwhelmed, by the way. This continual stress, an emotion, can result in holes in the stomach lining. So there is a very comprehensible example. So how do I cure fibromyalgia and other physical problems? I first explain that all emotion equates to an action. If someone came into the room and started screaming at you, it might make you angry. That's a feeling. What might you do? You might yell back, you might throw something or run away. That's an action.

When these unresolved emotions become built up in the subconscious, much like a pressure cooker, it then relates to a "bodily action," which is illness, pain and tumors. Your feelings and emotions stem from your subconscious mind. There is a way to target the emotions underlying fibromyalgia, headache, IBS, and many other physical problems, a way that does not bring on the physical condition, but rather finds the feeling that is causing the symptoms. After that, the subconscious mind is then directed back to the very first time, situation or event where you ever felt such a feeling and change the perception of that event. Once the cause of the feeling is found and the pressure is released, the symptoms of the illness cease and never return.
Tim Bartley works at Renaissance Hypnosis in Charlotte County.

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