I had a fascinating conversation with a patient the other day. This patient had been in a few days prior, and on that first visit, they were feeling “on top of the world.” On the subsequent visit, their mood was low, and I could tell they were struggling. They wondered what had happened and why their symptoms returned. They thought maybe something I did made them worse. While anything is possible, I assured them that in this case, nothing had gone wrong at all and reminded them that the healing process is often pretty messy and not every day is going to be great.
The Real Healing Process
I know that is a tough pill to swallow. As patients, I know that you want to show up to my office and have me do my magic on you, and then you get off the table all fixed. Unfortunately, that just isn’t how it happens. When viewed on the whole, my role is rather small, significant but small, compared to the patient. The illusion that doctors heal people is a fallacy that doesn’t serve us anymore. A more mature understanding is that doctors can’t heal people because the healing power comes from inside of each of us.
Think about how many variables there are in our lives that impact our healing, diet, sleep, exercise, and attitude, just to name a few, and the physician influences only a few. I’m not saying that good doctoring isn’t relevant, but there is much more controlled by the patient in the final analysis than is controlled by the doctor. Because of that, the healing process is NEVER smooth. By design, it has ups and downs. Good days and bad days. Positive trends, plateaus, and periods that seem to be lows. WHEN WE FORGET THIS SIMPLE TRUTH, we miss out on the growth that we are entitled to experience through our own healing.
The Mountain and the Valley
If any of you have hiked to the top of a tall mountain like I have, you will probably recall that there isn’t much up there. Tammie and I just hiked to the top of Angel’s Landing in Zion National Park this weekend. What an amazing climb it was. I noticed that the closer to the top we went, the more barren it became. Maybe a few sparse patches of vegetation, one tree, and a lot of wind. There was very little “life” up there.
The vista was breathtaking, and our vision seemed limitless.
As we looked around, it seems that nature is teaching a valuable lesson. It’s hard to survive “on top of the world” every day.
Life is about cycles of ups and downs.
One of the great deceptions in life is that we think being “down” is bad, and when we’re down, it is easy to think that we’ll never be “up” again. I’ve certainly had that experience. I’ve been through some pretty rough patches in life. In the past, my default behavior during those rough patches was to put up a facade that “all is well” so I wouldn’t have to be vulnerable. I didn’t want anyone to see me struggle. I somehow picked up the notion that it was a sign of weakness to acknowledge that I needed some help. In my practice, I feared that if a patient came in and I wasn’t pretending to be super happy, they wouldn’t like to come back. Almost like they were buying my energy as part of the adjustment. I didn’t realize that by not being real, I may have prevented someone from teaching me what I needed to know at that moment to heal. Can any of you relate?
Real Healing Relationships
I love this season of my life and my practice because I am waking up to the beauty of “real” relationships. Those are based on openness and genuine concern. I’m waking up to the beauty of “real” healing. Embracing the cycles, patterns, and lessons hidden in the process for the patient (and for the doctor). I’m waking up to the value of not only being on the “top of the mountain,” where my vision is clear, and my ambition is high, but also the beauty of the valley, teeming with life and opportunity for growth.
Rene Daumal said it this way:
“You cannot stay on the summit forever; you have to come down again. So why bother in the first place? Just this: What is above knows what is below, but what is below does not know what is above. One climbs, one sees. One descends, one sees no longer, but one has seen. There is an art of conducting oneself in the lower regions by the memory of what one saw higher up. When one can no longer see, one can at least still know.”
This principle was taught to me originally by one of my favorite early chiropractic mentors, Dr. Arno Burnier. I thought I’d share this video clip from that event with you. (You’ll notice that he is speaking to a group of chiropractors, but of course, this is a universal principle. Also, he’s got a pretty thick French accent that I just love, but you might have to focus a bit, so you don’t miss anything.
7 responses to “The Highs and Lows of Life and Healing”
Wow!!! I’ve never quite heard it stated so beautifully (maybe it’s his french accent) and more importantly, so authentically. OF COURSE we can all relate–because it IS such a natural part of the human existence. He reminds me of the wonder and design of the valley–the low–and how important it is, it gives us the opportunity to rebuild. Thanks for sharing. And thanks for being so authentic yourself. Anyone reading this should flock to you–it’s what we all want in a doctor. 🙂
Thanks Kim. You are a beacon of light to the healing community so please pass this along to those you might think could benefit from the timeless lesson.
I am climbing out of a low place in my life. I have been like him by telling people that I am okay and putting on a fake smile when I want to cry or be by myself. I was taught that you should not talk about how you really feel, just tell people that you are okay. I have learned for myself that it is better to say if you are not okay. I try not to dwell on where I am but look to the future of where I want to be. I envision myself there everyday.
Thank you so much for being so authentic Dr. Duggar you have helped me more than you know in such a short time. It was meant for me to meet you and Tammie.
I agree that sometimes it is hard to open up. We don’t want to be a dark cloud that rains on everyone else’s parade and we’ve all known people who just launch into their “woe is me” stories at the drop of a hat. I think the key is finding those people who you know really care and will take an interest in being there to help you bear your burdens. Not everyone deserves the privilege of being entrusted with that information about another person so don’t cast your “pearls” to those who can’t handle it or who can’t/won’t help. BUT, always try to be as authentic as you can with God, yourself and those you love. I hope that we can continue to help you along your path because it has been a pleasure thus far.
I love this! You said it so well. Healing naturally is such a beautiful and challenging journey. It took looking at myself on all levels, emotional, physical, spiritual and mental and coming to an awareness of what really needed to change. I didn’t realize how unhappy I was. How I couldn’t even look in the mirror and say something positive. As I have healed I have gained a new and valuable relationship. I have learned to love myself with all my flaws and weaknesses. This is also a tribute to what s truly great doctor you are to be able to hand the healing to the patient after you guide them, to turn it over and allow them to process and struggle knowing that it’s not all about you. You have always been positive and upbeat and gave me the hope and confidence I needed on my down days. Thank you for being real!!!
You epitomize true healing. What an honor to work with someone like you who faced the challenges with such grace and strength.
I had sinus surgery almost three months ago. I am still struggling to get well. I fight a weird depression, I’ve thrown my neck and back out, I have muscus on the back of my throat that won’t clear out. The Doctor has seen it. I’ve tried many things. I’m terrified to go out with all that us going on, but need to go get some help.
I appreciate the reminder that we can’t always be on the top.