Where love rules, there is no will to power; and where power predominates, there love is lacking. The one is the shadow of the other . . . --Carl Gustav Jung in The Psychology of the Unconscious.
In the final analysis, says Dr. Elliott Dacher, love is the bottom line of health.
Dacher does not say this metaphorically. It is a conclusion he has reached after several years of practicing what he learned in med school followed by nearly a decade as one of the early medical adherents to a practice based on "wellness" rather than "sickness."
And the kind of love he is talking about is not just the one-on-one relationship, although that is certainly part of it. "To me," says Dacher, "interpersonal love is only one part of transpersonal love, and I don't believe one is possible without the other."
Early in his practice Dacher became dissatisfied with what he and a few of his colleagues felt was a Band-Aid type of medicine--doctors waiting for something to go wrong and then trying to fix it, even though the underlying problem was unsolved, or even unrecognized.
To meet this need with what he perceived as a more rational albeit less orthodox--and less technological--approach, he devised some wellness/stress-management/relaxation workshops, first for his own patients and then for others interested in his approach.
During the past few years, even as he has helped corporations establish in-house health and preventive medicine programs, he has continued to study approaches to health and healing that most establishment practitioners regard as marginal at best.
Still, the leading edge of brain research today is suggesting that "all in the mind" does not at all mean "imaginary," and that the so-called placebo effect is much too powerful to be dismissed as non-science.
Quite scientific "double-blind/crossover" studies have demonstrated changes in blood hormones and blood pressure in situations of deep relaxation. But old habits and beliefs die hard, and Dacher and those who share his eclectic view of medical practice still are regarded by most of their colleagues as possibly interesting but probably irrelevant anomalies--even though their numbers continue to grow.
Now Dacher has collected a body of evidence--mostly anecdotal, even poetic--suggesting the relationship of love to healing and health.
He presented his thesis--for the first time in workshop form--to a group meeting recently at The Sporting Club in McLean.
Not the least of his evidence has been, he says, gleaned from his patients--25,000 he has treated for one thing or another during the years of his practice. Problems with relationships led the list.
(This is not an unusual finding. At a recent seminar for psychiatric nurses sponsored by the Psychiatric Institute Foundation, a Capitol Hill psychotherapist and stress management expert described her patient population as including "many women lawyers and high-powered Hill types in extremely stressful jobs." However, she said, in almost 100 percent of the cases the single thing that brought them for help was a failed love relationship.)
Dacher agrees with psychologist Erich Fromm in his classic The Art of Loving, that, as Dacher paraphrases, "We value money; we value achievement; we value fame, but love has really disintegrated from anything meaningful in Western society."
And, says Dacher, "It just begins to seem to me that unless we can come to care for ourselves and others that we're in a lot of trouble."
Dacher cites the famous Holmes Scale, developed to measure the relationship of stressful life events to illness.
By a system of backtracking the recent stressful events in the lives of certain ill persons, numbers could be assigned to events according to their intensity in predicting illnesses, especially when there were clusters of events within a short period. Notes Dacher, "Of the top 10 events, six are related to one relationship or another."
He also cites medical literature demonstrating an increase in deaths and illness among those who have recently lost long-standing partners.
On top of this, he says, "One can go as far back as the healing temples of the ancient Greeks and the healings during the early Christian era and discover that the healings always occurred in the presence of a healer who was a deeply loving person. Wherever it has occurred, faith healing has been based on the transmission of a sense of love and caring."
"Finally," he says, "deep inside each of us is a deeply loving person."
The problem, says Dacher, is that we have "no role models in loving," and love is misperceived. To find the "deeply loving" self within is the only way to assure a successful love relationship, he believes, as well as a healthy self--not to mention a healthy planet and a peaceful world. "It requires serious and intense study, meditation and self-knowledge," he maintains.
"For the last 400 to 500 years we have focused on understanding the nature of the body and its relationship to disease," says Dacher. "The thrust of the future is going to be understanding the mind and its relationship to disease.
"If the loss of love can provoke illness, and the expectation of a cure or healing process--the placebo effect--can promote healing, what would caring and loving and nurturing experiences do?
"What is the relationship to the body of the perception in one's mind of being cared for and loved or of being a loving person?
"It can be only a reasonable hypothesis," says Dacher, but "from all our intuitive and indirect experiences the process of the healthy, loving relationship is one in which one feels in balance, in harmony. There must be some physiologic explanation, and some day we are going to come to understand that there is no difference between the placebo creating a picture in one's mind of expectancy or a fang-bearing tiger of stress. There will be something about looking at the world in an optimistic, open, receptive, non-warlike way and having that impact on one's body."