Monday, February 15, 2010

Life is about Healing

Creation myths, stories of how the world and humanity came to be,  mythic though they be, give one a template from which one can usefully contemplate meaning, the meaning of one’s own life or the human endeavor in general. The biblical story of the 7 days of creation and the story of Adam and Eve present us with a tale that features paradise and the loss thereof, and a view of ourselves as  temptable, given to sin, and in need of redemption. There are many sub stories there, but I take those to be the main themes.

I prefer the mystical version of the creation story, featured in Jewish Mysticism (Kabbalah) in which in the act of creation, the divine light is accidently fractured (G_D is not perfect!) and scattered throughout the world. Each human soul possesses a shard of that light and the purpose of human life is to raise that shard/spark to the heavens, thereby healing the divine Cosmos. Healing is the purpose of life—to heal ourselves, to heal others, and to the heal the Cosmos. Besides not being perfect, G_D needs us.

If I had known this story early on perhaps it would have been my inspiration for training to do the work I do, psychotherapy. But I did not know the story until recent years, and my choice was driven by family and individual forces, largely outside of my awareness at the time. As I contemplate closing down my psychotherapy practice, my thoughts are very focussed on what this all has meant for me: can I really stop doing the work I have done for 4 decades? will it impoverish my life? will my days still have meaning for me? am I making a terrible mistake?

At present I have not even the whisper of an answer to these questions. Only a dim sense that is time to look for other ways to live my life.

But the coming end to my work as a therapist has made me philosophical about “healing.” I have come to believe, perhaps I have been taught by my patients, that the healing principle, the urge toward self mending is buried deep within, is part of the human soul in probably all cases. I have come to see my job, the job of psychotherapy as one in which I join my patients in the task of moving the trash out of the way. If one can dispose of enough trash the essential impulse toward wholeness arises. That job is never easy and often not very successful, but when it is, the patient’s heal themselves, they know the path. I do not.

I work with a lot of traumatized individual—people suffering from chronic PTSD, individuals whose life histories are replete with betrayal and the horrifying suffering that only other human beings can mete out. Mostly I have found that my spirit has been both repaired and enlarged by doing this work. People get better, very slowly, very painfully through the agency of a trusted, steady, and sturdy relationship as well as through the melting and processing of previously frozen memory “icebergs.” 

Surprisingly, yet frequently, there is a spiritual element that sustains them through their suffering and that element plays a large role in promoting the healing.  Its as if the Kabbalistic creation myth comes closer than others in describing the very real process of healing that takes place on an individual, human level. 

I am not always up to my job, assisting others in "raising the spark".  I have at least my share of failures as a therapist. But 40 years of doing my job has left me, foolishly or wisely, believing that life is about healing.


  1. Recreating yourself , after it stops feeling worrisome, will be the most exciting time of your Grandma Moses. Gentle healing and love all around you, how can you lose? Esie

  2. thanks for the support!

  3. After so many years, I can understand why it would be hard to let go of your profession. I imagine you will always help people find healing, though, regardless of whether you have a formal practice or not.