"If you want things to stay as they are, things will have to change. " - Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa
Scientists tell us that your body is a living system in motion. As along as you live, your system is constantly moving through patterns of repeating activity. All systems generate their own patterns of behavior. Sometimes you get stuck in these patterns – e. g. , finding one bad relationship after another (the names change but the story ends up pretty much the same). You don’t do exactly the same thing every time, but close. In one sense, these ruts are bad habits of how you usually live in your world.
The situation is similar for your health and healing. That is, you can get stuck in patterns of bodily dysfunction that lead to any number of diseases, disorders, or health problems. For instance, if you tense our neck and back at work every day because of sitting at a poorly-designed chair while reacting with stifled anger to the boss’s unreasonable demands, you could end up with frequent tension headaches. If you changed the chair or the boss – or just experienced the situation differently physically and emotionally, your health would change too.
Problems can arise from an interaction of your with your environment - who you are, what you perceive and experience as stressful, and what your genetic potential sets us up to do when you undergo stress. This process happens at the physical level as much as at the social or behavioral level of your life. The first step is getting unstuck. If you live in a specific neighborhood of grasses and trees (a type of physical stressor) to which you are allergic, you can activate a runny nose or asthma – or you can move to a different neighborhood without the grasses and trees and be allergy-free. Or, if you can’t move away, you can shift the way your immune system reacts to the presence of grasses and trees.
Realistically, you can’t avoid all stress at all times. You even need some stress and challenges to grow and develop in positive ways as a human being. When you are sick, however, you can't bounce back to health as quickly as someone who doesn't have the same health problem. As a system, you have lost your resilience, your adaptability to change in your inner and outer lives. So, the goal of true healing is restoring your ability to adapt to changes and challenges in your environment.
In alternative medicine, many different mind-body approaches can help us improve how you experience your life. Various forms of meditation, hypnosis, and guided imagery, for example, can help you learn to allow situations to arise, but to respond differently, with a new and healthier pattern of behavior in your physiology and your psychology. When that happens, you begin to shift internally, to change, to have the freedom to establish healthier patterns of being and living as a whole system.
Mind-body techniques are only one way to change toward the goal of resilience. For children and adults with behavioral problems, for instance, even with violence, some research suggests that taking good multivitamin-multimineral combination products, i. e. , particular mixtures of nutritional supplements, can really calm things down. Since some studies even happened in prisons, the external situations that usually trigger violence don’t change – but the reactions of the individuals do. Finally, adding some form of constitutional treatment such as acupuncture, classical homeopathy, or Ayurveda, to support deep and lasting change throughout you as a whole system can be invaluable.
When you develop the right program of care for your individual needs, you likely will experience improvements in overall energy and sense of well-being. You will be more adaptive and resilient in the face of change. Annoying symptoms that you had just resigned yourself to experiencing may improve or go away. Your outlook on life, even your sense of purpose and meaning, can become renewed and changed in a better, positive way. These are the kinds of changes that take time to develop and grow. Usually no single treatment makes them happen. It takes a coordinated approach. But these positive changes in patterns are possible with the right program of treatment, assembled by you for your specific life and circumstances.
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Iris R. Bell, MD PhD is an alternative medicine researcher, author, and educator. Discover a self-empowering system for treating arthritis with her new multimedia program, available at http://www.arthritiscaremap.com