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Neo Inquires About the Healing Relationship

relationships, what ifs, shut in, toilet paper, serenity, laughter

Neo, the neocortex of Dr. C’s brain mentioned in previous columns, exclaims, “That was amazing, Dr. C, to watch Mrs. Dr. C apply the healing relationship, and poof, you’re all better!” Neo was referring to last week’s column, in which Dr. C emerged from a long period of darkness in his life.

Dr. C grimaces at Neo’s remark. It might sound that simple, but the process is much more involved. “Remember,” he says, “she has been with me for a long time. That is the special knowledge that Mrs. Dr. C has. As James Taylor wrote in his song ‘Something in the Way She Moves,’ ‘She has the power to go where no one else can find me.’ She is a witness to the best of Dr. C.”

“You have mentioned the healing relationship in 10 columns,” Neo points out. “I’ve read all that, but I still don’t understand how it works.”

Dr. C settles into a comfortable position, stretches, and then explains to Neo the development of the concept. Sounding very professorial, he begins, “From the beginning of human civilization, healers, shamans, have been an important part of a sustainable social collective. Healers are often chosen by the tribe because of a gift for sensing the inner person. They often undergo years of training, rites of passage, vision quests, or other training provided by an elder shaman.

“Some of these initiates pass from the ordinary to the extraordinary, and some do not. Those who do learn the intricate dance that is the healing process become skilled artisans within the healing relationship. Only a few will attain such skills.”

During the soliloquy, Mrs. Dr. C opens the door and enters, laden with groceries. Dr. C offers to help, and she asks, “What have you two been up to while I was out?”

Dr. C mentions Neo’s amazement at the healing relationship. “It is his contention that all the stress was eliminated and problems solved with your intervention and use of the healing relationship when I was engulfed in darkness.”

He continues, “The descriptors in the column provide a look at various parts of the healing relationship. This is to help clear the confusion about its nature. But the healing relationship is more than the sum of its parts. There is a holistic experience connected to the phenomenon, one that cannot be known through a process that reduces it to a collection of features or steps in a process. Within this healing relationship is the possibility of experiencing a sacred well-being moment.

“The possibility of sacred well-being is available to everyone, trained or untrained, anytime and anywhere. Training with the healing relationship increases the probability it will occur, but it is not a guarantee. Training also helps with meaning-making during follow-up,” he adds.

Mrs. Dr. C responds, “What the ‘good doctor’ forgets is that his brush with the darkness impacted us both. We both had to go through that dark, briar-filled forest of emotions, despair, and fear.

“I think there are two more important points to make. One, I have never wanted to become a ‘caretaker’ instead of a ‘wife.’ Caretaker implies to me a distancing from the relationship of spouse. Second, I do not view the healing relationship as a cure. It does not change your symptoms of Parkinson’s or vision loss. It does not make them go away or stop the progression. But it provides something else.”

She thinks for a moment, gazes out the window at the birds circling the feeders, and then says, “It gives me strength. It is a frightening thing for me to feel that there might be nothing I can do. I feel like I am helping to heal a wound, much like scar tissue over an injury. The Parkinson’s and vision loss still happened, the pain is still there, and the scars will always be present. Neither of us can change that. Sometimes I remind him that we just need to follow the map provided.”

Dr. C agrees, “It’s not a cure but rather a path to better living with what exists, even if it’s a chronic illness. The map comes with the sacred experience, and if I do not follow it then all I can expect is failure. Using the healing relationship comes down to believing it is possible, and then having a sacred healing experience with a healer followed by learning everything about it.”

Mrs. Dr. C points at the shopping bags. “It would also help if you could put away some groceries.” She gives Dr. C and Neo a friendly wink.

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Note: Parkinson’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Parkinson’s News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Parkinson’s disease.

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Understanding the Relationship as Sanctuary

relationship

The healing relationship holds a sacred place for people as they search for a path to well-being moments. This relationship offers every possibility for allowing those moments to occur. It is a safe place and a sanctuary that aims to facilitate and bear witness to the experience of well-being.

