Healing - what is it?

"The body knows how to heal itself. Your body is artfully and divinely equipped with natural self-repair mechanisms that repair broken proteins, fight cancer cells, prevent aging, and resist infection. But when the Gremlin is in charge and your nervous system is stressed, these self-repair mechanisms are disabled."  Dr Melissa Rankin, MD

Often, when I talk with clients and students, their definition of words such

as self-repair, healing and curing are quite narrow; in crude terms, they tell me

healing is about “getting better” and curing is about “getting rid of a disease

or condition.”


Does it matter?


I believe it does? And language matters. How YOU define healing, curing,

wholeness, wellness, health and well-being, will determine how you navigate

towards that definition.


If you are navigating toward a simple definition of  “getting better”  then what

does that actually mean?


If you are trying “to get rid of” then that sounds a rather harsh journey.


And if your only destination is “cure” then how are you going to feel day

after day when there is no cure in sight? Angry? Frustrated?


And then how do you heal the anger and frustration?


In the past two years I have often asked doctors what their definition of health is; what their definition of healing is. And most are simply stunned at the audacity I have in asking. But if you are to heal (definitions later) then surely you and your doctor need to either be singing from the same definition or at least have some understanding where you differ? Otherwise your respective efforts for your better health may be at odds.


I don’t believe our Scottish NHS is about health, healing and wellness – it is simply about symptom management and if possible removal.  It is only now, 75 years after its incpetion, realising the importance of health promotion.


Symptom and condintion management is quite a different journey to the one most patients, I would argue, are seeking to take – the journey to good health and well-being. If that’s your aim then the NHS is unlikely to help, how can it when it pays little attention to the cause of your condition?


So radically, you must be your own best healer, using NHS for the bits it does well but do NOT expect it to help you in any way to practise whole health, taking into account upstream considerations of ill-health, nutrition, spirituality, lifestyle and so on, to be dealt with as a whole human being, to approach diagnosis and treatment from a holistic perspective. That requires a much more functional, integrative and integrated paradigm than the present medical model allows.


A little light on healing et al


Let’s explore some definitions and perspective, not all of them latin in origin!


And to do something different let’s begin with a timeline of certain words:-


  • Until 600c – sanctitas – meaning a "state or character of being holy, sanctity,                                                                                                                           religion; holy thing;" with roots in Middle English holinesse, Old English                                                                                                                                 halignis and  Old High German heilagnissa. Whatever, note the early                                                                                                                           religious connotations

  • 13th century - French curé (priest) from Medieval Latin curatus meaning                                                                                                                            “to take care of”

  • 13th century – haeling – restoration to health

  • 13th century – Latin cura - "care, heed, concern, trouble, “  and also "means                                                                                                                          of healing, remedy," from Old Latin coira-,

  • Late 14th century – cura began to mean “medical care!”

  • 1670s – healing became the “touch that cures” and that touch often is not just                                                                                                                         a physical one on the symptom but the power of emotion, the touch of genuine Love


Although brief, one can see above the journey from something that was rooted in religion to a definition ultimately more of physical medical care.


Today, I would argue, we are beginning to “remember” and reconnect with the power of religious words and spiritual truths as a basis for healing; hence the increasing focus on metaphysics ie that which is beyond just physical signs and symptoms and has its foundations in mental, emotional, spiritual and soul aspects of the whole human being and his or her wider environment. You cannot talk holistic without including the environment in which you live. It is about the whole, and you are but one part of a wider Universe, a microcosm of the macrocosm.


 Healing, wholeness and wellness


The oft-used expression ‘healing unto wholeness’ shows healing not as an event but as a process, indicating that which is beyond the level of symptom relief and cure, which is the dysfunctional, narrow focus of our conventional health system. The healing process leads into broader areas of integration, harmony and balance: of lifestyle and in that , shows that it is as we think and act, we create our lifestyle and circumstances.


Our quality, level of, and manner of thinking is crucial to our wholeness. Your doctor may be able to relieve your symptoms but if you have not changed your thinking and given that created them in the first place, you have not healed, you are not whole. If someone smokes and develops lung cancer, then no matter how well their medical treatment helps them recover, if they keep on mal-treating their body through continued smoking, then they have not fully healed, they have not learned or at least applied the learning that smoking does not help.


In the biblical story of the ten lepers made well by Jesus of Nazareth (Luke 17 v.11-19), only one leper gave thanks. So, although all ten were considered to have been physically cured or ‘cleansed’ as the account puts it, this ‘attitude of gratitude’ conveyed that only one was considered to have been ‘healed’. Only one had changed in mind and been touched in soul. For nine it was something purely physical, for one it was metaphysical, about more than just the physical, it was about deeper attitudes of understanding and gratefulness. And how often do you find people these days really say thanks? How often do you give gratitude, if only in prayer? How much do we take for granted?


These deeper attitudinal changes are part of the emphasis of holistic healing,

which aims not just at treating the whole person - body, mind , spirit and

soul - but also at encouraging healing from within,  increasing awareness,

educating, and facilitating a changed and more expansive attitude and

action towards life itself, to living a high level of wellness.



And it is more than just about you!


If your health condition is exacerbated by your environment

eg dampness in the home, then until that is tackled, you are unlikely to

move into full health and well-being. If you are suffering depression, anxiety,

and physical symptoms as a result of a stressful relationship with your boss,

then your health will not improve until you either get a new boss, now job, new employer, or change your attitude to your present circumstances. If your health is poor because you are in an abusive personal relationship, and you know that to be the cause, your health will not improve till you tackle the cause.


Healing means to make whole from which we get the word holistic. But most of us have a narrow definition of holistic.


