(Material for this essay comes from the following sources: the book “Life 101” by John-Roger and Peter McWilliams, “All I Really Need To Know I Learned in Kindergarten” by Robert Fulghum, Life Magazine, Fall 1990, the book “Would You Believe?” by Canadian religion author Tom Harpur and the poem “The Dilemma”, author
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We must love people back to health. We must address all the needs of the entire patient – love, faith, sense of purpose, etc., and not just his/her disease. In the words of Dr. Jerome D. Frank, American psychiatrist:” any treatment that does not minister to the human spirit is grossly deficient.”
According to M. Scott Peck, M.D. in his best seller “The Road Less Traveled”, “the absence of love is the major cause of mental illness and that the presence of love is consequently the essential healing element in psychotherapy. Most mental illness is caused by an absence of or defect that a particular child required from its particular parents for successful maturation and emotional growth. And in order to be healed through psychotherapy that patient must receive from the psychotherapist at least a portion of the genuine love of which the patient was deprived. If the psychotherapist cannot genuinely love a patient, genuine healing will not occur. No matter how well credentialed and trained psychothaperists may be, if they can not extend themselves through love to their patients, the results of their psychotherapeutic practice will generally be unsuccessful.
Conversely, a totally uncredentially and minimally trained lay therapist who exercises a great capacity to love will achieve psychotherapeutic results that equal those of the best psychiatrists.”
The late psychiatrist Dr. Karl Menninger believed most emotional wounds could be calmed by love.
Dr. Bernie S. Siegel M.D. writes in his book “Love, Medicine and Miracles” that caring is the key. Quoting Henri Nouven from the same book: “We have put all the emphasis on cure. Cure without care is more harmful than helpful.”
Dr. Siegel points out that studies have shown that when you put a janitor in psychiatrist’s office, the patient gets better – as long as the janitor is empathetic.
The Reverend Peter R. Fraile, S.J. states in the book “Discovering Happiness”:” as an act of compassion, sharing yourself with a friend who is in pain or sharing your joy with a friend is more valuable than sharing a meal or sharing a thousand dollars.”
And if doctors deprived a patient of healing medications, would they not be harming the patient? And are they just as guilty when they fail to love, fail to show empathy toward the patient. And failing to do this, are they not in violation of the Hippocratic Oath they swore to: “Do no harm?”
And there may be a conflict of interest why doctors don’t address the needs of the entire person. Patients might be less dependent on taking medications for recovery and it’s the drug companies who sponsor much of the research.
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But what can the individual do to love?
Many of us feel that we don’t have anything to give. Some of us even feel that we would never deliberately hurt anyone. But the fact is in doing nothing, we allow pain and suffering to exist.
There is so much that we can do to alleviate one’s suffering.
For starters, we can just simply listen. We don’t have to heal them. Just knowing someone cares can make a difference.
Even an occasional hug can combat depression and build self- esteem for the receiver as well as the giver. Chemicals in the brain called endorphins are released making us feel good.
Dr. Peck goes so far as to suggest that lay people can practice successful psychotherapy without great training as long as they are genuinely loving human beings.
But there is problem in loving a person back to health. There is a risk factor involved. We risk appearing sentimental. We risk rejection. We risk involvement. We may even set ourselves up for ridicule.
By nature, we feel safer in our “Comfort Zone”, loving people (if at all) at a distance. To step out of this “Zone” involves risk and uncertainty. It also is lot of effort!
Life is structured so that we are dependent one other whether we are sick or not. We need each other.
We shouldn’t worry about taking risks and failing. We have a 50 per cent chance of success. There are professional baseball players who make millions of dollars a year who chase a ball with a stick with a lower average.
As the old saying goes: “a trouble shared is a trouble cut in half. A life shared is twice blessed.”
Love heals !!
Ken works as a security guard. He’s a struggling writer of sketch comedy and pieces on spiritual issues. He wants to set up a non- profit comedy troupe for the community, entertaining in hospitals, drop-in centres, etc. He has established a troupe for psychiatric and physically-challenged communities to participate in. He is also interested in the plight of psychiatric patients and other poverty-related issues. Ken can be reached at email@example.com