Healing Effect of Listening: Jewish Perspective

cf06784a4902dae9d21f765958cba822I recently went to the Doctor because of a nagging shoulder injury.  When I got to his office, he came in and, as usual, asked me what was wrong.  As he touched the joint and we talked about it, it suddenly felt better.  I’m sure everyone is familiar with this. The question is: Can doctors heal simply by seeing you, touching you and talking to you.  Perhaps they can because doctors are among the few people nowadays who have time for you. Maybe when you finally stop and tell someone the story of what ails you, it feels better.

The greatest healing therapy is friendship and love. – Hubert H. Humphrey 

c452c703d794834e66176cbe37fbb3c7There is much research that confirms this.  Healing may indeed be mediated through doctors who come in and want to help, nurses who tend to your daily needs, clergy who come to your bedside to comfort your troubled spirit and friends who share in your pain.  For most of human history, conventional wisdom taught that healing can happen through the goodness of healers and care-givers.  Impressive advances in the 1950’s and 60’s initiated a new understanding of medicine through sophisticated diagnostic tests, pharmaceutical magic bullets and advanced surgical techniques.  Yet today we know that bio-medicine does not have all the answers despite improved diagnosis, more specialists and a dazzling array of drugs.  We understand that our bodies are complex and mysterious. That is why our tradition offers the daily Asher Yatzar prayer to thank God daily that all our pathways and openings work correctly.  Medical schools now teach clinicians to connect to the patient as people not just to their condition. We now know that the quality of doctor-patient relationships can affect the medical outcome.   This effect has the power to extend to all of us, who might not be doctors but who may be great listeners.

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“O God what will you give me if I remain childless… You have given me no children” – Abraham calls out to God in pain  (Bereshit/Genesis 15:2-3) in our Torah (Old Testament)

In the next chapter, Sarah with a heavy heart speaks to Abraham of her infertility.  Once they share their struggles aloud, God hears their prayers and grants them a son.

My wife and I shared the frustration of infertility early in our marriage.  We kept our hardship behind closed doors, watching our friends and siblings conceive easily “without even trying” while we could not.  We were happy for others, but secretly worried we would never share in the joy and miracle of children.  We eventually received fertility treatments and now have three wonderful children.  We are keenly aware that so many have similar struggles these days. The difference is that people are more open to talking about it.  When they do, Cheryl and I can share what we went through, offer advice and support. Though we can’t cure infertility, by talking about it we can reduce stress and allow room for healing of body and spirit.  I believe that is the secret to the healing touch of doctors in the office, that the relationship between two humans opens the door to healing.  It’s what Abraham and Sarah found when they opened up about their condition and God heard and answered their prayer.  It gives the sense of love and meaning to life when two people see in each other the image of God.  And that is where true healing begins.

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