Mindfulness Matters

Mindfulness Matters

“The Cure Is .. Transform Your Health”: Another Dangerous Pseudoscience Film

posted by Dr. Arnie Kozak

I was recently sent a preview of the film, The Cure Is … . Watching the trailer, brought to mind the pseudoscientific and therefore dangerous films, The Secret and What the Bleep Do We Know. Perhaps you have received an invitation to view this film as well. If you watch, please do so with caution.

It is an admixture of testimonial from patients afflicted with cancer, wellness experts, with interludes of animated and nature footage on the miracle of life.

Illogic is embedded quickly into the overarching miracle narrative. Somehow because one out of 40 Million sperm eventually fertilizes the egg that you were born from, this is presented as an intentional act instead of a random occurrence. Why does that event connote specialness? Why does this designate your purpose in life? I’m sure a similar process occurs in all mammals. Would we say that each squirrel is born with a unique purpose? Each mouse. Each marmot?

The experts move from a basic and accurate description of the stress response system (science) to unsupported claims that our thoughts cause illness, that negative thinking invites disease into our lives (pseudoscience). The case is simplified and overstated.

The testimonials come from patients with cancer. A recent scientific review in the Journal of the American Medical Association (Cohen, S., Janicki-Deverts, D., & Miller, G. E. (2007). Psychological stress and disease. JAMA (298): 1685-1687) on the role of psychological stress in illness stated that:

It is generally believed that stress is more likely to influence the progression and recurrence of cancer than initial onset of the disease. Yet the critical prospective studies in this area have been largely unsupportive.

The logic of these experts leads to blaming the victim. Many, in fact most, people engage in negative thinking and have a chronically elevated stress response and remain healthy. Many loving bright people who engage in healthy lifestyles with positive thinking get disease. The JAMA article stated:

Although stressors are often associated with illness, the majority of individuals confronted with traumatic events and chronic serious problems remain disease-free.

Lifestyle factors are known to contribute large portions of the variance of health–social support, exercise, and diet, in particular. Positive thinking does not hurt either and it is one of the contributing factors to health and wellbeing–not the main and certainly not the primary causative factor as portrayed in this movie.

There seems to be nothing new in this film. The claims of the experts go awry when they invoke the law of attraction, or what William James called the “religion of healthy mindedness” over a hundred years ago.

How is it helpful to believe that you attracted cancer into your life? It’s specious reasoning after the fact to look to your internal or external milieu after a diagnosis to find you had negative thoughts or stressful circumstances. We all do. It is quite another to attribute causal power to them.

If you have a recent diagnosis of cancer, you did not “attract” it with your thoughts. This line of thinking is dangerous, stupid, and wrong. This movie and others like it exploit a vulnerability in our brains for attributing causation to things that are only correlated. It makes us a superstitious creature, prone to magical thinking.

Of course, you will feel better and be healthier if you embrace love more than fear. However, the scientific linkages between stress and illness have not been firmly established–despite decades of research.

Be positive, be optimistic, live a healthy lifestyle, love yourself and others–by all means. Don’t blame yourself if you get sick. If you do get sick, take responsibility for yourself, redouble your efforts of love and lifestyle. Don’t waste your money on this film.


  • http://natosongs.com Nate Orshan

    Cheers for continuing to promote reason and science over ignorance and superstition. I’ll steer clear of “The Cure Is .. Transform Your Health”.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Jeff

    ‘If you have a recent diagnosis of cancer, you did not “attract” it with your thoughts.’ This line of thinking is dangerous, stupid, and wrong.’

    Thank you for this. I remember in the eighties when a lot of my friends were affected by HIV and in desperation turned to the new age ‘create your own reality’ approach. This just made them believe they had somehow attracted their illness by negative thinking and to learn some kind of karmic lesson etc… and left them guilty and wondering why once they started trying to be more ‘positive’ they just got more sick so thought they must be doing something wrong. Most of them subsequently died and this pernicious philosophy just made the la st period of their life even more difficult.

    I continue to see this line of thinking lauded all over the Internet and just do not understand how the ‘shadow’ side of this approach is ignored by so many.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Matt

    I get what you are saying yet at the same time have to disagree a little, if the people in the movie truly believe that they cured themselves with their mind then surely for them that is a great thing and can also give a ray of light to others?

    Now I don’t know either way whether it is possible or not to cure oneself, actually nobody does, there in no conclusive evidence either way as far as I can see.

    Lets say you had cancer and were told your form was incurable, you pretty much have nothing left to fight for but on the other hand if you believe you can cure yourself then surely you are more likely to respond in a more positive way?

    Would your cells not be more likely to heal if you were of a positive frame that 100% believed you could cure yourself?

    *Note these are only questions, I have no more have the answers than you do :)

  • http://ThismessageisparticularlyrelevantforMentalIllness...... David Gow


    I’ve watched this film, and I suffer from mental illness. This film isn’t saying that you are to “blame” for your illness, but that the ways in which you perceive the world and your environment have left you vulnerable to illness. There is a BIG difference.

    When it comes to mental illness, science has not been able to identify the cause, or even identify what exactly it is. We have a theory (chemical Imbalance, ) certainly, but knowing this is not that helpful. The fact of the matter is, is that people with mental health issues who want to help themselves could do a lot worse than try perceiving themselves and the world in the way described in this film. Psychiatry and psychology has not provided many answers or solutions thus far (see the bit around the 40:00 minute mark) and any success they do have is centred around doing EXACTLY what is suggested in this film… being more positive and minimsing negativity.

    OK… curing cancer maybe a stretch, but preventing it is certainly possible.

    The general message though, of the film, is just to open your mind to new ways of improving your quality of life. Does it matter if these suggestions are pseudo-scientific? Of course not. Much of science starts out as pseudo science, and we know next to nothing about the human brain and capacity for self healing. in 100 years, we might just find that these ideas form an entirely new branch of quantifiable, proven science.

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  • nenad

    you just don’t get it.

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