Prompt: Healing. What healed you this year? Was it sudden, or a drip-by-drip evolution? How would you like to be healed in 2011? (Prompt provided by Leoni Allan, as part of #reverb10.)
There is no more dis-empowering worldview than the one in which you are encouraged to view yourself as broken, unworthy, needing healing, and as incapable of doing anything for yourself. This question sets up a crazy-making and manipulative vortex that sucks in the impressionable. What healed you this year? Translation: of course you agree that you were hopelessly screwed up. Please tell us how screwed up you were, so that we can feel better about ourselves. Was it sudden, or a drip-by-drip evolution? Translation: please confirm that my experience is valid, because I don’t have a clue. How would you like to be healed in 2011? Translation: because of course you are still irreparably screwed up, and the need for healing is never-ending. Please buy my book.
This question invites people to join the perpetual pity party. I am broken. I need to be healed. I want to be healed. I hope I can be healed. Who will heal me? Oh, you need to be healed, too? Let’s be friends. Above all, let’s work on ourselves without end. It’s a golden excuse for why things aren’t working in our lives — plus, we get to look noble.
We glorify our faults, our weaknesses, our pain. We justify and excuse it. When it doesn’t go away, we have nothing but our self-loathing. STOP IT NOW.
I know that sounds harsh.
Over the past 25 years, I have observed an alarming trend in public language and culture. It bastardizes the ideas of healing and wholeness, and steals worthy impulses toward self-improvement to label them as “fixing our brokenness.” The loaded language of recovery and repentance, artificially sweetened by New Age airheads and religionists alike, has crept into daily discussion. People seem to rush to embrace and include the paradigm of addiction and dysfunction in their self-image. To hear some tell it, we are all addicted to something. We are all “damaged goods.” There is no aspect of our being that is not in need of therapy – and the advertising machine reinforces the belief. The heartbreak of frizzy hair, the destructive potential of chapped lips, the intractability of breaking fingernails: you can purchase therapy in a bottle. Everyone is “in treatment” for something. Our world needs to be healed. Our relationships need to be healed. Most of all, YOU need to be healed. Are you healed?
In no way am I disparaging those who suffer from chronic pain, from mental illness, from disease processes and neurological disorders, and from plain old-fashioned human cruelty. My life has been changed for the better through the expertise of medical professionals, psychotherapists, counselors, and a tour through the recovery movement and various 12-step programs. There ARE problems and diseases out there that require intervention, a pulling up on the reins to say, “Whoa!” before passing a point of no return. There are conditions that WILL KILL YOU if you don’t get expert help. Doesn’t expensive department-store shampoo labeled “Hair Therapy” diminish the legitimate suffering of people with REAL problems (and the training and expertise of those professionals who help them)?
To be sure, things get broken: our bodies, our hearts, our relationships, our thinking processes. Some people suffer horrifically at the hands of torturers, within the family circle, local social order, or international sphere. There is trauma and death and war. We should have compassion for those who suffer, and help them and ourselves in any way we can. Doesn’t our relentless focus on our incompleteness and brokenness just create more of what we don’t want? It seems to me that we would be better served to be developing resiliency rather than dependency.
My work, as a teacher of the Feldenkrais Method, is often used to help people with serious difficulties. I don’t define myself as “a healer.” If others want to describe me as that, or if that was their experience, then that is fine. I’ll encourage them to expand their vocabulary and take more credit for themselves. I’m a teacher. I teach people how to improve their ability to function. Often, it starts with improving the way they move, so that they can have less pain, better coordination, or more refined skill. Often these improvements generalize and are carried over into other aspects of their lives. Somehow, they become more capable of acting on their own behalf — of independence and self-determination. When you can learn to improve some area of concern, all kinds of possibilities emerge. The possibility of true wellness and wholeness — of living your life, doing what you want to do — is a more inspiring worldview to me than one that pre-supposes inadequacy and brokenness. I don’t see how it is in service to anyone to keep them dependent and hopeless in an unending saga of so-called “healing.”
In relationships, the ability to say “I love you” and “I am sorry” are powerful actions that lead to better functioning. The willingness to forgive and reconcile, or cut losses and start again, are also valuable actions that can create dynamic and positive change. The ability to learn and change to improve is our birthright. Accept what can’t be changed, and take action for yourself to minimize the collateral damage. Take action to change what you can. It doesn’t have to be a long and protracted “healing” process, or a lightening bolt of transformation. It is just living in a way that works. The essence of all the world’s great religions and spiritual paths boils down to this.
At the moment, I believe our culture is stuck in defining and describing problems. We understand more and more about the scope and size of our problems, and less and less about how to solve them. Our focus on the problem makes us believe that the solution must be as big and all-encompassing as the problem seems to be. As a result, people become less and less able, or willing, to take small steps to improve things on their own. The solution is something that you don’t know yet. You can learn it. You may need help from someone else, but ultimately, you can find a solution. There are some who are finding astonishing solutions to the world’s biggest challenges. You can watch them speak on TED.com. I think they are excellent inspiration for solution-seeking and innovation at every level.
Get on with it. DO SOMETHING FOR YOURSELF. Don’t keep defining yourself in terms of what is wrong, or what is not working. Identify your strengths, even in the midst of trouble. Ask for help if you need it — real help, in addition to support from friends and family. If someone won’t help you, keep looking. Find a doctor, find a group, find a friend. Draw strength from your faith. As one pastor said, we will walk through the valley of the shadow of death, but we don’t have to pitch a tent there. What small action can you take to improve your situation? Flee from the numbing psycho-faux-spiritual-babble that would keep you from expressing your fully-functioning personhood. THAT is healing.