Healing Relationships

Mar 02, 2018

People usually access support when they are in the midst of crisis - they realize their usual tools aren’t working to help them get through the situation they are currently facing (which is in and of itself an important realization - unfortunately it can be challenging for many people to even recognize they need help!), and they reach out for the appropriate support. Depending on the situation, they may reach out to friends, family, co-workers - or to professional helpers such as doctors, therapists, and other healers.

The usual trajectory is: I’m in crisis, I need help. I receive help, after some period I feel better - and then I stop accessing care, until the next crisis hits (whether it’s a health crisis, emotional crisis, etc.). There tends to be a judgment in our larger society that we are weak or deficient if we seek help. Which is exactly why many people resist acknowledging that they need it!

But it is utter arrogance and disconnect from reality, not to mention sad and lonely, to think “I should be able to do this on my own.” The truth is: we are supported on a moment-by-moment basis. Even in our culture that worships ‘self-sufficiency’ - there is very little we could do without the help and support of others. Other people grow, prepare, and bring our food to market. Other people build our roads and our modes of transportation. Other people build our homes, educate our and others’ children, provide us with clean drinking water. In short - unless you are fully committed to living in the wilderness by yourself - we must acknowledge our dependence on others. And rather than somehow feeling like this is a failing, we can be grateful for how incredibly blessed and supported we are moment to moment!

Another judgment in our larger culture is that people seek help (e.g., from a therapist) because they don’t have support from family or friends. This belief goes - if people had a good support system, they wouldn’t need to seek professional support. This belief adds to the shame people can have about seeking support - and adds to why, when they feel somewhat stable again, they exit care as soon as possible.

I am of the belief that a relationship with a healer is an important relationship, in and of itself. Just as we have so many relationships - with our parents and children, partners, co-workers, friends, teachers and students, mentors and mentees, pets - each and every one of these relationships plays an important role in our lives - there is also a real relationship that one forms with a healer (whether therapist, acupuncturist, or other healing professional) which has its place and function.

I have come to this belief partly through my own experience. I, too, have certainly sought out support when in crisis. And I too had to overcome notions of independence - literally told, “I thought you were a strong woman, why do you need this?” Earlier in life, I also came in and out of care depending on whether or not I was in crisis. But I got to a point eventually when I realized: I’m not in crisis, but I still really benefit from this space and this care. I see the difference this makes in my life. To have a space where I can reflect on what is going on with me and in my life, where we devote this period of time just to take care of me - is important.

We can get so busy with our day-to-day tasks, responsibilities, and relationships, that we forget to check in with ourselves, to pause, step back, and reflect on where we are, where we’ve come from, and where we’re going. And even though we can do that with friends and loved ones, these are reciprocal/two-way relationships. Or, in the case of relationships with children, clients, etc. - the relationship clearly calls for giving support, not receiving support. Especially for those of us who hold space for others (whether personally or professionally) - it is crucial to get that space for ourselves.

The beauty of a healing relationship is: it is a space just for you. There is always an energy exchange, but you can relax and allow yourself to have this space for you to take care of yourself. There is a saying that because trauma happens in relationship, healing needs to happen in relationship as well. The very act of being heard and witnessed, beyond any other healing that takes place, is in itself healing.

As a healer myself, I have had the opportunity to experience both sides of it. Both realizing that there is benefit to regularly working with a healer even when I’m not in crisis. And seeing the benefit that my patients receive when they work with me regularly. Just about every patient I have ever worked with comes to see me because they are in acute pain or suffering. And, many of my patients, even when their acute symptoms have been relieved, even when week to week, month to month they are feeling healthy, stable, and well - continue to receive care on a regular basis.

I know this is because they see what a difference it makes in their life: in their day to day health and well-being, feelings of increased energy and reduced feelings of stress and anxiety. And - though this is probably less conscious - they know there is someone here who is familiar with their history and patterns, cares for them, provides a space to reflect on how they’re doing, and can address whatever minor or larger issues are coming up in the moment. There is a trust that gets built over time. And care.

There is a cultural belief that professional helpers aren’t the same as those who love and care for you. I know that is not true. For those of us who are healers - this is not just our jobs, but our calling. We do this work because we have the capacity to hold many people. My patients are not just my clients, they are people I love and have genuine relationships with: but they are very specific relationships. They are not the same relationships as I have with my friends or family. But the healer relationship is a special and important one in itself. As we grow and evolve as a society, I hope it’s a type of relationship that we will come to value in its own right.

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