Why People Don't Heal and How They Can

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For more than fifteen years, Caroline Myss has studied why some people heal, while others do not. In her previous book, Anatomy of the Spirit, Dr. Myss illuminated the hidden interactions of belief and body, soul and cell to show how, as she inimitably puts it, "your biography becomes your biology." In this new book, she builds on her earlier teachings of the seven different energy centers of the body to provide a vital self-healing program for physical and spiritual disorders. With her characteristic no-nonsense...
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Overview

For more than fifteen years, Caroline Myss has studied why some people heal, while others do not. In her previous book, Anatomy of the Spirit, Dr. Myss illuminated the hidden interactions of belief and body, soul and cell to show how, as she inimitably puts it, "your biography becomes your biology." In this new book, she builds on her earlier teachings of the seven different energy centers of the body to provide a vital self-healing program for physical and spiritual disorders. With her characteristic no-nonsense style and high-voltage storytelling, she exposes and explodes the five myths about healing, explains the cultural and individual contexts in which people become physically and spiritually ill and invested in "woundology," and teaches new methods of working with the challenges that the seven energy centers embody.
        
Both visionary and practical, Why People Don't Heal and How They Can presents a bold new account of the development of human consciousness and spirituality over the ages, and examines the dynamic global transformation of attitudes about healing. To help you get and stay on the path to wellness, Dr. Myss provides rituals and prayers for gaining a symbolic perspective on your life issues; for bolstering your personal power; and for connecting with a universal divine energy. Dr. Myss's breakthrough views on energy medicine and her active approach to healing life issues and physical illness will help you overcome the mental blocks that keep you from becoming well.

"Why do some people heal and others grow sicker? The author, who has been studying why this occurs for more than 15 years, looks into the reasons and explains how using the mind can aid in healing."

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Myss is a medical intuitive, a person who "sees" illnesses in the body by intuitive means. Here she writes about healing, the various attempts people make to do it, and why they get "stuck." A global thinker, Myss looks at the entire civilization and at "astrological ages" when discussing healing. She also explains the influence of chakras and astrological ages on healing. At the heart of the book is Myss's challenge to five myths that stand in the way of healing: My life is defined by my wound (perhaps the most original concept here); being healthy means being alone; feeling pain means being destroyed; all illness is the result of negativity; and true change is impossible. Myss believes that giving up these myths leads one closer to healing. Many will think her concepts too far out to be of use; others will see her as visionary. The latter will be looking for this book wherever New Age titles circulate well.

-- Barbara O'Hara, Free Library of Philadelphia

Library Journal
Myss is a medical intuitive, a person who "sees" illnesses in the body by intuitive means. Here she writes about healing, the various attempts people make to do it, and why they get "stuck." A global thinker, Myss looks at the entire civilization and at "astrological ages" when discussing healing. She also explains the influence of chakras and astrological ages on healing. At the heart of the book is Myss's challenge to five myths that stand in the way of healing: My life is defined by my wound (perhaps the most original concept here); being healthy means being alone; feeling pain means being destroyed; all illness is the result of negativity; and true change is impossible. Myss believes that giving up these myths leads one closer to healing. Many will think her concepts too far out to be of use; others will see her as visionary. The latter will be looking for this book wherever New Age titles circulate well.

-- Barbara O'Hara, Free Library of Philadelphia

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780609600900
  • Publisher: Crown Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 10/21/1997
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 263
  • Product dimensions: 5.12 (w) x 8.82 (h) x 1.26 (d)

Meet the Author

Caroline Myss was born on December 2, 1952 in Chicago, Illinois. She received a bachelor of arts degree in journalism from the Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College in Indiana in 1974. During her career as a journalist, she interviewed Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, the author of the book, On Death and Dying, which inspired her to pursue a master's degree in theology from Mundelein College, which she completed in 1979. She also studied intuition and energy medicine at Greenwich University. In 1982, she started giving medical intuitive readings and has been in the field of energy medicine and human consciousness for 20 years. She specializes in assisting people in understanding the emotional, psychological, and physical reasons why their bodies have developed an illness. She has written numerous books including Anatomy of the Spirit; Why People Don't Heal and How They Can; Sacred Contracts; Entering the Castle; and Defy Gravity: Healing Beyond the Bounds of Reason.
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Read an Excerpt


Chapter One

Woundology and the Healing Fire

In the late spring of 1988, I arrived at the Findhorn Community in northeastern Scotland to teach a healing workshop. At that point in my career the people who came to my workshops had tended to be searching for a personal healing. They expected me, as a medical intuitive, to facilitate their healing directly by giving them an individual reading and setting up a treatment regimen for them. (These days my workshops are largely filled with self-reliant people who want to learn how to become more intuitive by learning to speak chakras and so heal themselves and their lives, or professionals looking to learn how to help others heal.)
        
