Part 5: Health In Relationships — 44 Revelations About Healing They DID NOT Teach Me In Medical School

Lissa Rankin, MD
7 min readFeb 14, 2024

In this series, I’m reviewing the Cliff Notes of everything I should have learned in medical school, but didn’t- and everything I’ve learned since I finished my medical training about healing from my own research and self-study. If you haven’t yet read the first 10 revelations about healing that I didn’t learn in medical school, please read Part 1 here, Part 2 here, Part 3 here and Part 4 here.

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29. We have to unconditionally love all our parts in order to truly heal.

As children, we all crave unconditional love. Most of us have young parts that so desperately crave unconditional love that they will not rest until they find that perfect acceptance. This desperate desire for perfect, unconditional love outside ourselves can drive us to make self-destructive choices that interrupt the healing process.

Ultimately, this unconditional love must come from within. But because we start off looking for it in our parents- and later, in our partners, mentors, and friends- we wind up disillusioned because there’s inevitably a breakdown- and other people will inevitably let us down- because they’re human, and humans are rarely, if ever, capable of showing up for us with perfect acceptance. That breakdown registers in our nervous systems as traumatic- and almost all of us go through this devastating let down.

The solution is to mature into a more adult understanding of love, offer unconditional love to our own young parts, and manage our expectations of what other imperfect humans are capable of offering with regard to unconditional love. And that’s realistic. People who expect others to love them unconditionally often treat them badly and expect to get hall passes when they misbehave. Likewise, people who strive to love someone else unconditionally often wind up neurotically tolerating abusive behavior with poor boundaries, all in the name of unconditional love.

We can love someone and still protect ourselves. We can love someone and still leave the relationship and go no contact. We can love someone and still hold them accountable or even put them behind bars. We can love someone from across the globe and never see them again.

Because it’s okay to strive to love someone unconditionally. But access to our bodies, our homes, our emotions, our intimate relationships, our bank account, our children, and the intimate privileges that come from being close to- should be very conditional. If someone is abusive, we need to withdraw access to such privileges. Otherwise, unconditional love can quickly become masochistic self-abuse, and that makes us sick.

Real healing- of ourselves and others- requires us to point the finger back at ourselves, doing a YOU-Turn, in order to do our best to become intimate with our hurt parts so they can finally give up the immature quest for perfect love outside ourselves.

30. You matter.

Many people who wind up sick have a distorted idea about their worth, their value, and their identity because of childhood trauma. They also develop distorted world views and belief systems because of childhood trauma. For example, they may grow up believing their only worth is to be useful to someone else, rather than knowing their essential worth just because they’re a human being, and all humans have worth. They may grow up believing they’re damaged goods, they’re broken, and nobody will ever love them. They may also grow up feeling defined by mental or physical illness, such as being a sickly child or a psychiatric patient who is the loser in the family. Healing your identity requires unraveling those distorted ideas about yourself and the world and replacing them with more accurate, truthful ideas about yourself and the world.

People who are cured from “incurable” diseases often report having had a transformation experience of their value, their worth, their identity, their belief systems, and their worldview in a life-altering way. Whether via a therapeutic relationship, a safe, close friendship, or a spiritual experience, these folks come away from this transformational experience realizing that the world isn’t just a cold, unfriendly place, that they have real, true value- and other people do too, that love exists and is available to all.

31. Love heals.

You can heal yourself; and you can’t do it alone. While the body is equipped to heal itself, most of us can’t do what trauma healing asks of us in isolation. Even introverts need safe, nurturing, non-judgmental, loving helpers, healers, caregivers, friends, and a community of support that holds us and nurtures us when we’re on a healing journey. Love is what gives us the will to live. If there’s not enough love, some people just give up and passively resign themselves to their fate. Without enough will to live, we simply cannot thrive.

32. Healthy boundaries heal.

The body will say no if you don’t have good boundaries. Many people who say they want to be cured are unaware that they have some parts that sincerely would do anything to be disease-free, but they also have other parts that absolutely do not want to let go of the medical reasons that get them out of things they don’t want to do- like going to a job they hate, cleaning the house until it’s spotless because their partner is OCD, or listening to their narcissistic mother-in-law monologue incessantly. While most of us would never consciously sabotage our health, other parts flying beneath the radar of the conscious mind think they’re protecting you by using your body to help you get unmet needs met. For example, if you can’t say no because your boundaries are wounded, your nervous system is in a hypoaroused dorsal vagal state, and you’re conditioned to fawn entitled narcissists, you might need a legitimate medical excuse to say no. And if you’re sick and getting a big fat disability check from a job you used to hate, some parts will want to keep the disability check and avoid going back to the soul-sucking job. Becoming aware and deepening intimacy with parts that might have a valid reason for not wanting you to get better is a key part of healing medical conditions, but it’s entirely overlooked in conventional medicine.

33. Reciprocity in relationships is medicine for your body.

You are worthy of enjoying reciprocal, healthy relationships, and you deserve to protect yourself from controlling relationships and narcissistic abuse. Nurturing, loving, empathic, reciprocal, healthy relationships with good boundaries and shared power improve your health. Being oppressed by narcissistic abuse, having your boundaries repetitively crossed by others with wounded boundaries, being overpowered and dominated, and losing touch with your autonomy, agency, and ability to stand up and protect yourself from those who might take advantage of your vulnerability, kind disposition, good nature, and generosity is associated with an increased risk of disease and decreases longevity. If you’re getting sucked dry by vampiric relationships, your health will deteriorate. Reciprocal relationships with healthy give and take support Whole Health and improve longevity.

34. Healing is a relational activity.

As much as it might feel empowering to rugged individualists who imagine that we can heal ourselves, without the help of anyone else, the idea of healing alone is not grounded in reality. It takes a village to help a physically or mentally ill person heal. The good news is that if your life force or will to live dwindles, other people can help lift you up.

While all living beings have life force flowing through them, when yours gets weak, you may need someone else (or a circle of someone else’s) whose life force is flowing with less impediment to boost yours until your own life force can move through you unimpeded. Humans are beautifully designed to be capable of entraining other humans into more free flow of life force. This is at the core of how psychotherapy works. If the therapist can show up with a lot of “Self,” they can help entrain the Self of the client, thereby boosting their life force until the client can do this on their own.

The opposite is also true. While other people can boost your life force, they can also suck you dry. This is how narcissists drain their victims, using the same methods that can be used for healing others to vampirically suck the life force out of their prey, leaving their narcissistic supply vulnerable to disease. But just like blood transfusions in someone who is actively bleeding, life force transfusions are temporary. They don’t cure you, but they can give you a boost until you stop the hemorrhage of whatever is leaking your life force and buy you time until you can heal the root cause of whatever is causing the dwindling life force. If someone is draining your life force, or if you’re transfusing someone else too much, no amount of conventional medicine or life force transfusing is going to make you well.

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Lissa Rankin, MD

Lissa Rankin, MD, New York Times bestselling author of Mind Over Medicine, The Fear Cure, and The Anatomy of a Calling.