A holistic view of our health takes into account the effects of our internal systems and surroundings -- our psychological, physical, spiritual, and social needs -- for understanding what ails us. An essential aspect of understanding holistic health is that each of us has the innate drive towards wholeness within our cells, systems and psyches.
When emotional or physical challenges arise that create discomfort, we have the tendency to reach for the nearest remedy to resolve it immediately. And yet from a holistic perspective, the symptoms are not the illness, but a sign that the healing process is beginning.
Even if we try to turn our attention away from social media, we still receive messages from every direction that we must suppress any undesirable symptoms, especially signs of sadness or confusion. However, when we suppress the physical symptoms or emotions that originate from deep within, we prevent a natural process that is essential to our wholeness. Our internal imbalance speaks out in the form of the symptom that is trying to get noticed, not suppressed by medication or a big smile that says, “Everything is just fine!” The symptom is a red flag that something internal wants to get truly noticed, supported and tended to in a way that welcomes it in with compassion. The symptoms are asking us to see the imbalances underneath the red flag, so that the body and psyche can truly heal.
From a holistic viewpoint, these imbalances are seen as a natural consequence of growth. Most children go through psychological “growing pains” at various transitions as they are learning a new developmental task or skill. If the measures to correct imbalances are overzealous (medications), the body’s natural tendency for self-healing is squelched.
Adults also go through psychological growing pains in order to learn more conscious ways of living. It’s an essential aspect of our growth, and hopefully we have the support and tools to move through these shifts. Unlike our younger counterparts, we’ve been around the block enough times to know that these changes (oftentimes endings) can make way for new beginnings. Moving through them with courage and self-responsibility teaches us to be more resilient. Inevitably, we’ll face many challenges in our lives: losing our job, separating from a partner, a sudden death in the family. And our goal is to move through these life transitions with grace and even a sense of fulfillment. Personal tools like stress management techniques, or spiritual, meditation or yoga practices, communication skills, and community support are major sources of support if they are already a part of our daily lives. If not, we may consider medications each time we hit a bump in the psychological road, or more likely, choose to self-medicate with our Netflix, by delving into work, or “just one more glass of wine.”
And in our physical body, our immune system naturally uses symptoms of inflammation for cleansing the body of illness. Oftentimes, by using medication (or addictive behavior) too quickly, we send the wastes and toxins that need to be worked through deeper into the body. The toxins will be often be stored there until our immune systems rally again in an attempt to eradicate them. Emotionally speaking, we shed tears as an expression of sadness and grief, which has proven to calm the nervous system. Yet when we suppress these symptoms with medication (or numbing out with other substances or activities that tamp down our full-expression), we’re sending the unresolved emotional pain and trauma into our bodies where they manifest as physical illness. With support and skill building, we feel more capable to move through these challenging emotions. We then feel more powerful and resilient.
Acute childhood inflammations are not solely the result of malicious infections, but also from the inherent wisdom of the body in recognizing when it’s time to clean house. And for adults, life challenges are not something to avoid or deny. They cue us to release old habits and relationships that no longer support our growth. All our emotional growing pains attempt to bring us closer to balance with our whole self. Excessive use of medications (or addictive behaviors) to suppress the pain, without support to help us address the core of the issue, can actually serve to decrease our ability to work through challenges the next time. And as we build our resilience by viewing situations clearly and effectively moving through challenges, we build our immunity to future crisis.