So often, my patients will ask me, what do you eat? What do you do for exercise? What supplements do you take? How did you survive menopause? How do you manage stress? I feel like they want to know because they are looking for a real live example of what it looks like and what it takes to not only survive, yet thrive in our modern day, as far as their health is concerned.
The word doctor is derived from the Latin word docere, which means to teach. Many of us have taken the translation and perhaps the application of the word, to mean that part of delivering excellent health care is through the medium of the spoken word. As practitioners, we use words to teach in our practices, write articles, lecture in the community or educational institutions and publish research. We empower people by using words to explain to them about all aspects of their situation and substantiate our recommendations given with solid rationale. We increase both awareness and therefore compliance in the people with whom we come into contact by verbally explaining what might be contributing to a certain condition and perhaps even providing a clear set of written follow-up instructions. We do indeed teach. However, taken one step further, “to educate” actually comes from the Latin educere, which means to lead.
An effective and successful practitioner must be able to do more than just verbally teach; we must be able to educate. To educate is to lead, by example, with full commitment to the ever present, multifactorial process of our own self-growth, actualization and healing.
Both Sigmund Freud and C.G. Jung recognized the unconscious processes that occur in people through identification and learning from example. Freud described identification as occurring when “one ego becomes like another one, which results in the first ego behaving.1” Jung stressed the importance of education through example, because the primitive psyche does not carefully distinguish between oneself and the environment. This unconscious education through example is one of the oldest psychic characteristics and is effective when other direct methods fail. Jung concludes, “In the last analysis, all education rests on this fundamental fact of psychic identity, and in all cases the deciding factor is this seemingly automatic contagion through example. This is so important that even the best methods of conscious education can sometimes be completely nullified by bad example.2”
Daniel M. Block, in his avant-garde 2003 publication, The Revolution of Naturopathic Medicine: Remaining True to Our Philosophy,3 suggests Hippocrates’ famous statement, “Physician Heal Thyself” become the seventh philosophical point of naturopathic medicine “because implementing it, carrying it forth within our curriculum, and embodying it amongst our practitioners is crucial for our medicine’s well-being and future.” He asserts “if doctors do not heal themselves, they have less understanding of how to act in conjunction with the points of our philosophy because each point requires the understanding of the process of healing. To treat each person as an individual, one must be able to understand the unique difficulties, issues, fears and challenges each person faces.” He then suggests that, “The further we are along the path of transformation of our personal growth, the more we can be skilled and sensitive to understand what causes another’s disease.”
We are the healing container that our patients seek out to get help and feel safe to partner with. In order to intuit compassion, ease, gentleness and understanding, providing the necessary space for the immeasurable bandwidth of emotions, feelings, sentiments and experiences our patients present, it is imperative that we have a process of understanding ourselves. Whether it be with our bodies (e.g., healing from a physical crisis, being increasingly conscious of how we nourish ourselves, reaching and maintaining an ideal weight); with our minds (e.g., calming the judgmental tendencies we suffer due to our own fear and ignorance of the incongruences we have within the chasm of “knowing” and “doing”); with our hearts (e.g., calming the fires of pain around unresolved or misunderstood emotional issues); or with our souls (e.g., screaming from a deeper place, crying out for attention and begging us to change), we must continue to become aware and grow our own container in order to be able to authentically and fully facilitate this growth in another person.
Our patients, as well, usually come in most often because they want, need, and often are craving something different from themselves, their bodies, their lives, or from the conventional medical paradigm in which they have been dwelling. To help meet their needs, the recommendation and therapies we have to offer will inevitably require numerous things in their lives to change. Change can be full of effort and excruciating for people and, often times, an obstacle for cure; but, it is like the old adage, “do what you have always done; get what you have always gotten.” This is the time in our therapeutic relationships with our patients when we can almost be a walking and breathing homeopathic remedy. Just being in our presence can make a difference in people’s lives and can cultivate hope as well as inspiration. This is when we merely shine the light of health because we are not only practicing what we preach; we are practicing how we as people understand the magnificent journey of this life.
We, as practitioners, need to lead by example in every part of our lives, demonstrating how health in all aspects is related to being in harmony with nature. This is seen not only by being free of physical disease or not eating sugar or refined food products, but also by being powerful and in process with all the disharmony and issues we face in our lives, our relationships and our life’s work. We understand the subtleties and possibilities of the healing journey when we embark on and stay committed to that which makes us better: staying on a consistent supportive diet that nourishes us, releasing toxic thoughts and worries that burden our energy and darken our spirit, being able to channel grace even in difficult and challenging situations, being authentic and true people, failing and learning through it all and, by all means, being gentle with ourselves through the ever-winding process.
1 Bronfenbrenner, U. (1960). Freudian theories of identification and their derivatives. Child Development, 31(1), 15-40,
2 Dunne, C. (2000) Carl Jung: Wounded Healer of the Soul. New York: Parabola Books.
3 Block, D.M. (2003). The revolution of naturopathic medicine: Remaining true to our philosophy. Montreal: Montreal Collective Co-op.
Dr. Holly Lucille is a nationally recognized licensed naturopathic physician, lecturer, educator and author of Creating and Maintaining Balance: A Women’s Guide to Safe, Natural, Hormone Health. Her private practice, Healing From Within Healthcare, focuses on comprehensive naturopathic medicine and individualized care. Outside of her practice, Dr. Lucille holds a position on the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians board of directors and is on the faculty of the Global Medicine Education Foundation. She is the past president of the California Naturopathic Doctors Association, where she spearheaded a lobbying effort to have naturopathic doctors licensed in the state of California. A graduate from the Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine, Dr. Lucille’s commitment to naturopathic medicine has been recognized with the Daphne Blayden Award and, more recently, the SCNM Legacy Award.