On Transformation

Interestingly, Asclepius, the god of healing in Greek mythology, was the son of Apollo and a mortal woman named Coronis. According to legend, when Coronis is thrown to the fires for her infidelity, Apollo cannot stand to let his unborn son die and pulls the child out from Coronis’ womb and subsequently raises Asclepius to be a healer for mortals. More importantly, it is believed that Asclepius' fondness for mortals and his power to heal them comes from his bond with his mother. Asclepius' end is at the hands of Zeus, the god of all gods when he begins his mission to heal mortals, who, like his mother, are considered undeserving of life. Zeus kills Asclepius with his powerful lightning rod, which we are familiar with in his statue portraits.

words: Didar Zeytun

photography: Osman Tahir

This story gives us a more important message than healed mortals and their healing processes; it is a message about the healing power of our wounds. What is impressive is not that Asclepius was able to heal all diseases, but that this powerful Greek god took the pain of losing his mortal mother before he was born and healed through it. Through his pain, he becomes stronger, restoring himself and creating meaning for his life journey.

Today, there is a widespread belief that healing is an endpoint to be reached, with a perspective that equates recovery with restoration to an original form. We long to be able to return to safe waters, to be able to feel familiar moments again, even if those moments aren’t safe. While taking care of our bodies and attempting to heal our souls, there is often a goal to return to our old selves. However, we often overlook an important detail. Healing is never the same as before; To heal is to transform. Murathan Mungan states “No one stays on the path they set out on, the path itself transforms people”. We do not go back to our old self by finding healing. We create a new and better self.

Ouroboros is a mystical serpent symbol that finds its roots in Ancient Egypt. This iconic snake is depicted eating its own tail and symbolizes the constant reinvention of itself, even if through pain. It rejects linear progression; It tells a story about constantly evolving, changing, and recreating oneself. The story of Ouroboros depicts the pain of healing as coming from letting go of one’s old self with its prior beliefs and assumptions.

We find a similar approach in psychology. Here, too, we come across a concept that we call post-traumatic growth, which describes the transformation that a person goes through mentally, psychologically, and socially after an intense and painful experience. This transformation is shaped by the search for meaning in one's suffering. Rather than defining the power to cope with difficulties and the ability to recover (resilience); it represents the ability to transform by owning your wounds. It takes courage to enter a new existence while searching for the meaning of pain and to face oneself without fear.

At the core of all of this is the question of how we define healing. Here, there are actually two fundamental issues. The first are the elements and process of healing itself, while the other is the questioning of the underlying purpose of this process. While defining healing, for some it only describes a physical healing process, while for others it is simply a spiritual process. 

On the other hand, mind-body dualism, which deals with the case of the body and spirit (mind) being two separate entities, considers these two entities as separate but mutually affected. While our thoughts and feelings are sometimes affected by our bodily movements or vice versa, evaluating this distinction in healing without considering this interactional process would be ignoring the holistic perspective. Not considering this duality alienates us from ourselves and causes us to ignore the fact that the mind and body feed off of each other in the transformation process. Transformation has the potential to shape the bond we establish with our body in a recurring relationship. As we transform, we become whole, and as we see ourselves as a whole and seek to transform in this way, we heal.


On the one hand, some of us seek the process of healing as a legitimate way of escaping from ourselves as it is more comfortable to experience this process as a way to numb us with the excuse to escape from our existence. This distracts us from the anxiety of returning to ourselves and being able to choose who we are. It leaves us in the compassionate hands of familiarity…we are trying to reach a self that we already know, but while doing this, the process alienates us from ourselves.


So perhaps it would be useful to take on a new perspective of our healing journey and to be involved in the transformation process rather than healing itself, remembering that we have the freedom to decide who we can become while trying to find our way. Taking care of yourself and creating a completely new self rather than going back to the old one creates anxiety through the endless options available to us. Our freedom to choose what we can become as we heal can also be seen as an opportunity to come to terms with our anxieties. Being able to take the pain and choose what to do with it is, as Victor Frankl said, "the one thing that cannot be taken away from a person". We can freely decide who we will be, how we will approach what has happened to us, and what we will do with what we have. In this way, we draw closer to ourselves and establish deeper connections with the world around us. 


On that note, here’s to establishing deeper ties with the world...