pauvreté...laissée sur la touche

With more and more people viewing both my first TEDx talk – The Shocking Truth About Your Health – and my latest TEDx talk – Is There Scientific Proof We Can Heal Ourselves?, it’s natural that sick people may get a bit defensive. After all, if I’m suggesting that your mind has the power to heal your body, this message could get misinterpreted to mean that it’s somehow your fault if you’re still sick, that you’re in some way thinking wrong thoughts or failing to do something right.

Just to set the record straight, that’s not what I’m saying – at all.

I’ve been getting a lot of emails like this one, from Cathy.

What Do I Mean By “Healing Yourself?” 

Is there any way you can write a clarification blog post on what exactly you mean by “healing yourself?” I have a number of friends who follow you and would listen. One friend just announced that she’s deathly ill. A “friend” of hers is claiming that the East has ways to heal her – and that if she’d just listen, then she’d be healed, that Western medicine “sucks” and the East is so much better. 

This is incredibly crushing to my ill friend. It’s as if people are saying, “You deserve this.  You could cure it, but you just won’t think the right thoughts…” 

Would you actually tell a person with kidney failure that they can cure themselves and then not give them a Western treatment plan? Do you think that’s compassionate?  I feel your TEDx talks contribute to this shaming of ill people, so I’m hoping the real revolution you can start is to help clarify what you really mean. PLEASE! I’m actually begging you.

What I’m Not Saying

Oh jeez! No! That’s so not what I mean, Cathy. I’m sure you’re not the only person to misunderstand this, so let me try to clarify what I do mean.

Suggesting that the body has innate self-repair mechanisms and can heal itself is in no way meant to blame or shame a sick person for their illness. I would never in a million years tell a person with kidney failure that he can cure himself and then not offer him a Western medical treatment plan. Lord knows, I’m not telling anyone to withhold Western medical treatments. That would be flat out malpractice.

If I got cancer or needed a kidney transplant or got in a car accident or chopped my fingers off like my husband Matt did, I’d be the first to fall to my knees in worship of the miracles of modern medicine.

I’m also not trying to suggest that anyone is doing something “wrong” if the body breaks down.  Illness is not some punishment from a vindictive God. And while illness can be a message from your Inner Pilot Light, alerting you to something that is out of balance in your life, it’s not necessarily some external barometer that something is sick in your mind. Sometimes bad things happen to good people. Period.

I strongly believe there’s no place for blame or shame or guilt or fault-finding in any conversation about healing. I’m not suggesting that it’s ever anyone’s fault that they’ve gotten sick – or that they’re doing something wrong if they’re not experiencing some miraculous spontaneous remission. In fact, I think suggesting such a thing can do more harm than good.

But I also think that when we focus only on strictly physical and biochemical diagnoses and treatments, we miss a potent opportunity to allow illness to serve as a vehicle for personal growth and spiritual awakening.

What I Am Saying

What I am saying is that we have the power to optimize the body’s chance of spontaneous remission by changing our thoughts, beliefs, and feelings from negative to positive, not just by changing from pessimistic to optimistic beliefs, but by banishing hatred, resentment, anger, and victimhood, choosing instead to fill our minds with relaxation, love, intimacy, creativity, sensuality, spiritual connection, and self-nurturing.

I’m not blaming anyone for their illness, not even those who smoke three packs a day, drink a liter of vodka each night, and pig out at McDonalds. Shaming someone who is sick only makes things worse. There’s really no place for such a conversation when someone is trying to recover from an illness.

You’re Responsible To Your Illness

I like the way my mentor Dr. Christiane Northrup frames it. She says, “You’re not responsible for your illness. You’re responsible to your illness.”

In other words, illness is an opportunity to wake up, to take stock, to assess your life, to determine whether your life is in alignment with the truth only your Inner Pilot Light knows. It’s a chance to ask yourself the tough questions we often fail to analyze:

Are you happy?

Are you in the right job?

Are you in the right romance?

Are you prioritizing self care?

Do you feel loved and supported by a community of people who care about you?

Are you free of anxiety and depression?

Are you eating well and getting enough exercise?

Do you live where you long to live?

Is there a song in you still unsung?

Is something calling to you that you’re ignoring?

What does your body need in order to heal?

The Whole Health Cairn

Illness can be a blessing when you view it as a chance to analyze your Whole Health Cairn, to ensure that everything in your life is as much in alignment with your truth as possible. The body speaks to us in whispers, but if we ignore the whispers, the body starts to yell.

Minor illness is a chance to listen to the whispers before the rebel yells show up… And major illness can be a giant wake up call to get us out of our ruts and bring us back into our truth.

When One Person Gets Well – And Another Doesn’t…

So if the mind has the power to heal the body – at least sometimes – what does it mean if you’re trying to make your mind healthy – but you’re still sick? I’ll be addressing this question in Part 2 of this blog series. So make sure you’ve subscribed to my blog here so you don’t miss anything.

