01.03.2009

A Healing Sense

The combination of scientific knowledge and intuition is a powerful force for healing, says Chandrika Gibson.

The combination of scientific knowledge and intuition is a powerful force for healing, says Chandrika Gibson.

In the not too distant past, health practitioners who proclaimed intuitive powers were considered extreme and subject to great scepticism. Ridiculed as snake oil selling charlatans, intuitive holistic health care providers were relegated to the far end of the medical spectrum, a last resort for the desperate.

Now, growing numbers of consumers have a natural therapist as their primary health care provider. Health funds have recognised the trend and seen their membership grow as they cover more and more natural therapies. In the growing profession of medical intuition, doctors trained in the orthodox medical schools are developing their non technological diagnostic skills. They may still experience some rejection from the orthodoxy, but their new celebrity status and packed appointment books no doubt soothe any hurt.

The immense popularity of books, lectures and workshops in the field would indicate that laypeople are extremely interested and accepting of intuition in healing. Natural therapy colleges offer popular courses to develop awareness and intuition and improve understanding of vibrational medicines. For the public, the appetite for relief from suffering never lessens and these techniques offer non invasive diagnoses, and treatments that are apparently very effective.

Sceptics say the reason these modalities seem to work is one or a combination of the following: confirmational bias (selective thinking where people look for and notice only what supports their beliefs), communal reinforcement (like urban myths, ideas become accepted because they are repeated frequently), wishful thinking, or the placebo effect.

However convincing those assertions may be, they don't stand up to what people actually feel and experience. Each one of us uses our intuition in our daily lives to a greater or lesser extent. Intuition is merely an extension of our five physical senses along with the use of our most powerful sense organ, the mind. It is our rapid evaluation tool for people, places, ideas and objects. In some situations our internal responses may not seem appropriate to the external circumstances. The wisdom to follow those feelings comes when we have tried ignoring our intuition and found the consequences perilous.

Popular culture has embraced intuition as a theme. There is a new breed of television characters in the crime fighting genre: investigators depicted as being ultra perceptive. One character pretends to be a kooky psychic in order to inform police about his astute observations. It's a sad indictment of a materialistic society when pretending to be a fortune teller is more acceptable than actually admitting to the use of intuition.

But the audience understands the dilemma the intuitive faces, and natural therapists face a similar conundrum. If you broadcast too loudly your extra sensory perception, your credibility is likely to suffer. Like any business, a natural therapist must make a conscious decision about where to position themselves in the marketplace.

Serious therapists are forced to emphasise their biochemical or technical understanding and keep their intuitive perception quiet. While "dial a psychic" phone lines run hot and masses of people read their horoscope in magazines and newspapers, thoughtful astrologers and genuine intuitive healers hesitate to name their skills for fear of being lumped in the "sideshow charlatan" category.

Because of the misconceptions about intuition, people may be missing out on the support they need for healing. It shows a lack of trust not only in the practitioner, but a lack of faith in their own ability to discern a hoax.

In our wonderful age of information, people are able to self diagnose health conditions on the Internet, self prescribe and self medicate. Yet in the melee of information, intuition is required to discern what is safe and useful. In a crude way, we do this every day when choosing what to eat. Consuming the recommended daily allowance of each nutrient wouldn't allow for the ebbs and flows of the body, for times of greater demand for certain nutrients. Using some intellectual knowledge, doing some research and then following what feels right is actually the way healthy people choose food. Many people also take nutritional supplements intuitively, following the label for dosage but reaching for the bottle only when whole foods don't seem to be enough.

When a health crisis comes, people often report having had a sense of knowing before they ever sought a doctor's advice, of having felt "off" for a while, but ignoring the clues until tangible signs or obvious symptoms appear. A person who trusts their intuition will go for tests sooner and improve the likelihood of a positive outcome.

The holism of the body-mind means that often a life event, stressful phase, trauma or hurtful relationship situation precedes a physical condition.

If we used our intuition appropriately perhaps we would choose to heal the thoughts before we needed to heal the body. In fact, experiencing a stressful situation could be a wonderful time to seek out a sensitive, compassionate therapist and many wise people do take this proactive approach to their health.

For practitioners who intentionally use their intuition as a diagnostic tool, there are many challenges. Consistency can be hard to come by. Perhaps perception is enhanced some days, but not always. It may be easier to be in tune with clients you find "easy" to work with, but then the sensitivity is diminished with less likeable or more difficult people.

Using intuition is helpful in gaining more information than the words spoken by the client in a consult. In conjunction with other diagnostic tests, a clear picture of the case can emerge rapidly. This is particularly helpful in a new therapeutic relationship, where trust is still developing and clients often tell half the story or omit crucial information because they are concerned about what you will think of them. Maybe those fears are warranted. After all, practitioners are people, too. They have their biases, their own sources of stress, they may be tired, distracted or overwhelmed, burnt out, addicted or unwell themselves.

Hopefully, the therapist is aware of the subtleties of human interaction and has developed techniques to be in the best possible space for their clients. If they are using modalities with anything other than evidence based treatments, they are probably using intuition to some extent. Practising relaxation, meditation, holistic nutrition and having healthy relationships all assist in staying present with clients and open to intuitive information.

While material science claims to have no room for intuition or the workings of the unconscious and subconscious mind, many great breakthroughs have been made by scientists who follow their intuition. The periodic table of chemical elements came to Russian chemist Dmitri Mendeleev as a vision in a dream in 1869. Albert Einstein is often quoted as saying, "Imagination is more important than knowledge." He understood that it is the unfettered mind that can imagine new things and develop creative ideas, which enhance the progress of arts and sciences and elevate humanity.

Yet intuition alone is a nebulous playing field. The genius of a great inventor, scientist or healer is in their balance of intellect and intuition. Having developed a structure in their minds within which to work, the flashes of intuitive brilliance must be tested against existing knowledge. The "eureka" moments are when those new and innovative expressions support, or are supported by, the existing frameworks. It can also be that the existing frameworks must crumble for the new ideas to be implemented. A little like the current restructuring of business and financial infrastructures, sometimes the house must be dismantled to rebuild on a better foundation. Yet the old knowledge is not wasted, instead it is recycled and revamped to harness the new energy.

In the field of holistic health care there is space for many different therapies and therapists. The best of those therapies have a firm scientific foundation, not necessarily of material science, but a system that can answer to the questions it throws up. Students of homoeopathy may have to stretch their minds at first, but when the results of using the remedies match up with what they have learnt, it becomes a legitimate healing modality. That is the same scientific model but on a subtle level - to have a theory, a working hypothesis, to test and retest it and to find the theory provable or not.

In the clinical setting, a skilled practitioner relies not just on the theories they learnt during their studies, not just on the books and resources of leaders in their field, but also on their past experiences, and observations in the present moment. Observing the expression on a person's face when asked about a family member, observing sweat on their brow or shallow breathing when they talk about a past experience doesn't require any special skills. The body language cues are well known, yet often ignored on the conscious level.

Mostly, we like to take people at their word. Yet often we pick up on the other layers of meaning behind what is being said. This can be a sweet and positive thing, when we feel empathy for someone whose heart is in the right place even as they struggle to articulate an idea. Or it can be unnerving when we feel the less than lovely emanations of a manipulative person trying to charm us to fulfil their agenda. Either way, intuitive perception speaks volumes.

By developing intellect and intuition side by side, by seeking clarity of mind and empathy with others, we can understand the existing structures, both material and energetic, then go beyond them to where healing arises.

Chandrika Gibson ND is a holistic yoga teacher and naturopath.

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