Care and Cure – same same, but different!

by Anne Malatt, Ophthalmologist, Australia

What is the difference between care and cure?

Both words originally came from the same word – isn’t that curious?

The Latin noun ‘cura’, meaning ‘care’, became the verb ‘curare’, meaning ‘take care of’ and then the Old French ‘curer’, meaning ‘cure’.

The original sense of the word was ‘care, concern, responsibility’, particularly in a spiritual sense, but in late Middle English the meanings ‘medical care’ and ‘successful medical treatment’ arose, and hence ‘remedy’.

Interestingly, curare is also a type of poison, as are many medical treatments, when not used according to directions (and sometimes even when they are!).

Modern medicines are powerful, and sometimes a helpful treatment can become a harmful poison, especially if the dose is too high. Paracetamol is a great painkiller, but it can also kill liver cells, if taken in excess. Chemotherapy drugs are designed to kill cancer cells, but they can kill healthy cells as well, hence their side effects.

So how has the meaning of the words ‘care’ and ‘cure’ changed, and why?

In ancient times, medicine offered true care. We knew that connection with people mattered, that what we ate affected us, and that there was a true and simple way to live. Illness and disease were seen as a reflection of the way we were living, and an opportunity to make true change.

As we became more scientific, and developed herbs, pills and potions, and skills and techniques – like anaesthetics and surgery – we became taken with the idea that we could fix ailments, cut lumps out, have power over life and death, and generally play God. With this seems to have come the notion that we could fix illness and disease, and then go back to the same way of living that made us ill in the first place.

And herein lies the irresponsibility.

Now, we see illness and disease as a nuisance, an inconvenience, to be fixed, gotten rid of, cured, so we can get back to doing what we were doing before. And more and more we have come to place the responsibility for this onto our doctors and healers, and less and less onto ourselves and our way of life.

Our physicians have also become more irresponsible, choosing to focus on the cure, the quick fix, rather than taking care of the way they live, and then reflecting that living way to us, inspiring us to learn to live it to.

So, what do we mean when we say we care?

And what happens to us when we try to care?

Most of us say that we care about our friends, family, jobs, cars, possessions, and ourselves. But we have come to associate ‘care’ with trying, being careful, being cautious even. This is not true care. We ‘care’ too much to hurt people’s feelings, to be honest with them, to tell them the truth. And we ‘care’ about ourselves too much to say it as it is, to deal with people’s reactions, to not be liked, to get it ‘wrong’, to say and do what is needed, rather than what people want to hear.

What happens to our bodies when we are ‘careful’ in a way that is not true? We tend to tense up, contract, and hold our muscles hard. We tend to go into our heads, worrying about what we should do, what we should say, how we should be. And while we are busy in our heads, we are not at ease in our bodies.

What happens when we are not at ease? Our muscles are tense, our movements are not fluid and flowing, our minds are elsewhere, and in this state, accidents, incidents and injuries are more likely to happen.

So is it possible that true care is not what we think it is?

Could true care be developing a relationship with our bodies?

Could true care be as simple as feeling yourself in your body – from the top of your head to the tips of your fingers and the ends of your toes, and being aware of your whole body as you move, in everything that you do?

Could true care be a willingness to feel what is there to be felt, and to honour our feelings, to be aware of what is truly going on within and around us?

Could true care be a commitment to making our every move – our every thought, word and action – loving and caring, for ourselves and for others?

And what do we mean by ‘cure’?

The word ‘cure’ has come to mean:

  • To relieve of the symptoms of a disease or condition
  • To eliminate a disease or condition with medical treatment
  • To solve a problem

But ‘cure’ can also apply to meat and skins, whereby we render them ‘fixed’ in such a way that we preserve them, so they do not rot, and can be used for longer. They may last longer, but this process takes the life out of them. We can apply this to the trajectory of our lives.

We live life in cycles. These can be short and sweet (or not) or long but drawn out and flat, or long and round, rich and full, depending on the quality we bring to them, the quality of our living way.

Looking to fix and cure may prolong our lives, but it does not necessarily enhance the quality of them. But bringing that quality brings a depth and richness to life, no matter how long and short it is, and even if we are confronted with illness and disease.

Do we want a life of richness, of quality, irrespective of the length of it, or do we want to prolong life at all costs?

That is the dilemma we are faced with in modern medicine today – we have the ability to ‘cure’ all sorts of ills, but with what quality are people living, and what is the level of care with which we are delivering these services?

