I had at least three clients come to me after they saw the show ‘Heal’ on Netflix (which I wrote about here) and not that long ago, I had a client come because they’d seen the episode on energy healing on Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop Lab series on Netflix. So, I thought I better watch it and see what it was about.
The premise of the show is pretty simple. Some of Gwyneth’s staff, a guest actor, Julianne Hough, and Gwyneth herself all have treatments with one John Amaral, a chiropractor who has developed a ‘somatic energy healing practice’ which he calls the ‘Energy Flow Formula’. He also tries to show one of his friends how to do it.
In one scene, Julianne and three of the Goop team are invited to lie face down on a treatment table (if you come for reiki, you’ll know I do treatments with you face up). He begins the treatment, with his hands swooping above the body and down towards it, a magician of sorts. Julianne immediately contorts her body into various positions that perhaps only a dancer or actor could do (she is a regular client of John’s I believe). And she shudders and it looks like she’s possessed.
One of the other clients seems to get quite emotional, and she lifts her torso up during the treatment, although John is sort of telling her to do so, so it’s hard to tell what’s happening.
On the other hand, another of the clients, the staff member who admitted being most cynical, is not shown to have any particular reaction to the treatment.
After the treatment, they mainly talk about having emotional releases, and they also interview some of John’s clients who find the treatments really helped them. The cynical staff member said he felt a release.
But the narrative is really short on details or a simple explanation of what the healing practice involves. They use, at one point, an appeal to science and quantum physics to explain it (which doesn’t make any sense) and John sort of goes into a verbal la-la land about the magical process. He also explains why people need it, something about accumulating stress in our bodies so we’re in a constant fight or flight state.
I looked up John Amaral on Google after the show, and I found an article in People magazine, where they paid for one of their reporters to have a VIP treatment of 90 minutes that cost $2,500 (this is US dollars) and described it in the headline as ‘exorcism-like’. The journalist describes feeling deeply relaxed, and then emotional, and then uncontrollable writhing and jerking around. The result: she felt lighter and less tense, though ‘not a drastic difference’.
As a reiki practitioner, the episode does no service to us, as it doesn’t mention reiki specifically at all, and because of that, Amaral, on his website, has to explain under his frequently asked questions that he doesn’t do reiki!
I also have real problems with the elite nature of his work. While he says that ‘anyone’ can benefit from his healings, the truth is that a one-on-one session is far more expensive than mostly everyone can afford. While he offers some free or low-cost online classes or tasters, the fact is still that his treatments cost a huge amount.
The episode would be of far more value to people in explaining that affordable healing is available to anyone, like reiki, meditation, acupuncture, qi gong, yoga, kinesiology: whatever works for you. Exploring accessible treatments would really have been a great service to people rather than an episode on an energy healer to the stars.
The other problem I have is that there is a strong underlying message that there is something wrong with everyone (and thus, everyone can benefit from a healing). I used to also believe that we get blocks in our energy, but I no longer believe this: I’m going to write a separate blog post on it. But I think it’s a dangerous thing to tell people that life is dangerous and unhealthy and you need healing because it.
Goop’s message does seem to be that we can feel better and feel healthy and that we should explore different ways to do this. And their web page on energy healing does describe reiki in a positive way. But this episode of the Goop Lab seems to really be what the opening warning says, to be taken as entertainment rather than medical advice, and that by focusing on a healer so dramatic and showy, I think it makes viewers wonder if something is wrong with them and wish they were as rich as Gwyneth Paltrow to be able to afford such treatments.