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Article by Grace Gawler


Healing intervention is no different to orthodox medical surgery – the least intervention is what should be required for the largest effect. After a surgical intervention, the surgeon’s job is complete. It is then the patient’s job to create the ongoing environment in which the body can heal. To rest, be still and practice self care. Other healing approaches require the same criteria.  Combining therapies across these levels, we have a synergy known as Holistic Healing. With this healing dynamic processes can be initiated and energies moved, for our point of discussion, particularly emotional energies.

It has been my observation women with breast cancer demonstrate a specific emotional anatomy that is reflected in their musculature. Particularly we see the evidence in the area between the shoulder blades close to the spine also known as the heart plexus or in Hindu culture the heart chakra. Tremendous tension is often felt in this area. The solar plexus area is also similarly effected.  Issues of being “sick at heart” and low self esteem relate to these areas.

In other words not only are these psychological/emotional issues; but they have a counterpart in the body structure. Muscular shape is sculptured by repetitive, habitual emotional and psychological responses to life.  This is the primary area I address with clients using many methods including gentle bodywork, body awareness exercises, listening based counselling etc. Sometimes release comes via the methods just mentioned, sometimes via psycho-dynamic work or through the patient’s own awareness; in my experience the preferred method.

For women with breast cancer, these patterns may stem from the “nice person” syndrome, the person who can’t say NO, the person who lives their life through others (children, husbands etc); but who has a deep longing, a deep grief to retrieve the real person that they know is somewhere inside.  The illness can give them permission for this soul retrieval process and often becomes the issue more of interest than dealing specifically with the cancer itself!

When one is speaking directly to the heart of the matter and a connection, which I can only term a soul connection has been made; women know that you know their silent grief.  Empathic connection then results in a deep inner experience, expressive, safe and self voiced.

Sometimes the forces from the heart and solar plexus become so powerful that there is no way that repression can continue.  It is potent, primal, natural and uncontrived and is a profound healing. The soul becomes aware right then and there in that very moment. Clients have described this sensation as like an invisible cyst of energy that gives no option but to be released. Although women are often surprised and perhaps embarrassed by this, at the same time they experience an enormous release that leaves behind a feeling of being clean and free.

For my part, follow up is extremely important. Now what we as healers might think is the best thing to do is to “fix” this release, there is something we have to do rather than gently support without intrusion into the person’s process/boundary.   With our good intention we can stop this process and the dynamic release of energy can reverse and re-implode.  It is always a challenge to “be” with someone in their pain without trying to stop it fix it or change it. This also means we have to deal with our own psychic pain, walk our talk and develop a personal spiritual practice.  A real challenge for the modern day healer.

There is a distinct difference in the catharsis that is induced by doing things with or to the client. Some therapies can result in energetic release that in my experience can be overwhelming and cause more energy loss for the person dealing with cancer.

The process of client initiated catharsis is one of spontaneous, direct self-awareness at a particular point in time and is the most potent release. There is a psychological/emotional AHAA that accompanies the release bringing a new awareness and understanding to the client. In terms of energy it is empowering, a freeing up of energy making it available rather than scattering the energy of the client which can be debilitating.

Our bodies carry the truth of our life experience in the cells, in the memory, in the DNA. Indeed our biography does become our biology!   We need to aim to provide a safe environment for our clients to experience release in their own time and in their own way. As healers we owe it to people to help them be re empowered and help them to re engage with the trust that their body does know what to do. As healers I believe we assist clients to get their internal environment balanced.  When illness occurs particularly a life threatening one people believe that the body has failed them and can’t be trusted.  It has grown tumours that could rob them of their life and so they put trust out there that someone else has the answer. Someone else knows how to fix it not them.  Modern medicine has many answers when the metaphorical horse has truly bolted from the cellular gate; however as we know that is not the whole solution.

