The definition of healing and its mechanisms is such an intangible and subjective notion that its true meaning continues to elude physicians.
As of yet, no one has been able to come up with one unified explanation of healing, nor give any tangible description of its mechanisms beyond the functional progression associated with curing.
If there were a definite meaning of how patients can be healed, this would give physicians the chance to become genuine healers since they can identify it, and then repeat it. Regrettably, the process of healing is intensely personal and deeply subjective.
Since the dawn of man, physicians have made it their aim, as professionally trained biomedical scientists, to step in and do whatever it takes to pinpoint a diagnosis, map out a method of treatment, follow it with a prognosis – all with the hope of eradicating a disease and preventing further illness.
However, all this did was deviate physicians from their original role of healing the sick onto the path of merely curing the disease. While healing is widely recognized as the individual experience of looking past the suffering at the greater picture, curing is simply the process of eradicating the ailment. The former method of medicine is now hardly ever discussed in medical literature while slowly fading away from medical attention.
This wasn’t always the case, however. The role of a healer in traditional cultures wasn’t to fix the disease, but to help the patient come to terms with the reality of his new circumstance.
Healers teach how to reconcile nostalgic past with grim present so that the patient can see a future that is bright and hopeful, even if it has changed from the original plan. Healers teach how to live with the disease or injury through empathy, compassion, and support.
The sad reality is that modern medicine has no time for making intimate connections with patients. Economics, bureaucracy, politics – all have made negative impacts on how modern medicine is practiced. It has turned healing into a secondary, often undervalued, part of medicine while focusing more on the distribution of biomedical assets.
In western medicine, many physicians have become masters at diagnosing, then offering the best treatments and cures. Yet when it comes time to relieving a suffering patient, they’re at a loss as they’re taught to focus on separate data, and not on the whole person.
Luckily though, there are those who are adamant on stressing the importance of patient care, of which healing is a major part. When physicians show concern and compassion for the patient, this fosters personal growth; a catalyst in the healing process.
Nurses play an equally important role in this institute, sometimes even more than physicians themselves do. Over the past 25 years, nursing literature has reflected on the meaning behind the healing process, and how nurses are looked upon as angels of mercy, since they are such admirable healers of the suffering.
Suffering can be either physical or mental, many times it’s both. It is almost always accompanied by a loss of control, and a personal identity that feels unfamiliar and menacing. Patients disconnect themselves from family and friends because they feel no one understands their anguish, isolation, and sense of victimization.
The acceptance of change can help normalize the patient’s feelings and responses to an illness or disease. It comes in three stages:
• First, the patient has to realize that healing is a process. Through this process will come a number of opportunities from which to grow spiritually.
• Second, he must design a personal style for handling his illness. This is where a new sense of identifying with the world, and with others, begins to emerge. When a patient discovers the meaning behind his illness or injury, it’s a step forward to reconciling with the anguish and distress – both direct results of a patient’s suffering. This acceptance is a decisive step towards the true essence of healing. It has been repeatedly described as that moment when “things fall into place.”
• Third, being part of a safe environment that shares a similar plight, but one that pushes through the isolation towards a new future is very beneficial. Being part of such a community is an important step towards feeling at ease in one’s own skin, mainly because suffering is blown out of proportion when the patient is overly sensitive with the feeling he is detached and alone. This is why such communities provide the patient with the opportunity to be heard and accepted, while being open and vulnerable.
To transcend suffering is a reflection of the patient’s relationship with his illness, with those close to him and with the world. This requires a certain amount of recognition and adaptation.
Transcending suffering doesn’t categorically reflect the patient’s physiological state. It is, in fact, an inner acceptance regardless of being cured.
J.K. Rowling sums it up beautifully by saying that…
“Understanding is the first step of acceptance, and only with acceptance can there be recovery.”

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