Through my journey to uncover the difference between “healing and curing,” one of my discoveries has been the crucial role the patient plays in his healing journey. We can’t base healing solely on what the medical file says: we have to look at the whole person: their life, relationships, love, nutrition, dreams, unfinished business, intuition, passions and feelings. Myss and Shealy state in their book, The Creation of Health, “We know that there is no chemical cure for emotional injuries. Nor can surgery remove painful memories of being abused as a child. The ‘stuff’ that disease is made of requires much more complex treatment than can be given through surgery or drugs alone. It requires, for example, the process of transforming inner grief into lessons that empower rather than destroy the individual.”
So, what really is healing? Dr Rachel Naomi Remen, professor and founder of the Institute for the Study of Health & Illness says, “Healing may not be so much about getting better, as about letting go of everything that isn’t you – all of the expectations, all of the beliefs – and becoming who you are.” She is suggesting that healing is a journey to discover yourself, your authentic self. Western medicine has confidence that they can cure people with surgery and pharmaceutical drugs. Alternative practitioners know that the body has an innate wisdom and ability to heal itself, and the role of the patient is to help their bodies accomplish what they are designed to do. I like to think of it as illness coming to an ‘address’. The ‘address’ is the patient as he is today, not just the physical body but the mind too, body and soul all combined together. When we are able to change the ‘address,’ then the illness is in the wrong place and can leave. When you change your life and lifestyle, you can bring healing into your life.
We have to look at the WHOLE person to come to a place of healing. Doctors are trained to cure, but not to heal. Healing implies making ourselves WHOLE. Lissa Rankin M.D says in her book, Mind over medicine: Scientific proof that you can heal yourself, “You can cure without healing, and you can heal without curing. In medical school and residency, most of our training focused on curing. Very little attention was focused on healing. You might heal a fracture or heal a gaping surgical wound. But healing a person? Nah.”
The goal of life is not to live forever. The goal of life is to fill our years with life and not to fill our lives with empty years. Dr Bernie Siegel says, “How can people who are cured of cancer (using a Western medicine approach like surgery and chemotherapy) end up dying from it anyway? Because, while their bodies may have been temporarily cured, their minds and hearts and spirits were not healed from whatever it was that brought the cancer on in the first place.” Cures are only effective if healing takes place on a deeper level. This can occur if there is a partnership between doctors and patients, where the patient feels empowered to be involved in their healing process.
The role of the patient is to look deeper into his/her life. The symptom or the disease is just a bodily ‘wake-up call’ that something internal (mental, emotional or spiritual) needs to be addressed. We have to examine any underlying emotional (relationships/events), nutritional (diet) and life imbalances (stresses) to look for these changes.
Everybody has challenges in life. Nobody lives in Disneyland. It doesn’t matter what race, religion, social status or age you are; life and challenge happens to everyone, even to the Royals. How we process these challenges has an effect on us. Sometimes we don’t or can’t process what comes our way and instead ignore it. This is unfinished business. You will know if something is unfinished if someone asks you how you are doing about ‘that’ incident, and you reply, “I don’t want to talk about it!” Caroline Myss, Ph.D. in her book, Anatomy of the Spirit, describes unfinished business as, “Those regrets that continue to pull at one’s consciousness”. Where does this hurt, pain or regret go when we stuff it away hoping to never interact with it again? It has to go somewhere. Our job is to deal with our challenges, and bring them to a place of completion. When we do this, we bring healing into our lives.
It is not possible to change the events of the past. What happened has happened. In doing inner work we are able to come to a place of resolution about the past, especially if the past was traumatic. This work is therapeutic and healing. When we come to a place of resolution, it doesn’t mean that we are in denial of what happened, and that we were not damaged by the event. It means that the electricity we felt around the event no longer controls us or defines who we are. Inner work with the body and the sensations of where the pain sits helps trauma get resolved. Peter Levine provides this definition of trauma in his renowned book, Waking the Tiger. Healing trauma: “Trauma occurs when an event creates an unresolved impact on an organism. Resolution is accomplished through working with this unresolved impact through the felt sense”. Through trauma work, we are able to access the “felt sense” of where the unfinished business resides in the nervous system and enable it to get resolved or be discharged. This encourages and allows healing on a bodily level.
Often people go to the doctor when they are sick and hand over their power. If you can take responsibility (which really means our ability to respond) for what is wrong, and what needs to change, then this is helping yourself. Dr Bernie Siegel in his book, Love, Medicine & Miracles writes that it is about becoming an “active participant” in your own healing journey.
From what I have seen from the patients and clients I have been privileged to work with, when they start this process of healing, it is empowering. Being accountable does not mean that you berate yourself for your past; it means that you now have a loving opportunity to come to a place of healing through the process of introspection and change. When we change internally; our lives can change externally.
Dr Siegel, in his book, Peace, Love and Healing says, “When you heal a life, a cured disease may come with the healing. But when you accept your disease as “a challenge and a gift,” then the even greater miracle is the inner healing that occurs because you have found your path again.” Our goal should be greater than just curing the disease, it should be about healing life as well.
Our bodies are designed with an innate wisdom and ability to heal itself. We never question whether a cut on our leg will close and heal, we just know it will. This ‘knowing’ goes a long way to boosting our immune systems. One woman wrote to me to say, “I have definitely healed, while at the same time my condition does not yet have a cure.” Another woman said it beautifully, describing ‘cured’ as implying restored, corrected and brought back to health. ‘Healed’ can imply reaching a higher level than the pre-state disease, a higher level of health and consciousness.
We need to have a combination of healing and curing. You are the most important healer in your life. You know your body better than anyone knows you. Start trusting this intuition. Dr Viktor Frankl, in his bestselling book, Man’s search for meaning : An introduction to logotherapy says, “We must never forget that we may also find meaning in life even when confronted with a hopeless situation, when facing a fate that cannot be changed. For what then matters is to bear witness to the uniquely human potential at its best, which is to transform a personal tragedy into a triumph, to turn one’s predicament into a human achievement. When we are no longer able to change a situation – just think of an incurable disease such as inoperable cancer – we are challenged to change ourselves” .This statement has brought me immense empowerment in dealing with my own life struggles. It has also been the springboard from which I work with clients to arrive at their unique place of “healing.” Life is not about controlling the outcome of being cured, it is about coming to an inner place of healing, despite the outcome.
Ideas in this blog are from the authors book, “Man’s Search for Healing”