What’s a Healing Crisis?

Allow me to introduce Karen, a Reiki student whose contagious enthusiasm, fascination, and curiosity inspired me to invite her to collaborate on a Q&A series. We are hoping that sharing the experience of how Reiki has affected her in such a relatively short period of time will validate others who are having similar experiences that seem far-fetched.

Karen: What’s a healing crisis and how do I know if I’m having one?

Pamela: Great question! A healing crisis can happen after a holistic health treatment or Reiki attunement. As the body adjusts to a new energy level, it begins to release stored toxins and/or emotions. This is a necessary part of the healing process but can feel… uncomfortable.

For instance, I tend to hold unexpressed anger in my left hip. When I receive work on that area, afterwards I sometimes sense that old and seemingly irrelevant anger rises to the surface. Sometimes there can be a flu-like response as toxins that had been stuck in that stagnant anger are being processed. Knowing that these are symptoms of healing, I’m able to support the process by drinking extra water or herbal teas, doing gentle stretches and movement, or taking an Epsom salt bath rather than sinking into despair or taking OTC meds. The awareness that I’m letting go of the very source of the pain in my hip encourages me to stick with it and be gentle and kind with myself rather than examining where I went wrong or why I’m feeling sick.

As for knowing if you’re having a healing reaction, I’m not sure you can ever really know. There’s not a blood test or any way to measure this. If your intuition is telling you this is a meaningful response, then most likely it is! If you recently had a treatment or an attunement, the chances are good that you are. The mind wants to know and define and label, but the truth is it doesn’t really matter for the healing. Just like any other symptoms; we notice, accept, get present with a loving heart, and use whatever tools we have to help ourselves.

Karen: It was interesting to experience the healing crisis and as time has passed, I’ve definitely realized that is what I was going through. The symptoms that led me to Reiki in the first place – a chronic back problem, anxiety, and depression – were suddenly acute! My back went into spasm, I was feeling overwhelmed and sad, and had a respiratory virus all of a sudden. But through this process, I continued to do my Reiki practice and gained perspective that enabled me to observe it without getting caught up in the experience. And it passed quickly, leaving me refreshed and with a renewed sense of possibility. Ordinarily a back spasm takes about six weeks to fully heal, but this healing crisis lasted less than a week and my back has been nearly pain-free since it occurred.

Pamela: First of all, I’m sorry to hear that the symptoms went acute. Ugh! Overall, I think it’s a good sign, but I empathize nonetheless. Secondly, let me commend you for continuing to give yourself Reiki and not getting caught up in the story about this discomfort! This is an important piece of healing: awareness and taking care of yourself. Recognizing that symptoms are a message of a deeper imbalance can point us toward addressing the underlying causes. Keep with it! I’ve been practicing for over 15 years now, and I still have episodes. Yesterday as I was preparing for a new client, my low back seized up. I met this woman for the very first time while I was bent over and unable to stand up straight. I was mortified to have to cancel a session at the last minute, but it was quite clear that I urgently needed to tend to my own needs. This was a resurgence of the original back pain I experienced as an adolescent, and a powerful reminder that there is still healing to be done and emotions to be released. Recognizing this, I dug into processing and self-care and less than 24 hours later I am 95% better. I don’t think I would have recovered so quickly without the awareness of healing crises. Which points to synchronicity- which will be our next topic!

Note to Karen: if I’m to be personally experiencing the topics we discuss here, let’s be sure to cover some joyful and pleasurable questions soon!

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