Though I myself am not a healer, I was happy to help them, of course, to the best of my abilities. Often in my readings I was simply validating the suspicions, insights, or intuitions that they already had about themselves and the changes they needed to make in their lives. Sometimes these readings ignited an inner physical and spiritual healing process. Even so, at that time, my workshop participants and I all felt that we were on the right track. After all, healing and health had become the main focus of the holistic or consciousness culture as well as the center of my life. Almost everyone I met, professionally and personally, spoke about either wanting to become a healer or needing a healer, being on their way to visit a new healer, or believing that they were meant to be a healer as soon as they had completed their own healing.
        
I enjoyed traveling around the world and meetingspiritually committed people who needed me as much as I needed them, and I had especially come to love Findhorn, a community of about three hundred people sharing an organic, cooperative life and a respect for all spiritual paths. Some of the community members reside in an enchanting, converted turn-of-the-century hotel; others have made their home quarters in a beautiful park area alongside the Findhorn Bay. The rugged beauty of the Scottish Highlands, combined with the spiritual focus of the community, make Findhorn a most attractive place to be. Whenever I go there, I seem to receive a special energetic charge that results in some important insight, and this visit in 1988 was no exception. This time, however, the insight came in a rather unlikely way.
        
Prior to beginning the weeklong workshop, I had arranged to have lunch with my dear friend Mary. Having arrived early in the dining room, I joined two gentlemen for tea. Mary entered a while later, and when she walked over to our table, I introduced her to my companions. She had just extended her hand to greet them when another member of the Findhorn community, Wayne, came up to her and asked, Mary, are you busy on June eighth? Were looking for someone to escort a guest coming to Findhorn for the day.
        
The tone of Mary's response was as revealing as its length. She snapped, June eighth? Did you say June eighth? Suffused with anger and resentment, she continued, Absolutely not! June eighth is my incest support group meeting, and I would never, ever miss that meeting! We count on each other, after all. We incest victims have to be there for one another. I mean, who else do we have?
        
Mary went on for a while longer, but this is as much as I can accurately remember. I was captivated by the instantaneous dramatics triggered by a simple question about her schedule. Wayne hardly took notice of her response, thanked her, and left, but I was astonished. Later, as Mary and I were having lunch, I asked her about her behavior:
        
Mary, why, when you were answering Wayne's question about your schedule, did you have to let all three men know that you had suffered incest as a young girl, that you were still angry about it, that you were angry with men in general, and that you intended to control the atmosphere of the conversation with your anger? All Wayne asked you was, Are you busy June eighth? and in response you gave these three men a miniature therapy class. A simple yes or no would have done fine.
        
Mary looked at me as if I had betrayed her. Her body stiffened, and she emphasized her words in an ice-cold, defensive tone: I answered that way because I am a victim of incest. She drew back from the table, stopped eating, and threw her napkin over her plate, indicating that our lunch together had come to a close. Although I didn't realize it at that moment, so had our friendship.
        
Mary, honey, I replied, softening my own tone somewhat, I know you're a victim of incest, but what I'm trying to figure out is why you found it necessary to tell two strangers and Wayne your history when all he wanted to know was whether you could help out on June eighth. Did you want these men to treat you a certain way or talk to you in a certain way? What made you lay your wounds out on the table within seven seconds of meeting two new people?
        
Mary told me that I simply did not understand because I had not endured what she and numerous other incest victims had gone through, but that she had expected me as a friend to be more compassionate. I replied that lack of compassion had nothing to do with what I was asking her. I could feel the separation of--energy between us as I realized that in order for our friendship to continue, I needed to speak wounds to Mary, to follow some--very specific rules of how a supportive friend was to behave, and to bear always in mind that she defined herself by a negative experience.
        
In addition to her painful childhood history, Mary also had a history of chronic ailments. She was always in pain--some days emotional, some days physical. Though she was kind and always ready to support her friends, she much preferred the company of people who had also had abusive childhoods. That day at our lunch, I realized that Mary needed to be with people who spoke the same language and shared the same mindset and behaviors. I immediately began to think of this attitude as woundology. I have since become convinced that when we define ourselves by our wounds, we burden and lose our physical and spiritual energy and open ourselves to the risk of illness.
        
