Steven G. Ayre MD
Healing is a conscious process through which an ailing person becomes whole. It is not just “curing the disease,” which is a simpler, more mechanical process. Healing involves us in who we are, what we have done, and the choices that we have about what to do now. It is an ever more ennobling process which goes on and on. The growing movement towards alternative medical practices is not just a disenchantment with the frivolous, symptom oriented practices of conventional medicine. It is as well a movement towards healing – ourselves, our communities, and the larger scope of things around us.
Something within us feels that we are sick unto dying now with our wasteful unconsciousness. This is a planetary phenomenon and a planetary disease, however the healing of it has to be an individual undertaking, focusing on what we can do – not on what we can’t do. It is time to stop projecting, and it is time to understand. Who is responsible for all this mess? It is not “them;” it is us. And it is not us; it is you. And it is not only you; it is also me.
The major advances in technology in this decade are happening in the area of human conscious awareness and in relationships between self and others, and between self and the natural environment. There is a lot of new and useful information available to us now. None of what follows here on woundedness and the healing of it is any truer or any more real than anything you may have have come to think up by yourself, or have maybe read somewhere else. Possibly you have read some of the same books I have on this subject.
This discussion of how we can heal is, in the main, a synopsis of Caroline Myss’ wonderful teachings from her book and tapes entitled “Why People Don’t Heal, and How They Can.” It is supplemented by some other of my own readings in allied areas. I encourage you to read or listen to Myss’ valuable materials for her very in depth dissertation on the energetic basis of disease and healing.
Healing is work, and it is difficult work. There is a saying that goes,
“The right way to get it to go easy is to know that there is no right way, and it doesn’t go easy.” With this challenging introduction, let me affirm that healing is definitely possible. We can each transform our life – not transcend it through detachment as so many spiritual disciplines advise – but actually transform it, through healing the wounds that bind us to our past – wounds that drain us of our precious energy, and that lead to our disease.
THE ENERGY SYSTEM OF THE HUMAN BODY:
There are seven hierarchically arranged energy centers within the human body. Different of the world’s religious, philosophical, and spiritual traditions share in common certain ideas about these energy centers. They have names for them: Hindus call them chakras; for Buddhists they are the seven lotuses; the Tree of Life in the Kabbalah has ten sephiroth which are arranged in seven discrete levels; and in Roman Catholicism there are the Seven Sacraments. There is a correspondence amongst these traditions as well as to the functions of things in this hierarchical array. Each center controls the manifestation of energy within its anatomical locale, maintaining the functional integrity of the tissues and organs in its area, and maintaining as well the consciousness or the psychological processes correlated with those anatomical areas. Briefly described, numbered from the bottom up, and mirroring our having been created in the image of God, these seven energy centers are:
Center Physical Psycho/Spiritual
First perineum/rectum/anus area Our tribal connections
Second pelvis/gonads personal power, money, sex
Third solar plexus self-esteem, honor, integrity
Fourth heart love
Fifth throat will
Sixth pituitary gland mind, clarity, wisdom
Seventh pineal gland sense of oneness of all creation;
transcendence; higher love
(Please note that this list is but a shadow of what Caroline Myss discusses in her books on the body’s energy anatomy. Her original works are highly recommended for the much more comprehensive and detailed rendering which she has developed on this interesting facet of the energetic nature of the human being).
The daily measure of life-sustaining energy from the universe enters our bodies and, in perfect health, circulates unimpeded throughout these different centers, apportioning what is needed here and there to maintain perfect physical health, and all its psychological concomitants of joy, wisdom, creativity, and reverence. This is the true heritage of our humanity – to have life live us this way as fully conscious beings. For most of us, this state of affairs exists as yet in only potential manifestation. It is our possible reality, and I emphasize the word “possible.”
It is our own unconsciousness which interrupts the perfect flow of this universal energy through the circuitry of the body’s energetic system. It is the misappropriation of this energy, stealing and channeling it to support our self-created wounds, that leads from health to disease with its attendant pain. There is a beautiful and revealing depiction in “The Prophet” by Kahlil Gibran, which speaks volumes on the nature of the pain felt in our woundedness:
“Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding. Even as the stone of the fruit must break, that its heart may stand in the sun, so must you know pain. And could you keep your heart in wonder at the daily miracles of your life, your pain would not seem less wondrous than your joy; And you would accept the seasons of your heart, even as you have always accepted the seasons that pass over your fields. And you would watch with serenity through the winters of your grief. Much of your pain is self-chosen. It is the bitter potion by which the physician within you heals your sick self. Therefore trust the physician, and drink his remedy in silence and tranquility: For his hand, though heavy and hard, is guided by the tender hand of the Unseen, And the cup he brings, though it burn your lips, has been fashioned of the clay which the Potter has moistened with His own sacred tears.”