What are your thoughts? Is it someone’s fault if they get sick and can’t heal themselves? Is it unfair to even suggest that you can heal yourself? Does it put too much pressure on the sick person? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

Trying my best to be clear,

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33 Comments

  1. Wendy Johnston

    This is life’s great mystery. One person gets well, the other person doesn’t. I live in a fat body… are you saying that I am not responsible for this? I am responsible for this. I have to do the work to create a new body. It involves mind first. Being aware of each and every thought and choosing to change in every moment. People, for the most part are very unaware of what their minds are doing all waking day. When you start to wake up to your own thought process… you might find it quite shocking. In this waking there is possibility and it requires diligence. People like easy. Our society pushes a pill for every ill. Now just to get beyond that paradigm. We all see and hear from our own personal filters…. no matter what the other has meant in what they say. We do not see things as they are … but as we are. Keep on with the good work. I’m in your corner of the ring, Lissa.

    Reply
  2. Terri Coleman

    “I’m not blaming anyone for their illness, not even those who smoke three
    packs a day, drink a liter of vodka each night, and pig out at
    McDonalds.”

    When you said that, it negated the so called message you were trying to convey(I think) It’s like giving someone a compliment and then following it with a “But”

    I’ve been following your emails and , for the most part, agree with your philosophy. But this time, the whole deal here turns me off. There are too many people dealing with genetic disease and horrible aftermaths of accidents to make your theory sound like anything but voodoo.

    And, I am pretty darn healthy so I’m not talking about myself.

    Reply
    • Flotsam Jetsam

      it’s downright scary how people w disabilities can be viewed as some sort of carriers of all that is “wrong” w having a human body. it’s high time to realize that regardless of how r bodies are or how we choose to live in them (happy or sad) it’s strictly that individual’s business. our bodies are not “public property”.
      it’s the projections and ‘expectations’ that are obscene.

      Reply
  3. Tom

    Interesting… but if what you’re saying is truly so, could you go a little bit further and explain why all human bodies die and then get into the illusion of control and security?

    Reply
  4. Cynthia Hanna

    As someone living with chronic illness/pain, I’ve come to the conclusion that many things and many choices led me here. Chronic stress, poor nutrition, poverty, denying and hiding who I really am, ‘stuffing down’ my anger and deep emotional pain, avoiding my grief, not dealing with and healing severe childhood abuse, etc. And while I may not be responsible for all of the origins, it is still up to me to learn how to process and heal all of the results. It is up to me to take responsibility for my own health; to learn different and more positive ways of being, doing, living life. I need to learn to be accountable to myself and not look for or totally rely on the ‘easy’ answers that are, in reality, no answers at all.

    It’s not only the body that speaks to us in whispers, Lissa, but our entire beings. Hearing and heeding those whispers is something that we all need to learn.

    What I’ve seen far too often are people who take multiple medications and then more medications to deal with the side affects of the first medications. As Wendy wrote, our society pushes pills for every ill. I seldom see people take responsibility or be accountable for their own outcomes. It’s rare that I see someone searching for answers within.

    To be honest, I did, at first, react to you with some anger, some guilt, some frustration. But everything you say is so totally in line with what I’ve been learning and it’s wonderful to find someone who is willing to speak to all of it in powerful, yet gentle, ways. It’s a blessed work Lissa and I’m so very glad that you are here!

    Reply
  5. Devon Moore

    This is my biggest question about the notion of healing oneself; what if I can’t? What if there are some blocks to healing that are simply insurmountable? I think the simple answer to that question would be, “well, if you believe they are insurmountable, then they are;” an answer that only makes me more hopeless.

    Reply
    • Hali Karla

      Devon – I wish for you hope that comes from a vision that is vaster than your feared, perceived or true limitations and recognizes that that vision is You. Begin with a small step and, perhaps, your first question again – but don’t settle so quick on the answer. Perhaps, don’t settle at all. Many blessings on your journey…

      Reply
  6. Lisa

    Your work Lissa is a blessing, and I wish people could see it as another tool in their belt against illness. “Western” medicine cannot always heal the human body; nor can “Eastern” medicine. (Personally, I’d love to see those adjectives disappear. They feel outdated and laced with judgement.) Our mind, body, and spirit work together along with the inexplicable forces of the Universe/God. We can never comprehend every why! Randy Pausch (Last Lecture) embodied illness and mindfulness…yet he lost his battle. Maybe his work here was done, who knows. It is beyond comprehension. I just wish that when the work of one person doesn’t resonate with another we didn’t have to vilify. When we feel secure in our own choices and open to any possibility we don’t leave a trail of anger. One person’s voo-doo is another person’s saving grace. And that I believe, it just how it is meant to be.

    Reply
  7. Tonys Carvajal

    Dear Lissa, I think that everyone is being a bit harsh on you, those of us who are following anything that is positive, blogs, speakers, mentors, etc. know that not everything you say can come across always in the manner meant. But again, I believe that it is exactly what your speaking about: “Positive” in everything we do. Those of us who wish to make it negative will no matter what you or anyone says, and those who try to maintain positive thinking will only see the good in what is being said. You have said, nor suggested anything wrong. The mind can heal the body, but again it is up to the person who is in control of their own mind.

