We are healed through being a healer. When we engage in a healing relationship with another person, we ourselves are healed. This truth was explored eloquently by Martin Buber in his classic book, I AND THOU. On June 29th 2016, I wrote about “healing relationships” more from the perspective of receiving the healing rather than seeking to give the healing. It is important to know that it is through giving of our authentic self that we are healed in the process. It is a fact that people throughout history who have been known as great healers, had some deep wounds themselves.
A healing relationship is one in which no one is seeking any ego gratification from the relationship, no one is judging the other person, and there is no fear of any kind. Each person is able to see the truth of who that other person is, despite what that person might be showing on the surface. A healing relationship requires no profound words (often no words at all), and requires no clever insights or analysis. Healing relationships do not require spiritual perfection on your part (as if that was even possible for any of us). Healing relationships simply require an open willingness to suspend judgment and to engage deeply with another person while stripping away your own defenses of trying to impress another person, or to hide anything about yourself.
In order to be effective as a healer, you need to be as secure in your sense of self-worth as possible, while still being humble enough to acknowledge your own shortcomings. It is this ability to impart a sense of worth to the other person while accepting their shortcomings that makes healing possible for them through a relationship with you. This is imparted through your attitude, and sometimes your direct words of affirmation and acceptance.
A good concrete and common example of when your healing relationship can be especially meaningful is when a person is experiencing a loss. What you do in that case is what is depicted above by Snoopy and Charlie Brown. Just let them know by your attitude and simple words that you care for and support them in whatever they are experiencing in that moment. Do not give advice or offer platitudes. I recently heard many of the wrong things to say to someone who is going through a loss. I was present as one person after another was trying to offer comfort (or, to deal with their Own discomfort) by saying things like, “It was God’s plan,” or “She is in a better place now,” or “We should be happy that she is no longer suffering.” All of this was totally discounting the poor grieving woman’s sadness at the loss of her dear friend. The real message was, “Get over it!” All Christy really needed in that moment was for someone to offer her a listening ear, a hug; or better yet, to cry with her.
One downfall of having a chronic illness is that it is an automatic brain and body response to go into survival mode when we are experiencing our own illness. We become very self-centered when we are in “survival mode,” and we can be unaware of others’ needs around us. All of us who deal with chronic illness need to fight the automatic self-centeredness that can kick in. It is through helping others deal with their concerns that we can find healing ourselves. Largely, because in those moments when we are engaged in a relationship in which we are offering support and care, we are not focused on our own illness. It is in those moments that healing can come to us.
The 19th century Persian philosopher Rumi captured the healing relationship eloquently: “Beyond our ideas of right-doing and wrong-doing there is a field. I’ll meet you there. When the soul lies down in that grass, the world is too full to talk about. Ideas, language, even the phrase ‘each other’ doesn’t make sense anymore.”
Make it your goal to be a healer through non-judgmental care and support of the people you meet.
Christopher Knippers, Ph.D. November 30, 2016