It’s one thing to cope with an illness, live with it and find ways to alleviate the symptoms, but being healed from it is something quite different. Often we give up on healing because we just don’t believe it’s possible. So who, or what is it that can bring about healing?
Is it the doctor?
Doctors have a variety of tools at their disposal, most notably the use of drugs, so let’s consider some of the different types of drugs.
Pain killers mask symptoms so that you can get on with your life, or so that you can sleep. The same goes for anti-inflammatories. The same is also true of anti-depressants. Do they heal? No. They are there to stop the symptoms from limiting what you can do or from taking over your life, but they don’t in themselves heal the underlying problem.
Antibiotics kill infection. Do they heal? In a way, yes, because if you need antibiotics then it’s because your body has been struggling to deal with an infection and the antibiotics come in and do the job for you. So that’s good then? Yes of course. The problem comes when you get recurrent infections, or infections that resist antibiotics, then you can be in trouble. By virtue of the fact that they do the job for you, your immune system doesn’t learn from the experience of having the infection. So while antibiotics can solve a problem for you (and a real life and death problem at that), what you ideally want is to not get the infection in the first place, and they don’t address your susceptibility to infection.
Steroids help to suppress an over-active immune response, and thus either reduce inflammation or give relief in conditions like asthma. Do they heal? No. They can give relief, but they don’t heal the underlying problem.
There are drugs that provide something your body is low on, such as thyroxine or insulin. Are they necessary for some people? Absolutely. Do they heal? No. They’re supplementing your body’s supply of these hormones, but you’ll continue to have the same underlying problem with your thyroid or pancreas.
I could go on but you get the picture.
So what does heal?
You do. Your body does. Your body is equipped with many different ways to heal itself. It’s easy to see in the case of a cut on your finger. You might put on a bit of disinfectant to clean the wound, then you sit back and watch. A broken leg would heal itself if you let it, but it might not heal straight which is why we need the hospital. Every day we ward off countless infections. Headaches pass in time, most notably during sleep which is a time for the best healing.
Why don’t we always heal?
There are certain barriers to healing. One is stress, the other is food (the wrong food), particularly if combined with not enough exercise. Both put strain on us such that we get distracted from the usual healing processes and we get out of balance.
So if we quit the stressful job and go on a diet we’ll return to full health? Well, no, not exactly.
Diet is a good place to start – bad food puts a strain on your body that distracts it from the usual healing processes. By bad food I mean food that is bad for you, and we’re all different in terms of what we can deal with. Top of the list of suspects, though, would be too much sugar, salt or processed fats and not enough water. A lot of conditions are also linked to a gluten or dairy intolerance and these can be hard to diagnose and often go unnoticed.
What to do about stress? You can’t always walk away from it, and in the case of your work, you might change jobs and then find the new one just as stressful. Understanding yourself and managing your own stress response is key. Exercise can really help too.
So what can holistic therapies do?
They aim to stimulate the body’s, and the mind’s, healing processes. Different therapies do it in different ways. Some, like reflexology, relax you which puts you into ‘healing’ mode. Also, by pressurising key points on the foot that correspond to parts of the body, it can serve to remind the body of something that needs fixing.
Homeopathy is more about finding something that matches your symptoms, and by giving that to you in a homeopathic dose, it can trigger your body to focus on that symptom, and therefore overcome it. One example is if you’re feeling sick, you could take arsenicum, which is a remedy made from arsenic. If you took even a small amount of actual arsenic it would make you sick, so by the ‘like cures like’ principle, a homeopathic dose could enable you to overcome sickness.
Where homeopathy gets complicated is that a remedy that works on one person for a particular condition might not be any help to another person with exactly the same condition. Each remedy is prescribed on an individual basis. Some things, like arnica for bruising, have widespread use and seem to help most people. Others conditions, like feeling sick, or having a sore throat, could respond to just one of hundreds of different remedies. The art is in finding the right one.
Homeopathy is concerned with emotional symptoms as well as physical ones, and homeopaths look for the triggers of emotional issues, which are quite often the root cause of physical problems. All of the remedies would tend to bring about particular emotional symptoms on a group of healthy individuals, these relationships between remedies and symptoms are recorded and amalgamated. Then when a person displays a particular emotion, we can look for a remedy that could help them to overcome this emotion.
Homeopathy feeds back to you a little of what you have, be it physical or emotional, in the hope that you, or some level within you, recognises that this is the problem that needs to be fixed.
So aren’t our bodies and minds wonderfully clever? Amazingly so.