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What To Do When You Can’t Heal Yourself

What To Do When You Can’t Heal Yourself

In my upcoming book†Mind Over Medicine: Scientific Proof You Can Heal Yourself (Hay House, 2013) and in many recent blog posts such as†this,†this, and†this, I talk a lot about the mindís power to heal the body. But when you or a loved one is sick, how do you know when to employ the mindís self-healing powers versus when to get thee to an emergency room lickety split?

Knowing how to integrate the mindís healing powers into the world of conventional medicine can be tricky, so I wanted to lay out some guidelines. But first, a storyÖ

When Grendel Couldnít Heal Herself

As†I wrote about in this post, Grendel the Mojo Pup recently fell off the bed. Initially, she picked herself up, brushed herself off, and went about her merry business. My six year old Siena has been intentionally brainwashed to believe she can heal herself and so can Grendel (those empowering positive beliefs downloaded into her subconscious mind will stay there for the rest of her life unless she consciously reprograms them.)† So after Grendel fell, Siena kept saying to her, ďGrendel, you can heal yourself.Ē

Then, four days later, after Grendel had been progressively improving, she woke up severely short of breath.† As we were racing her to the vet ER, I was explaining to Siena that although I believe itís almost always possible for the mind to heal the body, sometimes all of our best efforts to make this happen leave us still sick. And because we want to ensure that weíre doing everything we can to optimize our chances of getting well, especially when a life may be at risk, we often need outside help.

The Million Dollar Question

Siena said, ďBut Mama, how do you know when itís okay to heal yourself and when you need a doctor to do it for you?Ē

I told her sometimes you need to do both at the same time, and only after youíve tried both and observed the outcome do you know the answer. Itís not worth putting Grendelís Ė or anyoneís Ė life at risk just to test the power of the mind. Healing is not some competition to see who is more powerful Ė the doctor or the patient.† The goal is recovery from the illness, at least amelioration of suffering. Sometimes to achieve that, employing the power of the mind just isnít enough.

The Full Court Press

Once we were at the veterinary ER, the veterinarians started doing their thing. Order X-rays. Insert IV. Push Lasix. Rub on nitroglycerine. Stick a needle in the heart to remove fluid from the pericardium. Doing what doctors do.

In the end, it wasnít enough. The veterinarians couldnít heal Grendel any more than Grendel could. The same sometimes holds true for humans.† Sometimes weíre just supposed to stay sick Ė itís part of our spiritual path here on this earth. Other times, itís just our time to go. But as I sat on the other side of the doctor-patient relationship in that vet ER, I realized something very valuable about seeking medical attention outside the power of the mind, especially when it comes to medical emergencies.

The Value Of Doing Everything You Could

If I had kept Grendel home, instead of admitting her to the veterinary ER, the outcome would have been the same. Grendel would have died a tragic, premature death in my arms (and we would have saved thousands of dollars). But had I made that choice, I might not have known that. I might have made up all these ďwhat ifĒ stories in my mind. What if Grendelís respiratory distress was from something treatable like pneumonia? What if all she needed was a good cardiologist and some drugs to give her another few good years? What if a simple surgery could have saved her life?† What if withholding the full court press from her caused her to die a preventable death?

I know ďwhat ifísĒ donít serve anyone. But I try to live my life without regrets, and the minute I saw my pup sucking in the skin around her rib cage with each labored breath, I knew I wanted to be able to reassure myself, no matter what happened, that I had done everything I could to help my beloved pet, as long as it didnít sacrifice her quality of life. (I was very clear that I would draw the line at anything that prolonged her life at the significant expense of her quality of life.)


Even though veterinary medicine did nothing to save Grendel, I have peace in my heart knowing that they tried, that we hit the limit of what modern medicine has to offer. It made me wonder how much of the true value of what we offer in human medicine rests in the same reassurance of knowing you did everything you could.

Think about most life-threatening illnesses. Yes, some people with cancer are cured with modern medicine. Others succumb to their cancer anyway, but those who sought treatment can at least rest assured that they maxed out everything technology has to offer. The same is true for people with heart disease and strokes and other big killers. Much of the time, we canít cure these patients, but we can do what we can, and they, along with their loved ones, can breathe, knowing we did what we could, even if it often isnít enough.

When To Heal Yourself, When To Go To The ER?

So how do you make the decision for yourself? When do you take measures to heal your mind with the hopes that the body will follow? When do you rush to the doctor and put your body in her hands?