    Reply
  8. Veronica McCullion

    I watched both TEDX and they along with your other course work have helped me experience a healthier new year. The story I most want to share is that 24 years ago I had a brain aneurysm that hemorrhaged and required emergency surgery. I did a lot of work around my illness which was congenital and the one thing that kept springing up was what a GIFT I had received. I was like WTF! I live to write to you today with the only side effect being a loss of my sense of smell. I am living my passion and each day engaging fully because I was given the gift of a near death experience. Martha Beck speaks on this concept. I am a veterinary hospice nurse and animal welfare advocate. Sometimes people just don’t understand so I educate. Thanks for teaching us how to face illness with a better attitude, which is half the battle.

    Reply
  9. Tina

    I think first we need to realize that the notion of healing oneself will mean different things to different people under differing circumstance. It isn’t a laundry list of do this, then do that and you will heal any ill. It certainly isn’t a directive where we can tell someone else how they can ‘fix’ themselves. That is where blame and shame come into play. Do what I tell you or you won’t heal yourself. It is a philosophy which requires thought and individual adaptation to you. It is another tool to help someone to heal. Obviously, you must do what you are comfortable with. Yes, I believe that we can provide our bodies with the means to heal, be it elimination of stress, good nutrition and fuel for your body, reducing toxin exposure, positive thoughts, eastern medicine, western medicine, etc., etc. But that generally doesn’t mean you can just wish yourself well tomorrow. If you are talking about a chronic illness, it has taken your body quite awhile to get to that state, so it will probably take awhile to get back to a state of good health. If you are talking about physical trauma, it will take awhile to get back, if you even can, the state you enjoyed before the trauma—after all we’re talking trauma, not just normal physical wear and tear. I think the important point is to realize that how we think, feel and react to the world around us, can have an affect on our physical bodies and our physiological functions and thus any healing we are trying to achieve. I think Lissa is stressing the idea of how our thoughts and life choices can affect our health, because over the years this has not been addressed or accepted as an effective way to help our bodies. As far as genetic tendencies, I feel they are only one factor contributing to the state of your health. Even today we still do not know everything about DNA and genetic disease patterns, let alone know everything that can affect our health. Some people can eat a horrible diet, drink, smoke, not exercise and still live a long life. Does this mean that they lived in the best possible health they could have–no. Perhaps they were troubled by chronic or emotional troubles from their choices. We all start out with individual characteristics which are then affected by our individual choices. It is very difficult to generalize how we all can completely heal no matter what we are dealing with. But realizing that we can ‘help’ to heal ourselves is a valuable lesson. I think we always need to put phrases such as ‘heal yourself’ into context and realize we must address it through our own perspective for our own situation. Let’s not just repeat this slogan as if it were as easy as pushing a button. That trivializes the power you can get from really working on what this can mean to you. And just maybe part of the healing of your self is about finding peace with however your situation develops and helping you to cope with that–our thoughts and outlook also can have a huge impact there.

    Reply
  10. Jeannie

    Thank you for opening this very difficult discussion, Lissa. Grappling with this concept is a challenge for someone like me who has been on a wholistic path all of my adult life but still had breast cancer, and now metastatic recurrence years later. Despite an assumption of best intention on the part of those trying to help, it can easily be perceived as blame and shame to hear, “well you seem to be doing everything right…well ALMOST everything…maybe if you….(followed by conjecture)…ate/drank more strictly/differently? …meditated/did affirmations more strictly/differently? ….exercised more strictly/differently? …made music or art or dance or justice more often/differently? ….sought out additional/different medical teams?” The “if only” thinking naturally leads to self-doubt, and can lead to self-loathing. [I am not well…means despite my good intentions/actions/beliefs/positivity/trust in the healing power of my mind/body/spirit, I must still be imbalanced in some way….means I am not good enough.] When a person is in pain or doesn’t feel well, the feelings can be magnified, especially if the message is, “yeah well you still must not be/aren’t doing/believing enough/the right way or you would be getting better….or you must be manifesting this disease/inviting it into your life for a reason.” It is a very tough place to be and not feel deeply blamed for my health challenges. I’ve been struggling with the whole concept since Louise Hay published her affirmations for healing back in the 70’s or 80’s…obviously still workin’ on it!! 🙂 I believe it is more complicated that any one thing, but we all definitely have to do the best we can with what we’ve got to optimize our healthy potential – physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, socially, sexually, financially, intellectually, creatively, etc. Blessings, Jeannie

    Reply
  11. cortney light

    i grew up with asthma & chronic bronchitis, yesterday i ran half-marathon #6. when i run i wear a roadID bracelet with all of my important information on it and and the phrase “because i can” – because my hard work & training has paid off, and my lungs and body are strong enough to endure 13.1 miles of torture. the one part that i have the problem with is the mental game.

