Healing is more than just about maintaining a positive state of physical wellness. Healing encompasses the four major forces that comprise our existence: physical, emotional, mental and spiritual. If one or more of these areas is not functioning optimally, then we are in need of healing to bring those forces back into balance. We can be physically healthy but if our relationships with others are rife with conflict, we are in need of healing. Conversely, we can be physically compromised in some way, but if we have accepted that state and embraced a new way of living, we can consider ourselves to be healing because we are not rejecting what is physically not “working” but rather, seeing it as an integral aspect of what makes us who we are.
Still here, still healing
Ram Dass, in his book, Still Here, speaks with honesty and grace about experiencing, rejecting and then eventually coming to terms with his physical limitations following a stroke. A well-respected spiritual teacher, he traveled the world giving talks and doing workshops, and was an avid golf player. He talks about the effect that the stroke had on him and how he eventually made the shift towards a state of healing by accepting that his life had fundamentally changed and resisting the temptation to manifest his symptoms within his identity:
“After any major physical “insult,” as they call it, it’s all too easy to see yourself as a collection of symptoms rather than as a total human being, including your spirit – and thus to become your illness…Healing is not the same as curing, after all; healing does not mean going back to the way things were before, but rather allowing what is now to move us closer to God.”
Barriers to healing
Why is it that we sometimes don’t heal as we should? How does a simple injury or illness suddenly rage out of control, spinning off new chronic conditions and wearing down the body? Why do some people, after going through a difficult phase in their life, have trouble moving forward?
Sometimes we don’t heal because medicine or counseling can only treat one aspect of the problem we’re experiencing. People who are chronically sick may need to make lifestyle changes – dietary modifications, some form of exercise, stress reduction techniques or set healthy boundaries in their relationships with others – in order to see a major shift in their overall quality of their health.
People who have experienced trauma often continue to manifest symptoms in their bodies long after the event occurred because on an emotional or spiritual level, the wound is still raw. A study published in the January 2009 issue of Archives of General Psychiatry has shown that children who were traumatized by some form of physical or emotional abuse are more likely to develop chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) as adults. There may be other reasons adults develop CFS, including environmental triggers or an inflammatory response that went haywire (again, also traumas of their own) but it’s important to note that unresolved deep traumas do continue to play out in our lives long after the event has passed. Even if we do acknowledge those traumas, we may not have fully integrated the experience so that deep healing can occur. Depending on the nature of the trauma, it can take time, commitment and one or more approaches to facilitate the healing process.
Sometimes people do not heal because they are resistant in some way. Either they have received so much negative reinforcement about being sick in the form of attention – from doctors, family or other caregivers – that they have trouble letting go psychologically of their identity as a “sick” person. Other reasons people do not heal is because on some level, they don’t believe they are worthy of being well. If they suffer from low self-esteem or were made to feel at some point in their life that they do not deserve to be happy or have good things happen to them, it can be difficult to let go of negative mental conditioning that allows illness to manifest and take residence. These are not “bad” or “messed-up” people. They have just been conditioned for a long time to believe and integrate their experiences in these ways, and healing cannot begin to occur until they recognize those patterns and process them differently.
Mystic Pam Jackson