"Who, if I cried, in the hierarchy of angels would hear me?" Rainier Maria Rilke

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What is Healing? Radical and Mostly Useless Thoughts.

This is a funny question for me to pose. I work in the healing arts, both as a massage therapist and as an energy worker. One of the questions that we were asked in massage school has never left me: “What is your vision of what you do and how it fits into society as a whole? Are you healing people who can afford it as a luxury service, or are you part of a larger picture of creating a healthier community and making massage available to all?” Most of us answered this question practically for ourselves by sheepishly allowing that we would mostly work on those who could afford us, and appease our consciences by doing some pro bono work for the less fortunate. We bemoaned the system which made it so, that the people who most need massage often have least access to it, but we did not fight that system as it paid our bills. A lingering discomfort with these stark realities informs our work for many of us.
Many of us give away a fair amount of work to those who cannot afford it at all, but more often we simply shrug our shoulders and give up.
My question about healing is this: Does it really constitute healing if it only treats the privileged few, and does not address larger societal ills? Are anyone’s illnesses really in a vacuum and particular to them? Can I help with caretaking the many people I am suddenly hearing have cancer without also becoming active in working against the poisoning of our water and air and food? Who has time for all this holistic, systemic thinking and action?
Is it healing to alleviate symptoms, or only if you address causes? Is it in fact my job to patch people back up from tendonitis and carpal tunnel so that they might go back to mindless 12 hour days of keyboarding in the service of industries which are destroying the planet?
These are the things I wonder when I drive by people camping in tents in winter under a freeway underpass on my way to do massage on executives and highly paid IT workers. They have not changed over the years, but my faith that by doing my small part I move society towards a healthier place has taken a beating.

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On Help And Helping

The question has arisen from several sides lately regarding what is help, when to seek help, when help is not helpful but hindering. Some of this depends on the agenda of the person helping: do they wish to move you forward in your life, do they wish to impart information you don’t have and alleviate unnecessary suffering? Or are they trying to lessen your pain so you quit taking it out on everyone else but aside from that have no real interest in your well-being? All of these are fine, I think, although the last one will leave you feeling a little odd as the motive is nothing to do with you.
What does not work and only backfires is the “helping” which is predicated on the need of the helper to be useful and to perceive him or herself as better or one-up on the helpee. It draws us into the Karpman drama triangle, where the helped person must be viewed as victim, there must be a persecutor, and the rescuer is more likely than not to take on the persecutor role at some point. Equally often, the victim gets tired of being considered victim and flips into persecuting the rescuer.
All very messy. Feelings are hurt all the way around and no real resolution occurs. Generally, everyone walks away with whatever world view they held going in feeling confirmed for them, and everyone feeling ill-used.
Real help by contrast feels supportive and freeing. It is something you are at liberty to respectfully decline. It adds to your power rather than taking away from it. These are people who ask first, “would you like help or feedback with that or are you just wanting me to listen” before they volunteer solutions or step in to do anything on your behalf.
Another “help” issue which has arisen for me lately is when to ask for help in areas I consider my own specialty-when, in other words, to admit that personally I’m in over my head and become willing to accept help.
I had a steep and good learning curve with that this morning. (Thank you, Ed!). No matter how gifted a healer one is, there is a time and a place to turn to others and accept assistance. I am most grateful this finally occurred to me today.