    a friend of a friend decided one day that she wanted to run the boston
    marathon someday – she was a non-runner at the time. she now has 2
    marathons under her belt, her qualifying run & boston … mind over
    matter is an amazing feat, one i hope to master myself one day, maybe this year…

    perhaps you cover this in your new book – but i would love to get some
    pointers or even exercise/practice techniques on turning the nasty
    gremlin off, you know the one who likes to pop in when the going gets tough & fill you with negative thoughts. following the inner dialog that you had in one of your more recent “inner pilot light” emails, i tried to argue it out yesterday, tried to convince the gremlin to shut up & leave me be – eventually it did, but then it came back with a vengeance, degrading my accomplishment because i didn’t reach my goal time (or stay with my training buddies). the reality is that i was 5.5 minutes faster than my previous race, and my goal time may have been a little unrealistic.

    in search of a way to change my reality,
    cortney

    Reply
  12. SarahLawrenceHinson

    I’m in a place where I believe guilt, blame and shame can make us AS sick as environmental issues or bad unconcious habits. I’ve lost one friend to breast cancer, have another who is in remission after a double mastectomy and a third who has had a lumpectomy and is now suffering other complications. Did they all do something ‘right’ or ‘wrong’? Of course not. Can the environment make us sick? Of course it can – just ask people who lived in Camp LeJeune when the water was bad…even some of the men got breast cancer. What I do know (and I believe Lissa is working to impart to us here) is that what anyone needs who is sick is a healing response from the bodymind…and that is more likely to come from a place of positivity, self-love and self-forgiveness than a place of negativity, self-blame and distrust. Focus on what you want to expand, and sure as energy is energy, it will. As a spiritual practitioner and energy worker, I am always looking for ways to expand energy with a positive focus – we all need that and I’m convinced that whatever road our healing takes we all deserve that. Thank you Lissa for bringing this conversation into the light. xx

    Reply
  13. Marilyn

    I’m a small, active, 82 year old,retired LCSW/Psychotherapist with healthy eating habits. Although my latest lab reports put my glucose level in the pre-diabetic range, my doctor insisted I’m diabetic and used scare tactics to coerce me into taking diabetes medication. He was rude, insulting, and said, “If you don’t take the meds, you’ll probably be on dialysis and lose your toes.” I was stressed out when I left his office, and will not return. I found another doctor practicing integrative medicine who reviewed my lab work, life style, present meds, etc, and prescribed supplements to balance my blood sugar, more exercise, and my Inner Pilot Light for the unconditional love and guidance I need. Thank God.
    Of course not all doctors are like the one I first encountered, but it’s sad that ones like him have this kind of power over suffering people seeking help. I pray for the day when our health-care system will realize that we are not machines. We are beautiful creations with innate ability to help our bodies heal, and should be treated as such.

    Reply
  14. Natalie Smith

    Why is there a focus on blame at all? What if it ‘just is’? Part of every persons human game here is to have a variety of experiences… we are after all infinite spiritual beings at our deepest level of truth, and as such we will create a full range of experiences so we can fully experience ourselves in that process. We are never victims, we are creators. And our soul that never forgets this, will do what it can to make us ‘wake up and remember’ this. This is the purpose of our game here… to wake up and remember who we really are.

    Illness is not a ‘bad’ thing that requires blame to anyone or anything necessarily, it is a neutral experience that has as many benefits (positives) as it does drawbacks (negatives)… if you choose to look for them. The Universe (The One) is after all always in perfect balance of positive and negative and is therefore neutral, and since everything comes from ‘The One’ it stands to reason that all things and experiences are neutral too. Experiences are just that… experiences.

    The mind has the ability to see both sides of all experiences at any one time, but it is our human ego that gives rise to our judgements and the spliting of things into good and bad, positive and negative. If something meets our values then we label it good, if something goes against our values we label it bad. But that is never the actual truth… it is merely a human perception.

    To see only one side of illness and label it as purely negative is only half the story. It is a lopsided perception caused by judgment and labeling of health as all good and illness as all bad. But nothing can be more bad than good, or more good than bad… it is scientifically impossible. Each one of us has a choice to take responsibility for our own perceptions on things and do the work to find the benefits in negative experiences so we bring ourselves back into balance… back to the truth.

    Our minds are constantly trying to bring itself naturally back into this balance which is why we can say ‘time heals all’. Eventually the mind will naturally let go of all suffering over time. Even the worse breakups, financial losses, and in this case illness, will show itself as being a serving thing in time. We will eventually come to see how it led us to make a new decision about life or lead us to something more fulfilling and heartfelt.

    But we do not have to wait for time to heal. We can all speed up this process by purposely looking for and becoming more conscious of the benefits. It is all to do with the quality of the questions you ask.

    Two great questions to assist this are:
    1. What is it getting you to do or not do?
    2. What would be the drawbacks if you did not have the illness right now?

    Once you find the benefits to being ill as much as you find the negatives, you will bring your mind and the illness into balance…

    Once your mind is balanced again, with as many benefits as there are drawbacks then you will naturally experience love and truth for the illness. Only then can true healing emerge… either from western or eastern methods, or just a miraculous healing from love itself.