That day I felt as if I had been catapulted out of the surrounding healing culture of Findhorn and the general consciousness movement and was viewing it as an outsider. Although I had not previously noticed this pattern of thought and behavior in Mary or in anyone else, the very next day, curiously, a miniature version of the Mary incident took place in my workshop.
        
I had arrived twenty minutes early to get ready for my presentation and noticed a woman sitting alone. I sat down next to her and asked, What's your name? That's all I asked. Yet without even looking at me, she responded:
        
I'm a victim of incest, but I'm fifty-six years old now and I'm over that trauma. I have a wonderful support group, and several of us get together at least once a week, which I believe is essential to healing.
        
She still had not told me her name, so I asked again, And what's your name? But she still didn't answer me directly. She seemed to be in a daze. It felt to me as if she had been preparing for a long time to say something publicly, and now, given the opportunity, she couldn't hear any questions that didn't relate to her agenda. Instead of telling me her name, she said how much she enjoyed coming to workshops like mine because a person was free to speak openly about his or her past, and she hoped that I would allow time for people to share their personal histories. I thanked her and left the room, needing a few moments to gather my thoughts.
        
Meeting this woman the day after the incident with Mary was not a coincidence. I believe I was being directed to pay attention to the ways we expect to heal our lives--through therapy and support groups. So many people in the midst of a process of healing, I saw, are at the same time feeling stuck. They are striving to confront their wounds, valiantly working to bring meaning to terrible past experiences and traumas, and exercising compassionate understanding of others who share their wounds. But they are not healing. They have redefined their lives around their wounds and the process of accepting them. They are not working to get beyond their wounds. In fact, they are stuck in their wounds. Now primed to hear people speak woundology, I believe I was meant to challenge the assumptions that I and many others then held dear--especially the assumption that everyone who is wounded or ill wants the full recovery of their health.
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Table of Contents

Introduction: What Is Energy Medicine?..............................ix
PART ONE: WHY PEOPLE DON'T HEAL ....................................1
PART TWO: ... AND HOW THEY CAN....................................121
Epilogue: Snow White and the Seven Chakras........................249
Acknowledgments....................................................253
Index..............................................................255
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First Chapter

CHAPTER ONE

WOUNDOLOGY AND THE HEALING FIRE

In the late spring of 1988, I arrived at the Findhorn Community in northeastern Scotland to teach a healing workshop. At that point in my career the people who came to my workshops had tended to be searching for a personal healing. They expected me, as a medical intuitive, to facilitate their healing directly by giving them an individual reading and setting up a treatment regimen for them. (These days my workshops are largely filled with self-reliant people who want to learn how to become more intuitive by learning to "speak chakras" and so heal themselves and their lives, or professionals looking to learn how to help others heal.)

Though I myself am not a healer, I was happy to help them, of course, to the best of my abilities. Often in my readings I was simply validating the suspicions, insights, or intuitions that they already had about themselves and the changes they needed to make in their lives. Sometimes these readings ignited an inner physical and spiritual healing process. Even so, at that time, my workshop participants and I all felt that we were on the right track. After all, healing and health had become the main focus of the holistic or consciousness culture as well as the center of my life. Almost everyone I met, professionally and personally, spoke about either wanting to become a healer or needing a healer, being on their way to visit a new healer, or believing that they were meant to be a healer as soon as they had completed their own healing.

I enjoyed traveling around the world and meeting spiritually committed people who needed me as much as I needed them, and I had especially come to love Findhorn, a community of about three hundred people sharing an organic, cooperative life and a respect for all spiritual paths. Some of the community members reside in an enchanting, converted turn-of-the-century hotel; others have made their home quarters in a beautiful park area alongside the Findhorn Bay. The rugged beauty of the Scottish Highlands, combined with the spiritual focus of the community, make Findhorn a most attractive place to be. Whenever I go there, I seem to receive a special energetic charge that results in some important insight, and this visit in 1988 was no exception. This time, however, the insight came in a rather unlikely way.