To care or to cure – can we reunite the two and deliver true health care once again?


Read more:

  1. Self-care myths
  2. Sacred esoteric healing – true health care





611 thoughts on “Care and Cure – same same, but different!

  1. “Do we want a life of richness, of quality, irrespective of the length of it, or do we want to prolong life at all costs?” I have a feeling that if we asked everyone this question, many would go for quality over quantity however there would still be many who would prefer the length of life option. There is such an investment in the individual life that we think if we live as long as possible, we might be able to turn things around and be successful or happy. But this exposes the deep irresponsibility we accept as normal, for if we are always thinking “tomorrow I’ll sort myself out” or “I’ll do it in my own time” we are stubbornly defying the fact that we could actually take responsibility for ourselves today, now, and start to end the suffering and rot that we as one humanity have accepted as the way it is.

  2. Now, we see illness and disease as a nuisance, an inconvenience, to be fixed, gotten rid of, cured, so we can get back to doing what we were doing before. This is exactly how I used to think before Universal Medicine and choosing be much more body aware, and bring in self loving and caring choices for myself. In the past I used to hate it when I was sick and would get frustrated with my body for being sick. Now, I have learnt to be much more tender and listen to my body when it speaks.

  3. Thanks Anne, great blog – very interesting. I wonder how it would look if we also brought the word “heal” into the picture?

  4. When we say we care for certain people there can be felt an exclusion as the care is there for some in particular as they are more important than others. True care is there for all equally.

  5. In the past we used to intuitively know what to take when we were sick, which herb to take and how it would support us, this was a natural thing to do and was seen as taking care of ourselves and being aware of what the body needs, especially in times of feeling unwell. Today we have people to take care of us, such as the medical profession and in handing over our own well being to them we have negated our own responsibility in taking true care for ourselves.

  6. There is much learning in illness and disease. As you mention Anne we have a choice to have a rewarding life that may be short or we may instead have a long life being kept going through medication but what is the quality of that life./

  7. This is a snapshot of what is happening to many of the words in our vocabulary altered to fit in with a changing society that we are expected to changed with and ‘change’ as determined by the environment outside of us, outside of the truth our body communicates everyday. The body is a true marker and will always bring with it’s communication energetic responsibility and energetic integrity – the question is do we listen?

  8. We have totally reduced the meaning of consensus to an agreement of our minds, ignoring the whole body intelligence and wisdom that is available to us. Our felt sense is one that comes from the body and our inner-most, not from our mind’s interpretation of our five senses.

  9. Anne you are a breath of fresh air in a profession that has been tainted by the strict regimes and bureaucracies.

  10. Thank you again Anne… And the reunion of these two is really the only path open to humanity if it is going to evolve out of the next hundred years… The statistics on the health of humanity certainly support this.

  11. Gosh! Even in medicine, the definition of word has impacted greatly on the quality of the final result. If we truly knew what these words meant we would approach medicine in a completely different way as we would see the lesser quality of how one chooses to live as an equal part of the illness.

  12. The propensity to regard illness and disease as a nuisance we need to fix, patch and remove in order to continue the same way as before is what is regarded the norm today, without question – people’s bodies are functional apparatus that serve that one purpose – to keep us going, entertained, and on a constant trajectory to a goal we never reach.
    But – this is not sustainable, and eventually we all will return to the ancient ways – the true way of living – we all do know.

  13. Thank you Anne, for presenting us with the opportunity to consider and discern the quality of care we are choosing to live with. I am discovering more and more that true care does comes naturally, by way of the relationship I hold with my body, as such is guided by the loving connection I develop with my body and being. The willingness to being honest about and accepting responsibility for the choices I am making and how they feel in my body, has been paramount to understanding and experiencing how to truly care for myself.

  14. Aiming for a quick fix can sometimes disregard the opportunity for true healing which in effect can be a band-aid for a tumour.

  15. To link these two things – Care and Healing, is a complete game-changer Anne. It takes so much of the need to know things and have the ‘answers’ out of the equation and brings back the responsibility to the practitioner for how they choose to live, hence affecting the quality of care they are then able to offer another.

  16. It is so true that we have gone into fix it mode with our illness and disease, thereby missing a wonderful opportunity to truly value the stop moment on offer and consider why we got ill in the first place.

  17. It is interesting that we must take care to cure when we take medicine so that we take what is needed for our own bodies and within what is recommended.