    Lissa I believe you were saying that the Universe is giving you a wake up call… a benefit of illness. In my own experience and from working with hundreds of people this is exactly why we manifest illness… to wake up to the need to slow down, surrender or change something that is in misalignment with our soul and move more into love.

    Love is the only thing our higher self is trying to get us to move towards and it will do everything to make sure that we get that message and take action… even create illness.

    It is not a bad thing… it is a gift. Find how is serving you right now, love the illness and watch what happens… I promise you, you will be amazed.

    Natalie Smith
    Writer and Editor for ‘Into Me I See Magazine – Embracing Self Love’

    Reply
    • Johiel Isda

      “time heals all” — im not sure about that. awareness heals all i think is truer.

      Reply
      • Natalie Smith

        Very true Johiel. The point I was making is that time brings separation from the experience and the emotions of that experience, so that awareness can permeate. We are much less upset and emotional about a breakup 5 years down the track than we were one week after it, and probably even less so 20 years on. In fact we often get to stage and wonder what on earth we were doing with that person! Time naturally brings wisdom through experience and growth. So I guess in that way both are true… but yes yours much truer. Thankyou.

        Reply
  15. Dara

    I write from the perspective of being healthy until a few years ago when I developed a life-threatening autoimmune illness and chronic infection. It was a perfect storm – I was at the lowest point of my life ever – no part of the “Whole Health Cairn” was in alignment – and boom. So sick I couldn’t function. At the point I got sick, I actually preferred death. Since the cells of the immune system are covered in endorphin receptors, and I was obviously running low on endorphins, it is no mystery why I got sick.

    Since then I’ve completely overhauled every aspect of my life, emotions, mental and spiritual outlook. Am I still sick? Yes – but not anywhere near as bad and I’m beginning to function pretty well. Has it been a mysterious healing, spontaneous or miraculous? Not at all. I’ve worked very VERY hard to regain my health and my life. Tons of research, trying zillions of things, following a strict therapeutic diet, and above all – never giving up no matter what.

    I absolutely believe in the body’s power to heal, given the right resources, attitude and circumstances. I also believe some people can click their heels together and get well. Visualization, prayer, placebos – you name it – it’s all worked for some people at some point in time. But EVERYONE’S PATH IS UNIQUE. There is no one way or reason people get sick and then well again. Is spontaneous remission possible? Yes – but I’m not waiting around for it. If that happens to be my path at some point in the future, that’s great. I welcome it with open arms. In the meantime, I’m going to do everything in the book to get well the old fashioned way.

    And one last thing: if someone who hasn’t experienced a debilitating, chronic illness wants to judge or shame those who have for how we’ve chosen to cope and heal – just ignore them. They have absolutely no idea what they are talking about and their toxic attitude has no place in anyone’s life who is trying to heal.

    Reply
    • Kendra Sayles

      I LOVE this last paragraph – I just posted on essentially the same thing. THANK YOU for writing this and sharing it!!!

      Reply
  16. Kate

    You mention Christiane Northrup says, “You’re not responsible for your illness. You’re responsible to your illness.” I’d like to add I find it helpful to replace “responsible” with “response-able”, it gently reminds me I have a choice how I respond…

    Reply
  17. Marilyn Green

    Dear Lissa, What I hear in this blog entry is your intense desire to clearly communicate your truth and your chagrin that someone may have felt wounded by their perception of your truth. I celebrate you – your mind, your heart, and your passion to help create wholeness and health in all the lives you touch! Speaking our truth often means being misunderstood (I know you already know that), but rest assured, that so many of us out here know FOR SURE that your intentions are always for the highest good!

    Reply
  18. Melissa Allfrey

    Dear Lissa.

    I think that a lot of what you are saying will always be open to misinterpretation: partly because there are people in the world who are not kind or not particularly reflective; and partly because the subjects with which you are dealing are so complicated that almost anything you say about them is going to be a form of over-simplification that cannot take into account either the huge variety of human experience nor the limits of current scientific knowledge.

    For example, since early childhood I have had compex post-traumatic stress disorder that has messed up the way my brain works and so brought on physical illnesses that will probably remain intransigent until something can be done about my brain. Western medicine has only come up with any sort of understanding or treatment of CPTSD during the last 10 years. I am 50 years old and for the first time in my life am receiving therapy that has some hope of working. During the last 40 years I have seen many ‘complementary’ therapists, none of whom were at all helpful, and many of whom actively re-inforced my belief that I was somehow to blame for the state of my mind and body. This has made me as wary of healers working outside Western medicine as I would be of any arrogant, over-bearing doctor.

    I think that all anyone can hope to do to avoid causing unintentional hurt during the course of this discussion is to be as compassionate as possible and to prioritise the search for clarity. And that is what you seem to be doing.

    Reply
  19. Irene Ilse

    Lissa, I think you are doing a great job and yes we can heal ourselfs. The most important of what you said, and I think all of us know that, because it has been said before, is to love yourself! And with that it starts, looking into relations with other people, etc. I think sometimes we are just afraid to make the changes, even though we know there wrong. I for instance hate to hurt someone else and for that, probably I suffer for that.
    You are great and I love you! Thanks, I really enjoy it.

