When I do an Acupuncture and Herbal Medicine consult with a patient, I hardly take any notes. I jot down a skeleton of what they tell me and later when they are relaxing on the table having acupuncture I flesh out the notes. Why? Because I want to be present and listen to their story.

I believe in the healing power of being heard; storytelling is a time honoured practise that has allowed humans to pass down knowledge to the next generation, allowing our race to advance in ways that no other species has. When we tell our story we engage many parts of our brain, including our memories; we reflect, emotions come up, we connect. I always endeavour to hold space for my patients because every story takes energy and a huge amount of trust to tell.

Listening is a special skill and one that is often overlooked in our bustling day-to-day fast lived lives. Usually, it is a skill that needs to consciously be taught and practiced. When I listen to someone tell me their story, I try to suspend all judgement, I surrender in order to give them the space and I find this avoids pretence and builds a healthy rapport. My aim is to humbly walk beside them in the spirit of camaraderie, rather than as an authoritarian figure.

As a practitioner for over 10 years I have observed that it is very hard to hear yourself and to really stay on track with what you are trying to say when the person you are talking to is not truly listening. Here is a challenge for you, next time you find yourself waffling off topic or losing track of what you are trying to tell someone, stop and listen to yourself speak. Listen to the sound of the words in your ears and the vibration in your chest. Usually one of two things happen, either you stop talking because what you were saying wasn’t necessary, or alternatively the person you were talking to actually starts engaging and listening properly! This happens because we can’t truly hear someone who isn’t listening to themselves, and conversely, we need to listen to ourselves to stay on track and engage.

In the natural medicine world there is a phase, vis medicatrix naturae, literally meaning “the healing power of nature”. Our bodies are always trying to return to a state of health and happiness. Sometimes there are roadblocks in the way, which is where a practitioner can tweak the circumstances, but in the end the real healing comes from within the patient. My patients need to listen to themselves tell their own story as part of their healing process. When we accept this as an integral part of the healing journey, we begin to feel empowered to make that journey.

We all need to be heard, our stories are our reality, our truth. It is the way we see the world, and if I am to help you on your healing journey then I need to be open to meeting you where your story leaves space for me.

To book an appointment with Dr Shirley O’Dwyer please call 9754 2062, or book online.

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