You are the Medicine.
I want to use the metaphor of the “inner healer” to guide us through conversations about self-healing here on the blog, which I’ve recently named “Mind Body Meld”. I find self-healing can be a complicated thing to talk about, and I think this metaphor will be useful to both of us as we learn about it.
I was introduced to the concept of self-healing as the focus of a medical practice by my teachers Dr. Moshe Daniel Block and Dr. Charley Cropley, and later enjoyed the articles that Jessica Flanigan and Dr. Kelly Brogan wrote about the “inner healer”. However, very few medical professionals (on the internet) have much to say about this metaphor, and I love that. It means I get to figure it out for myself. So here we go.
YOU ARE YOUR INNER HEALER
Your inner healer is not something that lives inside of you. It’s not a part of your personality like the ego or shadow of psychotherapy traditions. It’s a way to talk about your capacity to heal yourself. In “Whys and Hows of Behavior Change” I asked you to imagine your inner drill sergeant and your inner grandma to help you make behavior changes. Those are portrayals of your inner healer, different expressions of your innate inclination to heal.
The physical expressions of self-healing are seen through
the actions of your organ systems.
Your immune system is the clearest example. It’s constantly on guard to protect you from disease-causing pathogens. Once it detects an enemy, it coordinates a litany of cells and molecules to eradicate the pathogen and repair whatever damage it has caused. Your endocrine (hormonal) system is in on the action too. Hormones direct the build up and break down of tissue as needed, and regulate your temperature, appetite, and thirst according to what your body needs to heal. Then there’s your nervous system , which will also direct you towards health. The most annoying and obvious way it does this is through pain generation. The pain makes you to pay attention to and protect the wounded area from further damage. All of your organ systems work together continually, holding vigil beneath your awareness, keeping you directed towards health.
The mental and emotional expressions of self-healing are seen through
the actions of your inner-healer.
You are here reading this article, so I know that you care about yourself. To care for yourself through your inner healer is automatic. It comes naturally, just as regulating your body temperature or repairing damaged tissue. You may hear your inner healer in words, or you might have a feeling of its presence.
Can you recognize the inner healer in these words of desired behavior change?: “I know drinking is sucking the joy from my life, I want to change” or “My jealously ruins all of my relationships, I’m tired of it” or “I feel great after exercise, I want to do that more” or “If I could just meditate for 5 minutes in the morning, I would be less frantic during the day”.
Can you hear it in your persistent idea to leave your abusive relationship or soul-sucking job? You might feel it when you are genuinely optimistic about your future or when you are rooting for yourself to overcome a challenge. Your encouraging words to achieve a goal you care about (via inner-drill sergeant or inner-grandma) are the words of your inner healer.
These physical, mental, and emotional expressions keep you moving towards health, a dynamic state of balance.
Every person possesses an inner healer that wants to be heard.
“The body is the faithful puppy dog of the mind”
- Dr. Moshe Daniel Block
Your thoughts and emotions have physiological consequences, and play a role in the actions of your organ systems. We’ll talk another day about how exactly this happens, but consider that a mental or emotional disturbance can result in the dysfunction of an organ system, which can lead to symptoms. In this way, your symptoms are a message of sorts from your inner healer. Symptoms may tell you to rest, to stand up for yourself, to be kind, to express anger or sadness, or to play. Your inner healer wants to heal you at any cost. Your symptoms will become louder if it is not heard.
How can we relate to our inner healer?
Being that “it” is simply you, the tools to relate to your inner healer are tools to get to know yourself in a health-directed way. I picked the three I thought would be most effective to share with you here.
Take responsibility for your life and your health, and trust that you can do a good job. No one else is going to do it for you, and no one can do a better job than you.
Learn to appreciate your still and quiet times. If you’re running around like a lunatic all day lighting and putting out fires, it’s really hard to listen to yourself. Pick up a practice that encourages stillness, and start small. Don’t listen to music or podcasts on your next commute. Take a walk without ear buds. Sit and breathe for a few minutes before you turn on the TV or pick up your phone after work. Try meditation or yoga.
Build your awareness of how you feel, both emotionally and physically. When you find yourself in quiet, see if you can brew up some genuine curiosity about how you work, you’re a pretty interesting creature. What does it actually feel like to be you? What sensations are happening when you are relaxed versus stressed? Excited versus fearful? Watch them, watch how you change.
I really encourage you to try this, and I’d love to hear about what you learn. Let me know about your thoughts and experience on this juicy topic in the comments below! Also, who else is talking about this? Please share any good articles with me in the comments too!