    Reply
  20. Ali Shapiro

    I love the slight language clarification from Dr. Northrup, you are responsible to your illness. Brilliant. Thanks for sharing Lissa. Something that is important to also clarify, which I think Lissa’s definition of heal is operating under but given we all have our own definitions it’s important to define: healing doesn’t always mean cured or vice-versa. They are very different things. For example, I had cancer at the age of 13. I was “cured” with chemotherapy and radiation. But now at the age of 34 I have spent the past 8 years trying to heal from it – come to peace with it and accept its teachings (grieving for loss of innocence, acknowledging the fear with all my follow up tests, appreciating the empathy it gave me, etc). Many people also heal and are never cured.

    Thanks for opening up this sensitive discussion Lissa. I find that answers are always in the murky middle but so many people cling to one way of doing/being (diet! herbs! positive affirmations!) because they are looking for the certainty of absolutes.

    Reply
    • Hali Karla

      I love this additional clarification, Ali. I witnessed this as a hospice nurse many times, in a different way – people who were breaths away from death, completely, beautifully Healed and absolutely radiant – leaving behind families who still felt that the person had “lost the fight” somehow…. So yes, there is a big misconception that is carried about curing and healing, and a lot of reframing that is needed around our concepts of death even. I feel that conceptually we are beginning to understand the difference, but that our patterning is a knee jerk reaction that says, ‘oh, she is healed, she must be cured’ or visa versa. Blessings to you on your journey of healing.

      Reply
  21. Millie

    Lissa – I’m sure you already know this, but this particular issue seems to have the potential to be a constant struggle for you in your cause. Maybe not so much in working with practitioners, but certainly the media and the public. It’s going to want to reshape your message so that more people can hear it.

    Words are tricky. The more mindful you become about your language choices and their potential to be taken the “wrong way”, you can pass a threshold where your message gets diluted. It’s like a breadth vs depth balancing act. Win some/lose some.

    Have you tried using allegory?

    I’ve been on a Wizard of Oz kick lately. So, for example: Dorothy’s ruby slippers had the power to send her back to Kansas all along. Was it her fault that she didn’t figure that out earlier? Did she not want to go home badly enough? Was she making poor choices? Hanging with the wrong crowd? In denial? Stupid? Lazy? Distracted? Gullible?

    Of course you could say: she just didn’t know. But what does it mean to know something? Or to know the what, without the how or the why? Now I’m gonna muddy things up and throw in the old teach a man to fish proverb. If the good witch had told her the slipper trick at the start, she’d be handing the little girl a fish. The girl would take the fish home and later on need another one, and the tale would just keep getting delayed until the day comes when she has the opportunity to learn.

    Or how about metaphor?

    It’s like if somebody told you your body was capable of Kung-fu. Is it your fault that you don’t know Kung-fu? Well… we could go down that path and discuss all the things you may or may not have been doing all your life instead of studying Kung-fu. How your life is one big miserable Kung-fu failure. Or, we could realize that a more useful interpretation of the original sentiment is: Kung-fu is a skill set that your body holds potential to acquire. (Some more than others, but that’s why it’s important to help each other.)

    Or how about this. It is possible for a person to repair/rebuild a car. It’s true! But if you’re not trained in mechanics and your car breaks down, do you have the ability to repair it? Even if you had all the tools at your disposal? If not, is it your fault? Can you blame yourself, or your father, or your education? Will that help? Wouldn’t it be ok to just take the car to a mechanic? And if you’d really like to learn, then, start?

    SO. Maybe something along these lines would help clarify your message:

    It seems that the human body may contain innate self-repair mechanisms that, wonderfully, some people have already stumbled upon. Now comes the part when we investigate this phenomenon further, so we can work towards developing methods for mass-implementation. Then, we practice and practice. And then, we get better and better.

    Reply
  22. Kendra Sayles

    Lissa,

    I just want to say that I really appreciate your statement that “Sometimes bad things happen to good people. Period.” People have to realize this as total truth. Let me share my story very quickly.

    My life has been in total, total upheaval for three years this coming May. I was a very, very active young woman in my early twenties who had literally perfect health. I ran at least 10 miles 6 days a week and lifted weights 6 days a week. One day I somehow (I truly DO NOT know how) lived through what my surgical teams would classify as a “catastrophic” horse accident. I was riding a horse as a favor to my spouse’s boss (alone), woke up 2.5 hours later (was totally unconscious that long), and with a severely smashed thoracic spine, I crawled down a dirt road and through a small bar ditch for the next 2.5 hours until a woman (formerly an EMT, thank God), found me latched on to a barbwire fence that I had somehow pulled myself up onto without paralyzing myself. So, I was alone, barely able to even breathe and with blood all over me, for 5 hours.

