Do you want to get better?

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As an Ayurvedic Clinical Practitioner I’ve discovered a recurrent theme. I find myself asking clients

“Do you want to get better?”

This question often catches people by surprise. There’s the answer you’re supposed to say and then there’s the truth.

Sometimes the answer is “Yes,” and sometimes there is a hesitation that lingers a little too long. The answer is “No”.

It’s been an important question for me to ask. It’s a meaningful verbal acknowledgement between patient and practitioner.

Healing often looks different from what we expect. In the experience of my own healing and witnessing others make this transition, the process of healing is largely uneventful. It happens over an undisclosed/unknown period of time. It’s often a review of where we once were. In my consultations, I often circle back to original or previous symptoms that a client experienced. Many times their response is “Oh yeah, I forgot about that.” This is healing. Life is dynamic with many moving parts. and so there is a moment of recognition and then we move on. This is what we want. Whether it’s relief from anxiety, sleeplessness, or being less dependence on insulin, etc. Living life symptom-free is not an extraordinary experience. No specialists are required and no one is regularly checking on you to see if you’re ok.

To be clear, I’m not talking about remission from cancers for example. That is certainly extraordinary. I’m referring to subclinical conditions. There are many ways in which Ayurveda can heal that is unknown or simply unfamiliar to us in the west. It’s indigenous medicine which makes it important to consider and not immediately disregard simply because of preconceived notions or ideas about eastern medicine and it’s potential.

So why do some clients not want to get better? In medicine and psychological terms the unconscious payoff, or something to be gained from a distressful problem, is referred to as a secondary gain. In William Berry’s blog he suggests that “Many people who have psychological distress (or physical illness) get attention, support, more love, or other reinforcers that make change less attractive.” I don’t write this to illegitimize a client’s experience but it is worth discussing when it comes to treatment and healing.

Clinical psychologist Arielle Schwartz puts it beautifully in her post

“It is much more common that secondary gains aim to attend to deep unresolved attachment wounds or they are a way to achieve recognition of legitimate suffering. A concept closely related to secondary gains is the understanding that coupled with these gains are their related losses. Such losses are the genuine needs that are not being met in the client’s world currently.”

Arielle Schwartz


What happens when we heal? For some, there’s a fear (real or not), that there will be a loss of community, purpose, and support. Along with healing come…secondary losses.

Because our needs are not being met, when it comes to healing, secondary losses can be a very real concern. Referring back to Arielle Schwartz here’s a short list of examples of what types of secondary losses can accompany someone with chronic illness, pain, etc

  • Financial loss
  • Loss of social relationships and social support network
  • Loss of respect from family and friends
  • Loss of respect from physicians or therapists
  • Loss of typical family life
  • Loss of leisure or recreational activities
  • Loss of meaning or purpose due to loss of work
  • Loss of social role or identity
  • Loss due to social stigmas related to being chronically disabled
  • Guilt over disability

So what is the role of the Ayurvedic practitioner? That differs with every practitioner depending on experience and scope of practice. Either way, it’s important to listen and make space to identify the obstacles, concerns and go from there. It’s not a one size fits all approach but it’s certainly a start.

For more information about Ayurveda, or if you’re interested in a consultation, please contact Magnolia

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