Friday, March 7, 2008

Illness and Healing, What Do We Know?

Hippocrates , the father of modern medicine, tells us that, "healing is a matter of time, but it is sometimes also a matter of opportunity." We all know that when we are not feeling well, we want to heal, and there are myriad resources available to us for help. But what is healing? How do we choose the best resource from the overwhelming amount of information available?

Harvard Medical School online dictionary defines healing as:

1 : to make sound or whole especially in bodily condition
2 : to cure of disease or disorder <heal injured tissues>
intransitive verb
1 : to return to a sound state heals>
2 : to effect a cure

The National Cancer Institute online dictionary defines cure as: To heal or restore health; a treatment to restore health.

It may be that to understand healing, we need to understand illness. Dr. Bernie Siegal, MD and author of several books on health and healing says, "There is no incurable disease from which someone has not recovered, even at the threshold of death." If one person has the innate capability to overcome a particular disease, the all of us must have that same ability.

In his book, Healing Crisis, Dr. Bruce Fife tells us that the symptoms of the healing crisis are the same as those of an illness. For this reason, the healing crisis is greatly misunderstood and often believed to be an illness that must be treated to restore health. The healing crisis is a positive event, a sign of improving health. According to Fife, "when the body experiences dramatic symptoms of cleansing as a result of improved organ function and immune efficiency, it is referred to as a healing crisis - healing, because it expels toxins and brings about improvement in health, crisis because the symptoms associated with the toxic removal can be dramatic." What do YOU think?

16 comments:

Eric said...

"It's part of the cure for the patient to want to be cured," goes the old saying.

I agree. Mind and spirit can be very powerful, sustain one through adversity, and help heal the body. Yet, alas, there are also limits to the mind's power. Balance, perspective, and deep understanding remain key. Prayer, meditation, and exercise can only help.

Tomas said...

... unfortunately, it is hard to talk about Hippocrates today, because in the light of current reality his lovely statements reminds more the quotes from fairy tales than something we can trust in the world where one and only worth is money
Sorry for my pessimism, but at moment I prefer toys that awake at midnights in the fairy tales to all worldly authorities.

Molly Brogan said...

I'm with you on that, my friend. And yet I keep asking myself these questions about health and well being. How do we achieve it and maintain it?

RubyShooZ said...

My questions to you Molly would be:

Are you sick? Are you in need of healing? What sort of healing are you speaking of - physical, emotional, spiritual? Do you know how to heal or want to know how to heal?

Just questions that might help me to give you a more well rounded answer to your questions.

Wishing you peace and beauty in your life today and every day.

Molly Brogan said...

Actually, my health is better than ever. I left behind the popular medical model several years ago and began looking at alternative medicine and philosophies of the spirit. After participating in discussion groups, I suddenly realize how much differently I view my health now. I used the healing crisis reference as an example, but have really moved beyond questioning the cause of physiological changes and moved onto more esoteric thinking. Polarity therapy would probably be closed to my views of the body and maintaining health. But I am curious about how other people see it. Do you think that "germs" make us sick? What do you think about spontaneous healing - or healing that occurs without medical treatment?

Kathleen said...

Hi Molly. That is interesting. I think it takes a multi-faceted approach. Germs can indeed make you sick, but only if you are vulnerable. That leads to a whole other discussion.

Homeopathic medications often make people feel so much worse before they are better and many people stop taking them for that reason. This is probably the healing crisis, but since homeopathy is not in the mainstream no encouragement is offered by traditional healthcare providers. Again, another discussion.

I have a friend who spontaneously recovered from lymphoma. It happens. Because it's rare, it's just not studied or presented as a possibility to the masses. (sigh)

Derek said...

Over the years, through my zazen (Zen meditation), I have realised more and more the strong connection between thought and health. Where before I simply heard about it from books and what people said, the realisation of this phenomenon is something different, something more profound.

I have witnessed emerging memories of "decisions to be sick" that I made decades ago and have began to get first hand experience of what is meant in Zen by "Correct thinking". At this point of realisation, I can sort of decide to give up on that particular ailment. This "giving up" is very abstract and almost impossible to explain with words, but it's sort of like taking responsibility for having "attacked" myself and simply stop doing it. It is an act of will, but like all other acts of will, it is impossible to define. :-)

Valtermar said...

Science does recognize the capability of human body to defend itself and to heal itself, and many of these mechanisms are well studied. Examples are the immune system and the capability of regenerating damaged tissues such broken bones and skin wounds. The factor that still arises questions and doubts is related to the influence the human mind can have both in causing and healing certain illnesses.

Can the mind cause a physical illness? Can it heal a physical illness? If the answer is yes, will it be true only in relation to the body where the mind functions or also in the body of others? In other words, can one cure just oneself or others as well?

Where certain cures were observed, the classical explanation for the scientifically minded has been the placebo effect. Yes, the placebo effect is so well accepted that it is included in the usual statistically designed experiments for new medicines.

The question is, what is implied in the acceptance of the placebo effect? To me, the implication is that mind can and do have an effect in healing of the body, at least in certain circumstances. And there is more that can be said about the influence of the mind over the body and vice-versa. Some examples are well known, such as the stress and depression.

RubyShooz said...

