Rethinking Illness Recovery

In recovering from an illness or injury we learn to come to term with a new world. In this world the illusion of safety is gone, our bodies and minds have failed us and a new way of being is called forth. Richo (2006) explains, “things to not always to according to plan…to say yes to this given is to trust that the universe has a plan for us and that things are unfolding in this life in time for us to grow into the beings we were meant to be”.

There are three key components to the process of recovery from an illness:

1. Recovering from symptoms and restoring social functioning
Looking at what happened, our environment, our interactions, our thoughts, feelings and reactions with a sense of kindness and warmth. As we go through recovery we are forced to let go of the past, mourn our life as it was, and feel the intensity of emotions that surfaces. We may become impatient with ourselves. Our heartlessness comes from our vulnerability and can help us connect with our natural compassion and natural strength to move forward.

2. Reestablishing a positive sense of self
Rediscovering parts of our being that make us feel whole, complete, worthy and integrating them into our new world. We may begin to notice shifts in the quality of our lives, changes in our relationships, changes in our body, and many other transformative events increase our vitality as our sense of self grows in new directions.

3. Rebuilding a meaningful life
Redefining what is meaningful and gaining access to the source of our energy and enthusiasm for life. What is really important in our life? Who do we choose to share it with? What project is calling for our attention?

The process of healing can feel like a new birth. While taking the illness or injury into consideration, we embark on a new journey that has the opportunity to lead us home, more alive and awake then ever before.

O’Donohue summarizes in a simple words how may change unfold:

Possibility and change become growth within the shape of time what we call a day. Days are where we live. This rhythm shapes our lives…a day is precious because each day is essentially the microcosm of your whole life. Each new day offers possibilities and promises that were never seen before…the new day deepens what has already happened and unfolds what is surprising, unpredictable and creative. You may wish to change your life, you may be in therapy or religion, but your new vision remains merely talk until it enters the practice of your day.

In therapy sessions we can work gently and steadily with the process of change allowing illness recovery to occur from the inside out.


O’Donohue, J.(2004). Anam Cara. A Book of Celtic Wisdom. New York: Harper Perennial.

Richo, D. (2006). The Five Things We Cannot Change. Boston: Shambhala.

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