Do you want to power up your mission to live on a natural high every day? CURED: The Life-Changing Science of Spontaneous Healing by Dr Jeffrey Rediger, MD, is a spellbinding account of his decades long search for answers. Go on a journey from spiritual retreats in Brazil through to faith healing in Ohio. And beyond the ordinary ‘health’ prescription of diet, exercise and stress relief.
CURED focuses on healing from illness. But many of the insights are relevant to our HB mission. That mission is to remind people of their power to create a life that they don’t want to escape from.
Dr Rediger reveals how much dedication, discipline and effort go into ‘spontaneous’ healing. And most interesting of all, he delves deep into how our identities play a massive role in wellbeing. This puts the power back in the hands of each one of us to transform and shape our own lives.
HB talked to Dr Rediger about cultivating courage, letting go of fear and how we are the heroes of our own stories.
1. You remind people of their OWN power to truly live well – a radical concept in this day and age, but it shouldn’t be! Tell us more about how people can cultivate the courage that is needed to carve out the life that they want for themselves.
Dr Rediger: One of the most common things that people with remarkable recoveries have told me over the years is that it took an illness for them to stop taking care of everyone else – stop responding to the perceived expectations of others – and instead begin focusing on what creates life and well-being within them. Asking questions like this can be life-changing: “What causes you to come alive? What puts a light in your eyes and helps you know your value and purpose?” It can initially feel selfish to set up this kind of life for oneself, but it’s not. As my friend Gabor Mate says, “If you don’t know how to say “No,” your body will eventually say “No” for you.
One of the ladies I interviewed had always been a demure, quiet lady, deeply devoted to her husband and the welfare of others. In the process of recovering from her breast cancer, she came to realize how deeply she had repressed who she really is and longs to be. As a result, she became a rather saucy, irreverent and much happier lady, liberated from the need to always be dutiful and serve others instead of also liberating and expressing that which has long been seeking to come alive in her.
Because of this basic truth, I sometimes find it necessary to help people set up their own “selfish bitch project.”
If you can make the hard choices to set up this new kind of life for yourself, sometimes it’s astonishing what then becomes possible.
2. Being a music business, we love a musical analogy. You liken accessing a sense of wellbeing to learning the guitar. “The more you practice, the better at it you’ll get and the more beautiful the music you make”. How can people use this concept to counteract notions that ‘wellbeing’ and ‘health’ are about achieving perfection vs an ongoing awareness and frequent recalibration of our priorities?
Dr Rediger: Too many religious, medical, and psychotherapeutic institutions are still built on deficit-based models; built on what is wrong or missing in us instead of on what is right and great within us. Although this is slowly changing, religions have long focused more on original sin than the deeper truth that each individual is created with something of divinity within them.
Medicine has for too long focused on the disease, on what is wrong, instead of on what is right and more deeply true (If you want to help a person with diabetes or alcohol, you do better to help him or her develop a life where they know their value and purpose, rather than just telling them to give up the unhealthy behavior).
What I’ve learned from those with remarkable recoveries is that we each need to build an internal foundation that recognizes the dignity and value of each person, including yourself. This means recognizing, in part, that you already are all that you are seeking to become. The effort then is about letting go of fear and shame in order to better express who one already is, beneath appearances.
Therefore, “messing up” is not about not being good enough. It is not about condemnation or judgment. Rather, like a musician, it is about needing a bit more practice. It is more about touching and feeling the beauty of the music and getting caught up in that than about “trying to measure up” or being “good enough.”
Rules exist for the person, not the other way around. That’s why it’s important to break the rules sometimes. Rules and structure exist, not as a grading stick for seeing who is good enough and who is not, but for bringing out the beauty in the music. In the same way, when an archer misses the mark, it’s not that she or he should be judged or condemned. To the contrary, she or he simply needs more practice.
3. You highlight the importance of knowing what your purpose is and what you want from life as a key aspect of living well. What insight can you share with someone who is struggling to understand their purpose in life?
Dr Rediger: Although the outer details of each life and calling will differ, at the deepest level, the purpose of each individual is to learn what it means to wake up to the dignity of who they are, at the deepest, most authentic level, and then look for unique ways to express and celebrate that. Self-expression is a higher value than service. We need beauty in the world more than we need more work. We need those who try to touch that beauty with music and art because beauty heals something that work cannot.
4. “Each person finds [their] own path to the clearing” – this is a really powerful message to share about discovering our own path in life and health. How do we stay true to that path in the face of opposition, contrary views or judgment by other people or even our own judgment of ourselves?
Dr Rediger: Healing at the deepest level is not about following prescribed steps. This is not about someone else’s story. This is your own hero’s journey and no one else can do it for you.
It’s about waking up – to a different perception and experience of your value and the value of others, and seeing how connected we all really are. If it was just about following someone else’s steps, you could remain asleep or on automatic pilot. If it’s about waking up, something needs to come alive at a deep level and you begin seeing something, feeling something, of which you were previously unaware. You end up in a different world. You realize that the world – and you – aren’t at all what you thought.
You will be tested along the way. For example, I remember a physician who said that his friends advised him to not write his first book. He went on to touch millions of lives with his books. In retrospect, he said it was the job of his friends to provide resistance, and it was his job to use that resistance for self-reflection, for clarifying what was the best and truest path for him.
Jeffrey Rediger, MD, MDiv, is on the faculty of Harvard Medical School, the Medical Director of McLean SE Adult Psychiatry and Community Affairs at McLean Hospital, and the Chief of Behavioral Medicine at Good Samaritan Medical Center.
A licensed physician and board-certified psychiatrist, he also has a Master of Divinity from Princeton Theological Seminary. His research with remarkable individuals who have recovered from illnesses considered incurable has been featured on the Oprah Winfrey and Dr. Oz Shows, among others.
He has been nominated for the National Bravewell Leadership Award, and has received numerous awards related to leadership and patient care.