Prior to beginning the weeklong workshop, I had arranged to have lunch with my dear friend Mary. Having arrived early in the dining room, I joined two gentlemen for tea. Mary entered a while later, and when she walked over to our table, I introduced her to my companions. She had just extended her hand to greet them when another member of the Findhorn community, Wayne, came up to her and asked, "Mary, are you busy on June eighth? We're looking for someone to escort a guest coming to Findhorn for the day."

The tone of Mary's response was as revealing as its length. She snapped, "June eighth? Did you say June eighth?" Suffused with anger and resentment, she continued, "Absolutely not! June eighth is my incest support group meeting, and I would never, ever miss that meeting! We count on each other, after all. We incest victims have to be there for one another. I mean, who else do we have?"

Mary went on for a while longer, but this is as much as I can accurately remember. I was captivated by the instantaneous dramatics triggered by a simple question about her schedule. Wayne hardly took notice of her response, thanked her, and left, but I was astonished. Later, as Mary and I were having lunch, I asked her about her behavior:

"Mary, why, when you were answering Wayne's question about your schedule, did you have to let all three men know that you had suffered incest as a young girl, that you were still angry about it, that you were angry with men in general, and that you intended to control the atmosphere of the conversation with your anger? All Wayne asked you was, `Are you busy June eighth?' and in response you gave these three men a miniature therapy class. A simple yes or no would have done fine."

Mary looked at me as if I had betrayed her. Her body stiffened, and she emphasized her words in an ice-cold, defensive tone: "I answered that way because I am a victim of incest." She drew back from the table, stopped eating, and threw her napkin over her plate, indicating that our lunch together had come to a close. Although I didn't realize it at that moment, so had our friendship.

"Mary, honey," I replied, softening my own tone somewhat, "I know you're a victim of incest, but what I'm trying to figure out is why you found it necessary to tell two strangers and Wayne your history when all he wanted to know was whether you could help out on June eighth. Did you want these men to treat you a certain way or talk to you in a certain way? What made you lay your wounds out on the table within seven seconds of meeting two new people?"

Mary told me that I simply did not understand because I had not endured what she and numerous other incest victims had gone through, but that she had expected me as a friend to be more compassionate. I replied that lack of compassion had nothing to do with what I was asking her. I could feel the separation of energy between us as I realized that in order for our friendship to continue, I needed to "speak wounds" to Mary, to follow some very specific rules of how a supportive friend was to behave, and to bear always in mind that she defined herself by a negative experience.

In addition to her painful childhood history, Mary also had a history of chronic ailments. She was always in pain--some days emotional, some days physical. Though she was kind and always ready to support her friends, she much preferred the company of people who had also had abusive childhoods. That day at our lunch, I realized that Mary needed to be with people who spoke the same language and shared the same mindset and behaviors. I immediately began to think of this attitude as "woundology." I have since become convinced that when we define ourselves by our wounds, we burden and lose our physical and spiritual energy and open ourselves to the risk of illness.

That day I felt as if I had been catapulted out of the surrounding healing culture of Findhorn and the general consciousness movement and was viewing it as an outsider. Although I had not previously noticed this pattern of thought and behavior in Mary or in anyone else, the very next day, curiously, a miniature version of the Mary incident took place in my workshop.

I had arrived twenty minutes early to get ready for my presentation and noticed a woman sitting alone. I sat down next to her and asked, "What's your name?" That's all I asked. Yet without even looking at me, she responded:

"I'm a victim of incest, but I'm fifty-six years old now and I'm over that trauma. I have a wonderful support group, and several of us get together at least once a week, which I believe is essential to healing."

She still had not told me her name, so I asked again, "And what's your name?" But she still didn't answer me directly. She seemed to be in a daze. It felt to me as if she had been preparing for a long time to say something publicly, and now, given the opportunity, she couldn't hear any questions that didn't relate to her agenda. Instead of telling me her name, she said how much she enjoyed coming to workshops like mine because a person was free to speak openly about his or her past, and she hoped that I would allow time for people to share their personal histories. I thanked her and left the room, needing a few moments to gather my thoughts.

Meeting this woman the day after the incident with Mary was not a coincidence. I believe I was being directed to pay attention to the ways we expect to heal our lives--through therapy and support groups. So many people in the midst of a "process" of healing, I saw, are at the same time feeling stuck. They are striving to confront their wounds, valiantly working to bring meaning to terrible past experiences and traumas, and exercising compassionate understanding of others who share their wounds. But they are not healing. They have redefined their lives around their wounds and the process of accepting them. They are not working to get beyond their wounds. In fact, they are stuck in their wounds. Now primed to hear people speak woundology, I believe I was meant to challenge the assumptions that I and many others then held dear--especially the assumption that everyone who is wounded or ill wants the full recovery of their health.

