Three days ago I was walking in our creek bed, very rocky and jumbled — and ¼ mile wide — since the huge flood last September. I carelessly tripped over a large stick, tumbled forward and fell heavily on my right side, pulling the muscles in my left leg so that I could only walk by hobbling and lurching with most of my weight on my right leg. My knee soon swelled up, and the muscles above and below the knee became very sore.

We almost always notice the sudden onset of an injury, and the same is true of many illnesses. But we tend not to notice the healing, which is almost always more gradual. Our image of the onset of the injury or illness is usually very vivid, while our image of healing is typically faint or non-existent. We may have gotten sick — and well again — countless times, yet think only of the getting sick, while ignoring the getting well. People often say something like, “I’m always getting sick,” but I have never heard anyone say, “I’m always getting well,” even though almost every “getting sick” is followed by “getting well.”

This creates an implicit bias in our memory and thinking that is certainly not pleasant, and probably not useful in supporting healing. How can we rebalance — or even reverse — this unconscious bias of thinking mostly of getting sick, while ignoring getting well?

There is a way to assist in natural healing that I have used for years, that automatically “kicks in” whenever I am injured or sick. Initially my internal “film clip” of falling, and the resulting soreness and pain, was very vivid in my mind, along with the present pain and soreness — and I had no image at all of healing. So the first thing I did was reduce the vividness of this onset image by making it dimmer, smaller, faded, colorless, and farther away. This reduced its prominence in my mind, and diminished the possibility of it continuing to elicit thoughts of being damaged, what is sometimes called “retraumatization.”

Next I accessed an internal representation of all the times I have healed from an injury or illness — everything from a scrape or bruise to a very badly broken ankle in high school and several hospitalizations for massive internal bleeding during my stressful college days. Since I’m 78, I have quite a lot of examples of healing.

This redirected my attention from the unpleasant memory of stumbling — and landing — to the much more attractive representation of the many, many times when I have healed in the past, implying that my body will also heal again now. Literally seeing this convincing evidence of the power of natural healing was a lot more pleasant than thinking about tripping and falling, and I found myself relaxing and breathing more easily. The ongoing pain changed from a signal of disaster to become simply a warning about needing to protect the injured areas to allow healing to take place.

The composite representation of healing is one I built years ago, when I was developing the material for my book about self-concept, Transforming Your SelfA quality such as the ability to heal can be a part of your sense of who you are, part of your self-concept. It’s really quite simple to build a solid knowing that your body can heal itself.

Briefly, the first step in creating healing as part of what you know is true of yourself is to find out how you already represent a quality that you know is true of you. Think of another quality that you know is true of you, such as honesty or persistence, and notice what you see, hear and feel internally.

Although there are many variations in exactly how people do this, the two main possibilities are either a collage of images of examples of this quality (which is what I do), or a sequential slide show that presents one image at a time in rapid succession. Each of these has certain advantages and disadvantages, but they both work well, and they can also be combined.

The location of this collage or slide show in your visual field is very important, and the size, brightness, color, 3-D, etc. of each image is also important. You can find more detail on how to do this in my book, and you can read a verbatim transcript of the process of building a new aspect of self-concept here.

Once you have determined how you already represent a quality that you know is true of yourself, the next step is to use that structure as a template to build a new quality, namely that your body knows how to heal itself without your help or interference.

Elicit examples of healing, one at a time. Since we usually ignore healing, it may be easier to think of an injury or illness, and then run the movie of that time forward until you come to the point where you realize that it is healing by itself, and you feel normal, or near normal, again. By itself this is a useful process, as it changes how we experience those past memories as well.

Then make this image look just like the ones in your template — the same size, brightness, color, 3-D etc. — and then put the image into your template.

Do this repeatedly until your template is filled with different images of successful healing. This collection of images is much stronger and more convincing than a single image. When you are done it will then recede into unconsciousness, providing ongoing compelling evidence of your body’s ability to heal from all sorts of injuries and illnesses.

Someone may say, “Oh, I know my body can heal itself.” But if there are no experiences represented in a composite template, it will only be an intellectual knowing that will have no effect on their felt experience and physiology.

I have a lot of experience in using this process to alter many different aspects of self-concept that result in useful changes in people’s attitude and behavior. I know that people experience shifts in their state that they find useful, and that it has made my experience of injury much better subjectively. I don’t know if the process will speed up healing, but I’m reasonably sure that dwelling on an injury, or getting upset over it, will interfere with healing. There is a lot of evidence that a more positive attitude enhances the immune system and healing generally.

The process is easy to do, takes only a small investment of time, and I don’t see how it could possibly do any harm. I am generally healthy, and I have dodged a couple of recommended surgeries based on my assumption that my body can usually heal itself. It is good to keep in mind that even when surgery is necessary, it is our body’s natural healing ability that joins the cut pieces back together.

Over the next couple of days the swelling and soreness around my knee gradually lessened, and at a certain point I noticed that I was walking normally, putting my full weight on my left leg, no longer lurching and dragging it around.


In an earlier blog post, I described several other ways to support natural healing, including an example of Connirae Andreas’ natural healing process, described in detail in chapter 20 of our book Heart of the Mind.