[ Question ]

Living with a homeopath - how?

by sudoLife1 min read21st Aug 202136 comments

5

Self-DeceptionFallacies
Personal Blog

My mother is a believer in homeopathy, and at the present time I am living with my parents.

I am frequently pressured to take homeopathy, usually in the form of injections.

To cure cold, to boost immunity (a very hot topic in the current pandemic), etc.

My efforts to talk science have been futile, most of the time I am offered to do it and see for myself. While I like testing things empirically, I much suspect she won't be able to update her beliefs after 20 years of "successfully" treating herself and others. All papers I cite are "paid for" and "influenced". Well, you most probably know all the arguments already.

This is getting on my nerves, plus she's often rude about my rejections. The way I see it, I can only grit my teeth and hope for enough income to move out as soon as possible. However, it's rather difficult to walk away from your family (though I suppose I won't last much longer).

Is there a better way?

New Answer
Ask Related Question
New Comment

9 Answers

When fighting against a tug-of-war (between scientific and "alternative" medicine, say) in a high-dimensional space, the best strategy is to pull sideways.

Fortunately, homeopathy is mostly harmless—a wonderful improvement over the usually actively-harmful "medicine" of its day, which is why it gained enough of a following to kind of get grandfathered in to our current system. So you probably have some time. If you're not a minor, you have the absolute right to refuse your mother's "treatments". It sounds like it's for your own good in her mind, so she won't disown you over this. If you are a minor, it's probably not going to kill you, but you can still fight it and maybe consider early emancipation.

But the level of insanity required to believe in this stuff is also sufficient to persuade people to drink bleach and die, or donate all of their money to Nigerian "princes"—a very dangerous place to be in the Internet age. Homeopathy is only a symptom. The real disease is faulty epistemology. It's endemic, but some people have a worse case than others.

Irrational people develop defenses against direct arguments, but you can often work around these using the Socratic method.

Street Epistemology is a modern method of Socratic dialogue focused on improving the interlocutor's epistemology, guiding them to eventually doubt and release their attachment to false beliefs. For someone in your position, it's worth learning to do. You may want to practice with others before trying it on your mother though.

You might propose a compromise. You don't get any injections but are willing to take sugar pills in high enough concentration so that they are practically inert. 

Afterwards, the treatments won't have any effect on you, so it's okay to take them to allow your mother to express her care for you.

Don't attach your identity to beliefs about things that don't really matter. 

I predict I would trap myself by hinting that I believe homeopathy and simply am afraid of injections (I'm not, but I take no pleasure either). Don't you think so?

6Viliam2moYou are trapped either way, this might be a way to minimize damage. If you can't avoid the nonsense, maybe you could at least avoid the painful nonsense.
5ChristianKl2moYou don't need to say that you believe in homeopathy. You can just say: "Hey, Mother you want me to take homeopathy supplements and I'm willing to do that for you even so I don't believe in them, if they don't come in the form of injections. Do we have a deal?"
1sudoLife2moYeah, I suppose this is the only way. I wish I could save her the money and emotional attachment, but I see no way to do it and every time I try, we just end up fighting.
6ChristianKl2moPeople spent a lot of money on signal various qualities and feel good about it. It's generally a good heuristic in life to allow other people to go through that process if it works for them emotionally instead of fighting them with both sides ending up feeling bad.
2Pattern2moI don't know exactly what you mean by the term 'injections' but I am afraid of that - in that: * I believe that injecting anything (even water) into your veins can kill you * Injecting stuff in other places...sounds like a horrible idea. * I've had vaccines that were painful because...they were injections. * From what I've heard about homeopathy some of it is actively harmful. (If I was in your shows, I would be worried about a) dying, b) things going badly, not getting medical treatment, c) things going badly getting 'treatment' that makes things worse etc.
1sudoLife2moHm, there's the classic injection in your butt (widely used in medicine), there are local injections near knees / neck / elbows / spinal cord (sometimes you need the stuff close to the problem). Afaik homeopathy is not administered to veins. That's about all I can think of / witnessed myself.

The problem your trying to solve is not how to change your mother's beliefs. Your problem is how to communicate that she's making you feel negatively and if the two of you are going to have a relationship she needs to change her behaviour.

Trying to have a system 2 scientific discussion with your mother in this scenario is playing water polo with a lead ball. You may go in with a clear head and a scientific argument and manage to throw the ball. But 3 sentences in and you're both going to be below water, having an emotional system 1 conversation.

