The title of Kelly Noonan Gores’ documentary, Heal, is extremely straightforward. And the message that she’s trying to communicate to viewers is equally powerful in its simplicity: that humans are designed to heal, and that each of us has the power to help our own bodies and minds to achieve optimal wellness. But, as with anything in the health and wellness world, things quickly become complicated. There’s the clash between Western medicine and more holistic routes, the complex and often ignored mind-body connection, and the fuzzy understanding of the role that genes and “inevitability” play in all of it. But Gores believes the truth at the center of it remains the same, and she hopes her film will empower everyone who sees it to tap into their innate power and take back control of their health.
An Early Introduction to the Mind-Body Connection
The first time that Kelly Gores had a “little light bulb” go off in her head was when she went on a camping trip as a child and returned with a terrible cold and swollen lymph nodes. The sickness went away, but her glands were still “hard as rocks” and protruding. She saw many doctors, took a course of antibiotics, even got a biopsy, but nothing worked. Months later, while at her mom’s chiropractor appointment, the chiropractor noticed her glands and told her to take a shot of flavored rice vinegar every day for a week. Six days later, her glands were back to normal. “It was just an infection that my body was having trouble clearing out,” Gores remembers.
This was the first time that she experienced the notion that sometimes (often!) the best course of action is simply to assist your body in healing, rather than resorting to the harsh measures often employed by doctors. “Western medicine just jumps to cutting or medicating or killing through antibiotics or whatever,” Gores says. “Sometimes it’s necessary, but for chronic conditions, just throwing everything at it to see what sticks can do more harm than good.”
Creating the Documentary Heal
Gores says that there wasn’t one moment or incident that spurred her to create the film. Rather, it was an accumulation of things throughout her life — things like her camping trip cold — that sparked in her a “fascination with the power of the human body, and what a complex and intelligent system it is.”
She became interested in all the ways that our brains and our attitudes impact our health. For instance, the notion of “the law of attraction” intrigued her, with its declaration that what we put out in the world comes back to us. Or how our caveman roots continue to shape our actions and beliefs today: as she explains, back in our ancestral days, we were always scanning the environment for predators, and our brains were trained to expect the worst, to live in fear. Now that, for the most part, we live in safer environments, our brains still haven’t unlearned this training.
Concepts like these fascinated her, and she began exploring more. She read The Biology of Belief by Bruce Lipton, learned about epigenetics, and listened to sermons from Michael Bernard Beckwith. Through her exploration, she became ever more convinced that our bodies — via the power of our minds — have the ability to create our own reality, including the reality of our health. Each and every one of us, she came to believe, has the power to heal ourselves.
“So, all of the experts and the teachers I put in the film had empowered me at my life at some point,” she says, “and I wanted to put them all on one film, because that’s the medium that I knew.” She’d spent her whole career up until that point working in film, as a producer, director, writer, and actor.
Gores also felt it was important to not wait to make the documentary, because its message was so urgent for our current times. “As you know, more and more people are dealing with chronic illnesses and mystery illnesses and cancer is so common these days. It’s mind-blowing,” she says. “I thought the message was a necessary one to get out there fast.” And so she went on to create the Heal documentary, which she wrote, directed, and produced.
If you’re looking to heal a chronic condition or diagnosis a mystery illness, schedule a 1:1 call with Adrienne. Her patient advocacy services will help you get to the root cause of your issues and find the right practitioner to start healing.
The Importance of Mind Healing
One of the major areas Gores focuses on, and one of the primary takeaways of the film, is the importance of the mind-body connection, the ways in which our thoughts and beliefs affect our physiology and biochemistry. She notes that, just as we try to remove physical toxins from our lives, we also need to be aware of screening out emotional, mental, and spiritual toxins, things like negative energy and stress.
One powerful source of emotional toxins, Gores says, comes from the subconscious mind. We all have certain “programming,” or entrenched beliefs that we’ve learned from those around us and internalized from a very early age. As she explains, we’re not really taught how to process emotions in life, so we learn how to deal with them based on our parents’ behavior — and lots of parents have unhealthy, disempowering patterns. According to Bruce Lipton, one of the experts Gores spoke with for the Heal documentary, 70% of that subconscious programming is disempowering, and what’s more, “we’re not even aware that these beliefs are running our lives,” Gores says.
Besides the subconscious programming, there are also childhood memories that hold us back. Gores explains that, because we’re not taught to process emotions, when a child experiences something difficult, they often suppress, or even repress that memory, because they don’t know how to deal with it. This not-fully-formed memory creates trapped emotions, which can then lead to other health issues down the line.
One of the aims of the film is to help people become aware of these subconscious realities so that they can begin to process and understand the unseen beliefs that may be driving them and that inform their health. Gores says that people can use a variety of different therapies to address these entrenched beliefs and memories, including acupuncture, hypnotherapy, theta healing, the Lifeline Technique, and more.
