I came across a post on Elephant Journal the other day by Ben Ralston titled The reason why most alternative healing doesn’t work: Secondary Gain. As a Reiki Master and general advocate of alternative healing arts, this title immediately caught my eye and generated an immediately indignant response.
However, the post turned out not to be one that was opposed to alternative healing at all. Instead, the author suggests that most of us have something that we gain from our illnesses and problems (known as secondary gains) and that until these gains are addressed, we are unable to heal. In fact, this can be the case for traditional allopathic treatments just as much as it is true for alternative therapies.
One example he gives was that of a grandmother with cancer whose cancer was not responding to treatments even though all signs would have indicated that it should. It turned out, however, that she was indeed gaining something by being sick. Prior to getting cancer, she had been extremely lonely, but after getting sick, her grandchildren started visiting her every day. She had something to gain by remaining sick, so she did show the expected improvements from her treatments.
While it may seem a bit extreme to want to continue to suffer from cancer in order to be visited more often, it must be remembered that this is a subconscious decision we make when it comes to secondary gains. Having known how painful extreme loneliness can be, I can see how someone might (subconsciously) make this choice. However, it does seem like if someone was consciously aware of this being their secondary gain, it might enable them to get that gain in some other way (other social activities perhaps) without needing to remain ill.
He goes on to describe how this can be seen in cases where someone experiences a huge shift or improvement during an alternative healing treatment that does not seem to “stick” after the fact. He argues that if the person has some secondary gain they are getting from their illness, that the symptoms may return even after a successful healing because their need for that secondary gain is stronger than their need for healing.
While I started reading the article thinking about physical illnesses—and that was indeed his primary focus in the article—it left me deeply pondering the places where I have felt stuck emotionally or psychologically. How many of these places where I have felt so stuck are places where I am getting some kind of secondary gain out of having whatever problem or wound that I seem to be unable to heal? Where am I so attached to the gains I am receiving from my wounds that I am preventing myself from healing in order ensure I keep those gains?
I think if I begin to look at my stuck spots in this light, I may be able to find other ways to meet the needs that these secondary gains are currently meeting so I can let go of the wounds and issues to which I am now clinging and finally move on. It’s been an interesting shift in my thought processes about these stuck spots, and I am finding myself in a whole new season of inquiry and discovery.
I look forward to seeing where this process leads. It gives me hope that I may finally be able to lay some of these challenges to rest!
A Note on Comments: A chrysalis is by nature a fragile and vulnerable place to be, so I am committed to keeping this a safe place for me and for my readers. Comments sharing your own journey, even if your experience is different from mine, are always welcome and encouraged. Expressions of support or encouragement are also welcome. Comments that criticize, disparage, correct, or in any way attempt to undermine the validity of another person’s experience or personal insight are not welcome here and will be deleted.