| Healing is a complex process. It requires a perfect balance of attention, energy, professional knowledge and skill to heal from any injury or illness. We all have the capacity to heal—every one of us—so why do some people heal quickly, while others seem to revolve through a vicious cycle of recurrence and exacerbation? The answer may lay in the mind. Most healers know that you cannot separate the mind from the body. The body has as much influence on one's mental state as the mind has on one's physiology. So doesn't it make sense that, all things being equal, a person's state of mind can be either a great asset, or a tenacious obstacle? I have found that there are five major mental blocks that can seriously hamper or prevent the healing process from taking place. The five major blocks are fear, resistance, uncertainty, impatience and ingratitude.
The first major mental block to healing is fear—fear of illness, fear of infirmity, or fear of death. It can just as likely be a fear of loss, a fear of change, or a fear of uselessness. The most common fear I encounter is the fear of disability, especially as it relates to one's work—one's earning potential. Fears have a negative impact on the healing process; they are highly counterproductive. Nobody likes to be in pain, and nobody likes the notion that they might be that way forever, but the most important thing for people to understand is that humans are amazing self-healing, self-regulating organisms. We are incredible healers. Cut your finger and it will heal. Burn yourself. It'll heal. Break a leg. It'll heal. One of my favorite stories is about former Pittsburgh Steelers running back Rocky Blier. Blier served in Vietnam following his graduation from Notre Dame, and had both his legs damaged, one by a grenade and the other from being shot. Despite his injuries, Blier went on to rehab himself and earned a spot on the 1970 Steelers squad, where he became an integral part of the powerhouse that won four Super Bowl championships during the 1970s.
You see? We are indeed amazing self-healing, self-regulating organisms, but fear slows down the healing process. Fear affects our physiology—it's a fight or flight response. This consequently shuts off our rest and digest response, the response needed for healing. The fight or flight response increases our heart rate, our respiration, and spikes our blood sugar. Muscles contract, blood shunts from the internal organs to the muscular system and, although the mechanism is not fully understood, fear can also cause cardiac arrest and death. Whether through a disruption of the body's normal physiology, or through its perpetually turned on fight or flight response, fear definitely has an influence on the healing process.
The best remedy for people who are afraid is to understand the healing ability of the human body. Along with this understanding needs to be trust—trust in the healing process. The biggest obstacle here is that we are inundated with stories from the people we know, or from the media, of people who are ill; scary stories; it could happen to anyone, stories. Under these circumstances it's pretty hard to think that things will be different for us. Please note, however, that not only do we live in an era where the nightly news is all about sensationalism (and illness is by far more interesting to the masses than health is), but also that caring for the sick is big business, therefore there is a vested interest in people getting—and staying—sick. The bottom line is this: Just as there are thousands of stories of people who are disabled or terminally ill, there are just as many stories of people experiencing miraculous recoveries. Start looking for them in books, magazines, and on television; and extrapolate those experiences to your own life. You'll see that you are no different than they are—you just have to believe in your incredible ability to heal.
Resistance to Healing
Resistance to healing is usually an unconscious motive. The resistant person may certainly want to get better, consciously; but underneath it all may be an underlying desire to hang on to one's baggage. Resistance comes in three flavors—dogmatic resistance, attachment to illness, and the desire to be in control.
Dogmatic resisters are bound by their ideology or philosophy, which can be either political, moral, or related to their perceptions on health and healing. Political dogmatism can range anywhere from socioeconomic biases (doctors are a part of the corrupt machine), to sexual biases (women shouldn't be doctors, I can't see a male doctor, my doctor should be gay, my doctor should be straight, and so forth), to racial biases, to—believe it or not—political biases. Either way, these biases can be unconscious, or they can just as well be conscious.
Moral dogmatism can also have political and sexual roots, as well as financial ones (I'm poor and I need help, but I can't afford it; the doctor/therapist/healer shouldn't charge so much). This one seems to be rare, although I have personally encountered it.
The most common form of dogmatic resistance comes from individuals who are stuck in a perception of health and healing. In modern, western society, the majority of these people are medicine worshipers. They see the medical profession as the highest, if not the sole, authority on health. These people may have already seen one or several medical doctors, have gone to the emergency room, or have tried many other medically approved treatments like physical therapy, massage, Pilates, or whatever. They may have come to an “alternative” practice like chiropractic, acupuncture, colon hydrotherapy, and the like, on the advice of a loved one, but really don't believe that it will work for them. These people may even feel that the alternative technique is a sham, but have come as a last resort or as a promise to their spouse, or both. Don't think, though, that these dogmatists only run in medical circles, there are also yoga dogmatists, chiropractic dogmatists, acupuncture dogmatists, massage dogmatists, and every other type of dogmatist you can think of. They are by far some of the most difficult people to help through the healing process—a challenge of the highest magnitude.