If any of you have read my blog over at rubyshooz.wordpress.com you'd see that I was diagnosed with breast cancer via a lump I had felt then going and having it removed and biopsied. I was informed that I was indeed diagnosed as having breast cancer. Their solution was to do a radical mastectomy due to the placemnt of the tumor. I thought long and hard about my decision but in the end decided that the normal "treatment" would be much harder on me than just letting it "be". That's been good for me though. The last PET/CT scan they did showed no evidence of reoccurance so I'm thankful I didn't listen to the doctors and followed my heart and intuition.

I've had problems with doctors just wanting to throw pills down me and felt like a guinea pig and said no more! (well, I am taking some pain meds now for the pain I've felt since the operation that just hasn't gone away)

As Derek sort of implied - when they told me I had fibromyalgia I just didn't accept it. It worked for a long while but I kept having symptoms. The diagnosis of breast cancer, the operation (excisional biopsy) rather exascerbated all the pain symptoms.

After all that - I say that we can and do heal ourselves if we really want to. I don't mean to discount people who go the traditional route at all though.

Wishing everyone peace today.

Jack said...

Healing is a powerful process our body is going through whenever there is a need to cure to any disease condition. However, if our body and mind rejects the positive response our body needs, it becomes useless. The power of the mind prevails while undergoing recovery.

And I believe to enjoy healthy living, natural foods and clean environment should be the number one concern globally.

Molly Brogan said...

I can feel a memory within me when I read Derek's words, describing that turning point where we let go of belief and self negating thought and realize there is more to wellness than applying something external to an internal process. I am still not sure that I can describe what brings me to my current state of health, although I feel RubyShooz's process in my heart and hold her there with much empathy, because my health history has come near death moments to it (many years ago.)

I certainly agree with what Jack says about the power of the mind. I suppose the model that currently fits closest to what I believe is Polarity Therapy ( www.polaritytherapy.org/page.asp?PageID=5 ), which views the body as something like a machine that process spiritual energy, and all ailments as a block of that energy. A block first presents as an ache or pain, then if not attended, a virus or bacterial infection, then if not attended a disease of traumatic event. Finding and clearing the block is a personal process, that involves intuition and introspection and a depth of self awareness. Quite a journey.

I am interested now in hearing about other journeys because I am finding that we each have our own beliefs and path to wellness, and we can learn a great deal from each other.

Valter said...

Science does recognize the capability of human body to defend itself and to heal itself, and many of these mechanisms are well studied. Examples are the immune system and the capability of regenerating damaged tissues such broken bones and skin wounds. The factor that still arises questions and doubts is related to the influence the human mind can have both in causing and healing certain illnesses.

Can the mind cause a physical illness? Can it heal a physical illness? If the answer is yes, will it be true only in relation to the body where the mind functions or also in the body of others? In other words, can one cure just oneself or others as well?

Where certain cures were observed, the classical explanation for the scientifically minded has been the placebo effect. Yes, the placebo effect is so well accepted that it is included in the usual statistically designed experiments for new medicines.

The question is, what is implied in the acceptance of the placebo effect? To me, the implication is that mind can and do have an effect in healing of the body, at least in certain circumstances. And there is more that can be said
about the influence of the mind over the body and vice-versa. Some examples are well known, such as the stress and depression.

Molly Brogan said...

I think you are right, Val. In order to entertain the questions of what is healing and what is illness, we need to ask if we believe whether or not the mind is a causal link to either. I like Polarity Therapy because it sees the body as a machine that processes energy (spirit) and illness as a result in the block of that spirit. The body will respond to a blockage first with aches and pains which, if ignored, will become infection and inflammation, which if ignored, will become disease or circumstantial trauma. The cause is always a block in the flow of energy and healing always involves the self awareness and recognition needed to remove the blockage. This might be as simple as remembering a state of perfect health. It might be recognizing that part of yourself that no longer serves so that you can let go. It sounds very abstract but I have seen it work in very dramatic and real ways.

The question about whether we can heal others is very good. The Institute of Noetic Sciences has been funding research on distance healing for many years. They find that not only can one person have a positive effect on the health of another through intention across vast distances, but that consciousness of another is not needed. Studies on the effects of distance healing between a Tibetan monk and cancer cells in a dish show that healing can occur, not just for other people, but for all life. Fascinating stuff.

http://noetic.org/research/dh/research/IntentionHealing.pdf

http://www.noetic.org/publications/research/main.cfm?page=frontiers_3...

JoJosho said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Mokuin said...

Death, sickness, injuries, and disablement can be great healers, too.
Improving the health of the soul may require the body to pass away painfully.

Because most of us identify so utterly with the physical body, we tend to assume that that is what needs to be healed.

Few of us understand that healing the soul is far more important.

Trevor said...

The night is as much needed as the day. And the days of sadness are as essential as the days of happiness. This I call understanding. Once you understand it, you relax--in that relaxation is surrender. You say, "Thy will be done." You say, "Do whatsoever you feel is right. If today clouds are needed, give me clouds. Don't listen to me, my understanding is tiny. What do I know of life and its secrets? Don't listen to me! You just go on doing your will." And, slowly slowly, the more you see the rhythm of life, the rhythm of duality, the rhythm of polarity, you stop asking, you stop choosing.

This is the secret. Live with this secret, and see the beauty. Live with this secret, and you will be suddenly surprised: How great is the blessing of life! How much is being showered on you every moment!