[Please note: ACIM passages quoted in this article reference the Foundation for Inner Peace (FIP) Edition.]
I doubt there is a person alive who does not in some sense want to be a healer. No matter how selfish we may seem to be, all of us have a spark inside that yearns to provide help, comfort and upliftment to others. Yet how do we do this? The Course has a great deal of material on how to carry out this function, which it calls “the natural profession of the children of God” (Text, p. 6; T-1.III.1:10).
Perhaps the key to being a healer in the Course is realizing that healing is content, not form. It is not what you say or do, how you smile or nod; it is what is in your mind. Thus, the only question is: Are you holding a healed vision of the person you want to help? Do you see them as fundamentally healed and whole right now?
Therefore, a great deal of our job as healers is to police our own mind, to stay vigilant for anti-healing thoughts. “When such thoughts occur, we quietly step back and look at them, and then we let them go” (Workbook, p. 411;W-pII.254.2:2). The following are 20 such thoughts to look out for. (By the way, I have chosen to use the more neutral words “receiver” and “recipient” rather than the word “patient” which the Course uses.)
1. IDENTIFYING THE RECIPIENT WITH HIS/HER PROBLEMS
This means thinking that the receiver is defined by their problems, by their personality deficiencies, unhealthy emotional responses or mistaken choices. Yet these are not who the person is, and healing comes from recognizing “who it is that is in need of healing” (Manual, p. 54; M‑22.4:6).
The real handicaps of the clinicians lie in their attitudes to those whom their egos perceive as weakened and damaged. By these evaluations, they have weakened and damaged their own helpfulness…(personal remark of Jesus to Helen and Bill, see Absence from Felicity, p. 301).
2. FOCUSING ON HOW LIKABLE THE RECEIVER’S PERSONALITY IS
It can be a sobering feeling when you realize you really want this person healed because your personality likes their personality.
When a teacher of God fails to heal…he has identified with another’s ego…(Manual, p. 54; M-22.5).
3. FOCUSING ON THE RECEIVER’S BODY
Just as it is easy to fixate on the personality, its pluses and minuses, so it is very tempting to focus on the body, “its flaws and better points” (Workbook, p. 138; W-pI.78.6:4), how sick or well it is, how young or old, how attractive or unattractive, etc.
See his face, his hands and feet, his clothing. Watch him smile, and see familiar gestures which he makes so frequently. Then think of this: What you are seeing now conceals from you the sight of one who can forgive you all your sins…(Workbook, p. 298; W-pI.161.11:3-5).
4. THINKING YOU HAVE TO CHANGE THE RECIPIENT
The goal of healing, says the Course, is a change in the recipient’s mind. But if we see this as a real change in who that person is, then we must see them now as truly flawed and damaged. And it is how we see them now that either heals or reinforces sickness.
Regardless of how sincere the therapist himself may be, he must want to change the patient’s self‑concept in some way that he believes is real (Psychotherapy, p. 3; P‑2.Intro.4:1).
5. FEELING ANGRY OR RESENTFUL TOWARD THE RECEIVER
We normally assign to the recipient the role of making us a successful healer, therapist, teacher, counselor, etc. When they do not go along with the program, we can get very resentful. Perhaps we are trying to help them realize there is a higher way to solve their problems. And they come to us and excitedly announce they have found the solution, which turns out to be a “magic thought”–the same kind of hopeless solution they have tried a million times, a solution that expresses their problem rather than solves it. As a healer, our “major lesson is to learn how to react to magic thoughts wholly without anger” (Manual, p. 45; M-18.2:1).