Dogmatic resisters can best be served by opening their minds and hearts, and learning how to trust. If they could grasp the notion that most healing techniques (those which have been around for awhile) are valid; and if they could become in tune with the notion that there simply are no mistakes , then these people might be pleasantly surprised at the effectiveness of that which they did not previously understand. It's true that not all treatments are right for everybody, but it's impossible to know until they give it an honest effort. What might help is having the healing practitioner outline the treatment plan and the desired outcome. Open plans stink in my opinion, and I'd personally shy away from any practitioner who suggests one. But a well thought out plan with defined parameters that can be easily tested is a reasonable approach. Either way, it requires trust and surrender for the healing process to occur.
Attachment to Illness
The attachment to illness is not some pathological disorder of the mind like hypochondriasis or Munchausen Syndrome, but instead, it's an unconscious addiction to the benefits of being ill. Some may find this absurd, as most people have a difficult time associating pain or illness with any kind of benefit, but it is a very real phenomenon. Think about it—illness or injury brings attention, assistance, sympathy, sometimes even money, sometimes medications that feel good, and things like that. And they also help people avoid doing the things they may not want to do, like working, going to school, caring for others, and many other situations that could probably fill a book. Again, it's important to note that this form of resistance is not a conscious effort, but something happening unbeknownst to the individual; however, these individuals aren't usually too motivated to seek a solution, as they benefit nonetheless.
Desire to be In Control
The desire to be in control is somewhat of a misnomer, as very few people consciously set out to control any given situation. This could be more accurately described as an unconscious propensity to call the shots. It may be based on past experiences, previous relationships, fear or mistrust. It may just be the comfort zone in which some people operate. Either way, this mental state is serious hindrance to the healing process for several reasons.
First, there is a trust component that is usually missing on the part of the patient (the ill, the injured) toward the healer (doctor, therapist, yogi, etc.).
- I'm certain you know what you're doing, but I know my body, so I'd like you to do this, or
- I once had something similar and this helped, so do this, or
- My spouse, parent, sibling, friend, lover, boss, or co-worker had something like this and they told me that this or that worked, so that's what I want, or my favorite
- I've never been to see you, but I don't need an exam, I just need a quick adjustment.
Get the point? My previous chiropractor did so and so, and that always worked; but I'm still in pain, so I want you to do what he did.
But you're still in pain, so clearly, it didn't work.
Yeah, but that's because what I have is a little different than what I had before.
See the game? It happens a lot. And the scary part is that, as the doctor, if you give in and they're wrong, you're still the one responsible because you know better. So it probably isn't hard to see how these people hamper their own healing. The answer for these individuals is in trust and letting go. Trusting that you've found the right healer, through diligent research, interviewing the office staff on the telephone, and speaking to the doctor on the telephone to get a sense of his or her competency, and then letting go and letting the healer do the healing. That is the key to getting better. Second guessing and directing the treatments only turns what could be a wonderful experience into a long drawn out and frustrating game for the both of you.
This mental block can also be called confusion or ambivalence. In a nutshell, it's the individual's uncertainty of what to do, which practitioner to see, and whether the prescribed care is right for him or her. Of all the mental blocks, this is the most common. Like dogmatists, these people are often on their second, third or fourth health care practitioner; and they, too, may be seeing a particular healer on the request—or orders—of a loved one. But unlike the dogmatist who knows what he needs, this person is just not sure.
It might work. I hope it works. But what if it doesn't work? It's not working yet. Darn, it's probably not going to work.
I can see the mental script unfolding in these people as it happens. My approach to these people is a combination of reassurance, reaffirmation, and reiteration of the game plan and rationale. But these mental blocks are hard to break if they are deep rooted.
There are two types of uncertainty, a lack of faith and flat out disbelief. Lack of faith is both fear and uncertainty. These people just aren't sure if they'll ever get better, or they might be second-guessing their decision. They may also struggle with impatience (see below) to varying degrees. Disbelievers are usually just trying out a particular healing art because they have run the gamut and haven't yet found an answer, but deep down inside, they don't believe the current treatment option is going to work for them. Disbelievers tend to be dogmatic resisters and may even have an underlying skepticism toward the healing technique they are trying. Those racked by uncertainty are definitely their own worst enemies.
I'm not suggesting that this is an easy situation for any person going through this mind chatter. It's not. And it can be further complicated by well-meaning family, friends or coworkers who give confusing and contradictory advice, further complicating the matter.
