Every so often, thinking about a word I use a lot I realize I’d be at a loss if someone were to ask me what that word really means.. This week, while working on my upcoming Transform Your Health: Write to Heal class, it struck me that “heal” is one of those commonly used words that doesn’t have a commonly shared meaning.
Being as clear as I can about what I mean when I use a word helps my thinking and my work, so I’ve put some effort into figuring what the word “heal” means to me.
How Do You Define Healing?
I did a web search on “heal” and “healing” to find out how the concept is defined in dictionaries and within medicine, nursing and other health-related professions. I also re-read chapters from some of my books, thought about my own and my clients’ experiences, took lots of notes throughout, and sat for a while with with what I had found. Here’s how I’m currently thinking about healing.
Healing involves transcending the suffering that can be caused by traumatic or disruptive life events. Transcendence of suffering takes place through wholeness of self. Wholeness is the alignment, or the re-alignment, of the physical, emotional, intellectual, social, and spiritual areas of our functioning (The Meaning of Healing: Transcending Suffering).
Healing means finding wholeness, connection and meaning, whether or not cure is possible.
You can find a degree of wholeness as a person whether you get better or not, whether you are suffering or not, and I certainly have seen people finding a wholeness as they die.
~ Cicely Sanders, in The Meaning of Healing: Transcending Suffering
How do you define the word “heal”?
How We Heal
We can heal from a traumatic or emotionally disruptive event by honestly, expressively and deeply telling what may at first be as a fragmented or chaotic story, so that it eventually becomes coherent and understandable. We can weave this more coherent story into the ongoing fabric of our lives, find meaning in it and moving forward from it.
Keeping our stories hidden from ourselves and others takes energy. It can be stressful and isolating, affecting our mental and physical health. Telling our stories through talk or writing strengthens our connections to self and others. It benefits mental and physical health by influencing our core values, patterns of thought, and our feelings about ourselves (Pennebaker & Smyth, 2018). In order to heal, our writing must link detailed descriptions of what happened with past and current thoughts and feelings about the event (DeSalvo, 1999).
Explore The Power of Writing to Help You Find Your Inner Healing Voice
My introductory online offering of Transform Your Health: Write to Heal provides the kind of writing experience that promotes healing. It begins April 16, 2019. Take advantage of the special, introductory rate, and reserve one of the limited spots now!
Let me know if you have any questions. I’d love to have you join us!
References and Resources
DeSalvo, L. (1999) Writing as a way of healing. Boston, MA: Beacon Press.
Pennebaker, J. W. & Smyth, J.M. (2016). Opening up by writing it down. New York: NY. Guilford Press.
Pennebaker, J.W. & Evans, J.F. (2014). Expressive writing: Words that heal. Enumclaw, WA: Idyll Arbor, Inc.