This passage captures as well as anything I have come to know of what it is that our pain and disease can truly mean for us. It introduces seeds of an understanding of the sacred responsibility we each have in working to heal ourselves. Without such an orientation to this sacred quality of healing’s quest, it is doubtful that any of us would be able to find any other meaningful motive to embrace what we must in order to put an end to our suffering. With this sacred understanding, the goal becomes not only possible; it becomes positively desirable.
A WORD ABOUT WOUNDOLOGY:
The term “woundology” is a most clever one created by Caroline Myss. Wounds happen to us and mess up our energy flow because of things that we choose to see as being “done” to us by others, or by the adversity of our circumstances. In our day-to-day conversations with others, we often choose to bond with others through this language of woundology. This is usually an intimate tit-for-tat exchange through which we act to maintain our own wounds, while at the same time supporting others in theirs. What Myss has to say in this context is the somewhat harsh admonition to “Get over it!” I feel that what she intends here is, “Focus clearly on doing the work of getting over it. And then get over it!”
WHY WE DON’T WANT TO HEAL
There is an inner psychological block that works against our healing. Misoneism – defined as the fear of change and the hatred of new things – is part of the hard wiring of the human personality. We all manifest this in a variety of ways in our lives. “Better the devil I know than the one I don’t know” is one way of characterizing this element within us. Energetically, this is particularly strong when it comes to the consideration of healing ourselves.
Imagine that we get 100 magical volts of energy every day to operate the perfection of our being. Then imagine that 60 of these volts have become blocked or stored somewhere to support our wounds – and, at the same time, diverted away from one or another of our energy centers. Then imagine that somehow these wounds were to be instantly and magically healed. The result here would be that, all of a sudden, there would be a tremendous surge of extra energy – 60 more volts of it – coursing through the body’s energy circuits, activating the whole of life in a new and powerful way. What would in effect happen here is that we would no longer be in complete control of our lives. We would lose control over the speed with which change occurs in our life.
Change in our lives is going to occur in any event. This is something to know, and something we need to learn to trust. We hold onto letting go of our pain from the past because we see this as a way of stopping the pain from the future – of controlling the rate of change. It is our misoneism which causes us to prefer our present misery over doing the work of healing it.
It takes real courage to heal. It takes courage and trust in the process – and a conscious willingness to let go and flow with the life that lives us. It’s not that forgiveness – which is the essential mechanism for healing our wounds – scares us; it’s that we’re not ready to have our lives change so rapidly. So, in Myss’ words, “Get over it!” And get on with it. Feel the fear, and do it anyway.
THE FIVE MYTHS OF HEALING:
1) My life is defined by my wounds.
This is the core of the woundology experience. This causes us to live and seek out life experiences, relationships, jobs, & etc., that will keep the wounds flourishing. We don’t want to give these up because, amongst other things, we can’t then see ourselves as having anything interesting to talk about. We see ourselves as defined by the wounds we carry around with us, as well as obligated to keep on playing the woundology game with those with whom we associate. Again, the advice here is “Get over it!”
2) Being healthy means being alone.
We really don’t have a model for what the healthy, vulnerable person looks like. We conceive of it as being some sort of perfect state where we no longer need other people in our lives. What we need to learn here is that healing is a process, not a product; that life is a journey, not a destination, and that we are always going to need others in our lives – to learn from, and to teach. We teach by learning, and we learn by teaching, and we need each other for this vital human process to go forward.
3) Feeling pain means being destroyed by pain.
This is a misperception, and a strong one. Misoneism plays a central role here. It helps to understand that pain is not the enemy. Pain is a unique kind of language that speaks to us, and serves to actually move us away from its source. Pain needs to be trusted for what it is, not feared as something that will lead to our demise. (Reread Kahlil Gibran’s poem on pain).
4) All illness is caused by negativity.
