Foundations of Healing
By Emmett E. Miller, MD
I would like to discuss here two crucial requirements of the healing process: trust and honesty. By trust, I mean that both the healer and the one who is to be healed have confidence that there is a power within the body that has the capacity to bring about healing when it is given the opportunity to do so. By honesty, I mean the healer's willingness to be faithful and true to the spirit of the person with whom he or she is working. In my practice, I have seen how both these qualities must be present for any genuine healing to occur. Hence, they are key strands in the "golden thread" that binds together all methods of healing.
In working with a patient, I find that I must concentrate first of all on discovering what that person can do to let go of nonessentials that may be interfering with the expression of the innate healing power of the body and mind. When this is accomplished, it frees energy that can then be focused and directed toward what is really most essential. This process is effectively catalyzed by personal integrity, honesty —a dedication and loyalty to the truth by both therapist and patient.
For example in my own practice, I try not to assume that I know what is going on when a person enters my office. Diagnosing and reviewing past history and experiences are often misleading and are used as crutches to give practitioners a false sense of security. So, I often have no formula. This means that I often have the sensation of being hopelessly lost for about the first half of nearly every session. If a person comes to see me with a diagnosis of cancer, for instance, how can I know if their desire is to heal themselves or if they want some help in dying? So, I try to keep any of my preconceptions out of the session. Only then can I really hear what they are trying to tell me.
Here patience is indeed a virtue; we must not try to force this communication. I have to wait until I have received the message from the deepest part of the person —for it is that message to which I must respond.
But what is this deeper message? Perhaps it can be best understood by recalling the Hindu concept of dharma, which means one's duty to the deepest part of one's self —the expansion of one's essence and individuality. When I talk to a patient, I carefully listen and watch very carefully, and hopefully hear the message.
Other practitioners whom have observed my work are often quite amazed by the intensity of the focus. I am keenly alert to every flicker or quiver of the eyelids, every tiny change in skin color, every alteration of voice tonality. I allow my senses to become attuned to the process underway in this person. In this way, I can perceive when he or she touches the really important aspect of their illness --that aspect connected with their essential being.
This perception is very difficult to describe in words. Perhaps one can only say that there is a sort of sparkle when it appears, almost like the flash of light that reveals where a crystal is hidden in a pile of ordinary stones or that moment when you recognize in a crowd the face of a friend you have not seen for a long while. When that happens, I immediately encourage the patient to explore their current awareness and to tell me more about it.
For example, a person may be expressing their fear about the possibility about losing their job, or their anger at their ex-husband. Then, in the midst of this they will perhaps remark casually, "It's certainly not like a walk on the beach." Then I encourage the person to say more: "A walk on the beach?" And suddenly, the tears may start to flow, and the person will start talking about their experience of contact with nature as a child and about how alive he or she used to feel.
This is where the challenge of being faithful to the real spirit of the patient becomes most important. It is again a matter of honesty --a refusal to settle for less than the whole truth. This means, for instance, that instead of allowing or even encouraging a patient to choke back their tears and forget about the painful thoughts and emotions, I try to create space in which they can share their feelings and explore the sadness in greater depth.
Of course they're sad, they haven't let themselves feel alive for a long time. But until they allow themselves to feel sad, they won't be able to allow themselves to feel alive. Their current mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual problems are connected with resisting that feeling, and with it comes the awareness that can heal.
Healing from Compassion
So healing depends on finding out what is the really living part of the patient, what is most essential, what is closest to the source of that person's spirit? Then, after discovering it, nurturing a personal connection with it. In my own work, I find my own life experiences —if I am willing to be open to them —help me see how to make this connection because when I look at that most living part of the person, I usually see some part of myself that I really love very deeply.
It is often at this point that the client or patient begins to realize that there is someone else who, sees them, cares about them, and understands them, and who knows what their problem is like. They perceive that another person has been in the same place, felt the same pain, experienced the same sadness, known the same joy, and they are no longer alone.
By allowing empathy, compassionate rapport, to develop in this way, a deep bond is created. It is this bond that is the real basis of effective healing therapy. Then the work can proceed freely, and it becomes easier to explore the question of what kinds of thoughts, images, words, deeds, medications, nutrition, exercises, or whatever, will support this central and most essential aspect of the person.
The healing process consists of finding, touching, and loving this deepest sense of the patient.
What are Health and Healing?
Health is an expression of the whole person, and to heal is therefore to make whole. But healing, in this sense, does not just mean that the physical function returns to normal. Such an arbitrary definition of health is impossible once we begin thinking in terms of whole people who are composed of mind. emotion, and spirit as well as body.
From this standpoint, health necessarily involves the coordination and congruence of all aspects of one's being, including all communications and relationships with others and with the environment. It embraces every aspect of one's life, including diet, exercise, work, play, relaxation, and so forth.
This wholeness, however, depends on an internal congruence —an agreement among what we think and feel and say, so they all fit together without any contradiction. This internal harmony, in turn, is only possible when one acts from the deepest part of one's being —from what we are referring to as the essential self. In this way, we can see that true health is a natural by-product of honest self-expression or integrity.
When we become healthy in this way as an outgrowth of true self-expression, (integrity) then it becomes possible to live in an ecologic balance with our environment. Our sense of wholeness will begin to extend beyond our physical frame and embrace the world surrounding us in wider and wider circles of relationships. So, as a person gains more strength, he or she naturally starts to include the family and community in that sense of healing and wholeness until it eventually extends to the totality of mankind, to the totality of life on the planet —perhaps even to life elsewhere in the universe. Who knows enough to decide where to draw the line?
This continual transcendence of limitations and boundaries is another quality of true healing. Thus, when we approach our work as healers (recalling that this is by definition a full time job) with the qualities of trust and honesty we will move unerringly toward the source.
A patient or client is, in a way, like a stained glass window —the presenting symptoms, neuroses, or complaints are merely like the little yellow panes. We must see them but not allow ourselves to be distracted by them, for it is only by standing back so that we can see as well the red, blue, green, and even black panes. Only then can we truly appreciate the wholeness of the picture with which we're presented.
Ultimately, with perseverance and faith we may be blessed with a fuller experience and appreciation of the actual light, which, though not directly visible, illuminates the window from the other side. And it is the source of this light that is both the means and the end of healing.
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