Individual healing – for many it is about finding a cure, ridding themselves of signs, symptoms and debilitating conditions. But that is a treatment model of health; there is the model of educating and informing oneself, becoming more aware, and moving towards wellness.


Where else do we need healing into wholeness?


Family healing – families can be a hotbed of dysfunction, filled with ignorance, lack of information, poor quality relationship, fighting, squabbling, grieving, revenge, self-righteousness and so on. I know of several families where eg one sister has not spoken to the other in thirty years because neither will forgive, neither will accept that their version of events is only that, a version of events, but their feuding has meant children in both families have never spoken, cousins have never known cousins, people have been brought up jaundiced and skewed in their thinking of others. This is not a healed, whole family.


Relationships – much of my counselling work is helping people relate well with themselves first, and with others second. Few relationships in my experience are healthy, whole, and complete.  And “no” life does NOT have to be that way. But if we want our world of relationships “out there” to be healed, we need to begin “in here” with the self


Community – our community is made up of communities within communities. But how many can claim to function healthily. Committees are the death knell to so many charities and community organisations. Political and religious fractions separate people within communities and localities. Think Nelson Mandela’s approaches to resolving apartheid and the years and costs put into finding peace (which is healing – and healing is about Peace) in Northern Ireland.


Global – as I write, I am witnessing yet more bombings in Belgium, news coverage is about terrorism in numerous countries, I read about the disgraceful record of some countries when it comes to human rights (and Britain is not guilt-free on this front either.) There is so much need for healing throughout the world, for peace, and for the physical healing of the damage we as humans do to our physical environment.


Political – where does one begin? There is so much corruption, division, and self-interest among politicians. Self-interest means anything but holisticism, wholeness, despite the rhetoric. The sheer divisions and separation caused by our political system in the JUK shows we are incapable (yet) of a holistic, collaborative way of doing politics. It is a bit like religion, my God is better than yours, my party is better than yours, my ideas are better than yours. But as Jesus said, “Where two or three are gathered” and in Scotland we say “twa heids are better than yin” – two heads are better than one, surely if we had a system where we could collaborate, not just compromise, how much more towards a healed politics we could move and therefore benefit the world.


Organisational – perhaps the  biggest, unspoken cause of most stress in peoples’

lives – and stress contributes to about 80% of illness – is the way organisations

treat their customers. Poor quality customer service – think Yodel, Amazon,

Google, Facebook et al, systems that pretend to be about “you” but are just

about the systems and the bottom line about profit, an NHS that will not listen

or learn that it’s present paradigm is not fit for purpose, train lines that treat

passengers inhumanely, budget airlines that treat people as cattle, and a media

90%beaming out negativity in its news coverage, all of this silent but toxic

poison is what we breathe in every day, it affects our health, but most of us do

nothing about it. We can offer feedback and demand better service. Be radical.


So what if you did think healing was just about your and your health? Well that is crucial.

Most know that pre-flight boarding tells us in the event of an emergency to put on our own

oxygen masks first. And so in healing, unless we attend to our own being whole, there is not

much we can contribute to the greater good of others, society and the world.


The body is healing all the time; lots of processes are going on outside our conscious awareness through which the body is constantly healing and repairing and renewing itself. The body is always attempting to come into wholeness, to balance, to harmony.


But day by day we make its task difficult… through sloth, ignorance, laziness, bad diet, drugs and alcohol, and a lack of self-care.


So what if we stopped interrupting the body’s natural processes –and simply let it do its business, to make us whole?


What instead of focussing on, “This illness is awful” to “I wonder how it would feel to be well?”


Would we need so much radiation, surgery, and drugs? Or “Cut, poison, burn” as laid out in the film of the same name. I wonder what would really happen within the body-mind-soul system if we were to imagine wellness and not illness?


What if instead of sabotaging the body’s natural ways, of interrupting them, we actually assisted the body through better self-respect, self-care, self-love, heeding the signs and symptoms it sends,  through better nurture and relaxatioin.



                                              The Radical Healer invites you to view healing in its broadest sense.

        If the goldfish is ill, consider changing the water!





 ‘Healing and the Healing Relationship’


 “If the world is to be brought to order,  my nation must first be changed.

   If my nation must first be changed,  my hometown must be made over.

   If my hometown is to be reordered, my family must first be set right.

   If my family is to be regenerated,  I, myself, must first be .....”


The words of an ancient Chinese General.



All change starts with an individual , an individual thought, an individual idea, an individual person making a difference.


What will YOUR legacy be to humankind?


For a look at some wider considerations in the Health and Holistic movement - please read this article by Joshua David





What's your vision or goal for your life after you have cured or are healed? Visualise ahead to after the curing, after the healing, and you have much more to look forward to, to navigate to. I don't just visualise being free of a diabetes diagnosis; I visualise what life will be like with such freedom and let me energy go into that.

Bridging philosophies
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Healing is not a fixed end point or a static state!

We are always in the process of healing. Ill or well, your body systems, without your conscious awareness, are continually self-repairing, renewing, and regenerating. If those systems ever stopped, disease and decay would take over.

If we fail consciously to look after ourselves – our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health – our body will do its best to keep itself in balance (homeostasis) but if we overload or abuse our systems with unwise lifestyles, inappropriate foods, insufficient movement, negative thinking and so on, at some point the body will function less well and may give up.

Toxins will accumulate, causing pain and limitations, our lifestyle will suffer, we may not be able to do  what we once did.

If we stop course-correcting our actions, relationships, spirituality, knowledge, purpose, and lifestyles as we age... then we stagnate, or die.


 New reasons       for healing       keep arising.