I felt as if I had been given a pair of magical glasses with which to see beneath the behavior of my workshop students. I soon found that the language of woundology was also spoken outside Findhorn. People around the world are confusing the therapeutic value of self-expression with permission to manipulate others with their wounds. Instead of viewing the uncovering of their wounds as an early stage of the healing process, they are using their wounds as a flag and their groups as families and nations.

How did we come to such a pass? A little more than a generation ago, our society was one in which people had difficulty expressing even their most innocent psychological and emotional needs. Today people wear their deepest wounds on their sleeve like a red badge of courage. How did we get to this point? To explain, I have to go back a little further into the past.

OPENING UP

I had begun my work as a medical intuitive in 1983, when I became able to sense illness in other people. At that time I had lacked any training as a health professional, but I had co-founded a publishing company that was dedicated to producing books about consciousness, health, and alternative or complementary medicine. The company published first-person accounts of healings as well as books by more scientifically oriented authors reporting research and discoveries in medical treatments then considered alternative. Those years as both a publisher and a medical intuitive educated me in such complementary ways that I now feel that this personal edification must have been directed by a higher force.

The countless manuscripts we received containing personal stories revealed the depth of fear people feel when facing a terminal illness. But many of the stories also revealed the power of the human spirit to catalyze a healing process that can reclaim the life-force, give meaning to illness, and heal seemingly chronic or terminal diseases. Occasionally I would come across a manuscript by a patient who had lost the battle for physical life but had won an inner tranquillity--a sense of completion of this life and an acceptance of the next stage: the death of the body.

Our culture in the early 1980s was hungry for healing and searching for the experience or state of mind that would ignite a healing fire. When I started to do workshops in 1984, the alternative healing field had established a new vocabulary for psychological and emotional healing. People spoke openly about their physical, mental, and spiritual health. Sharing the details of one's personal history became commonplace, as childhood experiences of incest, molestation, and abuse were openly discussed. The social boundaries that had previously limited acceptable social exchanges had dissolved into a new form of instant intimacy.

This new kind of intimacy grew out of the therapeutic culture of the 1960s. Prior to the 1960s, family secrets, financial information, political affiliations, occupational difficulties, and rumors about who was having an affair with whom were all considered "intimate" information, shared only with family members and very close friends. Even asking someone which presidential candidate he had voted for qualified as a highly intimate question. Nor were such topics discussed easily even among trusted, longstanding intimates: Before the 1960s we lacked the vocabulary for sharing with others the most intimate contents of our emotional lives. Personal emotional needs had not yet been introduced into our general culture. We had not yet become comfortable expressing inner psychological experiences, and our basic physical and emotional needs were generally considered to be met if we took care of our job and family responsibilities.

Moreover, before the 1960s society in general viewed those who sought the help of a psychiatrist as mentally ill. Even in 1972, the revelation that a vice-presidential candidate--George McGovern's running mate, Thomas Eagleton--had undergone psychotherapy was reason enough to have him removed from the ticket. The notion of working through a trauma therapeutically was still unfamiliar, so people viewed any and all mental stress as mental illness. They were afraid of the deeper recesses of the mind and the heart, and few explored them willingly. Those who did acquired reputations as rebels, eccentrics, mystics, hermits, or social outcasts. Most people did not tamper with their internal forces but lived safely within the assumption that if the external parts of their lives were stable, their minds and hearts would naturally attain a degree of contentment.

The therapeutic age gave birth to an entirely new dimension of thought: It opened up the inner world behind our eyes. With each step inward that we took, new perceptions about ourselves emerged and overran the long-guarded boundaries around our emotions and psyches. The concept that "we create our own reality" seemed to spring into popular usage almost out of nowhere. The electric idea that we have a kind of ultimate, personal spiritual power took hold of the popular imagination, and self-responsibility became a new power word. We applied these beliefs to every aspect of our lives. Most especially, we began to apply them to the healing process.

People became remarkably eager to "stand and proclaim" not only that they were ill but that they were responsible for their illness, as if this act of public purging in itself contained some kind of power that would guarantee a safe passage into health. In my own workshops and in others I attended, one person after another would describe a particular illness and then add, "I know I'm responsible for this." Where speaking about emotions publicly had once been taboo, it was now a requirement for healing.

