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European Alliance of Initiatives
for Applied Anthroposophy

Salutogenesis – The origin of self-healing forces

Health is a state of delicate balance between factors that make us ill on a daily basis (environmental pollution, food additives, argument, stress, fear and frustration) and regenerative processes that have a healing effect and strengthen the immune system.

The aim of modern health research and the salutogenesis (salus = health, genesis=origin) of Aaron Antonovsky (1923 – 1994) is to investigate this potential for health and make good use of it in practice. It is thanks to Antonovsky that we know about the so-called sense of coherence and its significance for life-long health. He discovered that it ultimately depends on the state of our feelings and well-being whether the delicate balance of the pendulum swings more towards illness or health. The most healthy and stabilising feelings are those that enable us to understand something (understandability), find meaning (meaningfulness) and be capable of handling it (manageability).

Those who know about Waldorf education will immediately recognise that the conditions for developing these three aspects of the sense of coherence are at its heart – even though this line of research was unknown at the beginning of the 20th century.

Anthroposophic Medicine as an integrative medical concept also builds on this salutogenetic foundation. It works in accordance with five therapeutic principles:

  • The diagnostic and therapeutic tools of mainstream medicine serve to maintain the physical constitution in life-threatening situations, especially with regard to operations and intensive care measures.
  • The stimulation of self-healing and life forces through a health-promoting lifestyle, healthy diet, sufficient sleep, the correct work-life balance and, of course, the stabilising effect of anthroposophic remedies.
  • The sense of coherence referred to above is encouraged on a soul level and applied in connection with one's own biography: How can I learn to understand my biographical signature, give meaning to my life and happily carry out what is possible?
  • On the level of personality, the question that arises is: How can a healthy sense of identity be developed and how can it be strengthened using therapeutic measures, especially the art therapies, meditative exercises and eurythmy therapy.
  • The fifth source of health relates to the way we see the world. Strange as it may seem, a one-sided materialistic view of the world that believes mankind arose by chance and that earth evolution will end in a heat death, does not enhance health or inspire a sense of identity. The transhumanist perspectives on development, though perhaps fascinating, do not serve to stabilise and provide orientation to the soul and spirit. This is where anthroposophy offers a spiritual picture of mankind and the world based on human thinking, a spiritual capacity that each one of us possesses. Without the ability to think, the various world perspectives and religions would be inaccessible to us. Thinking, however, also builds a bridge between our sensory experiences (out of which we form concepts) and an invisible world of soul and spirit that we can only grasp through philosophical ideas, meditative processes or a strengthened capacity for imaginative thinking. Whoever learns to experience and think of themselves as super-sensible, spiritual beings manifested physically, unlocks for themselves a never ending source of health.

Integrative medicine uses these five diagnostic-therapeutic principles with varying degrees of emphasis. Anthroposophically-orientated patient organisations, such as for example «Gesundheit aktiv» in Germany, have carried out valuable educational work in this context with their projects, events and publications.