Looking at the conversations around healing, we’re often confronted by two extremes.
The truth, as it often is, is more nuanced and somewhere in the middle.
In today’s article, I’m sharing the two extremes I often see in the healing dialogue, and then look at what I believe to be truth – which is somewhere in the middle.
Extreme 1: You *need* someone (aka me) to heal you.
.........subtext: without (my) help you'll fail
On one end, we have the idea that without help, without investing in yourself or getting support or hiring someone, you’re doomed to be this unhealed shell of undeveloped potential.
Most of the time this is coming from the people who offer the healing/support/help. There’s usually a ‘from me’ in there – either very clearly stated, e.g. *I’m the powerful healer to help you with this problem*, or it’s implied.
We’ll often hear this in cult-type situations as well, this ‘you can’t be whole / fulfil your potential / get rid of your limitations / be fully YOU (aka the ‘healed’ you) without *this person’s* support / authority / knowledge/ technology / process.
It’s the ONE THING that will change your life, you know?
This side of the spectrum often paints the person pre-healing as broken, not-good-enough, and to some extent helpless without external help.
It encourages the person who’s going to receive the healing work to outsource their own authority/agency to the person who is doing the healing.
‘As an unhealed person I don’t know what I need, but you, super healing expert know because you have all this experience, expertise, knowledge, wisdom and goddess-given, past-life experience, downloaded spiritual power that is just not accessible to me. So you tell me what I need and I’ll follow you/work with you…
Until. You. Fix. Me.’
Really, the idea that we’re useless until we’re healed or that we’re somehow deficient until we heal / personally develop / etc is flawed but that’s for a whole other article.
This message of healing being your salvation and that salvation must come from a source outside yourself, creates a co-dependent, disempowering relationship.
No wonder so many people want to steer away from positioning themselves as a healer who will come in and *heal* you.
And that’s how we often end up at the other extreme:
Extreme 2: You don’t need ANYONE ELSE to heal - you can heal yourself!
On the other end, we have the idea that everyone innately has the power / ability to heal themselves, without anyone else.
That a person who helps you heal doesn’t actually *do* anything for you, they just help you heal yourself.
You don’t need external support. You innately have the power to heal yourself.
(So why don’t you? – at least, that’s the quiet part I hear.)
Here’s what springs to mind where I hear this point of view:
1) Toxic individualism
You know, the kind we see in capitalism where we say that every person should be completely self-sufficient and able to take care of themselves without help.
Who needs community when you can fix everything on your own?
Is it somehow more noble to suffer through doing it by yourself than getting help from someone else with more experience or knowledge in that area?
2) It reminds me of ‘you have to love yourself before you can love someone else.’
You’ve probably heard that phrase before.
I saw this response to that idea (can’t remember where from, it was years ago on a random Facebook post or I’d share the source, and I am heavily paraphrasing from memory here):
‘To ask someone to love themselves when they may have never experienced love, or acceptance, or compassion, and telling them that they can *only* being in a loving relationship with someone else once they’ve figured that out for themselves can be an insurmountable mountain.’
When I hear ‘no one can heal you, you have to heal yourself’ or ‘everyone can heal themselves – they have the power’ I hear an echo of the love yourself first statement.
If you don’t know what healing looks like, or what’s possible, how are you going to figure out how to do it for yourself?
And yeah, maybe you can spend hours on free videos on YouTube, reading books from the library, following people on social media, and cobble together something for yourself.
Is that really better than finding a practitioner with years of experience who can help you with the process?
Because let’s face it, very few people are going to innately have the knowledge to ‘heal themselves’.
Aren't we just blaming people for not being able to fix all their problems by themselves?
3) Is there really something wrong with admitting that others help us heal?
Sometimes when I see the ‘I don’t heal you, I show you how to heal yourself’ statements, I wonder:
‘Are you downplaying your own skill, knowledge and ability?’
While my main goal in my work is to help someone learn how to connect to and take care of their body, there are times that I intervene.
There are times when I need to connect in and hear to help the person I’m working with hear.
There are times I connect in to clear or adjust something.
(Side note: some of my favourite times are when I’m in a video session and connect to a specific area of the body to release – but don’t tell the client where – and they actually feel me working!)
On the one hand, people need to be active participants in their own anything.
Just like knee surgery (see analogy below) won’t work if the patient doesn’t follow the rehab and recuperation advice, so healing will be absolutely ineffective if the person receiving it refuses to participate.
However, if the practitioner is there with expertise and advice and directing the session and holding space, then surely that practitioner is *not* just helping them heal themselves, but is also an active participant in the process?
Especially where a person may be working with energy or holding space or even just validating someone (which can be incredibly healing in and of itself).
Knee surgery - an analogy
I know that healing is a VERY broad term here.
There’s healing like, doing some journaling and reflection to bring awareness and process wounds.
That’s healing, and that is absolutely something you can do on your own.
Then there’s healing where a practitioner is holding space, facilitating, guiding, using trauma-informed practices, etc that require more specialised knowledge and experience.
For the sake of reference let’s say I’m talking about the more in-depth healing work.
It seems odd to me that we would never say to someone ‘oh, you need knee surgery? Just heal yourself! You don’t need someone else.’
We recognise that certain things require specialised knowledge and experience to get adequate support.
We also recognise that if someone has a symptom that needs checking, we don’t tell them to figure it out for themselves. They go to a diagnostician, to get scans or biopsies or whatever is required from people with the knowledge to be able to help them.
But with non-‘physical’ healing, this side of the extreme is ‘you should be able to heal yourself – so… go!’
The Middle Truth
If these are the extremes, what’s the middle, more nuanced truth?
It’s the combination of the two sides or, if you see this as a spectrum, it’s quite literally – the middle.
It isn’t healthy to create a codependent relationship where the healing practitioner is the saviour, the one with all the answers, and the client is unable to do anything without them.
It isn’t healthy to expect a person to heal themselves all on their own without help. It’s often setting themselves up for failure or feeling worse about themselves when it proves to be not as easy as they’d hoped.
While some healing can be done independently, there’s no shame in needing help from someone else who has specialised knowledge, skill or ability in the area you’re looking for support with.
After all, humans only got as far as they did by cooperating, sharing, and in many cases, specialising and sharing their specialisations for the good of the whole.
In truth, or rather, in an ideal situation, healing is a co-creation. It’s not entirely in the power of the practitioner, as there needs to be buy in and active participation from the person who is looking to receive the healing.
A good healer – or, any health / personal development practitioner, really – will focus on supporting the client and empowering them to understand how to find the abilities within themselves, while stepping in where there may be a gap in knowledge or ability.
The middle truth about healing is wide and there is space for variation – but let’s make sure we don’t end up in one of the extremes. They might make for good social media (the more opinionated the better, right?) but they’re not really where the truth lies.
14 April 2023 Edit: Removed the word ‘guru’ from original article. Thank you to my friend Anuradha Kowtha, of Kowtha Constellation, who took the time to explain why its use was disrespectful to religious traditions that use guru as a revered teacher.