  18. The origin of the words ‘cure’ and ‘care’ is the same. It seems that currently cure has more to do with the physicality and care with the way we look after it. The body and its quality. Would it be possible that those words and its origin are offering to us the way back home? The way back to true health? Maybe we need to reconnect to its union inside of us, to have access to the answers we need as humanity to cope with the huge increase of diseases.

  19. What an interesting distortion of meaning that has played out over time on the journey from ‘care’ to ‘cure’. This steady erosion seems to have kept pace with our propensity to turn away from what we once knew – from the truth of our bodies and true care, right down to today’s quick fix. A rapid and successful reunion is definitely called for!

  20. ‘We talked and Serge simply supported me to make my own choice, free of judgement or investment.’ My husband and I have had two such conversations with Serge regarding financial matters and found it to be exactly the same for us. It’s extraordinarily powerful (and rare) to experience an exchange like this – totally free of imposition and agenda.

  21. Medication offers us all three things in one; care, cure and sometimes harm too, through side effects or eventual withdrawal symptoms. This is why it’s so important to look at how as a society we are using them, and what our purpose is for taking the large volume of medication that we do. Out of these three things, which are we seeking? And what is our own definition of each?

  22. I love how you have highlighted what true care is and is not Anne, and how the definition of care has been greatly reinterpreted and misrepresented from its original meaning so that sometimes what we think is being careful and caring in truth is not true care but a redefinition to suit a way of living that we want to uphold to suit our needs.

  23. The problem surely is our irresponsibility in not wanting to see that we all cause our own illness. Physicians included for they also support the “it just happens to us” scenario.

  24. Beautiful blog Anne. There is definitely a difference between caring and truly caring, a world of difference and in order to truly care for another we have to be able to truly care for ourselves first. So is our capacity for true care then linked with the consistency in which, and the depth of which, we care for ourselves? And if so let’s begin to attend to this at whatever level we are at even if it is only in one small action in our day

  25. ‘Do we want a life of richness, of quality, irrespective of the length of it, or do we want to prolong life at all costs?’ Most people say they are going for quality of life but when it truly comes to a point of serious illness and disease their attachment with human life and not wanting to die is there and makes that they search for a ‘cure’ by the medical system so we could say what is their idea about a life of richness, of quality, is it truly wanting to be responsible and caring?

  26. You bring true healthcare to the simple foundation as it is Anne.
    Back to the reality how it is even we like to fool ourselves with a different approach. The good thing is when we go back to this foundation is that we can clearly feel that our health is in our hands.

  27. This is essential for all of humanity to clock that it is in fact the way we live, the responsibility that we take for our own health and wellbeing, taking care of ourselves and how this approach is diminishing the fact that we need a cure, because when we are not well and things are disharmonious at least we walk into the doctor’s room at the beginning with a willingness to honour and look after ourselves and not expect someone to fix us. The national health service would be a very different story than it is today.

  28. I loved what you shared about being careful actually creating a concentration and therefore a tension which leads to non flowing movements and potentially accidents or injuries… this is another great reason to stay in the flow of life, feeling your body and moving in honour of that.

  29. You say: “What is the difference between care and cure? Both words originally came from the same word – isn’t that curious?” – is it cure-ious or care-ious or precarious?

  30. “In ancient times, medicine offered true care. We knew that connection with people mattered, that what we ate affected us, and that there was a true and simple way to live. Illness and disease were seen as a reflection of the way we were living, and an opportunity to make true change.” We need to get back to this true caring of people and treat them as individuals, not an ‘illness’ or disease. When nursing – way back now – doctors would talk about the cancer case in bed 5, rather than naming the person in bed 5.- a total depersonalising of that patient.

  31. I love the way you describe the difference between being ‘careful’ and ‘caring’. Sometimes we are being too careful in our own best interest to care about others. To truly care is to care fully, no matter what that means.

  32. I find it interesting how we hand ourselves over to be cared for, when we have a choice to care for ourselves first, the more we build our own relationship with our body the easier it is to know how to care for ourselves.

  33. It is interesting how we often look at developing relationships with others but don’t take stock of how true health begins with having a relationship with ourselves.

  34. It is true Anne quality of life is far more enriching than the quantity of years lived. We now expect the medical profession to fix us no matter what, when in some circumstances it would be better to let go and allow our body to heal in the way it knows best. If we could accept that the cycles we live mean that we come back again would we be so worried about clinging to life at all costs.

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