Fueled by the notion that an emotional wound that they had previously experienced was at the root of their physical illness, people plunged into their inner lives determined to exorcise every negative memory, thought, and attitude. If they could only unlock that deeply secret emotional impulse, or release that negative childhood experience, they believed, their biological system would respond and reward them with complete health. Almost everyone I encountered during those years was convinced that complete recovery of health was just one psychological insight away. Amazingly enough, every workshop participant who went through this spontaneous public ritual of confession sparkled with enthusiasm and hope. Sometimes, if their story was exceedingly dramatic, applause would follow the confession.

I too believed, as the other workshop participants did, that the psyche held the key to physical healing. An inner power, I was convinced, contained the fuel we needed to reorder our biochemistry and rebuild our bodies. Occasionally someone who had managed to heal an illness--who had not just put the illness into remission but had actually achieved a complete healing--would attain a near-celebrity status at workshops. During the breaks everyone would gather around the self-healer and ask, "What did you do to heal yourself?" I listened, too, eager to learn of some extraordinary treatment, nutritional program, or psychotherapy that would assure a cure.

The self-healers would credit a vast array of factors, including changes in nutrition, vitamin therapy, mud baths, hypnosis, past-life recall, exercise, bodywork, and colon cleansing. Most often, however, they detailed treatments that helped body, mind, and soul together. Regardless of the treatment or the nutritional program that they described, however, the self-healers' greatest gift was the hope they brought to the rest of the group. Those who had made it back to health were considered living proof that individual efforts at self-discovery and healing--that attending workshops, reading books, and learning to express oneself--were bound to pay off.

THE TURNING POINT

For reasons I may never understand, 1988 was the year when views and beliefs about healing shifted, at least within the network in which I was teaching. By this time, I was giving workshops in several different countries, yet that year I encountered the same reaction around the world: Workshop participants were no longer interested solely in how to heal. They wanted to know why they were not healing. They had tried the many healing alternatives available, but they still were not healing. Their focus had shifted from enthusiasm about their individual quest for the right regimen, for the unique combination of mind-body treatments, to a terrible frustration and a ceaseless asking of "What's going on here? Why isn't anything working?"

The desperation they felt was phenomenal. I cannot even begin to recall the number of times I was asked, "Do you think I'm being punished for something?" At that time I had no adequate answer, only the old favorite: "Hold on to your faith, and keep focused on your healing. You can't afford to become negative." This was probably as helpful as saying, "Don't think about a blue monkey." It might even have added to the person's guilt about his or her illness.

To be sure, faith and optimism are important factors in healing any life crisis, including illness, then and now. Back in 1988, however, I could see that people were retreating from the hopefulness of holistic health and self-responsibility and returning to the superstitions of what I call the Tribal mind. They suspected that they were being punished for something awful they had done; they saw the disease or suffering as a judgment of the heavens upon them. Privately, I was becoming as mystified as they were. As I watched them struggle so valiantly with their healing, I too began to wonder if maybe they were doing something wrong, or if maybe they weren't supposed to heal, or if maybe the right treatment hadn't yet been discovered....

THE SEDUCTIVE POWER OF WOUNDS

Then came my fateful luncheon meeting with Mary at Findhorn, followed by my encounter with the incest survivor in my healing workshop, and I began to get an inkling of where the problem lay. For the next few years, woundology became my primary focus. I learned to listen between the lines of what my workshop participants were saying. I began to discern when a person was genuinely going through the specific stage of healing that requires a witness and when someone had discovered the "street" value or social currency of their wound--that is, the manipulative value of the wound.

"Whenever you learn a new word, you should listen carefully," my favorite aunt had taught me as a child, "because you'll hear everyone using it." She was right, and once I tuned in to woundology, the majority of the people in my workshops were conversing in this new language, openly sharing their personal histories with other workshop participants. At times, their sharing even took on a competitive feeling in which one person seemed to attempt to eclipse the painful experiences of another.

