Pain & Healing


There is quite a complex relationship between pain and healing.

Pain is the usual motivator for our seeking healing, hence we normally define successful healing in terms of the removal of pain. Which is why pain killing drugs are so popular, they get rid of the pain, and hence they can become the benchmark for all healing scenarios.

So the acid test for healing becomes: My pain is reducing therefore this healing approach is working – Or – My pain is not reducing, therefore this healing approach is failing me.

Unfortunately, this simple black and white test does not always work out in real life. And, sometimes, all that pain killers are doing are temporarily reducing the pain, or they are acting as a mask and hiding the symptoms.

So what, you might say, if the symptoms are hidden and the pain is reduced or gone, isn’t that a good thing?

Maybe, maybe not.

People can live for years with repressed symptoms. Their drug prescription changes periodically to keep the mask in place. The patient feels better, the doctor looks like a professional doing his job (as we define it) and the drug company get to make more profits. If we ignore the collateral damage of long term drug use, its a true win-win situation you could argue.

But, is this healing?

What if we changed our definition of healing from the removal of pain, to the removal of the causes of symptoms? Would this change our outlook?

Healing may then become an altogether more complex scenario. For in this approach, our guiding compass, the reduction of pain, is not necessarily very helpful. As sometimes, when tackled head-on, symptoms can become worse before they get better. Or sometimes, one symptom will disappear only to be swiftly replaced by a different one.

This presents the patient with quite a dilemma. Do they trust the course they are on is correct, or do they try a different tack?

As you may have guessed, there’s no simple answer to this dilemma. To some extent, you have to trust the practitioner you’re working with, and they will be able to guide you as to how well the process is going, how you are making progress and whether to carry on or not. Jumping from practitioner to practitioner in short succession is probably not the best answer as it only confuses the matter more.

Whilst it is only normal to want to be rid of pain, healing symptoms takes as long as it takes, and your problem (which is often completely unique to you) may well not have a simple short-term solution. If you’ve had migraines on and off for 20 years, is it realistic or helpful to expect them to be ‘cured’ in one or two therapy sessions?

As a broad guideline, when nothing is changing, then look for a different solution. And if your symptoms get dramatically worse, then you may need the support of multiple healing approaches. This is when having the concept of complimentary therapies is a useful one to have, as opposed to the rather limiting idea of alternative therapies.

Having said all of that, and now looking on the bright side, symptoms’ causes do very regularly get healed.

Ironically, it is not usually the practitioner that does the healing, its the body/mind itself which accomplishes this task. The practitioner is simply a facilitator of this magical healing process.

© David R. Durham

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