Imagine a flower like a lotus with many petals, or a wheel with many spokes all joined at the hub. The flower and the wheel all have a still centre point, to which all of the outer perimeter connects, and through which every other point is interconnected.
Then imagine a filing cabinet - filled with masses of information all filed away in their own compartments depending on their label, separated from everything else, at least until someone opens up the draws and sorts things out. Some files are much more important than others, so they are accessed much more often.
When it comes to chronic illness, I believe we are evolving towards a new model of healing which is much like the flower or the wheel... and moving away from a 'filing cabinet' way of looking at health care.
What does this 'flower' model look like?
At the centre of the flower or wheel is our innate capacity to love and feel loved, to clearly see and understand our reality and to live free from fear, which comes from releasing our deepest pain and connecting with our highest purpose.
Then the spokes or petals are all the things we may need along the way to help us discover this - massage or medication, surgery or psychotherapy, cardiologist or chiropractor, Ayurveda or acupuncture... this list goes on. With this new paradigm, all these modalities are not seen as as a panacea in and of themselves, but rather are in support of or in service to our very personal journey to bring us back to our capacity to embody love, truth and freedom. Thus everything is seen as integrated rather than fragmented, and even health professionals are aware of the intricately connected roles that each other plays - all in service to this journey back to centre.
What, then, is the filing cabinet paradigm? Six points come to mind:
Mind and body is split
Genes, brain chemistry and biological processes are what matter most
Precise specialist diagnosis is a precursor to effective treatment
Pharmaceutical drugs are the most effective and time-efficient solution
Only extremely well researched treatments are considered 'evidence-based'
Healing is about making objective and rational decisions, more-so than relying on healing intuition and wisdom gleaned from experience
We seldom realize that the filing cabinet has a certain self-perpetuating momentum, as money and research efforts are naturally channeled into expanding the information base on which this paradigm rests - and so the hidden assumptions that come with it are never really challenged!
This paradigm has helped many people and led to tremendous gains in our knowledge of health and disease, and is utterly necessary for many acute or life threatening health conditions. However, it has led to a fragmented healthcare system where we may feel lost, stranded and disconnected if we just don't fit anywhere in this filing system. Many of us have unwavering faith that the system has our best interests at heart and will some day provide us with the cure or answers that we are desperately seeking. Yet all too often we are disappointed, or simply feel that we have fallen through the cracks.
I can openly and honestly admit that I had great faith in this system when I first entered medical school in 2002. My entry into medicine was actually inspired by my experience seeing a flamboyant and very caring psychiatrist who would give me brief and powerful counselling sessions, along with medication which worked really well at that time. I wanted to be just like him!
Yet much later when I was out on my own in real world general practice, I just got the sense there was a mismatch between what I had learnt and what my chronically unwell patients were really needing. Those people who kept on coming back, taking up most of my appointments, had real, deep underlying issues that were all too easy to brush aside if they didn't fit into the box. In in my own journey towards health, I also realized that there was so much more work I needed to do!
I passionately embraced further study in nutritional medicine and acupuncture, yet it was only later when I discovered trauma therapies and spiritual healing that I was really able to appreciate what a person really needed to heal, rather than just keeping them on the treadmill of symptom relief.
So what does it take to 'really heal'?
This brings me back to the flower. At the deepest level, it is really about helping us uncover our innate capacity to love and feel loved, to clearly understand our reality and to live free from fear. As well as being able to facilitate the releasing of our deepest pain and connection with our highest purpose. It is about going beyond the mind-body split to appreciate how the brain and body orchestrate and play out our past patterning and trauma through physical symptoms which all too often keep us stuck in chronic ill health. And at the same time helping a person to discover the foods, nutrients, herbs, detox, bodywork or medicines they need to support their unique healing process.
I am inspired by therapeutic models such as IFS, ACT and CRM in their awesome potential to heal our deepest wounds, and also methods like the Gupta Program which uses the latest brain science to clearly communicate how our thoughts and emotions can literally wreak havoc in our physical bodies, and then show how we can retrain our brains to step out of these patterns once and for all.
I'm not suggesting, however, that we throw out science or the need for evidenced-based healthcare. I'm merely proposing that we allow the pendulum to swing in a new direction where high quality research becomes guided by this new model of healing, and that we all get to learn from the awesome contributions of leading clinicians who may not necessarily follow the guidelines to the letter!
Where does this leave me now, as a doctor who has rebelled so mischievously against the paradigm he was brought up with?
I have recently discovered a newfound sense of personal responsibility to do whatever I can to help steer our healthcare system in a better direction in some small way, and to contribute to healing the collective trauma and fragmentation on our planet. So in addition to seeing people one on one, I wish to offer a vision where we can educate all people - especially health professionals - about this 'flower model' for chronic disease and how trauma-informed/spiritual principles are really at the center of everything we do. I am hoping we may see it as not just relevant to healthcare, but to education, the legal system, politics, religion and just about every facet of human endeavour.
I hope to crystallize this vision with the creation of a not-for-profit organization which is inspired by and affiliated with the CRM Foundation, and is devoted to teaching CRM and trauma-informed principles to wider audiences with the intention of healing collective trauma. I know it's a bigger vision that I alone can handle. Being someone who is generally bad at asking for help, I feel now is the time to say that I am open to receiving any available support! Please send me an email message if you would like to assist in being part of this vision, and I will work towards creating a time and space to discuss this further...