THE PROCESS OF GETTING WELL
By Lawrence Wilson, MD
© January 2010, The Center For Development
Healing Versus Symptom Removal. Healing is different from, and so much more than eliminating or suppressing symptoms.
In fact, healing is a path that can be embraced. It is a process quite foreign to our medical system and to our culture. It is essentially a reversal of the process involved in becoming ill, and at the same time an awakening to one's true nature and the meaning of life.
Western medical science has pursued a path of fragmentation, separating mind from body, thought from emotion, and organ from organ. This has produced many marvelous technologies for symptom removal. But it does not produce healing. Healing involves re-integrating or re-membering (bringing the members back together).
WHAT IS HEALING?
On the physical level, healing involves following a healthful diet and a healthful lifestyle with lots of rest. It may involve changes in activities, consuming special foods, taking supplementary nutrients, and often the use of other natural therapies of various kinds. Physical healing needs are described in many other articles on this web site, so I won't spend time on it here.
At a mental level, healing involves taking full responsibility for oneself, committing to oneself and to happiness and health, and releasing any habit, behavior, job, persons, attitudes or emotions that are blocking healing. It also involves discipline, forgiveness of self and others, desire, allowing and surrender.
Healing also involves an expansion of consciousness and a new understanding of who we are and why we are here. All of this is part of the healing process.
Most of us are driven by our emotions. These include fear, longing, physical desires, anger, resentment, guilt and others. These are considered normal emotions and are even encouraged by some psychologists.
Healing requires detaching oneself from what is for many people an emotional roller coaster. One can be up one moment and down the next. Good days alternate with bad ones, and so forth.
Many methods can help to even out the emotions and produce more happy times and fewer roller coaster rides. These range from traditional psychotherapy and many non-traditional techniques to improving the health of the body. This is a great help because the brain is a chemical organ. Meditation techniques can teach the mind detachment. This concept is explored in an article on this site about meditation.
Emotional healing also involves letting go of all that is not conducive to a positive emotional environment. For many, this is the most difficult step in emotional healing. This can mean a change in one's relationships, one's family situation, work or even location. Some situations are clearly damaging and negative from an emotional viewpoint and will block healing.
For example, I used to live in Phoenix, Arizona. I loved it when I first moved there. As Phoenix grew more crowded and polluted, and I grew more healthy, I found myself depressed and anxious living there. I realized I had to leave, though it meant giving up my business and friends and moving to a strange city where I knew no one. It all worked out, however, as it will when one move toward emotional healing.
The ego, with which everyone is identified most of the time, is small and insignificant no matter what it thinks. Moments that are called peak experiences, ecstasy or enlightenment are when the ego has somehow been put aside.
Healing involves touching the deeper self, which is vast, powerful and mysterious. It has been approached through LSD therapy, but this is a dangerous method. Near-death experiences and out-of-body experiences touch it. People returning from these experiences are often transformed. Their lives change dramatically and their illnesses and neuroses often vanish. Excellent books about these experiences are those by Raymond Moody, Damian Brinkley and others.
Writers from biblical times to the present have described vast realms and dimensions inhabited by incredible beings, places we visit during sleep, and so forth. We seldom give ourselves credit for the beings we are.
While physical symptoms may be addressed along the way, the spiritual self also needs to be a focus. The challenge of healing is not to fall back into the fragmented way of thinking that characterizes conventional medicine and often even natural health care.
Although we are created beings, we are also co-creators. At times, we may elect to take on a condition to learn about it, or to transmute it and heal it for self or others. For what happens to each individual affects everyone.
There is more and more evidence that individuals and groups of humans, for example, praying for peace or healing, can have powerful influences upon illness and other situations. Double-blind scientific experiments prove that prayer, for example, can affect the outcome of surgery and other medical outcomes. This is explored in detail in two excellent books, Pray Well by Walter Weston and Space, Time and Medicine by Larry Dossey, MD.
TAKING FULL RESPONSIBILITY
One of the most damaging attitudes if one wants to heal is that of feeling like a victim. It is extremely disempowering. One may seem to be the victim of one's upbringing, or of germs, or of a tumor. However, the spiritual reality is different. Many forces in society would prefer that we do not recognize our own power. Politicians love to identify victims so they can "help" them. Yet recognizing and reclaiming one's power is central to the path of healing.
Power implies responsibility or the ability to respond. The healing process requires above all taking full responsibility for everything in one's life. Taking full responsibility for whatever exists in one's life is very empowering. If you created a mess, you can un-create it.
