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Self-healing refers to the process of recovery (generally from psychological disturbances, trauma, etc.), motivated by and directed by the patient, guided often only by instinct. Such a process encounters mixed fortunes due to its amateur nature, although self-motivation is a major asset. The value of self-healing lies in its ability to be tailored to the unique experience and requirements of the individual. The process can be helped and accelerated with introspection techniques such as Meditation.
Self Healing as a Way to Overcome Racial Trauma
Historically, communities of Color in the United States and around the World have attempted to use different modes (i.e. scholarship, art, and community gathering) to create self-healing as a way to combat the daily trauma of living in a racialized society.
Frantz Fanon wrote about the subjectivity and objectivity paradox inherent in Blackness in his book Black Skin, White Masks. He describes feeling "infinite" but being subjected to the standards reserved for someone who is crippled. At the end of the fifth chapter, he writes that he weeps at the "crossroads between Nothingness and Infinity." His scholarship is meant to provide a lesson to White readers: Black people are also human beings. However, his intention in writing the fifth chapter was no doubt a hope to heal himself in offering up his struggle so that those who mistreated him and his people could reach a place of understanding. In sharing his personal trauma, he offered a way for Black people to connect over shared struggle and commiserate, but also brought his plight to the attentions of a White audience, who, if they could empathize, could lighten the racial load of the Black people around them and could hopefully, someday, ease Fanon's own mental load.
Langston Hughes is an example of how Black people have used art to self-heal from racial trauma. His poem, "Theme for English B" details his struggle with completing a writing assignment about truth for a class. He is only able to complete the assignment when he acknowledges the stratified differences between him, his other classmates, and his professor. As he writes, "I am the only colored student in my class." His poem is a way to package his trauma so that he can use it for something constructive in the hopes that it will ultimately heal some of his pain.
Harriet's Apothecary is a NYC-based organization that seeks to create self-healing for communities of color through different healing based events. Their work takes place across the US. They host vendors, and offer reiki healing, massages, food, and yoga among many other different "stations" as a way to combat racial trauma. They do community building work to address poverty (because racism in the United States has left communities of color in disproportionate levels of poverty compared to their White counterparts). To gain entrance to most, if not all of their events, their policy is pay-what-you-can.
The Different Meanings of Self-Healing
Self-healing is the ultimate phase of Gestalt Therapy.
Self-healing may refer to automatic, homeostatic processes of the body that are controlled by physiological mechanisms inherent in the organism. Disorders of the spirit and the absence of faith can be self-healed.
In a figurative sense, self-healing properties can be ascribed to systems or processes, which by nature or design tend to correct any disturbances brought into them. Such as the regeneration of the skin after a cut or scrape, or of an entire limb. The injured party (the living body) repairs the damaged part by itself.
Beyond the innate restorative capacities of the physical body, there are many factors of psychological nature that can influence self-healing. Hippocrates, considered by many to be the father of medical treatment, observed: "The physician must be ready, not only to do his duty himself, but also to secure the co-operation of the patient, of the attendants and of externals." — Hippocrates.
Self-healing may also be achieved through deliberately applied psychological mechanisms. These approaches may improve the psychological and physical conditions of a person. Research confirms that this can be achieved through numerous mechanisms, including relaxation, breathing exercises, fitness exercises, imagery, Meditation, Yoga, qigong, t'ai chi, biofeedback, and various forms of psychotherapy, among other approaches.
Varieties of mechanisms for self-healing have been proposed, including:
- Decreases in stress hormones that may impair physiological functions when there is chronic stress.
- Decreases in muscle tension, which can worsen or produce pains in muscles, tendons and joints when there is chronic muscle tension due to stress.
- Improved sleep that can be achieved through relaxation, which improves physiological functions.
- Improvements in emotional tensions, depression, anger and other emotions that can otherwise impair social relationships and functioning in the workplace, leading to vicious circles of increased psychological symptoms.
Twelve-step programs support individuals recovering from dysfunctional families and addictive/compulsive behaviors.