What Is Healing?

What Is Healing?


What is healing anyway? To answer that question, we need to ask another question: What is a human being? Healing is recovering from anything that causes you to feel and act less than human. Which begs the question, what is it to be human? I was listening to a podcast in which the host asked two men, one an academic Buddhist and one a mystic, this question. I still don’t know what the hell the academic guy was on about. But the mystic pointed out that in the mystical expressions of both Judaism and Islam (Sufism) a human being perfected or completed God. God couldn’t be God without humans being human. So, okay, humans are theologically, cosmically, evolutionarily critical.

This is a good first step in that it undermines the philosophical and scientific materialism which tries to persuade us that we’re not much more than a collection of atoms and molecules and chemical reactions enjoying a brief, but meaningless stint on a planet, which is itself an accident and going nowhere, pretty fast. What would it look like for each of us to proceed in life as if we were a diamond node in a sacred web of life without whom God Him/Her/Itself would be diminished. (You can call this anything you want: Source, Great Mystery, Great Spirit).

Well, it turns out that on many medicine journeys this is precisely what comes to the fore. You don’t have to believe it. You feel it. You see it. You know it. We are cosmically significant beings, able to bridge between the realm of Earth and the Heavens. I would say that to be human means grasping this in a direct way, by whatever means. If not, we’ll proceed in life without sufficient intensity, courage, and purpose. You feel “I matter”. And that you’re being recruited and resourced to realize this core aspect of your humanity.

Trauma make us feel less than human in this sense. The first casualty of trauma is a felt sense that “I matter”. An early unconscious belief sets in which is “I don’t matter”. Which is exactly how the traumatized individual has been treated. It’s not true, of course. Angels and ancestors gather for strategy sessions on how to get you back on line and with the program. Healing is simply accepting the truth of the matter, a truth that lies hidden under layers of rage, hatred, shame, and sorrow. But it’s there. You are there. If you’re like me, in order to survive you directed these feelings against the self, rather than against the person(s) making you feel like you don’t matter—which is another way of saying you were humiliated. So, for a time, it’s necessary to direct the rage and the hatred outward. It’s not your fault and never was.

Returning to our question, what is it to be human? I would add that to be human is to be able to break out of ego and see and feel that there are others, beautiful, mysterious others, and along with this, you discover that you care. Deeply, unambiguously, fiercely. This sense of there being beautiful others for whom I care is also a casualty of trauma. When my heart is broken by those who are supposed to love me and help me to feel safe, I hide behind the attitude “I don’t care”. Which is bullshit. You care so much that life is not actually worth living any other way. But you are, I am, afraid. Fair enough. But this caring for the other is ontological — a fancy way of saying that it comes as standard equipment for us humans. When we lose the capacity to see the other (because the other is nothing more than a commodity that our unsure, unloveable, unworthy, self-loathing – somebody stop me – ego uses to reassure itself), we are not human. Well, we are, but we’re not doing human. We’re doing “fuck you and the horse you rode in on” because we got hurt. Fair enough. But for your own sake, it’s time to drop the self-protective homicidal gesture. It’s actually killing you and doing nothing to the person who hurt you.

This is why the spiritual traditions all teach that to be human is to break out of the solipsistic loop of the self-protective ego, i.e., to “die” and be born again. The rebirth is a realization that we matter absolutely, that there are beautiful others, and that we care (love).

Finally, I”ll add a third dimension to what it means to be human. We are creatures who are able to create future for ourselves and others not absolutely determined by the past. Here again, a casualty of trauma is that the past is not actually past. It’s hijacking the present and the future that wants to be born through us — the future that maybe our ancestors dreamed about and which needs you to be realized (see point 1). Trauma traps us into patterns of re-enactment of violence, in self-loathing, and in anxiety and depression. It keeps us on the hamster wheel of trying to prove to ourselves and others that we worthy and valuable—but because we don’t actually believe it, this becomes a lifelong project doomed to failure. Creativity, the ultimate expression of which is fashioning a life that reflects our true and unique nature, stalls.

So, that’s my stab at what it means to be human: a sense of personal significance, ( I matter ); the capacity to see the other and care (I love); and the ability to create a future (starting with self) that is not determined by the past (I am free to create) Healing then, is allowing all obstacles to your humanity to fall away—through insight, grief, and alignment with your true nature, the wholeness before which all the messages and beliefs telling you that you are less than human, fall away.

Shine, beauties, the world needs you to be the world. Source needs you to be completed.

Bruce Sanguin Psychotherapist

Written by Bruce Sanguin

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