Unfortunately, one has the power to give away one's power. Then one deludes oneself that someone or something "did it to you". This is what most people do most of the time.
One can also use one's power to create limitations of all sorts. For example, some people use their infinite power to judge that meat is bad, so they limit their diets and become ill.
If misunderstood, taking full responsibility can cause extreme guilt, remorse and self-blame. Much of this comes from old attitudes about a harsh, judgmental God or from other harsh authority figures that have become internalized. Guilt is always false because one does not ever know all the facts about a situation. Even if one person kills another, we do not know if it was set up to fulfill the needs of both people. This idea is very foreign to our legal system, but is part of the mystery of healing. One cannot draws conclusions about why one succeeds and another does not, why one is handicapped and another is not, and so forth. All such conclusions are speculative and not helpful or needed.
Responsibility, however, does not mean somberness and heaviness. Excessive seriousness always impairs the healing process. One can be committed without being overly serious. The phrase used in the bible is to be "in the world but not of it". Many suffer with the disease of ought-ism.
Taking responsibility also does not mean not accepting help. Far from it. We are here to help one another awaken, and thus to heal. Taking full responsibility means respecting the sovereignty of each individual and ability of each to make choices. Many do-gooders secretly do not trust the "masses" to make good choices, and therefore they feel they must "help" by imposing their vision of the good society on others. This just gets in the way of the healing process and always backfires..
TECHNIQUES AND MODALITIES
Healing is facilitated or impeded by a myriad of techniques or modalities. I suggest to clients that they can heal, but I am not sure how it will occur, or how much effort and searching it will take. One has only to consult the holistic healing section of a library or book store to be deluged with healing methods and modalities.
The same condition can be approached through physical, biochemical, electrical, emotional, mental, spiritual or energetic means. All may be helpful in some instances. It is worthwhile to distinguish methods that bring wholeness, from the many remedies that simply suppress or rearrange symptoms.
The multiplicity of healing methods reflects just how complex we are. It also reflects how exotic and remarkable is the universe in which we live. Indeed, healing is in part about opening ourselves to unlikely and unlimited possibilities. Some would call these miracles. Understanding the limitless possibilities for healing in itself facilitates healing, as it helps release the fear and despair that are often at the root of what must be overcome for healing to occur. Healing involves an expansion of awareness.
Some say that only love heals. Love is the essence of what we are, and the force that keeps us going. It has nothing to do with romance, sex, families or friends. In this view, healers and techniques serve only to remind us of our loveliness and wholeness. When we love ourselves enough, negative energy patterns disappear and the body heals.
To the extent one believes in any method it will be effective for healing. At times, one may have to be tricked into healing by being placed in fearsome machines, experiencing pain, or a thousand other ways.
That methods are only triggers for healing can help us understand healing miracles that occur commonly, if one takes the time to look for them. We are consciously aware of very little of what is taking place within and around us. Perhaps for this reason, all methods or therapies may have a place and time when they are helpful for healing.
HEALERS AND DOCTORS
Healing happens! Doctors, nurses, therapists, ministers and counselors facilitate the healing process, but do not cause it. Some have developed certain gifts, or are more open, in touch with their abilities and willing to share with others. Looking at a sunset, petting your cat, sitting under a tree, talking to a friend and thousands of other experiences can also facilitate healing. Have we all not had such experiences?
It is easy to become confused by laws that proclaim that only those with certain licenses or degrees may be healers. Other laws proclaim that only certain "approved methods" can heal us. Some day I hope these laws will be done away with. They only get in the way of the process of healing.
Research reported by Dr. Bernie Siegel indicates those who question and even disobey their doctors, taking back control of their healing process, fare better than the "good, cooperative" patients. What does this say about the present structure of our medical system?
DESIRE, ALLOWING AND SURRENDER
Desire is the motivating force for everything. A strong desire for healing, no matter how it is felt, is essential for healing. Our desires create our lives.
Allowing is also an important aspect of the healing process. Allowing is the process of receiving healing. It is to be contrasted with striving, which is an ego activity. Allowing presumes the answers and the solutions are present, but must be allowed or received into one's life. This is very different from the concept of striving, which presumes a chaotic, hostile world in which one must carve out a tiny island of health and happiness. Both striving and allowing have a place, but allowing is more foreign to most people.