This is one of the most popular mythologies about illness. The truth is that this is simply not accurate. All illness is not caused by negativity, yet we hold onto this because of a perverse attraction to the notion of being wrong or negative in our own self-appraisal. This speaks of a weakness in our development in the third energy center, which manifests our self-esteem, self-respect, and personal sense of integrity. So it is necessary to adopt a much softer attitude about this notion that all disease is caused by negativity.
5) True change is not possible.
This is a strong belief. We believe we can maybe change the small things in our life, but we can’t really hope to change the big things. The actual basis of this is a gut feeling that if we make the kinds of changes that we need to do in order to heal, then a lot more than our physical bodies are going to change. This is true – a whole lot more is going to change. We are going to become an absolutely different person, physically, mentally and emotionally. Again, our misoneism plays into this myth in a strong way. The difference that we face in becoming healed is far scarier to us than is the disintegration of the physical body through organic illness. The courage to heal is a fundamental necessity to
get one through this particularly strong myth about healing.
Life is a learning experience. There is never a moment that we are not learning on this planet. Misoneism is quintessentially anti-life. Understand this, trust in the process, and get on with it. While our lessons may look painful, they are actually blessings in disguise. Listen to the meaning in the language of disease, and learn to live the life of surrender- and to experience the joy of it.
Healing requires paying attention to your wounds, becoming familiar with them by developing a capacity for a kind of “second sight.” By second sight, I mean a kind of vision that is transpersonal – something you would see in another, apart from yourself. This involves the dissolving of a measure of one’s own egoism, and it involves learning something more profound about the nature of love. Love is not always “warm fuzzies.” Sometimes it grates on us. Trust that the healing hand “though heavy and hard, is guided by the tender hand of the Unseen.”
Second sight also involves one with a sense of honor. Integrity and honor play a primary role in healing. If you give your word to yourself, you’ve got to keep it. It is not wise to negotiate your honor because this can affect the immune system in a definitely negative way. At this point, it bears telling that the work of healing is not a completely risk free undertaking. Once committed to, it must needs be followed with honor and with integrity. Move into it, stay with it, and remain vigilant for that misoneism stuff.
FIVE STEPS TO HEALING:
Woundedness comes from a loss of spirit – giving its energy away to maintain the wounds. Now that this much is clear, what are we to do about it? Caroline Myss gives the following five steps to healing:
1) You have to force yourself to forgive.
You are not going to want to do it – to forgive. Understand that you do not have to feel that the person you must forgive deserves to be forgiven. That is not the point. You deserve to experience forgiving whoever, and this experience will only come after the fact of completing the effort of forgiveness. You will never know how precious and how good that feels until after you have done it. This forgiveness need not be done face to face with the other person. It is best not done thus because it is your woundedness. You are the one living with the drama of your resentment or hatred. The other person in your drama may have no inkling whatever of what you’re involved with here. Do it for yourself, and by yourself. (See Step 5 below).
2) We have to redefine healing for ourselves.
Healing is not perfection. It is not over when it feels like it’s over. Life is an art; we will keep on creating things in it, things we may well need thereafter to deal with in the healing context. Think of healing as a day-to-day journey, an every day task that you have to live with. Think of healing as your capacity to walk every day through the stresses and challenges that are in your life, or that may come into your life.
3) Stop asking for the reason why things happen as they do.
Give that up. Overcome the need for the “if-then” rationale. That is only holding on for the mind’s own sake. It can accomplish nothing but to stay your progress, and to waste your valuable time being alive. Move forward without hesitation.
4) Chart a course for the future.
Design your life and activities around a vision that is far away from
the wounds you have been living. Force yourself to move in another direction.
5) Have your wounds witnessed three times.
Sit around with others and have your wounds witnessed three times. Don’t go overboard by continuing to go over it again and again. Just three times and you’re done. Avoid slipping into passages where you find yourself needing more and more support. Don’t expect that after this things still won’t hurt, but at least tell yourself, “I’ve been heard. Now I’ve been witnessed. Now I have to get on with my healing.” This is a very powerful way to move your spirit out.
* Stay in present time. Learn to chart your energy and to see when things run off to morbid imaginings or the like, returning to this or that wound. With a requisite vigilance, it is possible to learn when this is happening. You can feel it in your biology. Listen to yourself. Listen to the vocabulary you’re using when you speak to other people. With second sight, you can still have something dramatic or painful going on in your life and still be OK – still be able to relate to others in the present moment.