    I had 80 bone fragments, from what I am told, picked out of my thoracic spine. My fractures were “burst” fractures in the truest sense. Just like a peanut thrown to the ground and smashed by someone’s foot. The horse had been at a full-blown, probably 30 mph gallop when he tried to buck, planted his front feet hard and went end-over-end on top of me, with the horn of the saddle smashing right into my spine each time he went over. He weighed well over 1000 lbs. Moreover, the ground we were on was very hard. I was out in a pasture with him that still needed to be tilled. I was a human pillow for over 1000 lbs going 30 mph – incredible amount of intertia and force.

    He broke my occiptal condyles, and one was fully dislocated because it was broken clean in half, so I was a gnat’s eyelash away from having an AOD, in other words essentially what is called an “internal decapitation.” I had a closed head injury to go along with this too, obviously. He broke my neck, literally blew apart multiple vertebrae in my upper and mid-thoracic spine, broke my left hip and femur, broke 5 ribs, collapsed a lung, created phrenic nerve damage so my diaphragm was barely moving, ripped skin (epidermis and dermis) off the entire right side of my face, shoulder and arm (doctors say I was extremely lucky to keep my right eye), and I lost a baby. I was beginning my second trimester.

    This is literally how fast life can change…and drastically. One minute you are enjoying yourself, the next minute, like an unforseen flash of light, your life can be DRAMATICALLY changed or you can be killed. It is a part of life, somehow, even though I still struggle to understand it.

    I had devoted my entire life to horses, both in training and education (was going to be an equine surgeon), and had worked with some very difficult and mentally insecure horses before. Funny thing was, I had worked with this horse quite a bit and he was usually well-behaved. Just not that day in May 2010.

    I am blessed to walk and have all my faculties intact. I cannot move my neck much, or my upper back (as it is all fused – one huge fusion). I have had multiple major cervical and thoracic spine surgeries, and spent a long time in the hospital trying to survive.

    I have been working with life coaches to get rid of some of the “stories” surrounding my accident, and the horrible relationship I was in at the time and a year and a half after the accident. He treated me terribly at times both before and after the accident, and I unconsciously made it even worse with all my emotionally-laden mind stories. Even though I am still working on dissolving some of those stories and crawling my way back out of what has been – for almost 3 years – intense suicidal ideation at times and severe depression (related to extreme chronic pain that I live with on a daily basis, and immobility in this young body that used to function so perfectly for me in every way I asked), the mind-body coaches do not seem to be familiar with people who have survived intensive, catastrophic and devastating accidents. Literally, no matter how hard I try (and believe me, I have, for almost three years) to have a more positive outlook and help my body to heal and eradicate this pain, I cannot “fix” it and bring my life back to what I knew for about 24 years prior to the accident as “normal.”

    I get frustrated with hearing about how I have to change my mental outlook and dissolve my stories to heal myself, and that I can heal myself if I would just be seriously devoted to working on this! Really?!?! I have been trying, trying, trying, but I have been stuck on “survive” mode instead of any quality of life for three years, and very few people in the world survive accidents of this magnitude…so I am sometimes upset by “coaches” pushing me to do more “soul” work, insinuating that they somehow understand what I am going through. They have no, no, NO idea.

    I don’t mean to be crass, but I live in a world of hurt every day and I don’t think that some people who try to guide others into “healing themselves” have a frickin’ clue how incredibly grueling, torturous and depressing some disease states and severe, life-changing injuries can be. Even a couple of my surgeons have told me that they cannot believe that I have been able to persevere…but this seems to make no difference to some people who think that this is more a mental and spiritual process of healing than physical. Certainly, emotions are most definitely involved…but trying to “feel” my feelings instead of running from them is not going to fix the massive amount of muscles that basically had to be fileted to get these bone fragments out, nor the bones that were crushed beyond recognition. Hello. I am tired of feeling like I am getting blamed for not succeeding.

    Lissa, I love reading your posts, and I completely understand the angle you are coming from in encouraging people to heal themselves. I understood it right from the get-go. I just believe that there are many others, albeit well-intended to be sure, who flat-out don’t get it…and ultimately add more suffering and guilt onto people who are really struggling beyond what some “coaches” in healing can possibly comprehend.

    Sometimes, bad things – even really bad things – happen to really good people. Indeed.

    Reply
    • Karen Berzanski

      Hi Kendra,

      I just sent u a fb message. Since we’re not “friends” it might go into a different folder in your inbox called “Other”. (i learned this the hard way and missed a few messages! oops!) … but just wanted to give you the heads up!

      🙂

      Karen

      Reply
  23. Karen

    Just got a giant wake up call, and now I’m working through it. Agree with this article. Although, I’m not against western medicine, it’s ok for some things, but I have decided I do not want to be on pills and meds for the rest of my life if there is something else I can do, like yoga, meditation and changing my diet.

