Healing is as much about the mind and the spirit as it is the body, if not more so. It involves faith that healing is actually possible and that some force is capable of producing it. People who believe that they are incapable of being cured, often because they have had multiple failed attempts at healing, will never be well until they can restore their faith in the act of healing itself. Supported with a little knowledge or the gentle guidance of an encouraging healer, this can be done. Where we place our faith depends on the cultural paradigm within which we develop our belief system around wellness. We believe healing can come from within us or from an external force. Up until the last two centuries, the healing philosophy of most people involved a combination of both. However, in the modern Western medical paradigm, there is an ever-increasing faith in technological monitoring as truth and the doctor as authority controlling that truth. There is no dispute that medical technology can be life-saving and have profound effects, but our over-reliance on it is slowly obscuring the ancient wisdom housed within our own bodies. I do not judge others for placing their faith in medical interventions – but I do judge our current system. I firmly believe that if given the full information, more time with their doctors to ask questions and better access to complementary medicine regardless of income level, people might choose their care differently. In the allopathic model, the patient is too often denied the agency necessary to make well-informed decisions regarding their own health.
Most alternative or complementary medicine healers fall more toward the end of the belief spectrum that healing comes from within. This involves a fundamental trust that our bodies and minds are capable of healing ourselves, with a little help. Our jobs as practitioners are to provide guidance to the body to facilitate healing, to remove roadblocks to the body’s proper functioning and then to allow the body to reintegrate. This involves looking at the body (and mind) as a whole system, focusing on preventive and foundational care. In this model, “healing” becomes health and wellness, the goal being to optimize the body’s general well-being so it can better handle less-than-ideal bodily states as they arise. When they do, we as practitioners are not fixing the body, we are – again – providing a better environment within the body for the body to repair itself. For example, I suffer from eczema. Within this paradigm, my practitioner treats it by restoring my gut function through diet, probiotics and encouraging homeostasis through natural supplementation. The aim of the protocol is to support my internal processes so that my body doesn’t produce an autoimmune response. A biomechanical example: a practitioner treating a knee injury would first look at the movement patterns established within the body and how the knee joint functions relative to the other joints in the body. Once a misalignment were to be found, a protocol of stretching, movement exercises, chiropractic work and massage would be indicated. The downside of this form of medicine is that it can take a long time to see results, although once realized they are typically long lasting. Sadly, we are often too impatient when we are suffering to allow the body the time it needs to react to this type of treatment.
On the other end of the belief spectrum lies the medical intervention camp. At its most extreme, the philosophy here is that the body cannot fix itself and an outside force is necessary for healing to occur. This is the dominant mode of thinking in Western cultures today, as is evidenced by the popularity of prescription drugs and surgeries as the first course of action. This type of healing relies largely on symptom management, or addressing the issue in a targeted and focused way rather than the more global view of addressing the body’s foundation. The clinical way often produces immediate short-term results. However, the criticism is that the results often do not last, or even worse the intervention can cause a series of harmful side effects later. In the case of my eczema, the course of treatment within this paradigm would be a corticosteroid cream applied directly onto the affected areas, which normally stops the eczema within a day or two. The problem is that most doctors do not inform their patients of the serious side effects of the cream, including thinning of the skin, liver injury and hormonal imbalances. These hormonal imbalances have even been documented in babies born to unsuspecting women who repeatedly used steroid creams during their pregnancies. Using the knee example from above, a typical treatment for a knee injury within this paradigm would be a corticosteroid shot directly into the knee, anti-inflammatory medication or surgery. For injuries due to accidents, surgery is sometimes the only option. However, with general ailments, rarely does surgery need to be the first course of action. Often if a biomechanical misalignment is treated early with postural re-education, extreme interventions like surgery can be avoided.
I find most people fall toward the middle of this spectrum, but leaning one way or the other predominantly. For example, I obviously favor more natural healing, but I have had desperate times in years past and have resorted to using both steroid creams and corticosteroid shots. I later regretted both decisions, but I can completely empathize with the person in pain who will do anything to just “fix it”, as I have been that person. It can be very difficult to have patience during suffering, as our belief that the body can heal itself can falter! For me personally, the more I develop body awareness, the more I can stay in touch with my core belief in my body.
Clearly, I believe in the body’s internal wisdom and ability to repair itself. Often in order to support this process, we need to make lifestyle changes that we don’t want to make, but the more we believe in our bodies the easier it becomes. The quick-fix is not always the best! Every like-minded healer I know (check my community page for some examples) is dedicated to restoring their clients’ faith in their ability to develop comfort and ease in their bodies for optimum health. If only more allopathic doctors could incorporate BOTH the faith in the patient’s internal wisdom with medical interventions as necessary, more of us could feel self-empowered and encouraged to thrive.