The sharing of wounds had become the new language of intimacy, a shortcut to developing trust and understanding. The exchange of intimate revelations, which had been originally developed and intended as appropriate dialogue between therapists and patients, had become the bonding ritual for people just getting to know one another. I met one woman, for instance, who stated upon our introduction that the "rules" of being a friend to her began with agreeing to "honor her wounds." When I asked her to tell me what that meant in practical terms, she said that she was only now beginning to process all of the violations that had happened to her as a child and that in the course of healing these wounds, she would frequently have mood swings and bouts of depression. "Honoring her wounds" meant respecting these moods, not challenging them. She claimed the right to set the tone of any social event of which she was a part. If she was in a "low space," she expected her support system not to introduce humor into the atmosphere but to adjust their mood and conversation to hers. I asked her how long she anticipated needing this intense level of support. "It may take years," she replied, "and if it does, I expect my support system to give me that amount of time."

This type of social authority can become very powerful, even addicting--health never commands such clout. When I asked my new acquaintance what motivation she would have for healing, given her "comfort with her discomfort," so to speak, she was insulted by my question and by my inability to "honor her wounds." Even though I attempted to explain that I was genuinely trying to understand her healing process, she never answered my question.

People also use woundology to make powerful romantic connections. Many people have admitted to me that they come to workshops more for the social contacts than for any actual need to heal. Because loneliness has become so rampant in our culture, when two single, available individuals meet in a workshop, the intimacy of the information they so commonly exchange is often mistaken for romance. There are even "thirteen-steppers"--people who use a twelve-step support group to "hit on" potential romantic partners in vulnerable states of mind.

Many people describe their "soul mate" as the person they have finally found who understands the emotional pain they had experienced as children. Such a bond can certainly feel romantic in the early stages of a relationship, but its foundation is actually injury, pain, and fear. In this paradigm, pain becomes a prerequisite for remaining close to and needing one another, and healing can be seen as a positive threat to the bond. The partnership is inevitably threatened when one of them decides the time has come to release the past and move on.

Don't get me wrong--support groups of all kinds, from AA and other twelve-step programs to those that help people who have lost a parent during childhood, can provide vital assistance and insight. The sharing of wounds has obviously provided a climate that frees people--sometimes for the first time in their lives--to recall their painful memories and explore their feelings and fears with sympathetic, nonjudgmental companions dedicated to supporting them.

The warm and understanding atmosphere that is an almost automatic by-product of this level of sharing also offers group members a social life that may have been missing from their lives prior to joining the group. Another acquaintance of mine, Jane, told me, "The people in my support group, as far as I am concerned, have become my new family. I don't feel judged by them as I do with my biological family. Now I don't feel the need to see my family at all." Certainly the healing intention behind these many support groups is honorable and deserves to be acknowledged; numerous people have benefited and continue to benefit from participating in them.

In addition to all the healing support that they provide, however, another dynamic has made me begin to question their healing value. Those for whom the support group has become an important part of their social life naturally wish to continue indefinitely as members. But because the underlying criterion for remaining a member is a continuing need for support, one must accept the group message "Remain unhealed." That is, to stay a part of the group, you have to "remain apart" from other friends and family.

This dynamic calls to mind a famous saying of the Buddha. "My teachings are a raft," he said, "meant to help you cross over the river. Once you get to the other shore, set them down and go on with your life." "The other shore" was the Buddha's way of describing enlightenment, the goal of his teachings. Once enlightened, continue to live your life, he was saying--just don't carry the raft around with you!

We are not meant to stay wounded. We are supposed to move through our tragedies and challenges and to help each other move through the many painful episodes of our lives. By remaining stuck in the power of our wounds, we block our own transformation. We overlook the greater gifts inherent in our wounds--the strength to overcome them and the lessons that we are meant to receive through them. Wounds are the means through which we enter the hearts of other people. They are meant to teach us to become compassionate and wise.

What would happen, for example, if Jane's support group were to tell her that their role is to give her the strength to heal her unfinished business with her family rather than to become her substitute family? Suppose they told her that as long as she avoided her family with such anger, she was actually running away and not healing, and that she had only a limited amount of time during which the group would help her develop coping skills with her family. At the end of that time, she would be expected to reenter her biological family, to evaluate her own stamina and strength, to see if she could now interact with them without expecting or needing their approval. If she could do that, she would have healed her major wound.

I actually suggested this to Jane, but she immediately became defensive. To her, leaving her newfound family would be like entering an emotional black hole. So intensely had she bonded with her support group that she could not imagine herself able to cope in her world without them. As far as she was concerned, her group was more than a weekly meeting; it was the center of her social life. She could not think of reaching closure with them, even though they required her to remain "actively wounded" and in need of healing.

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Interviews & Essays

On Thursday, December 4th, barnesandnoble.com welcomed Caroline Myss, author of WHY PEOPLE DON'T HEAL AND HOW THEY CAN.


