Aromatherapy, Logical Fallacy, and the Spread of Safety Extremism

It would be nice if the matters crucial to the safe and effective implementation of aromatherapy were truly all black and white. Social media and the internet certainly do a good job of trying to force all information regarding essential oils into one firm, non-negotiable category or another. Very likely, almost anyone reading this who has had an invested interest in aromatherapy has run across any given set of expressed rules that multitudes insist on as being the only correct way of doing things. This is usually to one extreme perspective or another and with the rationalization that it is all in the name of safety.

It is understandable that people are more comfortable looking at things as right or wrong with no debate about it. After all, being able to label something that way removes complexity and by the very nature of that removal makes things easier. There is less thought involved, and it establishes an, albeit false, sense of security that one is doing things the best.

Enter cyber battles.

The misplaced confidences that these online “learning” interactions cultivate have done an excellent job in demonstrating humanity’s propensity to compete with each other. The arbitrary rules essential oil enthusiasts are adhering to have been solidified in people’s minds by creating factions of individuals who refuse to acknowledge the grey area that is very much real to aromatherapy, and this has aided in the development of a staunch good guy/ bad guy mentality.

But, in the end, all this has done is hindered the facts from reaching people. It has aided in unfairly marring a professionalism that was developed through the hard work and sacrifice of the experts many people participating in this kind of behavior still look to today.

In short, it’s a mess.

But despite the difficulties that aromatherapy is currently facing as an industry due to these issues, it is getting to the point where important conversations about the actuality of the field are starting to take place.

Learning is a lifetime commitment, and those who have demonstrated a dedication to this principle are starting to speak up, and very slowly, the public is starting to also learn that what is often talked about in regard to essential oil use online is not at all representative of the actual research.

Confirmation bias: the first step towards trouble.

The internet is great for supplying the public with readily available ammunition to support (and I’m using this word quite loosely) whatever argument they are currently trying to defend. Unfortunately, as is often the case with the internet, much of what is being purported is less than factual or even a reasonably extrapolated judgment from the research we do have. This is especially a problem when misinformation is contributed by members of the professional community because, in the end, it provides a false assurance to those who are trying to learn when they find it matching up with the distorted half-truths that have infiltrated online circles.

I’ve discussed in other writings before how current research has been picked apart and taken out of its full context by some to develop certain rules (read: myths) about aromatherapy and how these so-called rules have become dominant fixtures in internet expertise.

No one likes to admit that they may have had a misunderstanding about different subject matters within the field (and let’s face it: we’ve all misunderstood something at one point or another). But what we are facing right now is a culture of people who, instead of gravitating toward executing legitimate, hard investigation into the areas being brought into question, would rather fight to the death over who’s right based on personal explorations of less-than-reliable resources – resources they do not realize may not be reliable due to a lack of properly conducted research to begin with.

Y’all, Research is offended.

The Four Horsemen of Aromatherapy

To add insult to injury, the justifications for this misplaced partiality to, dare we call it, propaganda are quite often rooted in the mother of all swears when it comes to reasoning: logical fallacy.

This kind of reasoning can be problematic when one is engaged in making a case for their claim. Now, we are all vulnerable and prone to lapses in judgment in these areas, and it is especially easy to fall into this trap while in the often-prickly online environment where a lot of these discussions take place.  Despite this, however, a logical fallacy still complicates and in some cases completely ruins the capability to impart validation to whatever argument one is making when these errors of reasoning are selected as the sword in one’s battle.

There are four distinct fallacies I find myself coming across most frequently in aromatherapy circles. While we may not be facing an issue of apocalyptic proportions, I like to call them the Four Horsemen of Aromatherapy because they are making a right mess of things and Aromatherapy suffers as a whole in the end. We also find them in both professional and enthusiast’s perspectives, so none of us are immune to the havoc these guys can cause.

But, without further ado, let me introduce you to the Four Horsemen of Aromatherapy:

  • The Appeal to Tradition
  • The Appeal to Nature
  • Argumentum Ad Hominem
  • The Slippery Slope

We are going to take the time to discuss these fallacies in four parts after all. Up next, the Appeal to Tradition and the impact it is having on aromatherapy.