A shared journey of healing (December, 2020)
In his wonderful forward to Stanley Rosenberg’s Accessing the Healing Power of the Vagus Nerve, Stephen Porges, Ph.D. states, simply and beautifully, that “Healers enable the body to heal itself.” He goes on to describe how effective healers enable and empower their patients to heal through their bodies’ own mechanisms. This is an important foundation of Traditional Chinese Medicine, as I pointed out in my previous post. But Porges adds that an effective “healer” must have the ability to “co-regulate” with those they seek to help. Essentially, this means creating and maintaining the proper environment in which healing can occur, and supportively sharing that healing space with the patient during their journey.
This is one of the foundational principles of the work that I do. I have learned that, while healing can occur even under less than ideal circumstances, it has a much higher likelihood of success when the environment for healing is optimal. This involves, among other things, the state of mind of both the doctor and the patient. If there is too much fear, stress, or mistrust in the room, a treatment is less likely to succeed. Without compassion and empathy from the practitioner, success will likely be limited.
This does NOT mean, as I sometimes hear patients express, that it’s important that you have some certain sort of “belief in” acupuncture for this medicine to work. Quite to the contrary, I particularly enjoy how often I get to see patients SURPRISED by the success of their treatment, as many enter a course of treatment with a great deal of skepticism.
What it does mean is that it’s helpful for the doctor and patient to find at least some degree of connection. This is a skill that I’ve worked to cultivate, though it’s something that comes fairly naturally to me anyway. But learning how important this can be to healing has been one of the most profound discoveries of my career.
The human body (as well as the mind) has a tremendous capacity to heal itself. You have the capacity to heal from illness or injury within your body already. No healer needs to give you that. Sometimes, though, the body might need to be reminded how to heal itself, or given a little help in initiating the process. This is what this medicine that I practice can do.