#reverb10 – Day 19 – Healing

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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.)

[Eyeroll.]

Puh-LEEZ.

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.

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10 thoughts on “#reverb10 – Day 19 – Healing

  1. It does sound harsh at first reading, but it is true. We’re too easily led as a society to see what is wrong with us instead of what is right. Almost a half glass empty mentality.

    I know by sharing I do search for validation… that my dysfunctional emotional behaviours aren’t all my own. Hmm, more that I’m not alone, since connection has always been an issue in my life. It is, easier to connect to those who can empathise (as opposed to sympathise). I don’t look for pity (sympathy), to stay sunk in that place. I look for glimmers of insight and inspiration… to keep moving forward and leave the past behind with more functional behaviours. This journey has been aiding that.

    Thank you for taking the contrary view 🙂 You just fed me a glimmer that let me verbalise what my hopes have been in this part of my journey.

    1. Mari, I do wish you well on your journey — and a journey indeed it is.
      Of course, all of us hunger for connection and belonging. We need to find people who can empathize with us, and to be guides for us along the path.
      I just got irritated at the prompt — obviously, it hit a “hot button” for me. I have seen so many people disempowered and hopeless because they never were able to find their internal resources and resilience, always waiting for a guru or a divine intervention to “wave a wand” and “heal them.”
      I didn’t mean so much to take a contrary view of healing, as to take a contrary view of a culture that encourages people to pathologise EVERYTHING.
      You are moving forward. Our dysfunction is learned. It is a pattern of behavior. New patterns can be learned. I don’t think we can do it all by ourselves — and I do think there’s a lot we CAN do for ourselves.
      All best to you!

      1. I didn’t take it as a contrary view on healing. It was refreshing to see an honest reaction to the prompt.
        Thank you for your kind words 🙂 Behaviours suck to change, but as with any ‘retraining’, it gets easier. (now I’ll stop spamming, although I’m not really a spammer) 😀

  2. I think that’s one thing that Reverb10 has made me aware of. How negative my usually positive voice has become in some regards since Mom passed. That along with some other things, have made me aware of changes I need to make to be a happier, healthier me. And no matter how tempting it is to buy that book, I’ve decided a long time ago that only I can do the work to make the changes. I might have assistance through trainers and therapists, etc. but I’m the one really doing the work.

    1. Paula, please accept my sincere sympathies for your loss.
      Grief is a process that takes time. It is especially intense with the loss of a parent. Been there — and it definitely makes you more wise.
      Sometimes I think our relentless attempts to “be positive” crowds out the reality and juiciness of fully living. Living has pain as well as joy. They are two sides of the same coin. I think that people need to feel what they are feeling, get support in whatever way they need, and keep moving. The feeling isn’t the problem — it’s the getting stuck, and dwelling.
      Congratulations on taking yourself into your own hands. So glad we are in touch through Reverb10!

  3. Wonderful post! This prompt almost made me feel guilty for not having anything concrete to say about healing, and that’s silly. I should be thankful that I was healthy and relatively happy through 2010, and that I anticipate the same through 2011!

    And I don’t think it sounded too harsh. 🙂

    1. Hi, Aba:
      Thank you for your kind comment. Hooray for your 2010 and 2011.
      No guilt, baby. Especially if you didn’t do anything to hurt anyone. When we can appreciate our great good fortune instead of feeling guilty about it, I think we become more generous and appreciative toward others. Oh well — it was certainly an inspiring prompt! LOL

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