6. FEELING THAT THE RECIPIENT IS A VICTIM
This, I believe, is one of the greatest temptations as a healer. You really care about this person. As a result you are highly tempted to express your caring by subtly affirming that their pain comes from being unfairly treated by the world. The section “True Empathy” is directed at this phenomenon. When someone asks us to “understand” their feelings, this usually means to affirm that, given the (shoddy) way they have been treated, it is valid to feel the (crappy) way they do. The Course has strong words about this:
To empathize does not mean to join in suffering, for that is what you must refuse to understand….if you will merely let the Holy Spirit relate through you, you will empathize with strength [not suffering and weakness]…(Text, p. 307; T-16.I.1:1,2:6).
7. FEELING THAT THE RECIPIENT CANNOT BE TRUSTED TO RECEIVE YOUR GIFTS
In any kind of human gift giving there is almost always the worry that the other person will simply be too dense to appreciate what a wonderful gift you are giving them.
No one can give if he is concerned with the result of giving….Trust is an essential part of giving….Who gives a gift and then remains with it, to be sure it is used as the giver deems appropriate? Such is not giving but imprisoning (Manual, p. 19; M-6.3).
8. FEELING THAT THE PARTICULAR PROBLEM MATTERS AND THAT SOME PROBLEMS ARE HARDER TO HEAL THAN OTHERS
The Course repeatedly challenges the idea that certain problems and illnesses are bigger, weightier and more intractable than others. The first principle of miracles says, in effect, that all are just different sizes and shapes of zero.
Not once do the advanced teachers of God consider the forms of sickness in which their brother believes. To do this is to forget that all of them have the same purpose, and therefore are not really different (Manual, p. 19; M‑5.III.3:1-3).
9. SELF-CONCERN AND SELF-DOUBT
The real basis for doubt about the outcome of any problem that has been given to God’s Teacher for resolution is always self‑doubt. And that necessarily implies that trust has been placed in an illusory self, for only such a self can be doubted. This illusion can take many forms. Perhaps there is a fear of weakness and vulnerability. Perhaps there is a fear of failure and shame associated with a sense of inadequacy. Perhaps there is a guilty embarrassment stemming from false humility. The form of the mistake is not important. What is important is only the recognition of a mistake as a mistake.
The mistake is always some form of concern with the self to the exclusion of the patient (Manual, p. 22; M-7.5:1-6:1).
10. FEELINGS THAT YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR THE OUTCOME
Essential to the healing process, says the Course, is the realization that “the Holy Spirit is the only Healer” (Text, p. 240; T-13.VIII.1:2). We are merely channels for Him. Believing we are responsible for the healing process places on our shoulders a burden we are simply not equipped to carry.
…he thought he was in charge of the therapeutic process and was therefore responsible for its outcome. His patient’s errors thus became his own failures…who could experience the end of guilt who feels responsible for his brother in the role of guide for him? Such a function presupposes a knowledge that no one here can have; a certainty of past, present and future, and of all the effects that may occur in them (Psychotherapy, p. 14-15; P-2.VII.4,5).
11. LACK OF TRUST IN THE POWER IN YOU
Paradoxically, although we must realize we are not the healer, we must also humbly acknowledge that the Healer is in us and that all power works through us.
Yet it is as insane not to accept a function God has given you as to invent one He has not. The advanced therapist in no way can ever doubt the power that is in him. Nor does he doubt its Source. He understands all power in earth and Heaven belongs to him because of who he is (Psychotherapy, p. 15; P-2.VII.6).
12. FEELINGS OF SACRIFICE
Until we learn that giving is not loss but receiving, we will be frequently tempted to believe that healing is a sacrifice, a strain, and therefore something we can do only a portion of the time.
There is a tendency to assume that you are being called on constantly to make sacrifices of yourself for those who come. This could hardly be true. To demand sacrifice of yourself is to demand a sacrifice of God, and He knows nothing of sacrifice (Psychotherapy, p. 17; P‑3.I.1:7-9).
13. DESIRE FOR APPROVAL, CONGRATULATIONS
When we see healing as a sacrifice, we will want compensation in the form of all kinds of worldly gifts. One of them, of course, is overt gratitude.
