I’ve already mentioned (in a previous eNewsletter) the new book, Slow Medicine, by Michael Finkelstein, MD. Tuesday night I heard him give a talk and feel like I have a deeper understanding of what it means to treat the whole person.
He used the metaphor of putting a puzzle together. We start by getting all the pieces out of the box and laying them all out so we can see them. We first put together the edge pieces, that are the easiest to find and identify. Then there may be a design in the middle that is easy to find. As we get the easy-to-find pieces in place, the others will fall into place as well. Often there is one piece that makes the ones around it suddenly clear.
All the different areas of our lives are pieces of the puzzle. There’s our diet, sleep patterns, work, family, other relationships, spirituality, social support, emotions such as grief or anger, meaning and purpose in life, etc. They all matter and are all pieces of the puzzle. For healing to occur, they all need to be addressed.
Often one of these areas is the “linchpin,” and that can be different for each person. Linchpin is defined as a fastener used to prevent a wheel or other part from sliding off the axle upon which it is riding. The word linchpin is also used figuratively to mean a central cohesive source of support and stability.
When someone in the audience asked Dr. Finkelstein if acupuncture is beneficial in healing from cancer, he talked about the benefits of acupuncture, AND said if the person ignored her linchpin, acupuncture wasn’t going to help. The same goes for any strategy for healing. Someone can be doing “everything” right – exercising, eating a nutrient dense diet, and sleeping well – but if they are in a toxic marriage or job, all those “right things” aren’t going to heal them.
Finkelstein’s book is about the 77 questions we can ask ourselves to determine what areas of our lives we can work on to receive the most benefit. He told the story of one of his patients who had cancer. After he had listened to the patient’s story, he intuitively asked, “What are you so angry about?” and the patient started crying. When they explored the man’s anger more, and he went deeper into identifying and expressing what he was so angry about, the tumors started shrinking.
In his book, he says, “Getting healthy starts with asking the right questions.” He said if often happens when we ask the “right” question, we start to cry. I call that my truth tears. Often when I speak the truth about something I haven’t been willing to face before, or didn’t realize before, I start crying. For me, that’s a good indicator that I have hit on something profound, and may be a linchpin for me.
I agree with him that health is much more than the absence of disease. The physical self is just a single component of a broader matrix of health. It all goes back to the quote from Larry LeShan, PhD, that I have often used in promoting Healing Journeys events. In his book, Cancer as a Turning Point, he says, “The person exists on many levels . . . physical, psychological and spiritual . . . and none of these can be reduced to any other. To move successfully toward health, all must be treated.”
I’ve known and agreed with that for many years, but it’s a new concept for me that there may be one area that is a linchpin for me. I’m looking forward to reading Slow Medicine and asking myself the “77 questions for skillful living” and noticing which ones bring tears to my eyes.
As always, I welcome your comments; to reply please click here.
In the Spirit of Healing,
Jan Adrian, MSW
Founder and Executive Director
P.S. To read the previous eNewsletter about the book, Slow Medicine, click here.