My name is Erica and I decided to start this blog because I passionately believe in the process of healing. I’ve lived through severe Crohn’s colitis flares, severe chronic pain, and severe depression (my Crohn’s story is here, one of my chronic pain stories is here, and my depression story is here). The process of healing has become as essential to me as breathing. For me healing means much more than curing a medical/psychological condition. I define healing as a process of moving towards wholeness, of accepting and integrating all aspects of ourselves, even the ones we don’t want to see.
When I was in graduate school, I developed a keen interest in how people define healing. I’ve collected some definitions of healing that I think are helpful in showing the breadth of the meaning of this word.
Definitions of healing:
“I like to think of the word ‘healing’ in the relationship to curing, as coming to terms with things as they are. What healing is is a process through which we come to terms with the actuality of our situation in the present moment. Now, the beauty of healing is that healing is possible even in the absence or the very improbable likelihood of a cure — that the work of healing can be done right up to our last breath.” Kabat-Zinn, J. (2004).
“Healing may not be so much about getting better as about letting go of everything that isn’t you – all of the expectations, all of the beliefs – and becoming who you are. Not a better you, but a ‘realer’ you….People can heal and live, and people can heal and die. Healing is different from curing. Healing is a process we’re all involved in all the time. Healing is the leading forth of wholeness in people. I think that healing happens only in the context of our imminent awareness of something larger than ourselves, however we conceive that.” Remen, N. R. (1993).
Healing as the ways that an individual relates to the suffering triggered by his or her medical conditions. Patients’ journeys through illness and healing manifest individualistically from their foundations in religious and spiritual belief systems and practices. Bedard, J. (1999).
Healing as transcending suffering. Egnew interviewed medical and psychological experts such as Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, Bernie Siegel, and Carl Hammerschlag, and coded his findings into themes of “wholeness,” “narrative,” and “spirituality.” Egnew, T. R. (2005).
Terminal patients defined healing in a variety of ways: recovery from illness, living with more of a sense of normalcy, forgiveness from God, freedom from mundane concerns, connectedness to God, acceptance of their conditions, and as a “sense of peace.” Gauthier, D. M. (2002).
Healing as being three-dimensional as it engages the physical, emotional, and spiritual sides of each patient. Puchalski, C. M. (1999).
Recurring themes of healing and survival include open communication, self-advocacy, the ability to face fear, and an openness to life. Roud, P. (1990).
Healing as a relational process, one that is predicated on the harmonic interplay of physical and spiritual forces between beings and elements. Illness as a healing process in itself. Barasch, M. I. (1994, June).
Healing as being more attuned to an ultimate and sacred reality than the diurnal realities in which the patients had formerly been consumed. Sorenson, J. H. (1987).
Barasch, M. I. (1994, June). The soul approach to healing. Yoga Journal, 116.
Bedard, J. (1999). Lotus in the fire: The healing power of Zen. Boston, MA: Shambhala.
Egnew, T. R. (2005). The meaning of healing: Transcending suffering. Annals of Family Medicine, 3, 255-262.
Gauthier, D. M. (2002). The meaning of healing near the end of life. Journal of Hospice and Palliative Nursing, 4(4), 220-227.
Kabat-Zinn, J. (2004, May 4). “The healing power of mindfulness: Living your life as if it really matters.” Retrieved from http://www.virginia.edu/uvanewsmakers/newsmakers/kabat-zinn.html.
Puchalski, C. M. (1999). Touching the spirit: The essence of healing. Retrieved October 28, 2006, from http://www.spiritual-life.org/id30.htm.
Remen, N. R. (1993). Wholeness. In B. Moyer’s (Ed.) Healing and the Mind. New York: Doubleday.
Roud, P. (1990). Making miracles: An exploration into the dynamics of self-healing. New York: Warner Books.
Sorenson, J. H. (1987). Healing at life’s limits: High-technology medicine and Christian faith. Dissertation Abstracts International, 48 (07), 1808.
There are certainly other definitions of healing and I invite you to send yours to me: determinetoheal [at] gmail.com