Words play an important part in the realms of healing. Conventional medicine focuses on physical problems. It offers medicines and other physical manipulations (hormones, surgery, and genetic alterations) as ways of dealing with problems. We are conditioned through the use of the term, medicine, to view these physical approaches as therapies of choice. This focus tends to divert awareness from other ways of understanding and dealing with disease and dis-ease, such as energy medicine.
Wholistic medicine focuses on body, emotions, mind, relationships and spirit. This extends the range of conceptualization of the causes of illnesses and of potential ways for dealing with them. More on this below.
Give it a name and you feel you know what you're talking about.
Words are analogs for perceptions and actions that allow us to communicate with each other about our personal experiences, feelings, desires, and thoughts. Words are learned through the cultural conditioning of our families, schools, and the broader cultural milieu.
While words can facilitate learning, they may also retard or even obstruct learning. The commonly accepted use of a label may impede changes in perceptions about that subject, and may make it difficult to change our ways of relating to the concepts conveyed by the label. This is a serious problem in health care.
The words we use to define our relationships between caregivers and careseekers shape the course of treatment. Each of these terms deserves scrutiny.
Healing comes from Germanic and Old English roots that mean to make whole. Within Western medicine, healing has been narrowed in common parlance to mean restoration of the body or psyche to its pre-traumatized condition.
Among practitioners of Therapeutic Touch, Healing Touch, Reiki, and numerous other such traditions, healing refers to the laying-on of hands and/or to healing by mental intent, meditation, and/or prayer. Within the community of healers, there are widely varying opinions about the best name for this therapeutic modality (Benor 2001a: b).
The laying-on of hands has been used for many centuries – offered within religious contexts and by Monarchs of Europe. This has colored an otherwise simple, descriptive term with religious overtones that many find uncomfortable.
Spiritual healing alludes to the spiritual awarenesses and awakenings that occur in healers and healees during and as a result of healing. Within this understanding of healing, the process is one of growth towards a deeper understanding of our connection with something vaster than ourselves. For some the vastness is that of the natural, physical and energetic universe; for others it includes an omniscient, omnipotent Deity. This is the term that I, the editor of the IJHC, prefer and the one I will use to designate this form of treatment. Where it is clear that this is the subject for discussion (i.e. not to be confused with healing of the physical body), the term healing alone will be used.
Faith healing is a term used by several groups.
Members of some religious communities believe that faith in their teachings about religion is required in order for healing to occur, that illness is manifested when members of the flock lack faith; and that health will be restored when faith is restored. Members of these communities – who hold to these beliefs – may indeed be able to influence their states of health through acts of faith. There are sects who handle hot coals and poisonous snakes, as well as ingesting cyanide to prove their faith.