What does it mean to heal?

We all have beliefs about how long it can take to heal. When we feel more empowered to heal ourselves, our beliefs change.

Healing can be a long, frustrating road. Sometimes it's a matter of feeling better in yourself as you travel down it. I have one client with a great deal of physical pain from a musculoskeletal injury who remarked that he is feeling much better in himself, and then he lowered his pain medication.

Did he heal? Not yet. But he feels better.

People often talk about healing emotional trauma as we move through pain, grief, and loss. We talk about passing through the stages of healing and out the other side to life.What about how we stay stuck in our bodies? Often we hold trauma and pain in our bodies long after the event has passed. Yet the event is stamped in our movements, our reactions, even the way we breathe. We cannot force ourselves to feel differently unless we move differently. If you fold into yourself and crush your chest and and demand that you feel happy, it won't happen. If you stand up straight and breath deep and sense your weight on the earth and smile and try to feel crummy, it won't happen.

That's why my client felt better in himself: he was moving better and this made him feel better. His whole system was no longer centered on pain. The question is, was he healed? In the strictest medical sense, no. But in his ability to live life, enjoy woodworking, gardening, and travel, yes. He was healed. On the coninuum of function he moved toward a higher ability and this made him happy. In my view he can heal his life even if he cannot heal his crushed spine.

Trauma and the Body

Dr. Bessel van der Kolk is a medical doctor and researcher whose work has focused on trauma and PTSD since the seventies. He runs the Trauma Center in Boston.

"His work integrates developmental, biological, psychodynamic and interpersonal aspects of the impact of trauma and its treatment. His book Psychological Trauma was the first integrative text on the subject, painting the far-ranging impact of trauma on the entire person and the range of therapeutic issues which need to be addressed for recovery." --Trauma Center website

In a recent interview he states that: "For my patients, I always recommend that they see somebody who helps them to really feel their body, experience their body, open up to their bodies. And I refer people always to craniosacral work or Feldenkrais. I think those are all very important components about becoming a healthy person."

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I like his perspective, he understands that it is sometimes more important to feel your experience instead of verbalize it. I have verbalized many things in my life that I understood cognitively but that never shifted until I unwound my patterns of holding.

Safely letting new information into the nervous system is something the Feldenkrais method excels at. We can:

  • let go of gripping madly to hold ourselves upright in favor of natural balance
  • let go of fear in favor of trusting that we can be safe
  • let go of chronic pain in way that does not tell a story about being diseased or injured or flawed

Instead of less injured or less traumatized we are simply more functional, more whole, and more healed. For example, when my client discovered what was possible within the constraints of his injury, his life became better. When he removed the limiting patterns that kept him fixed and unable to do woodworking, his life became better. When his nervous system shifted from fear of pain to more choice, his life became better.


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"Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it."  - Helen Keller

"Healing does not mean going back to the way things were before, but rather allowing what is now to move us closer to God."  - Ram Dass

"The wish for healing has always been half of health."  - Seneca