What is an emotional conversation? It's a conversation in which:

  1. The goals of the participants are not actually to present facts or reasoning about the world (e.g "homeopathy does not do the things you claim and here's why"), but to communicate how the actions of another makes them feel ("when I say that homeopathy is not for me but you push it on me it makes me feel disrespected and frustrated")

  2. The skills needed to facilitate the conversation are less reasoning and language skills, and more being able to express how your feeling in realtime, communicate you boundaries, being sensitive to how the other person is feeling without taking responsibility for it, and be vulnerable if that's appropriate.

This is all easier said than done, especially when it comes to family. Some things you can do to practice a conversation like this:

  1. Have it in your head, and imagine your mother saying whatever would maximally trigger you and how you might respond with emotion communication and boundry setting. ("I feel disrespected" -> "it's not my fault you won't see the light of homeopathy" -> "now I'm feeling like you don't care that you're making me feel this way")

  2. Role play with a therapist or trusted friend. Some universities or work places offer free therapists that could help you if you're insurance won't cover it.

  3. Read books on the subject like "non violent communication"

Good luck my friend!

This is a good strategy, and I agree I need to upgrade my communication skills. Thank you so much!

Have it in your head, and imagine your mother saying whatever would maximally trigger you and how you might respond with emotion communication and boundary setting. ("I feel disrespected" -> "it's not my fault you won't see the light of homeopathy" -> "now I'm feeling like you don't care that you're making me feel this way")

Good call. I lose my cool very rarely, usually I'm just not responding to the triggers like "you're a coward" which makes me look better in the overall pictures (like I'm not the mean one). Upping my game a little will be for the best.

Honestly, I think your chances to change your mother's opinions on homeopathy are close to zero.

(Unless perhaps it is that case that someone else is pressuring her into homeopathy, and you could somehow undermine her trust in that third party. But that is manipulation.)

I would recommend setting and protecting your boundaries. You should have a doctor, who is different from your mother's doctor. Then, refuse to discuss medicine with your mother. Do not try to convince her, just refuse to take any pills or injections. Not "because they don't work from the scientific perspective", but simply "no". If she insists that you are stubborn or stupid, let her have the moral victory, but keep saying "no" to the medicine.

The way I see it, I can only grit my teeth and hope for enough income to move out as soon as possible.

Moving away from your parents can change things a lot. I still remember the first morning I woke up at my own place. It was maybe 10 AM, sun shining through the windows, a complete silence, no one was yelling at me or at someone else in the next room, and I thought "all the following mornings will be like this" and I felt happy.

Yeah, it can cost a lot of money...

Honestly, I think your chances to change your mother's opinions on homeopathy are close to zero.

Agreed.

(Unless perhaps it is that case that someone else is pressuring her into homeopathy, and you could somehow undermine her trust in that third party. But that is manipulation.)

Her belief came to be when doctors predicted unhappy health developments unless she did this and that (meaning abortion and surgeries). Homeopathy wasn't so unwelcoming, and somehow things have gotten sorted out on their own. So yeah, zero chance here.

You should have a doctor, who is

... (read more)

Explain to your family that to properly evaluate homeopathy your entire family needs to understand statistics.  Give your parents some books on statistics and whenever they bug you to do something about homeopathy ask how much progress they have made with the stats books.  Start numerous conversations with your parents about statistics and work statistics into all the conversations they have with you.  When they want to watch TV suggest instead they watch a YouTube stats video.  Eventually, work out a truce.  

This is funny, but I worry that they will learn just enough pseudo-statistics to begin using it in their arguments instead of learning enough to change their minds.

Maybe, at some point. I can certainly see how things can go downhill here, but then again, they are anyway. 

Have you ever changed someone's mind this way? (Seriously asking, I haven't tried that.)

2James_Miller2moNo, but the goal wouldn't be to change someone's mind. It would be to get them to stop bugging you.

Changing someone's mind is an incredibly difficult thing to do. In this situation, I would ask myself: is this what I want to pour my time and effort into? Is this the most important thing for me to do right now?

What has worked for me in the past is re-evaluating the situation. Assuming that neither of you will budge, is there an equilibrium you can reach--both now and when you move away? "Walking away" often feels like the only viable option, but in reality, there is usually a whole spectrum of possible options. What would work for you? What are the topics you care and that you want to share with your mother? What are the topics she cares about and wants to share with you? (Is there overlap?) The answers might lead you to finding a new equilibrium, even if it's "meeting my mother twice a year, talking only about food and pets."

Also, because I read the last sentence of your post in a somewhat struggling tone (which may not be true, because words on a screen), I can share that doing a few sessions of talk therapy can be really helpful in a situation like this.

