Redefining our “Fix It” model.
Regardless of the nature of a problem, our primal instinct jumps to fixing it. We immediately shift into a high gear mode of “DOING.” This is especially true with illness. Our cultural understanding of “fixing sickness” does not match the reality of healing. We need a better understanding of healing. While we are at it, let’s debunk the myths that undermine our ability to heal.
Myth 1: You will Fix It
The entire medical industry including the alternative health world sits on a misconception. Someone else has the omnipotent power to fix it. I was not immune to this deeply embedded belief. As a doctor, I use to think it was my job to fix a patient’s problem. When I was a patient, I expected the doctor to figure out what was wrong and give me a prescription to fix it. I remained so entrenched in this belief for so long because it was not mine alone. Generation after generation of doctors go to medical school to learn how to fix health. Generation after generation of patients show up to their offices expecting they will. If this was true and sustainable then I don’t think the healthcare system would be burning out the way it is now.
I took the “Fixing It” responsibility very personally. It was a catalyst to seeking definitive healing approaches beyond the medical paradigm. Unfortunately, as I delved into the world of Ayurveda, Acupuncture, Psychotherapy, Physical Manipulations and into Energy Healing; two things remained true. First, there was an operating assumption that someone else would do the fixing. Second, people did not heal consistently. Sure, some would get better. Yet, for most, symptoms would improve temporarily and few were cured. Regardless of the mode of healing, a co-dependence between patients and practitioners remains. Fundamentally, whatever the prescription is, the patient has to put one foot in front of the other and embody it. No one can embody your healing for you.
Patients bound by the notion of someone else fixing them while they stay passive is disempowering. Our healing happens in our bodies. A surgeon does not even heal you. Surgeons cut stuff out and wait 4-6 weeks while you heal yourself. Furthermore, we have to be engaged in our own healing well beyond the money we pay for it. Money can only do so much. Healing requires us to be consciously active in it. Being empowered to heal requires us to lean into the discomfort of change. When we become sick, we need to change. We change who we are and how we live to restore our health. It is our skin in the game and we need to act like it. This means, being aware of how our thought patterns influence our attitudes in life. It extends to presencing negative emotions eating us up inside because we are not feeling them. It includes the environment we create for ourselves. This is the food we eat, our activity, stress levels, physical surroundings, as well as our relationships.
Myth 2: I will fix it
At the opposite end of the spectrum are the consummate Do-IT-Yourselfers. “I can fix it by myself!” Learning to be independently self-sufficient is a mantra. Many of us started living by it so early in our lives that we can’t even grasp an alternative reality. For some of us the vulnerability of counting on someone else when we needed help was an absolutely painful disappointment. In reaction, we gave up on needing anyone. Some of us gave up on needs all together. Instead we adopted the known security of our own self-reliance to avoid pain. For those who can relate, I bet you were even rewarded for this. Parents and teachers love EASY self-sufficient kids. Independence is lonely and not needing is myth that we begin to discover through illness.
We are relational beings. Meaning, no one survives as an island for a reason. At some point, we can’t solve all our problems alone. We need to resurrect our will to seek help and be humble with the vulnerability this entails. Real connection happens through embracing vulnerability and restoring receptivity. The nurture we receive from family, friends and expert practitioners who understand the specifics of illness facilitates healing. Individuals practicing healing arts cannot unscramble broken molecules inside of us. They can cultivate an environment that ignites and supports our healing. The molecules descramble themselves as a consequence. Wisdom is an essential ingredient to the environment of healing. It is impossible to know what you do not know and Google is not the answer. When wisdom is not in the room or in us we need to look beyond ourselves to find it.
Myth 3: No one can fix it
Most illnesses budge through our initiative with support of experts. There are some illnesses that take us on a deeper transformational journey. They have more to do than fixing what we “think” is the problem. I remember working in Kenya for the first time. At least once a week, I would see a patient survive something horrible without appropriate treatment. It always seemed like some astonishing miracle. While in the US, I’ve lost count of the patients who did not get better when they should have. Some illnesses persist even when there is a cure and others with no cures find miracles. Bottomline, healing is complex and there is no role for hopelessness within it. Something has to be said for giving up our attachment to the results we aspire to. Sometimes we have to go along for the ride. Propelled by the desire to discover our highest possibility in each moment. Illnesses are ALWAYS an opportunity to course correct. They carry a transformational blessing and yes it can be painful. There is healing in this but with an unseen agenda. Our journey is to unveil the mystery. Cures are one thing and liberation from everything that no longer serves us is another.
I do believe that we have an innate self-healing mechanism. I’ve been witnessing it since my first scraped knee. I also think it is complex and more profound than forming a scab. Part of the complexity is a deep capacity of healing a broad spectrum of maladies when given the right environment. In medicine, we have been slow to understand the vast array of untapped mechanisms the human body carries. We also lack an understanding of importance of optimal environments. This is changing as medicine de-stigmatizes its attitude towards placebo and nocebo effects. It doesn’t matter if scientific research fully understands or validates our innate healing mechanisms. Proof has nothing to do with our capacity to be consciously proactive in our own healing process.
What is important? Our personal ownership in our healing. We cannot outsource this power to anyone. Its like outsourcing what it means to walk your talk to some third party purveyor. NO. Our autonomy and agency in our personal drive to heal is essential. It requires us to be in right relationship with our individual capacity to be the change agent in our healing. It also requires a coherence in all aspects of our being as we make choices around how to heal. If I take Tylenol for my headache, it is more likely to work if I have a big YES to it in my physical, emotional, and mental conscience. The environment the Tylenol was created in will likely turn out to be important too.
Our innate self-healing does not happen in a vacuum. It needs space and a container to support the process. The difference between an ocean and a lake is the container which holds the water. Containers matter and we need to pay more attention to their significance in our lives. Containers are our environment. This is everything around us from the air we breath, the water we drink, the beauty we see, and the gentleness we feel. Relationships are also part of our environment and essential to our healing. Human healing happens in human containers. It happens through mother nature’s creations. We need to be careful to not outsource this to technology. The absence of healthy relationships are stressful and contribute to illness. Restoration of healthy human relationships and the nature around us in turn has a therapeutic impact. This is especially true when we are guided and supported by people with wisdom.
Wise healers know they are a conduit of healing for those they care for. Wise healers know about creating an attuned environment to support our individual innate healing mechanism. Wise healers come in all forms. The short list may have the qualifications of a medical doctor, nurse, eastern healing practitioner, shaman, naturopath, bodyworker, and therapist. It can also extend to mothers, fathers, siblings, friends, community to a spiritual teacher. Healing happens through the relationships we have with them. Competency and capacity of healers matters. There is a discernment to be had in the nature of the problem, the type of support we get and who we get it from. It doesn’t make sense for a man to see a gynecologist for prostate surgery. There is a vast complexity to the architecture and alchemy of healing.
Healing as a shared responsibility in a nurturing environment is an interdependent dynamic. It is a sustainable relationship which is abundant and resilient. It has natural immunity to burnout. We need to evolve out of the co-dependent and independent dynamics we are entrenched in. Evolving our current health system means evolving our individual understanding of healing into one that embodies this interdependent relationship.