The healing relationship starts with an agreement to enter the compassion space for the purpose of exploring well-being. Some people enter the compassion space almost effortlessly and without a great deal of resistance. Some move to experience well-being in the compassion space quickly, while others take longer. Understanding how to sit with resistance and eventually let go is part of the relationship as sanctuary.

Resistance can be more intense with relationship sanctuary than with sanctuary formed in connection to a place. So many deep emotions — good and bad — are tied to the memories of our relationships. We enter the healing relationship with a “relationship stance” built upon our history. Within that stance is resistance to sanctuary.

Working with a healer or a guide as a form of relationship sanctuary can be helpful. An experienced guide can show you your resistance obstacles, teach you to move around them, and help you to experience a well-being moment.

Finding healing relationships while battling a chronic illness is tough, but necessary. We are by nature social creatures and our health benefits from nurturing relationships. I long for conversations that explore the sacredness of life rather than the sickness of strife. Chronic illness consumes much of my time, but it does not define me. I’ll always have time for stimulating discourse.

Everything seems so rushed these days. Henry David Thoreau said there was no need for people to travel so fast on those locomotives going 25 mph. I giggled, and then thought that we are still going fast. Relationships are affected by a technological train that steamrolls into our lives without conscious consent. Texts, tweets, and obligatory holiday visits give us brief glimpses of those we love as they go dashing about their lives.

I don’t dash any more. Well, maybe to that emergency bathroom call, but not much else. I remember when I used to dash, both mentally and physically. I can’t push hard like that anymore. Stress hit me hard with the progression I experienced following the ruin of stagnation.

My disease took a turn for the worse this summer. It wasn’t a big crash into a tree, but a noticeable bump in the road. The ruin of stagnation was part of the progression. Everything is more difficult than it was three months ago. It’s hard to share all of this in a way that doesn’t come across as a pity party.

The relationship as sanctuary is a compassion space for me to be heard, understood, welcomed, and embraced. My partner does this day in and day out without complaint. I get tired of being with myself more often than that.

Relationship as sanctuary has been my life’s work. I find that the more I learn, the less I seem to know. It’s an old saying, but it is deeply poignant when applied to the sacred quality within the healing relationship. It is the best thing that I do as a human being in my service to humanity.

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Note: Parkinson’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Parkinson’s News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Parkinson’s disease.

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The Link Between Compassionate Support and Wellness

PD Dr. C's Journey, loss of vision

It has been rough going recently, after I acquired a “legally blind” diagnosis on top of Parkinson’s disease. It has been a month, and part of the reason I am back to column writing so soon is because of the compassionate support I received, which was freely given. It has made a big difference in my life. This compassionate support has bolstered my wellness program and given me the added strength I needed to move forward.

People speak of wellness as some sort of bonus you get from doing something because it’s “good for you,” like eating vegetables or walking 10,000 steps a day. But healthful practices are not the only factor in the wellness process. The wellness that comes from compassionate support is more than that.

When support is given in a truly compassionate way, it reflects not only on the act of support, but also on the possibility that we can be a “better self.” It doesn’t matter how bad things appear because compassionate support can make things better. It works.

There are lots of ways to block yourself from connecting to the compassion others offer. Sometimes, it seems easier to give than to receive. This month, I didn’t want to go to the local Parkinson’s support group. I felt like a failure, to everyone else and to myself. The pain and suffering I was going through created a wall between me and the rest of the world.

My partner of almost 50 years convinced me to go. Allowing myself to be vulnerable, to let down those walls and enjoy the support group, also allowed me to feel this potential for the betterment of mankind. I connected to that for my personal well-being. Moaning about how terrible I feel doesn’t get me anywhere. I am trying to focus on the here and now, to keep a positive attitude about tomorrow.

Over the past four years, my partner and I have moved to a new house that is more ADA-accessible, changed career focus, rebuilt our caregiver/social network, and dealt with each untoward event that has popped up along the way. My partner walked with me through all of this while having her own medical issues. Often fatigued and occasionally overwhelmed, she fought hard to improve our quality of life. This included kicking me in the butt occasionally, and being firm about the importance of continuing to engage in life.