    Reply
  24. Emily Porter

    13 years Chronic Fatigue veteran. There are my notes on the subject. I feel that healers or well meaning friends can definitely make people feel worse about themselves. Just the other day I was speaking to one of these people and mentioned that I had a bottle of a supplement she was suggesting but that i hadn’t opened it yet, and like an overzealous chihuahua, she immediately chose that as an example to latch onto how i need to take more responsibility for my self. what she didn’t know was that there were very good and very responsible reasons that I had not done it yet. Such as having to go off meds to get an accurate lab result done. I corrected her but she didn’t apologize for her assumption. A worldview can be like a runaway freight train.

    Another time a doctor told me I would NEVER get better if i didn’t go on an sugar free, wheat free diet. That is not only ridiculous, “never”? really? but an outright curse coming from a position of authority.

    If you believe in the power of thinking and taking responsibility for yourself, then it follows you really ought to watch what you say, because your words can cut just as hard or harder than a person’s own thoughts. If anything you’ve got to assume that you can and will hurt someone, and be ready to address it, since most people seeking healing are in a weakened and vulnerable position. They teach you things like that i counseling school, about the power balance.

    Another couple of people have told me I was keeping myself sick with my thinking in that sort of vague new agey way that makes it an explanation for everything. Maybe so, subconsciously, but then aren’t we all? why even mention it? what help is that blame? if I knew how to change my thoughts/emotions don’t you think i would? Why would I be coming to you if I could simply will my way well? Did you think I hadn’t tried that already?

    And if you are going to tell me my beliefs are screwy, you at least ought to tell me which ones. No one has actually ever told me specifically: this is what you believe that is the most harmful to your health. Its more like you’re still sick because you obsess about (aka mention) your sickness. Its like “hey, lets all hide our heads in the sand and pretend everything is okay. You might not feel better but I’ll feel better as a friend/lover not having to feel sad for you” or “I can feel all powerful about myself as a healer if you weren’t here like a sore on my record.”

    A lot of the men I’ve had relationships with do this weird backwards thing of trying to cure or help me by convincing me that I’m so strong and so great, so that when I exhibit any hint of weakness like asking for help carrying something or saying that I “can’t” do something, its met with this sort of condescending, skeptical, “are you sure? i bet you can, if you just tried. In fact I know you can.” attitude. Its very damaging and has the opposite effect of intended. rather than build my self esteem and confidence, it makes me hesitant and questioning of myself, “am I being weak?” But basically I decide, no I was being reasonable, and then it just makes me really angry. Its a very cocky, young independent, masculine, american sort of attitude.

    As a healer, if someone is coming to you for healing, no pressure from anyone else, and paying loads of money, you have to accept that at least consciously they really do want to change consciously and simply don’t know how. Don’t you?

    Then there is the issue of mental health. What about when your illness IS depression? Is it fair to say to someone “your depression is caused by negative thinking? or your anxiety is caused by fearful thinking.”? and lets say they do whatever their treatment is, and you come in and say “I still feel it”. and they say, “I can’t help you until you refuse to stop thinking so negatively?”

    That seems absurd! Again, if you knew how to stop it you would. If you could do it, you wouldn’t have a problem because it IS the problem. That’s like coming to someone and saying “I need help finding my keys, they are lost”, and they say “I’ve got a great idea: have you looked for them?!” Its like coming in and saying “I want to die.” and they say, “Have you tried NOT wanting to die?”

    Yet, this is essentially what I’ve heard people say. A counselor for example said, “this woman simply refused to move on from her grief. session after session she would just keep crying over her father. I told her I couldn’t help her.”

    Its one thing to not be able to help someone. But the trend I’ve witnessed, is not to admit that the methodology is inadequate or flawed, or that the practitioner is unknowledgeable or imperfect but that the person is to blame because they simply don’t want to get better badly enough, etc. I think its wrong. Perhaps they are working very, very hard but they have a very, very, very big problem. I feel healers should be aware of this possibility, and that if they feel their skills are not a good match for the client, they should explain as reassuringly as possibly that they are not giving up on them, and that nothing is their fault, while referring them to someone else who may be a better match. Don’t get angry that they are being “resistant” or send them on a wild goose chase, but really think about what might help and make sure they are agreeable to following through with that idea, or if they would rather just keep trying, so you can learn TOGETHER. Perhaps its actually YOU who needs to think differently and not your client.

    The reason this all happens is because people attach themselves to one narrow-minded view of the world (and yes, alternative thought can be just as narrow as conventional thought). And they also don’t like to admit maybe they aren’t in control of everything. They like to think it couldn’t happen to them. That people who have bad things happen to them “deserved” them in one fashion or another, that those people had karma to clear, lessons to learn, that they arranged it before birth.

    They like to think that they can avert disaster with their magical rituals of affirmations, diets, meditations, spiritual work, etc. and even if something terrible did befall them they would bear it with grace and happiness. People should never assume they know how everything works, or that they have all or ANY of the answers. And they should never say something like I was worse off than you, way worse, but I pulled myself out of it, subtly implying that if you can’t you just don’t have their personal fortitude. Its a psychological fact that people are prone to attribute the good things in their life to fortitude and personal skill rather than luck. All I can say is watch your hubris…

    Reply
  25. dalia

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    Reply

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