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Physician Heal Thyself: Lessons in Healing Reactions


Erin Holston Singh, N.D.

Just in time for a blog post on acute healing, I had a synchronous healing reaction of my own. Nature Cure docs, such as myself, talk about such healing reactions incessantly, but what exactly are they? A healing reaction is the dynamic calibration any living organism undergoes to return to a state of equilibrium that involves a profound elimination. In plain English, an inflammatory sickness that generates a discharge in order to become healthy again! 

This responsiveness to recalibrate is a manifestation of the “Vital Force”, the key trait differentiating us from the inanimate world. Without respect for this vitality, or the “Vis”, there is no respect for the self-organizing life that we are. It is this responsiveness to our environment that is so fundamental to biology, and thus, to health. This orientation to health and healing is perhaps the greatest distinction between our naturopathic approach to medicine and the conventional medical establishment. If we suppress every reaction by just eliminating symptoms, then we are actually creating a deeper level of chronic illness. Make no mistake, this is the wisdom of our traditional approach: never supersede the fundamental causes without expecting a consequence later on.

With the typical level of transparency I use with my patients, I decided to go with a level of full-on Brené Brown vulnerability and share this piece of inner work, espousing another of the fundamental tenets of naturopathic medicine Docere, Latin for Doctor as teacher.

A few weeks ago my skin started to erupt. My skin has been my lifelong teacher, forever leading me to the next lesson in the world of natural medicine. Ever since I learned about the negative effects of cortisone creams on the skin, adrenals, and gut – I’ve been investigating and reflecting on any flare-ups. Three decades and counting….the insights continue. Thus began the pattern of thoughts: “What is this about?” I asked myself, “Is this something I ate?” “Is this grief after hearing about a newborn who spent three months in the ICU?” …and so it went, so many questions, so many thoughts, so much discomfort. Perhaps it was all true. Perhaps none of it was true. So the mystery of life, living, medicine, and vulnerability goes.

After decades of study and reflection, I knew from experience and training that this skin reaction is a healing response from deep-seated conflicts around a core feeling of separation. Already familiar with this core symbolism regarding skin ailments, I reflected and returned to the concept of Dr. Hamer’s work and the German New Medicine I first learned about in 1996.  I knew where to go, how to process, how to ‘do the work’, so to speak. According to Dr. Hamer, this type of atopic breakout manifests after one has resolved the psychological feeling of being separated. It IS the healing phase. 

A week into this crisis of inflamed red skin, there was a massive “AHA!” when I learned that my brother had been put into hospice care. Now actively dying from the neurological condition that my mother died from, he is likely in the last few months of his life. As I dove deep into my feelings surrounding the grief of my brother’s imminent passing, I noticed that my skin started to erupt even more. It was turning out to be so severe and uncomfortable that I even entertained a fantasy about prednisone, which the majority of people would promptly have proceeded to obtain in this state. There is no doubt that acute, painful inflammatory conditions have built the current healthcare system as it is, using powerful pharmaceutical interventions, such as steroids and antibiotics with the intention of providing relief and comfort, but inadvertently suppressing the long term healing movement in the process. These interrupt the classic healing crisis, stopping characteristic inflammations in their tracks, with no one wiser for the wear, except for those of us who consistently track histories and witness the long term fallout.

Knowing better than to succumb to the almighty suppressant, my skin raged redder into the worst healing response I’ve had in a decade. I found gratitude in the lesson and knew from my core that I had no choice but to wait. Anyone who really knows me knew I was never going to take the prednisone-nor even a hydrocortisone cream. Believing and trusting that any extreme discomfort will pass and maintaining the patience for it to quell with natural and non-damaging supports – is perhaps the hardest part of using natural medicine. 

So here I was in my head, thinking and thinking, trying to figure it out, supporting myself with multiple therapies. Quantum frequencies, Biodynamic Craniosacral, Reconnective Healing, Chinese acupressure massage, and more. I’d spent time assessing what supplements and homeopathics I should start taking, and came up with a protocol to support the gut, detox and elimination. 

As I was reflecting on all of this, I realized that the thinking about it had me avoiding the feeling about it. So I tried to lean in even more, toward the pain in my heart. I went deeper and deeper into my heart and felt through what was going on, feeling myself as a child and an adolescent when my brother and I had last lived in the same house. I had had no patience for his intense emotions, discontent and anger that he took out upon me. I realized I didn’t appreciate, revere or respect my brother. I had denied him a space for who he was. I realized I had closed off a portion of my heart; maybe I even hated him??? Feeling through my grief, sitting alone, deeply feeling and weeping, I distinctly reconnected to his heart, opening my own and sitting with the immense significance of how my body had responded to this disconnect! I took full responsibility and allowed myself to feel the full brunt of pain and grief that I may have caused him in his life. As I did this work, I moved toward trusting that this idea of separation that I had unconsciously created, and avoided, all of my life was now leaving me. And then, I trusted that it was finished. 

"All anger is grief. All grief is pain. All pain is from the separations we have created and which we have the power to reconnect."

In light of seeking correct thinking to support my healing, a friend suggested two affirmations. One from the realm of Christian Science that says “Divine Love has always met, and always will meet every human need”. And another that came from Louise Hay, “I lovingly protect myself with thoughts of joy and peace. The past is forgiven and forgotten. I am free in this moment”. 

Thus, after three and a half more days of extreme flaring, I started turning the corner, with my extreme discomfort and redness finally lessening. Every person wishes they could trade their worst physical nemesis for some other complaint. I’ve often craved for a simple sinus infection or even a nice bronchitis, maybe a potent, efficient fever! The grass is always greener on the other side. Trust me when I say this shift of relief couldn’t have been more welcomed!

So as I settle, and my skin calms down and heals, I continue my reflective learning, I continue my herbs and homeopathics. I continue tending to my digestion and normal elimination. Had I developed a habit of shutting this all down with steroids, I’d only be stepping closer and closer to a deeper, chronic illness with each attempt my Vital Force makes toward healing. When one allows true healing to occur, one endures the capacity to sit with the pain and the psychological grief that triggered the initial illness. Fundamentally one needs to trust that this won’t last forever. Our team serves to help navigate these difficult and fragile moments with our patients. 

After having endured a healing reaction, one realizes the true gifts of our medicine: the increase in general health. We do this in order to avoid the creation of chronic disease, for the reversal of a long-standing illness, as well as for the benefit of the expansion of consciousness and awareness about ourselves. 

Likewise, the more one moves from the mind of thinking, into the heart of feeling, the better. Feeling through pain and recognizing that pain in life is inevitable must be part of our process. Pain is part of life. To avoid such a natural phenomenon carries its own pitfalls. Feeling this pain allows it to dissipate, to shift, to change. We do this work not only for ourselves and our families, but also for the whole, for humanity and for our future.





  • Cicatrisane Cream: For extremely dry skin that won’t stop peeling! Great for cracking skin and cuts. Never burns the skin upon application which makes it great for toddlers and infants!
  • Peat Torf Mud: Absorption of peat helps detoxification, has peeling action, improved blood circulation and rejuvenates skin. Use in the bath or on your skin directly!

In our eyes, every person’s healing reaction is for a unique reason and requires evaluation to know exactly what to recommend. If you want the support and guidance of our naturopathic doctors here at Options, we offer what is called an acute consult for our established patients to support these types of healing responses. We can support you individually through your cleansing journey. You may request and schedule an acute consult through contacting our office directly!