The documentary Heal contains a powerful example of the role the mind plays when it comes to healing chronic illness. In the film, she speaks with Dr. Kelly Turner, who looked at a group of people who healed themselves from cancer, and pinpointed the nine things that they all did. Of those nine, only TWO things — radically changing diet and using herbs and supplements — were related to the physical body!
Gores shared several of the non-physical items with WellBe (but you’ll have to check out the film for the other ones!). They are:
Increasing positive emotions (Seeking out laughter, finding joy in your life)
Releasing negative emotions (Working on forgiveness, letting go of stuck emotions. This includes doing cathartic things like burning letters from an ex, or running a marathon after a trauma)
Finding strong reasons for living (Having a family, or a career you’re passionate about, for example)
Following your intuition (She mentioned meditation as a great way to tap into your intuition)
Gores notes that the two physical changes are, of course, very important. But what Turner’s findings show is that the Western/conventional medicine route doesn’t address the human as a whole, but rather as a cluster of physical symptoms. And as long as doctors continue to skip over the mental, emotional, and psychological aspects of health, they’ll continue to miss a myriad of conditions, as well as potential routes to healing that don’t involve risky surgeries or side-effect ridden medications that suppress symptoms but don’t actually heal the body.
The Physiological Effects of Stress
In our interview, Gores had no hesitations when it came to the role of stress in all this, telling WellBe that, “all of the experts in the film basically agree that stress is at the root of all disease, or 95% of disease.” That’s a pretty powerful statement!
Stress, in this case, can take a variety of forms: chemical stress (ie, toxins), physical stress (injury, viruses or infections), emotional stress, and so on. Each of these forms needs to be addressed in their own way, Gores says, whether it’s through eliminating toxins, taking time to rest, practicing forgiveness, or something else.
Of course, there’s also the kind of stress we think of when we hear the word “stress” — the notion of being anxious, agitated, overwhelmed, unable to relax. Gores explains that this feeling takes its root in our evolutionary history, in the fight-or-flight mechanism. “It’s meant to give you all this energy so you can run from the tiger and survive, back in the day,” she says. “But today, people are living in this chronic, never-ending stress response, a marathon rather than a sprint.” Being in a constant state of stress shuts down your higher brain functions (ie, brain fog), wipes out your immune system, and can eventually lead to chronic illness.
To deal with this type of stress, Gores emphasizes the importance of daily meditation. “Science is now catching up, and they can measure all the beneficial physiological effects meditation can have on the body,” she says. These physiological effects include releasing healing chemicals like oxytocin, relaxin, and endorphins, which help promote health in your body.
Even if you’re not feeling particularly stressed, daily meditation is a way to ensure that you don’t carry over the day’s accumulation of small stressors into the next day — because, as Gores says, gradual accumulation is what leads to illness. Meditation can take a variety of forms, including walking in nature, praying, or traditional meditation.
The Pharmaceutical Industry vs. Mind Healing
Because the documentary promotes the body’s own ability to heal itself, it was inevitable that this belief system would run up against the pharmaceutical model of conventional medicine. While Gores says she was careful not to go too deep into this issue, and that there are certain cases where a prescription is absolutely necessary, she did share some eye-opening insights about what drugs really do — and don’t do.
For instance, she shares the story of one expert in the film who was an organic chemist at pharmaceutical companies for years, developing cancer and heart drugs. “Science is the only thing he’s ever known,” says Gores. But then, in his work testing new drugs against placebos, he was shocked by the results: in many cases, 70% of people taking the sugar pill were having the same reaction as someone taking the actual pill. He knew in that moment that he wanted to study that. “That is all the mind. That is all belief that this sugar pill is going to have an effect on my body, and because of their belief, their brain actually releases the same chemistry that’s in the other group,” Gores explains. “That is the mind-body connection.” The chemist left the pharmaceutical industry to study this phenomenon, and work on exploiting the placebo effect as much as we can, because there are no harmful side effects.
Conclusion: Kelly Noonan Gores on the Ultimate Takeaway From Her Documentary Heal
Most importantly, regardless of what type of treatment you seek for an ailment, Gores wants people to take back their power to heal. “We give all our power over to doctors because they’re the smartest people, because they’ve been through training,” she says. “But they’re all so specialized, they look at very specific things and don’t treat the person as a whole.” So each patient needs to do their own research, listen to their intuition, and tap into the mind-body connection, rather than becoming limited based on what a doctor says is or isn’t possible. “So many people fall into a victim mode,” Gores says. “That victim mentality is not optimal for healing. You’ve got to take your power back and learn that there is so much we can do.”
Watch our full interview with Gores to learn about the enormous role of forgiveness in healing from disease, how one man healed a terminal illness through laughter, what the placebo effect tells us about the power of the mind over medicine, and much more (or, listen to our interview on The WellBe Podcast).
The stories referenced in the above interview are anecdotal and specific to those particular individuals. Please note that this is not medical advice, and that not all treatments and approaches mentioned will work for everyone.
Kelly Noonan Gores is the director and executive producer of the documentary HEAL and the author of the Heal book. You can learn more about Gores and the Heal documentary and book here.