By Colin Wright on April 17, 2012
This is a follow-up to a previous article I wrote about Spring Forest Qigong (SFQ) and the “study” widely claimed among SFQ enthusiasts to have demonstrated the efficacy of external qigong treatment for curing chronic pain. I criticized the study on numerous grounds, namely the fact that their sampling method was flawed, they lacked adequate controls, their data collection was extremely subjective and, lastly, they relied (and still rely!) heavily on anecdotal evidence to support their pseudoscientific claims. I wish to focus a little more on the last criticism—their reliance on personal testimonies as evidence that qigong works.
Here’s an example of one such personal testimony.
Chunyi Lin and Spring Forest have had an amazing impact on my life. It’s given me a way to live life more fully, happier. To me it’s a God send. The practice of Qigong is something everyone can benefit from. Once you have had an experience with Qigong you want to keep it a part of your life.
Qigong is prescribed for a seemingly endless list of maladies, such as allergies, arthritic, a bleeding brain stem, cancer, lymphoma, neck injuries, fibromyalgia, insomnia, lung disease, headaches, multiple sclerosis, macular degeneration, and much, much more. It is likely, however, that SFQ only posts the good reviews. Surely people must have had a bad experience. I was determined to find them, and I did. What I found shocked me; it really offered some horrific insight into the shady practices at SFQ, and the way they silence even the most innocent voices of dissent. Here is the testimony of a patient, Lindsy, who not only did not get cured, but was treated callously by the SFQ staff (bold mine).
Spring Forest Qigong (SFQ) in Eden Prairie, MN, is very highly rated and seems to help everyone with their physical and spiritual well-being. That makes it even harder for me to understand their treatment of me.
I started learning the Qigong exercises in June of 2008, and as the lessons came with a discount on getting a “healing, ” and because of my physical problems, I decided to try one even though it was very expensive (I live on Social Security) $70 with the discount, later, $85. Master Lin told me I would need 7 healing sessions.
I asked about financial aid but was only told about the discount that came with the lessons – which would basically double the cost. I had 5 sessions and was not only going into debt, but getting worse physically. I got more insistent about financial help – I could not see why the sessions were so expensive as they were only about half an hour long and involved no expensive equipment.
I was referred to one of the healers in training, Darcie Grim, who informed me that the healing were completely unnecessary, that all I had to do was keep doing the exercises (which I was already doing faithfully). Needless to say, I was pretty upset to be told this after Master Lin told me I needed 7 sessions, but I continued doing the exercises – and continued to get worse.
After a month, I called to talk to Darcie, but she would not talk to me, and May, the administrator just snapped at me, “There’s no guarantee! If the exercises don’t help, stop doing them!” I was beyond stunned, as the message one gets from Master Lin’s book and his talks is that everyone benefits and helping others is the purpose of his work.
I then wrote Master Lin asking for an explanation of this attitude and behavior. I never got a response. A few months later I wrote the person who runs the SFQ Guild. He was very surprised by my story and said he would ask about it. He never got a response either.
I can understand that the exercises might not help everybody, though that is certainly not the message given. What I CAN’T understand is that Master Lin didn’t have the courtesy, the decency, the concern, the responsiveness to reply to me, particularly in light of the kind of person he purports to be.
The treatment of this woman by the SFQ staff is just appalling. Lin swindled this poor woman for $350.00, only to be told after the fact that continued treatments were completely unnecessary! When she attempted to contact Lin to voice her concern about this fact, and the fact that her health was rapidly declining, all she got was silence. Lin and the rest of the SFQ staff wanted nothing else to do with her. They got their money, and threw their victim to the (figurative) curb. What is even more astounding and shocking is the venomous, non-sympathetic responses this woman got from other SFQ patients. Another reason I am showing the common responses to Lindsy is because they represent textbook cases of special pleading.
Special pleading is a logical fallacy that involves the introduction of additional details, considerations,or exceptions formerly left out in response to a seemingly valid refutation of the initial claims. In the case of SFQ, the treatment is lauded as some sort of miracle cure, consistently cranking out positive results. However, when a woman comes forward claiming that external qigong treatment failed to improve her condition, an exception is created and all-of-a-sudden she is to blame for her own inability to heal.
I’m sorry about your negative experience – but, as with anything in life, the attitude you approach things with is the attitude you’ll receive in return. It just sounds like you weren’t prepared to spend that much money and were looking for someone to tell you it’s not worth it. I know Darcie and I highly doubt she would say something like that. It sounds like a simple misunderstanding. They usually tell you to do active exercises and meditation ALONG with the treatment.
If you’re not ready, you’re not ready. Let it be, sleep on it – but don’t strive to discredit a legitimate practice. They didn’t get where they are by not helping people. So, please, try to understand the situation first. I’ve been a patient of theirs for 3 years and I KNOW that the only thing they wish to do is help you.
Tell me, what actual medicine have you ever heard of that requires a “good attitude” in order for it to work? Sure, a good attitude in general makes life easier, but medicine and therapy are supposed to work no matter what mood you’re in. Lindsy was pressured into treatments she didn’t even need, and her symptoms got worse! Her attitude was good and her hopes were high until she started getting worse despite having had several sessions of treatment. Lindsey is paying for a service and SFQ is not providing it. All she is told is that it’s her own damn fault for not getting healed. These people are despicable.
Here’s another such response to Lindsy, though more venomous that the first (bold mine).
Sorry about your distress in this particular situation, Lindsy. However, this looks like a case where you expected a certain product/service to be carried out your way in all respects. Don’t know if you’ve heard yet, but the Customer isn’t always right. What price is it worth to pay for good health? How should people get back to you if things aren’t done your way? Master Lin works with 1000′s of people in an attempt (geniune) [sic] to help people. You came into the situation with a negative attitude and expected things done your way. If not, they were going to get the brunt of your complaint. Your just lucky that this site is made for consumers like yourself to vent. In many cases, for no more reason than the consumer was having a bad day. You should take a nap and sleep on it before you COMPLAIN again. You seem overtired [sic] and cranky. The internet (google) is full of examples on how Master Lin and Spring Forest Qigong helps people. You’re one person who simply didn’t give it a chance. Your complaint is not worth the electronic ink it was written with.
I am utterly baffled by the degree of venom on display here. My jaw is on the floor. There are many other responses equally brash in tone that I didn’t post here. Go see them yourself. The only reason I can come up with for these responses is that these people gain benefits from qigong due solely to a placebo effect. They say it themselves–qigong requires one to truly believe in it in order for it to work. When people, like Lindsey, start voicing skepticism and dissatisfaction with qigong, they are attacked, marginalized, and blamed for their own failure to heal. I believe this is a defense mechanism to silence dissenters in order to further maintain the illusion that qigong actually works. After all, if they question qigong, they may not receive the wanted results.