There is much research that lends credence to this idea that humans helping one another — sharing in the process of compassionate support — can make a difference in wellness. A recent study showed that a stronger purpose in life was associated with lower all-cause mortality. Several interventions have been clinically reviewed, including well-being therapy, that demonstrated improvements in purpose in life, quality of life, and various health outcomes.

The “O” in CHRONDI is for “Others.” It speaks to the interconnectedness we have with each other, connections that can help with our wellness. This is not about some supernatural phenomena or “butterfly effect.” Rather, it is about a human relationship phenomenon that exists to share a flow moment in time. It is the experience of gratification after allowing myself to embrace the compassion being given. The compassion given and received (well-being experienced phenomenon) is a fundamental part of the relationship I call the healing relationship.

There can be resistance to the healing relationship that is connected to compassionate support. Connectedness doesn’t usurp identity. I sit on the island of individuality often. The idea of self has special meaning for me. It’s the “I” in CHRONDI. When it comes to wellness, that island is the last place I want to be.

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I want to add a special note of recognition and gratitude to my first-line editor, Robin Ketchen; the BioNews Services team, especially Brad Dell and Dave Boddiger; my family and friends; the New London and Concord Parkinson’s support groups; and all those readers of my column whose comments were so encouraging for me to continue writing. A special hug to my wife, who reminds me of where I need to be, helps me get to the destination, and has supported the “journey” for all these decades. 

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Note: Parkinson’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Parkinson’s News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Parkinson’s disease.

The post The Link Between Compassionate Support and Wellness appeared first on Parkinson’s News Today.

Can You Hear Me Now?

PD Dr. C's Journey

(Image by Dr. C)

Over the many years of living with a chronic illness, I have seen many healthcare providers. Some were good and others not so good. If I walked away from a meeting with a provider feeling like I hadn’t been heard and wanting to shout, “Can you hear me now?” then the provider wasn’t a good match for me. Empathy (being heard by the provider) is deeply important to me and is part of my quality healthcare plan.

Over the past several decades, my research has focused on understanding the characteristics of a special relationship between patient and healthcare provider that I call the “healing relationship.” It is a therapeutic relationship that promotes patient well-being.

Clinical empathy is a crucial part of this relationship. When the relationship functions well, the patient doesn’t ask in desperation, “Can you hear me now?” Instead, she walks away from the meeting feeling that she’s been heard and understood. Along with that comes a sense of trust in the provider and the treatment plan offered. This can then lead to greater treatment compliance, a higher quality of healthcare, and better treatment outcomes.

The healing relationship is not just academic for me; it is a practice. Honestly, between retirement and the chronic illness, I had thought the skill had become too rusty to use, like an old pair of scissors left outdoors too long. But this week surprised me with encounters in which three people asked for the healing relationship to form. These three people had very traumatic events in their lives, and all three needed solace.

Solace isn’t handing them a chocolate chip cookie and saying, “I’m sorry you had to go through that. Here, take this. It will make you feel better.” Solace happens through empathy, along with compassion, a type of Tonglen practice. It is a sacred relationship in the sense that it is held with reverence and humility, and is never sought, but always allowed. I thought I had lost this, and am so incredibly grateful to have been proven wrong.

The healthcare provider is there to meet the needs of the patient. Those needs can only be accurately met when they are fully known. At times, we patients need to educate our providers. There must be a shared dialogue within the patient-provider relationship that is aimed at promoting well-being.

The characteristics of the healing relationship help the provider acquire knowledge about the needs of the patient and develop a relationship of trust. When wisdom is added, compassion results and quality healthcare can occur.

The healing relationship is not a new thing. Healers, doctors, nurses, and other healthcare providers have been writing about it for the past few decades. They have been calling for a need to be fulfilled within the practice of healthcare by bringing back this art of healing.

Patients will want to scream, “Can you hear me now?” when the healthcare provider seems not to be listening or is absent of empathy. It is deeply frustrating not to be heard; it leads to misunderstanding, and healthcare needs are unmet.

Fortunately, there are many healthcare providers who do have empathy and compassion. Finding them and incorporating them into your treatment team is a positive step toward personal well-being.

