Introduction: How We Heal
In my role as a “mind-body” physician, I hear many heart-rending tales. Over the three decades I’ve been practicing medicine, I’ve come to see a person’s migraines, fatigue, digestive distress, or back pain as a kind of admission pass that entitles the bearer to a few moments of a doctor’s attention. After listening to people’s problems for so many years, I’ve learned that when I can create enough safety for the sufferer, an underlying story —a story that at its heart is about giving or receiving love—will be revealed to me. And if I as a doctor can coax the hidden meaning of the illness into the open, then healing can begin.
As you may have guessed, seeking the emotional roots of a patient’s illness is not something I picked up in medical school. On the contrary, my conventional medical training taught me that my responsibility is to relieve symptoms: Prescribe a pain reliever to subdue a headache; add an acid blocker to extinguish heartburn; sprinkle on a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor to alleviate depression. In this era of managed care, in which one out of four doctor visits lasts less than ten minutes, providing symptomatic relief for a person’s distress is a practical and worthy endeavor. An anti-anxiety medicine may not get to the root of your problem, but it will help you feel less stressed during the day. An anti-inflammatory drug may not address the core issues underlying your chronic pain, but it should enable you to do housework with a little less discomfort. And if you develop indigestion as a result of your daily doses of pain medicine, a potent antacid will soothe your stomach. There is indisputable value in lessening the symptoms of distress, and it is not my intention to disparage any approach that relieves the suffering of humanity.
Still, long before beginning medical school I sensed that illness presents a deeper opportunity for healing and transformation, which we miss when we focus on symptom relief. Like a young child, the body communicates its needs in a relatively simple and straightforward manner. Whether it wants nourishment, affection, new experiences, time to rest, or a chance to release toxins, your body generates sensations to get attention. When you listen to these signals and address the basic needs they represent, your body responds by producing chemicals of comfort. When you fail to heed your body’s message, its calls become louder. If despite its best efforts, your body is unable to get your attention, it may stop talking for a while, but when next heard from, it will not be ignored. . . . . . . . .
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Copyright © 2009 by David Simon. Published by The Chopra Center Press.
All rights reserved. Free to Love, Free To Heal (ISBN 987-0-9819640-0-3) $22.95
Can be purchased at: All major bookstores, Borders, Barnes & Nobles, Amazon.com, www.freetolove.com
About the author: David Simon, M.D. is a world-renowned authority in the field of mind-body medicine. As a practicing physician, innovative researcher, and insightful teacher, David continues to expand his vision for an effective and compassionate healthcare system. Integrating ancient wisdom healing traditions with modern scientific principles, David has forged a model of health that integrates the multiple dimensions of a human being – environmental, physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual. As a board-certified neurologist and expert in Ayurvedic medicine and other traditional healing arts, he brings a unique perspective to the relationship between mind, emotions, and health.