Why You Should Choose Your Healing Story Carefully
There’s a really great book which I read twenty years ago which deeply influenced me about personal and collective healing. It’s Caroline Myss’ “Why People Don’t Heal and How They Can.” The book alerted me to the very important distinction between travelling a healing journey… and actually healing. Many who see themselves as committed to psychological and spiritual growth embrace the former, but never quite realize the latter.
There are two essential points I took from the book which are crucial to truly understanding this distinction. Years of self-work, and working as a spiritual counsellor with others, have reinforced in my mind just how important these ideas are.
Firstly, many riding upon the sometimes stormy waves of the healing journey become identified with their wound. They identify as a victim of whatever occurred to them. For example: “I am an alcoholic,” “I am a child-abuse victim,” “I am a rape victim,” etc. It’s almost inevitable at some point that we all do this, to some degree. The key is to recognize the attachment, then to deliberately seek re-identification with a healthy state of being. This does not guarantee automatic healing, but it does shift the way we relate to the wound. The wound is not an end in itself, merely an important step along the way. This attitude gives us optimal opportunity to shift towards the healed state. What we focus upon expands.
The second important point I took from the Myss’ book is that having a wound often permits one to have intimacy within a group. Entire communities can be formed with a woundedness or even victim narrative. Healing groups are, ironically, one of the most salient examples. Within healing groups, to heal is to lose one’s reason for being in the group, and if that group is a central source of an individual’s personal intimacy, there will likely be resistance to healing. We can get stuck there.
Many social justice movements today suffer from the above issues. They identify with a wound, a victim state, and those who challenge that narrative often receive hostility from other group members. Leaders within the group typically leverage power and control over members by enforcing the narrative. Healing becomes a threat to the group, as does forgiveness and peace. The group’s focus is not upon embodied, joyful presence, nor upon actualizing a preferred future. Instead, the group’s attention is firmly fixed upon the injustices of the past, designated oppressors and the “drama” between them. And that story must go on.
This is why I now mostly avoid social justice narratives, and suggest that others either avoid them, or work cautiously within them. The key is to bring consciousness to one’s thoughts, agendas and actions in relation to the group. Given that many agendas tend to be unconscious, this requires shadow work – looking deep within.
One should also examine the consciousness of the group. Social justice movements in general, and even many healing groups, have become very destructive in their intentionality. Much of their energy is projected at an “evil other”, who must be eliminated. This is part of the “drama.” It does nothing to assist in your healing, nor that of the group. This may be true regardless of how much the group uses the language of healing, justice and the moral.
Note that none of this means trauma should be denied or repressed. It has to be acknowledged. Indeed, in my understanding, it often has to be felt fully. To run from pain is to guarantee it’s perpetuation. “Drama” is any activity that emerges from an unconscious desire to avoid one’s own pain.
This is why inner child work can be really healing and transformative. The key is to be with the child, not identify with its pain, nor with the beliefs and narratives that have developed from that pain. Until the narrative shifts, healing is unlikely.
In the end the key to all healing is this. Be present with whatever thoughts and feelings arise within you, no matter how dark or painful. If you do this, deep presence, and healing, will surely follow. If your ideology or group does not permit this, you likely will never heal.
So, what do you choose?