Yes, there were instances that my family tried Tuob. And it indeed alleviated our flu-like symptoms. But whether it killed the virus or not, we don’t know. What we know is the feeling of relief, it made us feel secure, well, and stronger than we were.
Tuob, and other traditional health practices, are handed down by our ancestors and already part of the fabric of our culture. These rituals reflect our local conception of health and wellbeing. It is an attempt at understanding and grasping the nature of phenomena surrounding us – origin, processes, and effects.
Before the onset of science and medicine as we know now, local wisdom already proliferates. While some of these established concepts lack explanatory power or are based on faulty assumptions, some of the effects on health and wellbeing are palpable.
I had a young client yesterday who suffered from obsessive-compulsive disorder. She has been frequently washing her hands and feet since the pandemic and it is affecting her life and relationships significantly.
In an attempt to find alleviation, her mother brought her to an albularyo. The traditional healer explained that she has been played by 7 dwarves and they are the ones telling her to wash her hands always.
When the albularyo told her that she had extinguished two of the dwarves, it made her feel better and stronger. From 14 times hand washing a day, it went down to 7 and then 5.
How do I as her psychotherapist tell her and the mother that they were tricked by the albularyo into believing about dwarves? How can I change their belief and convince them that its not the dwarves, it’s the mind!
Yet she got better! Their belief and faith on the albularyo certainly created a change on her thinking, which in effect alleviated her symptoms. The belief maybe faulty, if our basis is science, but the relief on suffering cannot be dismissed.
As someone who is trained onevidence-based practices, I was tempted to tell her in the face not to hope much because the improvement is temporary, and it is dangerous in the long-term. However, I chose not to. Rather, I took it as an opportunity to get into her world, attempt to see what she sees, speak her language, and work along with her concepts and beliefs of dwarves, holding them as the object by which I use to help her restructure her cognition and thoughts.
If I acted like the straightforward “science man” that I thought I was, I could have unnecessarily triggered her psychological defenses and lost the meaningful engagement, the bedrock in building therapeutic alliance.
There is a vast literature on the mind-body connection. While western medicine highlights biological and cellular processes as the cause of illness and disease, the effect of the mind on physiological and bodily activities, especially on the inception and alleviation of maladies, is also well-documented.
Take for example our well knownKabuhi. It is a variant of anxiety. But anxiety, as the west knows and defines it, does not totally capture its meaning and richness. Describing it as just a problem in the stomach or a symptom of our fears and worries fall short of what it truly is as actually experienced by our people. The only plausible explanation that makes much sense to many necessitates the interplay of the mind, soul, and the spirit.
We need to consider local beliefs and practices. Why? Because it is belief and trust that determine much the behavior of people. If they distrust the doctors because they don’t understand and they feel misunderstood, they will continue to resort to rituals and other practices, which may prove to be harmful in the end.
I believe, rather than just squarely dismissing Tuob as a remedy for some illnesses, let us recognize its effects, if not at the biological level, at least at the psychological. For all we know, this fight with COVID 19 is equally mental than just cellular.