• By Dana Sparks

Something to Think About ~ Healing Before Suffering?

April 22, 2016

a medical staff person, nurse, holding a patient's hand
Did Healing Come Before Suffering?

Dear friend,

In the evolution of the universe, physics preceded chemistry, chemistry preceded biology, and biology—when it became complex enough to support insight, imagination, and intelligence through sculpting the human brain—spawned culture. Matter thus preceded life on our planet. Food came before hunger, air before breath, water before thirst. To expand this thought, I believe palliation came before pain, cure before disease, and healing before suffering.

Cure is often understood to mean the complete resolution of the illness, often with elimination of its underlying cause, indefinitely or for a very long time. Of the approximately seven thousand illnesses known to us, we have cures for only five hundred of them. For most others, cure is a potential not currently realized. We have to search for the cure and work hard to procure it. The cure otherwise remains an unrealized possibility. A cure reveals its secrets with a combination of effort, good intentions, and time. While we invest in science and expand our search so we can offer cures tomorrow, we have the ability today to offer a higher order of care—through healing.

Healing means restoring to wholeness, health, or original condition. Healing involves three domains—physical, psychological, and spiritual. In the physical domain, healing restores structure and function. In the psychological domain, healing restores hope, happiness, and fulfillment. Spiritual healing involves finding a deeper meaning for our suffering, and through that search, uncovering the meaning of life. Psychological and spiritual healing often entails letting go, and thus receiving clarity and insight through illness. Healing thus includes, and often transcends, the cure. Further, healing can happen without a cure or even a hope for one.

I can’t eliminate my pain. But I can help postpone suffering, even when the mountain of pain seems taller than the clouds. I need my pain. If I lose pain sensitivity in my feet, I will lose my feet. If I became emotionally numb, I will lose the ability to empathize. Perhaps, the purpose of my pain is to make me aware of how something feels when it hurts, and through that awareness, become a more compassionate person.

My faith that healing was created before suffering starts my journey to overcome it. It gives me hope and energy to go out, make a difference, and, through that effort, find meaning.

May your every pain find its healing balm; may you help others find healing for their pain.

Take care.

Dr. Sood 2


Read previous blog posts and follow @AmitSoodMD on Twitter.

Dr. Sood is director of research in the Complementary and Integrative Medicine Program at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. He also chairs the Mind-Body Medicine Initiative at Mayo Clinic.