Most of us want a quick fix when we are sick. Who wouldn't? The problem with this, however, is that a quick fix isn't always possible -- and in many cases, it's not even the best medicine.
When I was taken to a hospital in Thailand 15 years ago for what appeared to be amoebic dysentery, I had a deep sense that medicine was not the only answer to my illness. I had been away from my American cultural norm for six months, and was opening up to new ideas and perspectives (in particular through the practice of meditation and yoga). While I knew that medicine would probably help subside the painful and life-threatening symptoms of the dysentery, I knew deep inside that medicine was only one piece of the puzzle.
As I lay there in the hospital bed for what seemed like endless hours, I came to realize that whatever was going on with me went much deeper than the symptoms I was experiencing on the surface. It wasn't just my physical body that needed to be cured, but my mental, emotional, and spiritual bodies were asking to be healed. Thus, my healing work began.
What I am talking about here is the difference between curing vs. healing. While I was brought up under the conventional medicine belief system where prescribed medications were considered the "cure" for my various illnesses as a child and young adult, the experience in Thailand woke me up to some other possibilities for healing. In short, for the first time I discovered my own power to heal.
Enter: holistic medicine.
There is no question that the relationship between holistic medicine and conventional medicine has been a contentious, or maybe more apt -- ignored one -- for many years. Those who prescribed to holistic medical thinking and action were considered "on the fringe," New Age "woo-woo" types, or flat out ignorant. Understandably, those who prided themselves on their rational minds and put an emphasis on the physical world (at the expense the "unseen" one) would not want to consider that there might be more to healing than treating the physical body.
Today, however, due to the work of some particular individuals -- we've moved on a bit from these stereotypes.
"Holistic and conventional medicine take two different attitudes toward power: active and passive," says Caroline. "The chemical treatments of conventional medicine require no conscious participation on the part of the patient ... When a person is passive - with an attitude of 'just do it to me' - he does not fully heal; he may recover, but he may never deal fully with the source of his illness."
In contrast, she explains, holistic medicine considers the patient's willingness to participate fully in his or her own healing as necessary for its success. "Healing is an active and internal process that includes investigating one's attitudes, memories, and beliefs with the desire to release all negative patterns that prevent one's full emotional and spiritual recovery," says Caroline.
To put it simply, when you give your authority over to your doctor to "cure" you, you may be missing out on an important part of your healing process (aka the emotional, psychological, and spiritual stresses that were part of the illness). If conventional medicine cures your symptoms, but not the underlying causes, Caroline and other holistic medical experts say there is a high possibility that your illness will come back.
It's been 15 years since my hospital experience in Thailand and the healing journey continues. Each time I get sick or feel like I am coming down with something, I look at the underlying causes and respond accordingly. I am happy to report that my frequency of illness has decreased tremendously and when I do get sick, I recover much more quickly. To me, curing is one piece of the health care puzzle and healing is the puzzle itself.
Caroline Myss, Ph.D., will be teaching at the I Can Do It! 2010 conference in San Diego, May 14 -16. Click here for more information.
Tabby Biddle, M.S.Ed., is a writer/editor specializing in the areas of health and wellness, women's empowerment, personal growth and spirituality. Her work has been featured by The Huffington Post, The Los Angeles Times, USA Today and other national media. She lives in Santa Monica, CA.
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