Healing time: the experience of body and temporality when coping with illness and incapacity

Abstract

The lived body has structures of ability built up over time through habit. Serious illness, injury, and incapacity can disrupt these capacities, and thereby, one’s relationship to the body, and to time itself. This paper focuses attention on a series of healing strategies individuals then employ on the “chessboard” of possibilities intrinsic to lived embodiment. This can include restoring past abilities (pointing to the future to recreate the past); and/or transforming one’s bodily structure or use-patterns, or the external environment, to compensate. With many conditions, including progressive aging, no full rehabilitation is possible. Nevertheless, one can also seek consolation, richness, or hope by remembering the past; anticipating the future; or presencing, that is, living fully in the now. Insofar as past, present, and future are interwoven in one’s life experience, many also meet adversity by a life-story revision, constructing a new narrative to render events meaningful. Some also access a sense of transpersonal timelessness, whether through anticipation of an afterlife, or a sense of the eternal present. There is a literature on the adaptive coping mechanism used by the chronically ill, but with its diverse patient populations, methodologies, and categories, it has proved difficult to systematize. This article suggests that the structures of lived embodiment, as explored by phenomenology, provide a way to understand the modes of wholeness individuals access over time, and in relation to time—what is here termed chronic healing.

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Leder, D. Healing time: the experience of body and temporality when coping with illness and incapacity. Med Health Care and Philos 24, 99–111 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11019-020-09989-6

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Keywords

  • Body
  • Embodiment
  • Illness
  • Healing
  • Temporality
  • Adaptation