A holistic perspective suggests that truly understanding something requires understanding it as a whole or in its entirety. Merely breaking something down into its smallest parts and attempting to understand it through these parts in isolation will result in incomplete and erroneous conclusions about it.
We cannot expect to fully understand the experience of a symphony orchestra performance by listening to each instrument and musician in isolation. We cannot comprehensively understand a mountain stream by studying the properties of water, rock, and soil under a microscope.
Similarly, an organism is more than the sum of its parts. To truly understand an organism, why it behaves as it does, why it makes the decisions that it does, etc., we must understand more than its smallest parts. We must understand it in the context of its full existence.
A holistic perspective stands in contrast to the “allopathic” perspective, which has become the conventional approach to healthcare in Western Culture for the past few hundred years. An allopathic approach will attempt to recognize and isolate symptoms and then use chemicals or pharmaceutical agents to counter those symptoms. While this approach can offer some benefits, especially in urgent or critical care, many people have personally experienced its shortcomings in their lives in the form of chronic and worsening conditions or the emergence of other symptoms with the use of these pharmacological agents. This approach can seem like covering a dashboard warning light or silencing an alarm rather than addressing an underlying issue. For example, a woman who suffers severe embarrassment and humiliation while attempting to sing or speak publicly may later develop a diseased throat. The throat disease ensures that she will never experience this specific distress again. Attempts to treat her throat symptoms fail to recognize the role that the throat disease plays in the context of her overall life-experience.
Holistic healing seeks the overall health and well-being of the person, not merely the alleviation of symptoms. Any strain, distress, or trauma to the being affects the entire being and results in imbalance. In that a human has physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual aspects to its being, the effects of an imbalance may be displayed in any number or combination of ways and across every aspect of the being. A holistic approach would seek to assist the individual in moving toward balance. The consequence of moving toward balance is typically the diminishing or resolution of the symptoms that had been displayed due to the imbalance.