What experiences have you had with the difference between empathic and insensitive healthcare practitioners? Add your voice in the comments below. It will help advance our understanding.

Editor’s Note: Dr. C will be taking a break from publishing his column. Please continue to follow his column when he returns.

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Note: Parkinson’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Parkinson’s News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Parkinson’s disease.

The post Can You Hear Me Now? appeared first on Parkinson’s News Today.

Others Provide Support and a Mirror Within the ‘Compassion Space’

others

The “O” in the CHRONDI Creed stands for “others” — the other people around us who support, teach, and love us, and who pray and care for us. Other people can also provide a mirror that helps us to see how others perceive our actions. If we can objectively view this reflection, we can gain wisdom about the consequences of our actions and then make informed choices that will affect how we interact with others.

The relationships we have with other people provide support and a mirror seen clearly within the compassion space (see diagram below).

Columnist Sherri Woodbridge has written about relationships while dealing with Parkinson’s disease, saying that we need to work on keeping relationship magic alive. She advises readers to seek help with relationship issues rather than ignoring them. It takes work to keep relationships healthy and growth-promoting. We don’t put our foot into the stream of life the same way twice — our lives continuously change, and our relationships need to adjust to these changes.

Growth-promoting relationships with others happen within what I call the “compassion space.” It is a shared space between the self and the other and our well-being possibility. Movement also takes place within this space. Reaching out to the other and then retreating to self (“push the person away” and then later “seek to get closer”) is one of the most common relationship dances.

A similar dance happens when we seek to help someone achieve well-being or receive assistance with our own health. It is a dance of getting closer to well-being and then retreating from the experience. I have termed this “compassion space resistance,” and it is the primary source of compassion fatigue. The latter does not arise from successful compassion that leaves one with more energy than it takes. Compassion space resistance can drain emotional energy and lead to caregiver burnout.

Imagine that your lifelong partner has a chronic illness. You want to help your partner move toward a place with less suffering. But compassion resistance can happen if you spend days arguing, your partner neglects his rehabilitation plan, or neither of you is willing to take responsibility for your half of the well-being journey.

Successful movement within the compassion space involves a shift toward well-being. When the self and the other are in the compassion space where this shift occurs, they experience a special type of growth-promoting relationship called the healing relationship. This relationship is often interpreted as sacred or a gift, and something that is allowed and not grasped.

Once the healing relationship is established, then the shift toward well-being becomes a stepping stone for the other to use in his or her journey toward maintaining an improved quality of life. The self then becomes a witness stepping stone, using supportive words such as, “Remember I was there with you.” Then, as a witness, he asks the other person to recall how much better she felt after the event. This witnessing happens within the support relationship where both parties discuss how each person can follow his or her path to well-being.

Growth-promoting relationships involve entering the compassion space in the roles of the self and the other. If we can understand the dance that takes place inside that space — the dance in which the relationship changes from healing to support, to resistance, and then back again — then we can more clearly envision our own path to well-being.

Growth-promoting relationships are fundamental to success in the battle against chronic disease. Healthy relationships depend upon the successful communication of our needs to each other. If you are waiting for the other person to read your mind and recognize your needs, then you will be disappointed.

Much of the suffering in the world happens when people do not enter the compassion space. Instead, they throw words at each other from inside their personally constructed self-bubbles. We think that we are safe inside our self-bubbles. But we can’t hear the needs of the others in our lives from inside our bubbles and this hinders our ability to develop growth-promoting relationships.

Our caregivers need our attention and compassion. The others in our lives help us to mirror ourselves and provide us with support in our battle against our chronic illness. Use of the compassion space helps us to express our individual needs and feel heard. It takes practice to move around in the compassion space, and the CHRONDI elements help us with this practice.

Have you had experiences within the compassion space? Did you like anything that was expressed in this column? Please share your thoughts in the comments to help other readers gain a broader perspective on helping and receiving help from others.

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Note: Parkinson’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Parkinson’s News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Parkinson’s disease.

The post Others Provide Support and a Mirror Within the ‘Compassion Space’ appeared first on Parkinson’s News Today.