Surrender is another often misunderstood aspect of the healing process. One does not surrender to an illness, though one must often allow symptoms to play out as part of the healing. One surrenders to the higher will or God's will. One must come to the understanding that God's will is better than anything our puny egos can come up with. Often, our own solutions must be exhausted first, leaving us in despair! This is fine, if this is what it takes. Eventually, we surrender it all - our fears, feelings of smallness, symptoms and even the ego's feelings of despair.
Many books on healing describe the great need we all have to forgive others and to be forgiven. We need to be forgiven for our misperceptions that caused us to judge people and situations. Events are in fact neutral. Our perception of events determines the meanings we give them, and our responses to them. This is an important principle. Stress is only a resistance created by our responses, by our need to control, justify or even understand an event. Learning not to judge events and situations is a great part of healing and forgiveness.
By forgiving others, we obtain forgiveness for ourselves. Self-forgiveness, in turn, frees us to finally live without guilt and fear. Forgiving ourselves is often more difficult than forgiving others. "Forgive us as we forgive others" is thus a powerful healing principle.
The word discipline is derived from the same root as the word disciple. Discipline is not so much a harsh striving to achieve a goal, as it is the honing of one's skill in an area. Discipline may be simply learning to follow one's intuition, instead of being distracted.
Healing often involves developing discipline. Forces that controlled the body and emotions often have to be brought under conscious control. Regimens that retrain the body and brain may have to be pursued. One may indeed choose illness to learn discipline. This can be as simple as following a diet and doing some exercise. Or it may involve years of working through emotional traumas and physical imbalances in the body and mind.
PEOPLE WHO HEAL AND THOSE WHO DO NOT
Having worked with over 30,000 patients, those who heal tend to be those willing to make whatever changes are needed to facilitate the healing process. Those who want healing "on their own terms" do far worse.
This includes the time frame for healing, what healing looks like and feels like, and the outcome in terms of every aspect of one's life.
If healing occurs very easily, it is perhaps not healing. It is symptom-removal, which can look like healing. Healing is often a more involved process that requires certain changes in most aspects of life and must touch the deepest places inside one.
Healing also involves a change in attitude in almost all cases. If this does not do occur, it is not the deepest healing. At times, distinguishing the two is difficult.
Deep healing always involves the process called retracing or healing reactions. Other names for the same process are flare-ups, aggravations, exacerbations, purification reactions or Herxheimer reactions. Essentially, one must revisit, reframe and rework or reprocess old physical, emotional and spiritual imbalances so they are healed at the deepest levels.
Retracing causes a lot of confusion because symptoms may temporarily arise or become worse before they go away. This seeming paradox is quite common, in fact, and stops many people from pursuing healing. Retracing does not occur, as a rule, when one simply removes symptoms, especially with medical procedures like drugs and surgery. This is a most important subject that is dealt with in detail in another article titled Retracing.
Certain axioms or themes are involved in the healing process:
á We are each powerful, mysterious, complex, multidimensional beings, no matter how frail and dysfunctional the body may be.
á There is a oneness of body, mind and spirit. There is also a oneness or collective consciousness shared by all beings.
á The healing intent of the body is real, and needs to be accepted and worked with, not against.
á Healing has to do with taking full and complete responsibility for all of one's creations.
á Techniques, methods, and therapies may facilitate healing. However, ultimately, life heals or love heals, not a pill or operation, although these may be needed.
á Healers, doctors, and therapists are facilitators only.
á Desire, allowing and surrender play critical roles in healing.
á Forgiveness of self and others are important aspects of the healing process.
á Discipline, derived from same root as 'disciple', is an important aspect of healing.
These attitudes must carry over into all aspects of one's life. For example, one who believes the government should run the health care system does not understand the axiom that healing requires that each person take full responsibility for healing. Responsibility for healing can never be delegated to a government agency. My experience is that if the desire for healing is present, the funds or other needs will be found for the process to continue.
Shifting one's perspective to embrace these axioms of healing is one of the most important activities one can engage in.
A Course in Miracles
Anatomy of an Illness by Norman Cousins
Getting Well Again by O. Carl Simington
Journey Beyond Words by Brent Haskell
Journeys Out of the Body by Robert Monroe
Life After Life by Raymond Moody
Love, Medicine and Miracles by Bernie Siegel
Love Without End by Glenda Green
On Death and Dying by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross
Patient Power by John Goodman and Gerald Musgrave
Pray Well by Walter Weston
Saved by the Light by Damian Brinkley
Space, Time and Medicine by Larry Dossey