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Being Your Own Health Expert

Sometimes I say to patients that they are the expert when it comes to their own body. I, or any other medical practitioner – conventional or alternative, western or Chinese or whatever – may have a lot of specialised knowledge and be trained in various therapeutic techniques, but what we don’t have is the actual experience of being that patient. We try to make up for this by listening to the patient, asking the right questions, perhaps by taking their pulse or examining their sore back; but still we don’t know what it is like for them from the inside, as it were.

However, often people have forgotten how to listen to their own body. That sore back, or that sickly feeling in the stomach, are telling them something. Perhaps they are simply telling them that they spend too long sitting at a computer in a slouched position; or, perhaps, that there is something in their life that they are sick and tired of putting up with. But instead of listening, sometimes they go to a doctor, or an acupuncturist, or some other kind of practitioner, wanting the problem just got rid of. This may happen; the doctor may give them some pills to stop the nausea, or an acupuncturist may use some well placed needles to relieve the back pain, but one can ask whether either treatment is doing the patient any favours in the long run if the underlying issues aren’t also addressed. A real healer – GP, acupuncturist, or whatever – will help them understand what is going on inside their body, will teach them to listen to their own body.

Part of this ‘listening’ involves opening up the emotions or feelings tied up with a symptom, or set of symptoms. If we can learn to listen to and be receptive to our body, we can begin to get a feel for, begin to understand, what our ailments are telling us. Sometimes they have vital information to impart which may, in the long run, make our lives a whole lot better!

Learning to listen in this way opens up a more satisfying and natural relationship with ourselves; all too often we hand responsibility for our health over to the ‘experts’, alienating ourselves from our own experience and treating our body like a malfunctioning machine. We need to re-learn how to be a human being who is fully in touch with themselves, understanding the hidden language of the body. We need to become the expert on our own health.

Written by Vimalaprabha

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