From The Intelligent Optimist
Heal yourself in 12 empowering steps with Ruediger Dalhke’s transformative medicine.
By Carol Greenhouse
A formidable paradox lies at the heart of Western medicine. While modern health care is designed to bring about resurrection, its primary means is destruction. Doctors suppress patients’ symptoms with an arsenal of pharmaceuticals. Nearly a million prescriptions for antibiotics are written daily in the U.S. to attack enemy bacteria. And cancer victims are poisoned by chemotherapy and radiation, which kills both healthy cells and sick ones.
And, in fact, no matter how free of illness we consider ourselves to be, our bodies themselves are walking war zones. Toxins invade. Our immune systems launch offensives. Disease agents retreat, the war is won by one side or another. Even the language of medicine is a language of war.
Eastern medicine uses less aggressive treatments that involve balance and restoration, herbs and chakras and flow. These methods are proven effective in many cases. But for all its violent tactics, conventional medicine is the Western treatment model of choice.
Developed in Europe by German physician Ruediger Dahlke, Transformative Medicine goes where no model has gone before—our psyches. “Illness doesn’t just unfold in the body,” Dahlke says, speaking via Skype from TamanGa, his retreat center in Austria, where the retired doctor, speaker and author of 60 books hosts Europeans who come to learn to heal themselves. It’s a bold claim, but Dahlke, a conventionally trained physician who worked with patients using Transformative Medicine for more than 30 years, believes germs, genes and contagion are just part of the story. “Before a problem shows up in the body as a symptom, it makes it presence known in the psyche as a theme, idea, wish or fantasy,” Dahlke says. “Our bodies are stages on which these unresolved psychological conflicts play out. If we navigate our conflicts with courage before they descend into the body, there is no need to become sick.”
But he doesn’t stop there. He believes one of the key paths to both preventing and transforming poor health is something he calls constructive aggression. In today’s world, aggression is a bad word. It conjures images of rubber bullets at the standoff over clean water in Standing Rock, North Dakota, bombed-out shells of buildings in Syria and American police officers beating unarmed black citizens. But to Dahlke, aggression is a pure force that can be used to serve positive or negative ends. When it’s wielded to negative ends, he calls it destructive aggression. But courage, decisiveness, power, dedication, confrontation, will and motivation are all examples of constructive aggression—without which no spring bulb would push up through the earth, no civil-rights movement would get traction and no woman would have a natural birth.
“Western philosophy as a whole is based on destructive aggression,” Dahlke says. “If we’re against anything, we fight it. But we don’t want to fight our symptoms. We want to understand them, shift the underlying issues and bring in the solution.”
Here’s the irony: As soon as we advance the idea that we have the ability to heal ourselves in mainstream society, we have our first run-in with destructive aggression. The pharmaceutical industry and conventional doctors become angry because they don’t benefit. Many people resist the idea because it’s a dramatic departure from the status quo. Still others are offended by the implication that those who are sick are to blame for their ill health. But blame is not the issue from Dahlke’s perspective. Responsibility and awareness are. “This attempt to make ourselves unreceptive to our psychological side leads directly to the first degree of escalation: we get a symptom—slight, innocent, yet totally faithful,” he writes in The Healing Power of Illness, his first book to come out in the U.S. in 2016.
“After the functional disturbances—with which we generally learn to live—the acute inflammatory symptoms make themselves felt. Laypeople can recognize these symptoms by the suffix ‘itis.’ Every inflammatory condition is meant to make visible some unconscious conflict. If it fails, an acute inflammation develops into a chronic condition (easily identified by the suffix ‘osis’). And slowly, such chronic processes lead to irreversible physical changes known as incurable illness.”
Transformative Medicine offers the antidote, says Dahlke. To prevent and address any issue—from insomnia to epilepsy, tennis elbow to cancer—we must befriend risk, fear, courage, discernment, passion, disappointment, emptiness and so on: the full range of human experience, without shying from the hard actions and emotions. “We have to live by mythological ideals,” Dahlke says. “Find our tasks. Use our power. Live from our hearts. That way our organs are safe. When we fight our battles at the right level, we don’t have to get sick. Then the body can be our playground.”
Dahlke has been teaching people to treat illness in this unique way for most of his professional life. But the greatest strength of Transformative Medicine may be that it holds the power to keep us from damaging our bodies in the first place. That, of course, has mind-blowing public-health implications. Here’s what he suggests you do about it:
1 Change your perspective. “Instead of thinking, ‘Illness is bad,’ or ‘I can’t be aggressive; I have to be polite,’ think, ‘What is my body telling me?’ and ‘How can I channel my power in a constructive way?’ Looking at things differently makes things different. Make change at the consciousness level, and the physical level will follow.”
2 Change your diet. “Stop eating meat and dairy products; studies show the negative effects of animal protein. Start with a fast to clear the toxic elements that have built up.”
3 Address your problems and symptoms on both the physical and psychological levels. “Conventional medicine isn’t wrong. It just doesn’t go far enough. It stops at the surface. Transformative Medicine affirms the existence of germs or genes—and adds the psyche, myth and consciousness to the diagnostic equation. Know when you’re out of balance, and take steps—sometimes challenging ones—to rebalance yourself.”
4 Love yourself. “Including your symptoms. It’s easy to be grateful to fate looking back. Cultivate gratitude looking forward. See where your symptoms lead. That makes loving them possible. At first it’s hard, but it gets easier, and you’ll like living this way.”
5 Love your enemies. “Loving your enemies asks you to understand that you’re projecting your shortcomings onto others and to take back those projections. It benefits both you and society.”
6 Go with the flow. “You lose a lot of energy to resistance. Invest yourself most fully in the places where your life says ‘Yes!’ and everything becomes easier.”
7 Live a bold, realized life. “Look for ways to use your courage constructively, in service of your own growth and that of others. If your growth is only on the material level, you may develop a growth issue in your body. If we get stuck at the consciousness level, we may begin to grow physically, resulting in cancer or obesity.”
8 Ask yourself, “What’s wrong with me?” “Don’t pass your problems or your symptoms off on university medicine or on germs and viruses. Go inward. Look for patterns. Take responsibility for what’s happening to you, whether it be frequent colds, a strange series of accidents, or an increasingly serious condition. You have more effect on what happens to you than you have understood. Change destructive patterns and watch how it transforms your health.”
9 Integrate death into your life. “If you don’t do this consciously, it can turn into depression or burnout. When the sense is lacking in our work, our partnerships, our religion or our philosophies, we miss living in the moment. We can’t live without sense.”
10 Help change the health-care model. “Illness starts early. In lung cancer, it starts with the first cigarette and the communication problem that accompanies it. You build on that with every cigarette, and in 40 years, you’ve built up enough toxicity to cause illness. If you take the first moment seriously and ask yourself why you’re smoking, you can solve the problem at the start by taking another route to grow up rather than the cigarette ritual.”
11 Work with the wishes of your heart. “You prevent illness and symptoms the same way you treat them. To prevent heart problems, for example, you listen to your heart’s longings before it’s in pain. Find out what your longings are and live up to them.”
12 Look beyond your problems to their meaning. “Be willing to work with your resistance every time you encounter it. Then you can prevent all sorts of problems.