When besieged by suffering caused by an illness or injury, we yearn for relief. This is the case regardless of if the ailment is physical, emotional, mental or spiritual. When hope wanes leaving only the smallest of lights, the remaining vestige of optimism is wrapped around a kernel of wishing for the ease of torment.
It’s in our nature to survive. Resignation rarely wins over for long. Soon from somewhere deep inside comes the dragon, maw open.
What we do with this primal life force, this ultimate will to triumph over suffering, is less straightforward. We can grasp at any possibility for health, taking whatever aid is offered. We may turn inwards and stoke the fire praying to burn out the impurity. We might lean into the illness and start excavating the wound. Dissolution of the very cells of our being could overcome us in a tidal wave. It looks different every time.
The way to wellness has its own prescription and will take whatever path it chooses, direct or winding. The trouble is that our mind wants in. We can’t help but wrestle for control and ask why. We need reasons. We need answers. We need to understand how this is going to work and what we can do. If only we could hasten the flow and avoid the setbacks.
This is where it’s important to make a distinction between healing and cure.
The definition of cure is to “relieve (a person or animal) of the symptoms of a disease or condition.” Cure is also “a substance or treatment that cures a disease or condition” and a “solution to the problem.”
The definition of healing is “the process of making or becoming sound or healthy again” and to “become sound or healthy again.” It also includes alleviation and “causing” something to become healthy.
The two words can be used interchangeably. We do it all the time, but putting some intentional distance between the two gives us the opportunity to understand more about how we go about getting better.
We look for a cure on the OUTSIDE. We go to the acupuncturist, chiropractor, osteopath and healer to receive a cure. They endeavour to fix the ailment. Even if we’re empowered to go to the health food store and browse aisles of herbal remedies on our own, we’re still asking the plant, chemical or mineral to mend us from the outside in.
There’s something about the word cure that is more definitive. Cure packs a bigger punch. Maybe it’s because it’s a solution to a problem? The disease is gone, problem solved. Once we’re cured we can walk away. It’s extremely liberating.
Heard of a “miracle cure”? The term has been so overused as a way to explain a quick fix, gimmick treatment that we’ve learned to mistrust it, but clearly it draws us in or marketers wouldn’t have become so obsessed with it. Even though the term “miracle cure” has fallen out of favour due to disuse, we still hope for that miraculous, elegantly simple quick fix. Why else would we have so many remedies to choose from at the store?
Healing is a PROCESS that can either be implemented by someone (or something) on the outside to make us whole. However, the additional option of BECOMING in the definition of healing is the key piece we must consider. Healing is the process of becoming whole. This is an internal transformation.
The focus on healing is a trajectory towards health. The objective of cure is a resolution of illness. It’s a slight shift, but a noteworthy one.
When we seek a cure we’re focused on the mechanisms of the illness. It’s a hunt for how and why the thing works, and how to counteract it. The cause of disease is an important question for cure. For when we know the cause we have a chance of alleviating it.
When we pursue healing we strive for a sense of wellness regardless of if we ever know the cause of the illness. Healing doesn’t have to be an absolute eradication of the disease. Healing is less certain and acknowledges the successes in the whole. The body may be laden with cancer, but the heart and mind experience deep healing. This is an inside-out path.
The transformative powers of healing have a lasting effect. A woman cured of diabetes may later find herself in trouble with a string of other ailments related to obesity. The inner transformation of healing bolsters her self-esteem, which eases her overeating and causes her to take better care of herself.
Healing addresses the entire system, mind, body, spirit and heart. Cure focuses on a disease or list of diseases.
With healing there’s more leeway, which allows room for hope. Since it’s a process, steps in the direction of health are celebrated. With looking for a cure, a step in the direction of health is simply seen as an incomplete cure, a disappointment.
Conversely, when we get too caught up with the healing process we can miss the opportunity of cure. We find ourselves in the trap of the eternal process. We stop believing that a cure is possible, and it’s always possible.
Healing is no better than cure, and cure is not preferable to healing. Somehow we manage to gravitate more towards one than another. A balance of the two perspectives keeps us open to the miracle of getting better.
Read more on this topic in A BALANCING ACT: Self-healing vs. conventional medicine>>
Stacey L. L. Couch, Certified Shamanic Practitioner, performs shamanic healings for people throughout the U.S. via phone from her home in the Rocky Mountains. Stacey is the author of Gracious Wild: A Shamanic Journey with Hawks. She empowers people with the ability to form a real connection with their own souls through the natural world. A full description of Stacey’s healing and spiritual direction services can be found at www.wildgratitude.com.