* Develop a meaningful relationship with reality. Some people prefer to use words like “spiritual” for this kind of reality, or “divine.” I find that calling it simply “reality” makes it more actually accessible in real time and space, rather than putting it “up there and out there” which these other terms have a tendency to do. Life is reality. It embodies synchronicity and it is sacred. Ask deeper questions of life within this context. As sure as God made little green apples, you will find yourself led onward to more useful, productive, and joyous experiences in this life which lives through you. Developing this focus of second sight will make you inwardly stronger, and more real.
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This discourse on healing is not the final answer to your life. With all due respect to Caroline Myss – and I mean that because her work, which I have tried to effectively condense herein, is indeed a valuable tool of understanding – the actual answers we seek in life are not forthcoming from the context of any questions we may be motivated to ask of it. The ultimate answer we seek of life is a feeling – a feeling for which we can formulate no corresponding question. It is like the difference between curiosity and yearning. The curiosity of the mind is able to formulate its relevant questions, but the yearnings of the heart want nothing more than their own fulfillment – and there are no actual questions involved here, just that simple yearning itself. A feeling.
By way of attempting to expand on the relevance of this curiosity of
the mind versus the yearning of the heart, there is an eloquent discussion by Richard Tarnas in a beautiful book entitled, “The Passion of the Western Mind.” The author herein describes how, throughout its whole history, the development of the Western mind has been dominated and informed almost uniquely by the masculine perspective. He says, “The masculinity of the Western mind has been pervasive and fundamental, in both men and women, affecting every aspect of Western thought, determining its most basic conception of the human being and the human role in the world.” I mention this here not in any attempt to explain away the sexism rampant in our society – although that’s not a bad idea – but to underscore something of the strategy that is involved in our process of healing as described by Caroline Myss. Again, there are no final answers here; just some notions about strategy.
The archetype of the masculine in the human psyche is more rational than emotional, and more controlling than permissive in its Promethean struggle to master the universe and all of its elements. Operating alone as it has through the centuries of Western development, separating and defining things in the process of creating an individuated sense of the self, our masculine machinery has managed, ultimately, to isolate and separate man from his natural place in the cosmos. The price paid for this ‘finding the true sense of one’s self’ has indeed been high. And it is worse.
Tarnas does point out that the process he describes here has been a necessary part of the evolution of the Western mind towards its full self-knowledge. However, directing the process of its own evolution in this way has been and yet remains an unconscious activity. The splitting off of the masculine from its natural union with the feminine side of the human psyche has had disastrous consequences. It is this unconsciousness which has caused a profound and primordial woundedness within Western culture as a whole, alienating man from God, from nature, from woman, and even from himself. These wounds have become so deep and pervasive now as to be threatening the very demise of the culture, and of our very civilization – signs of which may be seen everywhere on the planet. In principle, operating through we individuals as microcosm, it is the expression of this same shadow masculine in us which has similarly served to create all of our own personal sense of woundedness.
Myss affirms that our healing can come about only through forgiveness, a felt experience of releasing and of letting go. A sincere and heartfelt forgiveness is beyond the capabilities of a split-off and isolated masculine operating in the human psyche. Allowing ourselves to actually feel what is needed to be felt here is something of what the feminine side of the human personality is all about. Healing therefore calls us to an inner task of immense proportions. From that sense of necessary power which characterizes the masculine, there is an equally necessary act of heroic sacrifice now being demanded of it in order to allow for our healing.
To heal and be whole we need to sacrifice this seeming strength, to create a willful surrender within this controlling part of our natures, and to embrace the power of the feminine feeling part of ourselves. Only feeling this yearning of the feminine in our natures can heal us. Just the currently operative elements of our shadow masculine side will not and cannot complete this vital process of forgiveness with the full presence and sincerity that can come only of our whole, undivided selves. Healing ourselves is healing our society, our culture, and even beyond. Such will be the gift to our planet of those who succeed in accomplishing this hieros gamos – the sacred marriage – reconnecting with the masculine and feminine parts of themselves. This alone can make real the possibility of true forgiveness – of ourselves and of others – and of our healing.
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Earlier in this essay the points were made that the most significant advances in technology in this decade had to do with human conscious awareness and relationship, and that we are facing the task of learning more about the nature of love. Echoing these sentiments, and the promise they hold for us as evolving human beings, is this quote from Pere Teilhard de Chardin:
“Some day, after we have mastered
the winds, the waves, the tides, and gravity,
we shall harness for God the energies of love.
Then for the second time in the history of the world,
man will have discovered fire. “