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Healing is Experiential, Not Theoretical

· Healing

There are millions of people suffering from chronic health conditions. We are facing the rise of chronic and degenerative diseases worldwide. According to a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study (2013) published in The Lancet, 95% of the world's population has health problems, with one third of the world's population experiencing more than five ailments. Low back pain and major depression ranked in the top ten disabilities worldwide. In the United States, more than 190 million Americans (about 59 percent of the population) are affected by one or more chronic diseases. Many live with ongoing symptoms because there is no known cure for many conditions.

Those statistics are astonishing, considering all that we collectively know about health and healing. We have seen a steady increase in life expectancy, but not for everyone. We live longer, but longevity doesn't equate with health or less suffering in our older years, particularly for those with chronic health conditions, from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, or from poorer and underdeveloped countries. We know more than ever before in history. Everyone with an internet connection has access to research studies conducted on many different topics. The information age has allowed us to become very knowledgeable. So how do we use that knowledge to help improve quality of life for everyone? Knowledge doesn't always equate with understanding. We may know something in theory or we may know something in a practical way; however, true understanding lies in the integration of both theory and experience. At some point, we need to collectively come to the realization that healing is experiential, not theoretical.

How do any of us know anything? Where does knowledge come from? At its most basic we know something is so based on our own personal observations and experiences or on what someone else tells us. We live in a culture that places great value on one kind of knowledge to the detriment of others. How we know anything has been a debated question for centuries. In ancient Greece, Aristotle and Plato both attempted to answer this question concerning the origin of knowledge. Empiricism and rationalism are two of several competing views that predominate in the study of knowledge known as epistemology. The empiricist believes that knowledge is derived from sensory experience whereas the rationalist believes that we can only know something through reasoning and not through experience. However, empirical and rational are not really mutually exclusive views. It was thought that a rational approach was superior to an empirical approach despite the fact that much of science is based on empirical principles.

Since the 15th century, and with the rise of modern science, the scientific method was espoused as the most authoritative paradigm and worldview, often to the exclusion of others. This led to a rise in reductionist thinking and methods that now forms the basis for many fields of scientific study. Reductionist thinking suggests that everything in the universe can be broken down into a few simple parts -- that everything can and should be reduced to the properties of matter. This had huge implications for anything that could not be reasoned or easily explained like emotion or spiritual and religious experiences. These experiences were simply reduced to biological or physiological phenomena, or even aberrant behavior. Science is rooted in the belief that the world is rational and orderly despite the fact that there are some aspects of reality that cannot be easily understood and may have no rational explanation. We are not just thinking beings. We are feeling beings. We are human. We are also fallible. We have biases and prejudices. Some things in life are inexpressible in a purely linear and systematic manner. And, some things actually are sacred.

There has been great emphasis placed on the mind and all things mental, and therefore greater value placed on logic, analysis, and reasoning over any sensory or felt experiences. In fact, as the scientific paradigm became the norm, it influenced all of our social and cultural practices. It influenced the way we teach our children, how we interact socially with one another, and who and what we value as a collective. This emphasis on rationality has created a mechanistic paradigm that has impacted our whole way of life, including health and healing. Reductionist thinking is still the most prevalent cognitive style in our world. Reductionist thinking is a left-brain activity. Whereas reductionist thinking breaks components down into smaller parts, holistic thinking connects those parts to help us see the bigger picture. Healing is holistic in nature. It is largely a right-brain activity. Left brain activities (logical analysis and reasoning, mathematical computations) are more valued and regarded than right brain activities (sensing, feeling, intuiting, imagery, art). We are neither all left-brain or all right-brain. We are both, but we are not taught to utilize our whole brains. We still have a primarily left-brained system of education despite the fact that educational researchers have shown that as many as 85% of our children are kinesthetic learners who require more hands-on, right-brain activities to learn (touching, feeling, and experiencing). If we don't collectively value and understand that healing requires right-brain activities such as the ability to sense, feel, and intuit, how can healing ever be realized?

In order to heal, you need to become aware of and learn how to listen to your own body. You need to know and understand yourself and your own mind. You need to understand that your body is where you sense, feel, and intuit. We heal because we feel. We heal through experience, and not through intellectualizing or reasoning. You feel pain, discomfort, sadness, grief, shame, and anxiety in the body, not in the mind, despite how we label and categorize health conditions. Healing is neither systematic nor linear. It has a rhythm of its own. From a purely mechanistic perspective, emotions are simply the complex reactions the body has to certain stimuli. If we become afraid, for example, our body has physiological reactions such as increased heart-rate and muscle contractions. But how can we take into account the humanness of our experiences? Human beings are not mechanical. The human experience is so much more than a series of reactions to stimuli. Healing requires the acceptance and inclusion of our humanness in that equation.

In our quest for knowledge, we have overlooked something rather simple yet profoundly significant. We are human. We are both rational and irrational. We are both analytical and holistic. We are both feeling and thinking beings. As a collective, we are denying the reality of the whole of who we are as human beings. We are undervaluing the parts of ourselves that are fundamental to not only being able to heal and feel better, but also to express and demonstrate our true nature as human beings. Our shared humanity is one that must be felt to be realized. Compassion is a felt experience. It matters how we deal with suffering. We need to acknowledge that however we look at and understand the world, the only thing that really matters in the end is whether or not we were able to ease the suffering of others. That is what makes us human. The health statistics clearly indicate that a new way forward is one that is long over-due. Healing is possible and it is because of our humanness, not despite it.



"Prophet or not, what I say is more often felt through intuition than thought-through-intellect."

Albert Einstein

(Einstein and the Poet: In Search of the Cosmic Man by William Hermanns)

Copyright © 2017. Sylvia Carlson. All Rights Reserved.

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