Hippocrates first identified medical “crises” as times in the evolution of an illness when the symptoms of chronic dysfunction and disorder reach an inflammatory crescendo.

He observed that these crises could be extinguished by death or fester as chronic illness — but, if a physician understood the nature of the crisis and addressed its causes, and if its sufferers were both physically and psychologically supported, they could often transform the grave threat into what he called a “healing crisis.” He described a healing crisis as a cleansing, detoxifying process that gives birth to a new, more integrated and stable state of physical and emotional health and wellbeing.

This latter crisis successfully resolves when physician and sufferer stop trying to subdue its symptoms but instead regard them both as arrows pointing backward, toward the causes of distress, and forward, toward the means to resolve it.

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