Thank you for your thoughts.

Is this the most important thing for me to do right now?

To be honest, my mind draws a blank here. While it is not my top priority, the things as they are now might impact my mother's health and sanity in the future. I wish there were a way to save everyone.

The issue comes from the default mode of "distrust authority and anyone with power while prioritizing persecuted-looking people's words". This comes from the elderly generation having grown in the totalitarian regime. A reasonable concern, but it also helps them discard any sc... (read more)

The Prediction-based-Medicine paradigm would be another way. You ask for predictions of what happens when you take the treatment and for predictions about what happens when you don't. Then you might flip a coin to decide whether to take the treatment.

This approach can allow you to see how the Briers score for the treatments compares to the Briers score for not having the treatment.

Hm, I might put it to use at some point, thanks for the concept!

Unfortunately, right now I am being coerced into taking an immunity "boost", whose desired outcome is not really possible to measure. "Your immunity will get stronger" is too vague.

And of course, I am not going to have it instead of a Covid vaccine as I am being told to do.

3Pattern2moThis might be a dumb idea but: If you're sure that the 'boost' will not make things worth (find out about it, talk to multiple actual doctors who are not affiliated with it, etc.) and aren't worried about a slippery slope Would going for both work? ("I want all the help I can get.")
3sudoLife2moI believe it will give her more leverage over me the next time. It's like blackmailing people into doing worse things than the blackmail, and then using those to blackmail further. Also, you can't just consult doctors in a few days here. You have to make an appointment and wait for a good deal of time (up to two months usually), so it's only worth doing if you've got a serious issue.
2Pattern2moThen don't.

I find the concept regression toward the mean very useful because it is very intuitive, understandable and not related to health. Especially this example of Kahneman about an instructor of the Israeli Air Force is totally relatable, funny and understandable.

The fact that this concept (and the example) is not related to health has the advantages that one doesn't need to have any kind of health-related knowledge to understand it and that it may not trigger usual arguments. The disadvantage is that they may argue that it does not apply to health. But there is a workaround: start by pointing out that sometimes one does feel ill and this feeling goes naturally away --the body is a healing machine! They will have to agree on that. Then you can tell the story.

I tried something similar a couple of times online with total strangers... I'm really not sure of the outcome. But face to face it may work better, especially with family members.

Good luck!

Oh, I loved that example when I read it in his book!

But there is a workaround: start by pointing out that sometimes one does feel ill and this feeling goes naturally away -- the body is a healing machine!

Funnily enough, she does use this kind of argument herself when advocating against the Covid vaccines.

I think I tried using it once at some point and it went like this:

-- Our body is a healing machine

-- Yeah

-- So homeopathy might not actually do anything

-- Well, it helps those natural body processes

-- How do you know?

-- It makes you heal faster

-- But why a

... (read more)
2mikbp2moOh, such a pity it did not work but funny that you tried it already :-)
  1. Slight of hand:

    If you're not bothered by injections and have appropriate technique then all you have to do is shoot saline in front of your mother.
     
  2. Operant conditioning:

    Apply the gold standard of animal training. Reward positive behaviours, ignore negative ones.

    The obvious problem with using OC on your relatives is that you typically have care for them. Micromanaging every interaction kills any hope of honesty or intimacy. They're just problems to be managed, not people you can actually share anything with.
     
  3. This situation is a test. It is not the last time you will be confronted with this kind of thing. If you favour science, then what do you think your logical course of action should be if prior courses have failed?

If you're not bothered by injections and have appropriate technique then all you have to do is shoot saline in front of your mother.

I might do just that if I ever feel an urge to be confined in a psychiatry clinic.

The obvious problem with using OC on your relatives is that you typically have care for them.

Agreed, that's something I'd use on my college peers, not relatives.

This situation is a test. It is not the last time you will be confronted with this kind of thing. If you favor science, then what do you think your logical course of action should be if p

... (read more)
1Stuart Anderson2moLearn how to deal with people unlike yourself without having to convert them to your beliefs or run away from them. The sooner you figure this out, the less avoidable suffering you'll have to endure. Here's a radical idea: if you don't like being at home, don't be at home. Go out and get a job. That will get you some money, actual real world experience, and external perspectives that you currently lack.
2sudoLife2moWith all due respect, "learn how" is why I am here, it is in my very question. I do have a job, and hence some experience outside my family bubble. However, at work I deal with scientists who are a very different kind of people as you might imagine.
-8Stuart Anderson2mo