Feb 17, 2008
Dear Ladies and Gentlemen:
From time to time, we will read -and we may feel compelled to write- material which appears to guarantee some remarkable or very definite outcome that will result from taking vitamins or supplements, reading a book, doing a "program," or various other activities. Much of the support for the positve outcomes associated with such things is in the form of personal experience -ours, or someone else's.
No problem with any of that, and I am certainly not going to challenge the positive impact of dietary supplements, meditation, self-help books or programs or anything at all which might deliver a benefit. And, I frankly don't care if it is the "placebo effect" which is at work. Hey: if it works, it works!
A problem arises, however, whenever we attempt to promote anything in such a manner as to suggest that it is an "answer" superior to all others -especially to what medical science has so carefully tested and studied. To begin with, if we don't have the test data developed from double-blind studies covering thousands of people over decades, we really can't substantiate any claim beyond our own experience with it, or the testimony of folks we don't even know. So, we not only risk imparting information which has not been adequately tested -but worse, we may appear to present ourselves as experts, which few here would claim to be.
The worst of all possible outcomes occurs when someone who is desparate for relief discards all the professional medical help they've been receiving and devotes themsleves instead to our "miracle cure." Depending on circumstances, that can actually be dangerous. And, given the fact that many who come here -especially new folks- are desparately hungry for relief, folks on this forum may be more vulnerable than those who populate other kinds of forums. This can not only be bad for the individual -but also bad for the Community at large, which relies absolutely on trust and credibility. If we lose that -we lose a lot.
We can, we do, and we SHOULD report our own experience. If something works for you, say what it is and why you think so. That's what we do here, among other things.
But, regard with healthy suspicion any material which purports to offer a radically effective outcome. And, regard with healthy (and polite) suspicion any individual who appears to present a special knowledge or expertise. Take what you can use, and leave the rest behind. One of the reasons many of us are here, after all, is that so very little seems to have helped and, if nothing else, we wish to know that we are not alone in our quest to overcome our disorder. What has helped more than anything else, in my observation, is reading about how others have found relief -even an escape- and understanding how what others have done could apply to us, too.
Friends, like it or not, we DO THERAPY here on the anxiety forum. We can't NOT do it. And, in a sense, we really ARE experts, if experience is the most important measure. More than anywhere else, we owe a high degree of care to our fellow travelers here. It is not only our assurance that what we offer to others is credible -but also our assurance that what we receive for ourselves is the same.
Obviously, I would not be moved to write about this were it not for a few posts I've read which to my mind are skating on the edge of that credibility -either because of the suggestion of extraordinary outcomes, or the presumption of some special expertise on the part of the author. Here and there, I also detect a touch of arrogance.
Most of you -the very vast majority- already know what I'm talking about. I'm sure all of you will agree that it bears repeating, however. I also realize that for some, excitement about a positive outcome may stimulate the production of material with complete innocence on the part of the contributor, but which is nonetheless a bit of a "stretch."
So, I ask you simply to keep these thoughts in mind as you read and write. I appreciate your tolerance of my anxiety over the matter.