I stumbled upon a post on social media earlier this summer by Dr. Lissa Rankin that made a lot of sense.  She’s a medical doctor who left her traditional practice to explore what it would mean for her to practice healing in a way that truly resonates with what she values.  (That’s the short version of her story)

She posed a number of questions that align quite well with the world of wellbeing coaching.  I can only imagine what health care might be like if more physicians asked them, too.  I’m posting a few of them here as food for thought as we continue to work toward bettering the health and well-being of all those which whom we come into contact.  Dr. Rankin titled her post Questions Your Doctor Should Ask You (But Probably Doesn’t)  It’s worth noting that some of these questions are likely to stir things up emotionally for people, so developing a good rapport and a sense of trust is essential before delving into some of these areas.

1. What is my body saying no to?

What is really true for us — wholly, deeply, undeniably true at a soul level — often appears as flashes of intuition. We glimpse the truth in dreams. We feel it in our bones. But we often deny what’s true for us.

The body speaks to us in whispers, but if we fail to pay attention to the whispers, the body starts to yell. Discomfort in the body may start as tightness in the solar plexus, or it shows up as back pain or headaches. If we still ignore the messages our bodies are sending us, the body breaks down in more life-threatening ways.

If your doctor asked you “What is your body saying no to?” would you be brave enough to admit the truth?

2. What does my body need in order to heal?

As doctors [or coaches, or nurses, or counselors..], we go to [medical] school, ostensibly so we know your body or mind better than you do. While it may be true that we know your anatomy better than you, your intuition knows what is in your body’s best interest better than any doctor possibly could.

When you’re asked, “What does your body need in order to heal?” you may be surprised at what comes up. You might answer “I need to eat a raw foods diet” or “I need to do yoga every night” or “I have to make sure I get eight hours of sleep.”

Or you might be surprised to find yourself saying things like “I need to quit my job” or “I need to break up with my boyfriend” or “I need to set boundaries with my mother.” There are no guarantees that you’ll be cured if you actually do what you think might support your healing. But you never know. A miracle might be right around the corner if you’re willing to trust yourself.

3. What’s out of balance in my life?

In my book Mind Over Medicine, I share a wellness model that I call “The Whole Health Cairn,” which acknowledges that “whole health” depends not just on what you eat, how much you sleep, and how much exercise you get, but on the health of your relationships, your work and sense of life purpose, your creativity, your spirituality, your sexuality, your finances, your environment, and your mental health.

Many of us devote all of our bandwidth to one or two aspects of our lives, at the expense of the others. We throw ourselves into our work but neglect our creative side. Or we deplete ourselves by care taking for those we love at the cost of our sense of life purpose. A wholly healthy life requires feeding all of what nourishes us.

4. Am I in touch with my life’s purpose?

People who are living in alignment with their life purpose tend to be healthier than those who feel out of touch with their mission or calling. In fact, some even experience “spontaneous” remissions from seemingly “incurable” illnesses when they finally do whatever it takes to live out their calling. Yet too many of us choose comfort and certainty as our primary values, even if it means violating how the soul yearns to contribute in this world.

5. Am I lonely?

Lonely people are more likely to die young than people who feel like they belong to part of a tribe. In fact, researchers posit that loneliness may be a greater risk factor for your health than an unhealthy diet, not exercising, or smoking. But when was the last time your doctor screened you for loneliness?

6. Do I feel depressed, anxious, or frequently afraid?

Happy people live up to 10 years longer than depressed people, and as is well documented scientifically in my book The Fear Cure (http://thefearcurebook.com), fear and anxiety have been shown to predispose you to heart disease, cancer, and even the common cold.

7. Am I an optimist or a pessimist?

Your attitude affects your health. Optimists are likely to fare better than pessimists across a range of health measures.

8. Do I often feel helpless?

When we feel empowered to change the things that get us down, we boost our body’s ability to fight disease, whereas when we feel helpless, at the mercy of life, our immune systems weaken, and we are prone to illness. In fact, the phenomena psychologist Martin Seligman calls “learned helplessness” has been shown to reduce a rat’s ability to fight off cancer.

So, friends, what do you think?  Is there room in modern medicine for questions that dig deeper into what’s truly at the root of poor health in this culture?  I think there is plenty of room if we allow space for it, and I think it’s essential to fill that room with questions like the ones above for things to change for the better.

3 thoughts on “Healing Healthcare: The Hard Questions

  1. You have tapped into a huge problem here with our health care system and modern medicine. Your patient questions are truly awesome – it’s getting the doctors to connect the emotional to the physical – this takes time . With so many patients to see – I think it is difficult for them. That is where technology might step in!

    1. Thanks for your comment, Madeline! Dr. Rankin has some wonderful ideas and an important vision for the future of health care-part of the reason she left her traditional practice was because she didn’t want to be required to see so many patients every day.

  2. This is very interesting. The questions are very useful and thought provoking. I definitely think these would improve peoples experience of health care.

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