You make attempts at kindness and forgiveness. Yet you turn them to attack again, unless you find external gratitude and lavish thanks. Your gifts must be received with honor, lest they be withdrawn (Workbook, p. 367; W-pI.197.1:2-4).
14. DESIRE FOR MONEY
Another form of compensation, of course, is money. As touchy as this subject is, the Course has no compunction about confronting it rather strongly:
Only an unhealed healer would try to heal for money, and he will not succeed to the extent to which he values it….The therapist who would do this loses the name of healer, for he could never understand what healing is. He cannot give it, and so he does not have it (Psychotherapy, p. 21; P-3.III.2).
15. DESIRE TO FEEL HOLY, SAINTLY
Even if we eschew overt thanks and monetary rewards, we still can bask in that inner sense that says, “Now that I did this great thing, now I am really holy.” True, we are holy, but because God created us that way. Believing we are holy because of something we did means believing that we can create ourselves.
16. DIAGNOSING THE RECIPIENT
One of the major pitfalls of being a healer is the idea that we can sit above those we seek to help and play their judge, figuring out who they are and what is wrong with them. Jesus acknowledged to Helen and Bill, who were professional psychologists, that at this time diagnosis is an “unfortunate necessity.” Yet he also surrounded this comment with strong cautions:
Whenever you have judged anyone, it is impossible for you not to make this judgment on yourself….The only way you can experience any peace while this unfortunate necessity for interpreting illusions remains is to recognize that you are discussing only illusions, and that this has no real meaning at all (Absence from Felicity, p. 327).
17. DECIDING ON A TREATMENT
As helpers it is our function to offer some kind of treatment, even if that only takes the form of a smile or a prayer (Manual, p. 67; M-29.2:2-3). Yet deciding what this treatment shall be is emphatically not up to us.
Who, then, decides what each brother needs? Surely not you, who do not yet recognize who he is who asks. There is Something in him that will tell you, if you listen. And that is the answer; listen. Do not demand, do not decide, do not sacrifice. Listen (Psychotherapy, p. 17; P‑3.I.2:1-6).
18. BELIEVING YOU ARE SUPERIOR, THAT YOU HAVE SOMETHING THE RECIPIENT DOES NOT
This is one of the primary pitfalls of being a healer, addressed repeatedly in the Course material on healing. True, the healing process takes the form of one person offering to another a sense of health or completeness the other does not seem to possess. Yet healing occurs to the extent we can look beyond this form to the content, that of two equal brothers recognizing their oneness.
Some [therapists] utilize the relationship merely to collect bodies to worship at their shrine, and this they regard as healing (Psychotherapy, p. 20; P-3.II.9:8).
Someone knows better; this the magic phrase by which the body seems to be the aim of healing as the world conceives of it. And to this wiser one another goes to profit by his learning and his skill; to find in him the remedy for pain. How can that be? True healing cannot come from inequality assumed and then accepted as the truth…(Song of Prayer, p. 17-18; S‑3.III.3:1-4).
19. FEELINGS OF FALSE HUMILITY
This is the converse of the superiority complex, in which we either denigrate ourselves, experiencing “a guilty embarrassment stemming from false humility” (Manual, p. 22; M-7.5:6), or we denigrate both ourselves and the receiver, saying that we are just as bad as they are, that in effect we “both have been unworthy and deserve the retribution of the wrath of God” (Song of Prayer, p. 12; S-2.II.3:3).
20. BELIEF THAT YOU ARE SEPARATE, DIFFERENT
Underneath all of our perceptions of others lies the belief that we are separate beings with different make-ups, different problems and therefore different interests. In other words, chances are, we will not benefit as one from any given thing. This belief in separateness is the fundamental illness. Healing, therefore, comes from the realization of oneness.
A sick person perceives himself as separate from God. Would you see him as separate from you? It is your task to heal the sense of separation that has made him sick (Manual, p. 54; M‑22.6:5‑7).