The real answer for these people is diligent research, knowledge and trust. Research must be carried out in the beginning, before the care starts, so that complete trust can be placed in the practitioner and his or her methods. Then it's important for the practitioner to outline the treatment plan, and for any questions the patient has to be answered completely; that is, until a total understanding is established. If questions come up later, the patient shouldn't hesitate to get all the information needed. You'll pretty much know from the initial examination and the follow up how willing the practitioner will be in this regard. In my opinion, any doctor not willing to give you the time to answer your questions is not worth the investment. It's called health care for a reason. Once the treatment protocol and rationale has been explained to you, just let go and trust your doctor and yourself. You will heal, because it's what you do. But most important is to stay impervious to the five thousand different suggestions you get everyday. Nobody knows exactly what you have except you and your doctor, so any advice is speculative at best. And then just let nature take its course.
The fourth mental block, and quite possibly the most unfortunate, is impatience. This is when a person wants results now, today, yesterday—yet healing is a time dependent process. There is no such thing as a miracle cure, but we have been conditioned to believe that there is. Take this pill and you'll feel better tomorrow. We'll perform this surgery and you'll be back on track in a couple of weeks. Sorry, but those are illusions; they are just not true. Healing takes time. It probably took time to get into the patient's current condition (there's no overnight in dysfunction, either) so it's going to take some time to get out of it, too.
I say that this is the most unfortunate mental block because, often, the impatient patient quits before treatment has been completed, although the breakthrough might be right around the corner. This reminds me of a story I once heard about a gentleman who bought an oil well. This well was not yet gushing, as the digging had not yet been carried out. He dug and dug to no avail. After months of this, he was convinced that he had been had—that there was no oil in that well. So he decided to sell it; which he did at a loss to a bigger company. Within a couple of days of digging, the new owners struck oil. Bingo! And that's exactly what happens with many cases that come through my office. Just as the situation seems bleak—bingo!—a breakthrough occurs. But sadly, some people quit before they are finished, before they realize the breakthrough. And we never get the chance to experience their miraculous healing.
The moral of the story is this: If the treatment plan says three months, two month just won't cut it. Something that patients don't realize is that the healer is re-evaluating you every visit. There's something called physiological individuality, and it means that no two people are alike. There is no cookbook in health care. And thus the practitioner may be tweaking the protocol here, modifying it there, to fit your individual needs. That's what a good healer will do, anyway. So be patient, and trust your doctor's judgment. Unless she's fresh out of school, she's probably done this before.
Oh boy, here we go. This is the toughest mental block because these may be the toughest cookies to crack. The individual whose mental block is ingratitude is unable to see or acknowledge their improvement. They may say there is no improvement, or they may even say they are getting worse, despite evidence to the contrary.
My observation is that this state of mind is more encompassing than what is expressed in the healer's office, and it may just be a reflection of the current phase in the life of the individual. However, this is another obstacle of an illusory kind. The facts are that the healing has been taking place but, if the individual can't see it, then what does it matter?
Let me point out that, indeed, some people really do get worse under care; and this needs to be evaluated. But most doctors do tests—we call them objective test, because they are not dependent on the patient's mood, state of mind (for the most part), or whether the patient has been having a crappy day or not—and these tests tell us pretty concisely whether there has been any improvement. Moreover, most health problems have classical signs or indicators. True, one must take into account physiological individuality, but pretty much, if the classical signs are missing and the test are negative, then…there's been improvement.
Despite these facts, some people insist that they are not doing any better. Some people want to be 100% when it might not be possible within the current time frame. And others might be looking for something else (remember those attached to illness?). Whatever the case, I've got a solution for this problem that can be used by everybody, even if this isn't your issue. All it takes is doing two things every day.
- Write down daily every aspect of your healing that you are grateful for. If you are having low back pain, write down any improvement in your range of motion, the amount of time you were pain free (even if it was only five minutes), and so on. Focus on these points only. Make it a habit to not focus on your symptoms, but on your improvements.
- Say the following affirmation everyday: Thank you for my incredible healing.
That's it! Do these two things every single day, and watch your healing take off. Sometimes, the only thing preventing an otherwise normal person from healing completely is a mental block. I have seen them play out in every conceivable fashion over the last seven years, and I've also seen the opposite—miraculous healing over time. Don't let mental blocks get in the way of your healing. If you are currently under my care, and you see yourself in any one of these scenarios, or even in a combination of them, please talk to me about it. I can help you find a strategy to overcome it, and experience the incredible healing I know you desire.
- November 14, 2007
The Six Keys to Optimal Health by Dr. Nicolas Campos
For More Advice on Health and Optimal Living Read
The Six Keys to Optimal Health by Dr. Nicolas Campos
COMING SOON TO A BOOKSTORE NEAR YOU