• Valentina Poletti

Self Medication vs Healing

There are two main approaches with dealing with painful problems. One is what I call in general "relief" or "self-medication" strategies, which include all kids of self-medications, distractions, addictive behaviors and attachments. For instance usage of comfort foods, caffeine, alcohol, medical or non medical drugs, television, movies, music, attachments to certain people and material objects, but also spirituality tools for positive focus, such as positive focus meditation techniques. The other approach is the actual healing process. This entails taking action to heal the unhealed physical or emotional parts. In the physical case this might involve a physical intervention, in the emotional case this requires shadow-work techniques, inner child healing therapy, inner family therapy, emotional pain body healing and so forth. In emotional healing communities, often a bad stigma is placed either of these methods. For instance, in addictive behavior healing communities, a bad stigma is often placed on the addictive relief behavior. In spiritual positive-focus communities, a bad stigma is often placed on the emotional body healing. Either way the result is that the healing process becomes unnecessarily long, difficult and sometimes impossible. To give a very practical example, suppose you break your leg. Now, although it surely might be possible to stay with the pain and let it heal, or even go through surgery without any pain killers and anaesthetics, taking pain killers and aenesthetic might help you to sleep and thus heal faster, and will make surgery much easier to go through. Although healing without any self-medication might certainly be possible, I think that self-medication makes the healing process faster, smoother and easier. Not only that, I'm not sure that most people would even be able to go through any surgery at all to fix their leg without anesthetics, so in this case self-medication might even be necessary. However, in emotional healing communities, when we want to heal an addiction - which is a behavior that is used to self-relief an emotional wound that is not healed - we often expect to do so by cutting off our self-relief method, i.e. the addictive behavior, altogether. Now, although it may certainly be possible to heal that way and perhaps some people do, I argue that this makes the healing process unnecessarily painful, difficult and long and sometimes impossible. Our bodies and minds use self-relief methods in order to compensate something missing in us: an unmet need or desire, an emotional wound that is not healed, a destructive belief system. Our self-loving system can be seen as an equilibrium finding system. When something is missing from that equilibrium, it tries to compensate with something else to stay in equilibrium, that is to live. We can't survive without our needs being met, thus this is a necessary coping strategy. You can picture this as a person whose leg is broken and uses a stool to balance themselves. Our body and mind is self-loving and always trying to heal and cope and strive, using whatever it finds available to do so. In certain unhealthy environments the tools to heal might not be available, so our body uses self medication to cope with the pain. Turning against this process in my view is a self-hating action as it turns against ourself. You can picture this as removing all at once the stool from the person with the broken leg, expecting them to heal immediately and find equilibrium. As a species we have the enormous gift to create and alter our reality, and the relief systems we created are one of our many tools available to live. Not taking advantage of them is denying part of us. To give an example from the emotional realm, suppose John has an addictive relationship behavior. He is extermely needy, and clings to a person who has little to no interest in him to get validation. He is using that person as an addictive self-medication substitute for healing the emotional wounds inside him. His emotional wounds might include lack of self-worth, self-abandonment, lack of self-esteem etcetera. Although to heal he necessarily has to address those wounds at some point, trying to do so by cutting himself completely off away from the person he was using to self-medicate, might place him into such painful state, that he is paralyzed in pain and no longer able to heal. He might take a really long time from this place to find healing, and worse he might end up in other more destructive addictive behavior as a coping mechanism of his body and mind to survive the situation. In the worst case scenario he might not be able to heal at all, and will revert to the original addictive behavior. On the other hand, by keeping in mind and becoming conscious that his relationship is not healthy, he can work on himself while still using the other person to self-medicate partially, although not encouraging himself to do so. He might use inner child therapy to heal his wounded children. As he does so, he will find that he needs less and less the external person for validation. As a result, the relationship with that person will become healthier, and might even come to a natural end without hurting anyone. A similar example can be given in the realm of physical addictions, such as alcohol or food. Although these addictive behavior are not healthy, cutting them off completely might lead to an extremely painful state, as the self-medication our body was using to be able to cope with our internal wounds is taken away from us. Since the body and mind are self-loving, this might lead the person to find other kinds of addictions instead, or even to revert back to alcoholism or food addiction worse than before to cope with the pain. Instead, a more gradual approach might be more self-loving. The person might take practical steps to discourage herself from using alcohol or food and address the emotional problems directly, while at the same time she might do healing work on her inner wounds. As she heals, she will less and less need alcohol and food and might end using them completely. This is what happened to me with my binge-eating problem. I didn't cut it away from me direclty, because I knew my body needed this behaviour for a reason, I tried to discourage myself however, and instead I did my best to address the emotional wounds directly. As a result, I healed more and more, and I felt less and less the need to use that behavior. At the moment not only I never binge eat anymore, but most importantly I absolutely do not feel a need to. I don't have to restrain myself from eating unhealthy foods: they simply do not attract me at all, even when they are placed right in front of me. I healed my codependency in a similar way. Even when I started to realize how destructive some of my relationships were, I didn't necessarily cut away from them, instead I focused on working on my inner wounds and healing them, while at the same time I discouraged myself from using the other people in ways that were substituting my emotional needs and desires and medicating my wounds. This was extremely useful because by keeping those unhealthy relationships while healing, I could use them as a constant mirror to find and thus heal my unconscious unhealed aspects. Every time something in the other person harmed me, I could use that as to find my inner wounds. Now, I'm in no way suggesting that self-relief or self-medication methods should be used as substitutes for healing, far from it. I believe that they are only useful when used together with healing methods, as an aid to make the process faster and easier, and with healing as the end goai n mind. What I am suggesting, is that depriving ourselves from those methods is and act of self-hate, and stems from the same space of destructive belief systems that has created our wounds on the first place. The process of healing is first and foremost a process of self-love. Choosing what is self-loving at any moment will automatically lead us towards healing. Weather that entails relief systems to distract ourselves temporarily so we can better cope with our problem, or self-positive focus techniques to help us through the healing process, or diving directly into our pain to heal it, all methods are useful and effective. When we start from a self-hating space on the other hand, no matter what methods we use, it will make it very difficult for our body and mind to heal.

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