When Healing Isn’t Necessarily Curing

A while ago, I was contacted by a person who wanted to know if Acupuncture and Reiki would be able to cure him of HIV. While it isn’t always that we will come across folks who are seeking a miracle cure for something as severe as this there will be many occasions that as complementary therapists, we will frequently encounter people who are suffering from “incurable” diseases. While such diseases are considered “incurable”, does that mean that one cannot be healed?

In Susan Howatch’s book, Absolute Truth, she describes the difference between a “cure” and “healing” this way:

A cure signified the banishment of physical illness, but a healing could mean not just a physical cure, but a repairing and strengthening of the mind and spirit to improve the quality of life even when no physical cure was possible.

So in simple terms, curing signals the return of health, an absence of symptoms, and a remedy of disease. Healing, on the other hand, is a restoration of wholeness — a type of wholeness that is new, different, and can be even better than that experienced before the onset of disease.

Healing is not the removal or cessation of symptoms but rather an integrative process that transcends the physical and includes mental, emotional, and spiritual wellness.

As a practitioner of Acupuncture and Reiki, which are methods of holistic healing and complementary medicine, one of the lessons I learnt is the reality of this distinction between curing and healing. You can cure without healing, and you can heal without curing. Conventional allopathic medicine tends to focus on curing, both in training and in practice.

Some health conditions are easily cured – a cold or a flu can be easily dealt with a bit of Guasha and maybe a course of andrographis (穿心莲), a sprained ankle can be treated with a combination of Tuina and Acupuncture.

Then again, most health conditions are not so easily cured – conditions like migraine headaches, cancer, high blood pressure, diabetes, fibromyalgia, chronic pelvic pain, arthritis, and emphysema. Most health outcomes are much more successfully treated if they are healed from the core.

For example, high blood pressure may be controlled somewhat by medication but unless they make certain changes in their lifestyle and mindset, or learn to manage stress, the hypertensive condition won’t be “cured”.

If someone has ovarian cancer, you can cut out the cancer and treat any remaining cells with chemotherapy. But you can only “cure” cancer if the underlying physical, emotional, nutritional and/or life imbalances are healed. Otherwise, the cancer just comes back.

In the case of chronic illness or emotional disease, “cure” is only lasting when healing happens on a deeper level.

I am not saying that you should then stop seeing doctors or healers. Far from it! When you need an antibiotic for a strep infection, please do so! And do not neglect preventative healthcare. Get your pap smear, mammogram, and colonoscopy. Get your blood pressure, cholesterol, and glucose levels checked.

But unless you do a deeper work, these remedies are only skin deep.

Some of the deeper work required may be to strengthen the body’s immunity and self-healing response to prevent future infections. It may require a change in lifestyle and diet to optimise the body’s nutritional and bio-chemical balance. And some of this deeper work goes to the heart – a change in perspectives and worldviews to ensure a healthy mental and spiritual health that will help bring about better physical and psychological health.

It is this gap between a cure and healing that holistic practitioners can play a part in filling. By embracing a more holistic approach towards engaging disease and disorders using time tested healing modalities, a more complete healing of the Body, Mind and Spirit can take place.

A permanent cure for many chronic and “incurable” diseases may eventually become available. But until then, you have other options. All of your symptoms may never go away for now, but that should not stop you from being a whole person right now.

Take your mind off of a future cure and direct all of your attention and intention to the transformation that can happen right now. That is where true healing starts to takes place.