Curing is removing the illness, problem, or issue. Healing means to make whole. A person who is healed may also have an illness or disease.    ~ Hari Kaur

What is healing? Is it entirely distinct from curing? I’m seeking to understand this in a clearer way.

The dictionary says that to heal is to make healthy, whole, or sound; restore to health; free from ailment.”  But the same online dictionary defines curing as “… a means of healing or restoring to health; remedy.” Others, as in the quote above, consider the two distinct, with curing involving acting to end the disease or distress, and healing being a process leading to wholeness.

Others say that healing means transcending suffering and finding meaning. In Buddhist thought, self-compassion and acceptance play important roles in healing. Writing teacher and author Sandra Marinella describes a 5-step writing and healing process: experiencing pain and grief, breaking the silence, accepting and piecing together a shattered story, finding meaning and making sense of a story, and rewriting our story and moving forward. The course I facilitate, Transform Your Health: Write to Heal uses six progressive forms of writing to promote healing.

The Untapped Potential of Placebos to Heal

Recently I heard this episode of The Hidden Brain podcast, which explores the meaning of the placebo effect. I’ve long wondered about what it really tells us, so I was happy to listen to what Shankar Vedantam and his guests had to say. 

The standard explanation of the placebo effect is that it proves or disproves the effectiveness of  a medication or other treatment. Scientists conduct a carefully controlled experiment in which they give a placebo to one group, and the medication or treatment being studied to another group. If those in each group improve at a similar rate, that is understood to mean that the medication or treatment is ineffective. But what if the explanation is a different one? What if, at least in some cases, receiving a placebo from a caring practitioner activates the same inner healing process that is activated by being treated with Western medicine?

It’s Not Either/Or

My infant granddaughter needs a surgical repair of her cleft palate. We certainly would not turn to placebos, energy healing or naturopathy to replace Western medicine in her situation.Yet, after her surgery she’ll have to heal from the physical insult to her tiny body, as well as the emotional distress of that experience.  I knew I needed chemotherapy, surgery and radiation to allow me to survive my cancer. I turned to alternative and complementary approaches to do what Western medicine could not. They helped protect me from some of the treatment’s side effects, and have continued supporting my health and healing once treatment ended.

Nothing written here is meant to discount the major contributions of Western medicine. I’m grateful to have access to it. It has improved and saved many lives, my own more than once.

These questions fascinate me. As I’ve become more deeply involved in the work of Transform Your Health: Write to Heal, as I observe my own healing over time, I seek better understanding of body and mind, and of what it means to heal ourselves and help others heal.

Photo by Emma Tsui on Unsplash

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