In last week’s post, I referenced the gradual but miraculous healing of an infant who was diagnosed with a hole in her heart and brain damage at birth. Three years later, she was fully healed without any medical intervention. The story inspired me to think more deeply about how we heal and about what we can teach our children about health and healing.
I found a fascinating reference to this topic in an out-of-print book called Healers on Healing, an anthology of short essays by healers from many medical and alternative fields. Doctors, psychologists, nurses, counselors, shamans and energy workers alike weighed in on the topic. The common denominator in every piece was the notion that healing professionals don’t heal anyone—they remove obstacles or build confidence so that their patients could heal themselves. It was humbling to be reminded that we heal our bodies, rather than chemotherapy or drugs or surgery.
But the stories of how children learned to heal were the most awe-inspiring. In an essay by Patricia Norris—a therapist, researcher and biofeedback pioneer—she describes her first-hand experiences with children healing from cancer. She writes,
“Children are naturally open, accepting, trusting, enthusiastic and nonjudgmental in their approach to healing. They are in the process of learning everything: to walk, run, speak…how to handle their bodies, their language and culture. If you say, ‘When you turn this knob, the TV will come on,’ they say, ‘okay’ and turn the knob. Tell them that they can make their hands warm, that they can send more blood to their toes, or that they can send white bloods cells to fight their tumors and they say, ‘okay’ and do it. One task (to a child) is the same as another.”
Norris goes on to tell a story about Garrett—a young boy with a brain tumor. He quickly learned how to warm his hands, then his feet, and then any part of his body to which he turned his attention. He then learned how to affect his heart rate and how to send blood or white cells to empower his immune system. The use of biofeedback equipment proved that he learned to effectively regulate and heal his own body.
Norris’ work also uncovered another important insight: A sick child feels much more empowered than a sick adult. She gave an example of a child diagnosed with Hodgkin’s disease—a debilitating cancer of the lymphatic system. The child didn’t take on the role of “victim”—instead she felt capable of participating in her own recovery from the outset. She knew that she wanted to live and marshaled her inner strength, courage and positivity to recover. Once healed she told Norris, “The way I changed, even more than getting over the cancer, is that I like myself better now.” How many adults are able to handle themselves with such maturity and confidence in the face of a deadly disease?
As I read Norris’ essay, I thought about the signals I’m sending my daughter Ayla about how to heal. Do I take on the role of victim when afflicted with a mild cold—whining and complaining about my pain? Have I imprinted her with too many images of mama racing to the medicine cabinet for a pill when a headache strikes? While those pictures may be true, I also know that I often take deep breaths or sit in a warm bath when I am in physical pain—but perhaps my self-healing actions are mostly hidden from view. I want so much for Ayla to trust her intuition when she’s unwell and to trust in the miracle of the human body. But in the short term, her views will reflect mine—and this presents me, and every parent, with a huge responsibility beyond feeding, clothing and educating our children.
When Ayla gets a boo-boo, I am quick to offer hugs, kisses and Band-Aids. But what if I sat with her, after the tears subsided, and invited her to imagine her bruised toe getting better. Or told her that her body could make itself better —a process we witnessed by checking on a cut every day and noticing the miracle of clotting and skin re-growth.
What I’m learning is that some of what we classify as miraculous healing need not be so mysterious. The healing process is guided by our own attitude, intention and the support we receive from practitioners. Healing is utterly natural, and human, when we learn to step into our wounds rather than turning ourselves away from them.
[Note: Patricia Norris' book called I Choose Life is out of print but available via this link. There aren't many mainstream sources of information about how children heal but feel free to send links or info to me and I'll repost.--Taz]