It is still the person who has the cancer that demands much more attention. Chopra states that “cancer is the genius of the body gone mad.” As healers our aim is to assist clients to re connect with self, re-find homeostasis on all levels and to help bring that “genius” back into balance. It is important to re empower people so they can walk again in their life with their eyes wide open, making conscious choices about how they can best live and live well.


Acknowledgement:  This may simply involve telling your story, thus bringing your life history to conscious awareness. Journal writing can also work extremely well for those who feel daunted by speaking to a group or who can’t face a counsellor.  Most people are amazed to read their life story in this context. Telling your life story has the power to gently tap into memory and therefore shift and bring movement to “stuck” emotional patterns.

Recognition:  Awareness that change is required as the way you have coped is no longer appropriate. It no longer serves you. Consider that so far your life is a product of the past. Questions such as are you happy with your life now? What simple changes could you implement to make it better? From the story can you choose key events that you recognise as important and need resolving and work out how they can be resolved. Obviously these issues will be different for each woman and result from individual life experience. Remember no one can change you. Change can be catalysed in to action by a healer/ doctor/ practitioner; but real and lasting change only comes with personal awareness and belongs to the client.

Respect:  Respect the effort it has taken to survive and respect the feelings that you have withheld to do this at times.  No rights or wrongs just time to let go of old patterns that no longer serve you. Importantly, remember what is right with you rather than just what is wrong with you. The respectful and gentle release of withheld feelings I deem to be highly important in the healing process. For women, putting a “lid” of positive thinking principles over the top of unrecognised, unreleased or ignored emotions is not being honest with yourself. Healing requires that we be honest with ourselves. Women with breast cancer can fall into the trap of trying to be the perfect patient. ( as therapists also need to be aware of this ).Their coping is so well rehearsed and they are trying so hard to be positive for everyone else’s sake that their grief becomes buried even deeper so that no one can see.  But ultimately they know it is there and without new managing skills they feel powerless to do anything about it. In other words their behaviours are transferred rather than transformed.

Taking time out, bottoming out for a few days, facing the shadows or the fears is recommended in a safe and nurturing environment.

Re-engaging with heart and Passion:  Following a personal passion is important for our health as is some humour.  Healing with heart and passion may mean rediscovering something that you adored doing in the past that you no longer do or it may be discovering a new and creative side of yourself. Many indigenous cultures would call this healing process, the recovery of soul loss. I cannot express it in a clearer phrase.

Using the principals above, thousands of patients I have worked with have re engaged with life again. Despite a diagnosis of breast cancer, despite secondary tumours, despite even facing their death they live well with cancer to the point that their cancer becomes almost incidental to the personal transformation that they have undergone.

Medicine in general needs to understand the importance of this type of healing.

The nature of suffering is still not understood and addressed in modern medicine.  The issues of emotion, the recognition of and attention to post traumatic stress disorder associated with diagnosis, issues with altered body image and most importantly how patients go on living with a life altering illness. People now live longer with conditions that previously would have killed them.

As modern medicine advances the diagnostics, interventions and treatments are brilliant. Indeed I now have a pacemaker in my buttock and four electrodes that operate my lower bowel function. It is bionic, wonderful and very, very intelligent; but the women with breast cancer the issues that brought me to this point were not addressed by any of my medical practitioners and I had to find my own options by reading foreign medical journals and being proactive. The issues of living with colostomy and ileostomy bags, my new relationship and the uncertainty of my situation, were not addressed nor was I referred for assistance.

Somehow we must design new models of humanistic care to partner the wonderful advances that medicine has made in the 21stcentury. To truly provide integrated systems of care that addressed body, mind, emotion and spirit is my vision. Emotional healing demands the utmost attention.

From Women of Silence:

The Emotional Healing of Breast Cancer Grace Adamson -Gawler re published U.K 2003.


24 Nov 2010

Last Update: 9 Dec 2014

Article/Information supplied by Grace Gawler

Disclaimer - Any general advice given in any article should not be relied upon and should not be taken as a substitute for visiting a qualified medical Doctor.