Hereís my take on it all. Unless youíre a risk taker willing to live with the possible regret of ďwhat ifísĒ that accompanies avoiding or denying medical treatment, go to the doctor. Find out your options. Do what you can to support your body biochemically so you can buy time for your mind to do its part. Tap into your†Inner Pilot Light and get your own intuitive read on the best course of action for you. Then, if itís aligned with your truth, get the surgery. Say yes to the chemo if the prognosis is good. Try the drug. See what happens.

Heal The Mind Simultaneously

But donít stop there. Do the deeper work. Diagnose the real reason you might be sick. Get to the root of what could be underlying your illness. Ask yourself the tough questions. Be willing to stare your truth down. Be brave enough to make choices that align your actions with your truth. Otherwise, the surgery and drugs may help you recover from one condition, only to get sick from another because you havenít really healed the real reason youíre sick.

I go into much more detail about how to heal the mind and, with it, the body, in my upcoming book†Mind Over Medicine: Scientific Proof You Can Heal Yourself (Hay House, 2013), but until then ó Ask yourself the #1 most important question. What does my body need in order to heal? Be fearlessly honest with yourself. Listen up. Thatís your Inner Pilot Light speaking.

What Do You Think?

I could write volumes about this subject, but Iíll stop here and let you take over. So please, Iím still learning. Share your thoughts. Teach me what you know. Letís all explore this tricky subject together. Iíll be there in the comments to facilitate the dialogue, so letís get down and dirty on this. Tell me what you think.

With love,


Lissa Rankin, MD: Creator of the health and wellness communities† and†, author of Mind Over Medicine: Scientific Proof You Can Heal Yourself (Hay House, 2013),†TEDx speaker, and Health Care Evolutionary.†Join her newsletter list for free guidance on healing yourself, and check her out on†Twitter and†Facebook.


The Fragility of Life & How to Love Dangerously
Mind Over Medicine: Healing the Body with the Mind
Is It Your Fault If You Get Sick?

Read more: Dogs, Health, Inspiration, Life, Mental Wellness, Pet Health, Pets, Spirit, , , , , , , , ,

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Lissa Rankin

Lissa Rankin, MD is a mind-body medicine physician, founder of the†Whole Health Medicine Institute training program for physicians and other health care providers, and the New York Times bestselling author of†Mind Over Medicine: Scientific Proof That You Can Heal Yourself.† She is on a grassroots mission to heal health care, while empowering you to heal yourself.† Lissa blogs at† and also created two online communities -† and† She is also the author of two other books, a professional artist, an amateur ski bum, and an avid hiker. Lissa lives in the San Francisco Bay area with her husband and daughter.


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12:59AM PST on Nov 10, 2014

Thank you!

12:10AM PST on Jan 5, 2013

i don't meditate I either garden and walk in nature, that is like meditation to me.

8:24AM PDT on Jul 31, 2012

Sorry to hear about Grendel.
There are many mysteries about the human mind, we can't even begin to understand it and in other cultures where meditation is practiced many can number and alter the sensation of pain in ways the western mind is unable to understand.

8:24AM PDT on Jul 31, 2012

Meditation is a time honoured and ancient practice, practiced by many. It has often been used as a tool assisting one in healing and learning to control pain is ancient tradition, one can label this as hypnosis and close to brainwashing if one choses but the Dalai Lama was involved in various discussions with scientists involving mediation and the mind. Not everything related to pain has to be understood in a Western context.

8:24AM PDT on Jul 31, 2012

Thee are many things in the world that are helpful for pain, mediation is useful for those who have spent years using it.

Many people use whatever method(s) that work for them, what suits one may not suit another.

For much of my pain I have found Tai Chi helpful as well. I don't meditate much but there are many who do and who find it comforting as well as many other methods. Nothing is either or and one can pick and choose many options in life when it comes to healing.

5:23PM PDT on Jun 30, 2012

Thank-you so much for sharing this story...

5:38PM PDT on Jun 25, 2012

Lissa, I'm sorry Grendel didn't make it, afterall. I believe we can heal ourselves to a certain extent. I think you did the right thing for yourself, your family and Grendel. By doing everything you could to save her, you don't have to ask yourself what if... Take care.

12:10PM PDT on Jun 25, 2012

In most cases, I don't think that healing yourself and using medicine need to be contradictory. Personally, I would suggest healing yourself when you are comfortable with the level of risk and are confident that you can help yourself, and to seek out medical attention when you are not. Conventional medicine is great at what it does best (injuries, crisis... emergency sort of medicine), and does well at treating some chronic illnesses (and is at least good at treating most other things), so in general, you won't do wrong by seeking out help. That said, it is important to know what you feel comfortable healing yourself, and doing so.

11:21AM PDT on Jun 25, 2012

Great idea.......

4:48PM PDT on Jun 24, 2012

thank you

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