Moderator: Welcome, Dr. Myss! Thanks for joining us tonight.

Caroline Myss: Good evening, it's good to be here.



Soraya from White Plains: When did you realize that you had this ability to "intuit" medical problems? Is this ability something you worked on to develop or was it always apparent? Thank you.

Caroline Myss: When I was about 15, I apparently showed a sensitivity in this direction, but it went to sleep and I didn't show it again until I was in my 30s. Do I think everyone can learn it, yes. I can teach everyone to read the notes, but not everyone will be a concert pianist.



Joyce from Colorado: Hello, Dr. Myss. What does the term "energy medicine" mean? Is it a recent term?

Caroline Myss: First, it means the following Health techniques aimed primarily at assisting the energetic part of the body. The term was coined independently by at least five or six different people who don't know each other, about five or ten years ago.



Laura Camp from Wichita, Kansas: Caroline, I am a member of the Myss discussion group on the net. Several of us would appreciate learning more about the "contract before incarnation," specifically, where did this concept come from? Or is it more of a construct to help us view our lives symbolically e.g., give us the distance to "look down on ourselves, as from above"? Thanks for doing this work. Peace, /Laura

Caroline Myss: Thanks for the support. I coined this term because as I was doing readings, I began to see a connection between archetypal clusters that were the primary influences in a person's life. People had the same number of them but differed in which archetypes they had.



Shirl from West Hollywood: Just sending you belated birthday wishes, Caroline! May your path this year be charged with the luminous reflection of all the healing insights you share with us.

Caroline Myss: Thank you.



Damon from Georgia: Would you say that WHY PEOPLE DON'T HEAL is an extension of ANATOMY OF THE SPIRIT? Do you need to read ANATOMY OF THE SPIRIT to understand HEAL?

Caroline Myss: No, not at all. They are subject matters separate and independent. One is dedicated to showing the unifications of the spirit, and the other challenges the question of why we don't heal and how we can.



Warren from Seattle: Please,what is the difference between remission and resolution in regard to illness? Gone is gone, we don't say a broken bone is in remission when it heals. Is "remission" a cop-out explanation for that which is not understood? If a cancer disappears and the person gets cancer later, is that not a demonstration of either a new mystical problem, or an unresolved problem that could and probably has nothing to do with the "resolved" illness? Thanks, see you in January.

Caroline Myss: Let's just tackle the difference in terms hereResolution means you brought something to closure, remission says to me you put something on hold; I consider remission a pause.



Shirley from Los Angeles: A longtime friend and I have had some heated conflicts in recent years. I feel I have forgiven her for the way she has treated me displaying intolerance and not respecting boundaries, yet I don't want to continue an active relationship.I love and forgive her but don't want to be a target for her criticism anymore. Am I deluding myself about truly reaching a state of forgiveness toward her?

Caroline Myss: Well, first I would ask you to evaluate how you've treated your friend. There's usually some mutuality going on; you've got to evaluate your own behavior. Usually when people do this they find a more compassionate viewpoint. As far as forgiveness goes, you know you've forgiven someone when you can be around them and talk about them without your blood boiling -- when you have a comfort zone.



Frances Friedland from Toronto, Canada: Caroline, first of all I want to say I'm very impressed with your work writings, tapes, etc.. I'm very inspired by them. Thank you for sharing them with us! The question I suffer from severe headaches and migraines. What issues mightthese relate to? What things should I pay attention to? Thanks. CM

Caroline Myss: In my experience, in the majority of people who have issues related to migraines, the core of the pain is very intense anger -- fire anger -- and note that there are genetic reasons for migraines, like allergies. In addition, migraines are heavy anger, feelings that others control you and you don't have the power to do anything about it.



Robyn from Rarotonga, Cook Islands: I just listened to "Energy Anatomy" and felt it was transformational. Will you continue to do lectures of this length and detail on tape?

Caroline Myss: Yes. No immediate plans, but yes, it's been very effective for paople.



Paul Malkin from Yorkshire, UK: I have been having vision and balance problems and last week was diagnosed as having multiple sclerosis. WHY PEOPLE DON'T HEAL AND HOW THEY CAN is not out in the UK yet. Can you suggest where I should start in terms of establishing a healing process for myself?

Caroline Myss: One, find the most progressive allopathic crew you can get your hands on. Two, find a teacher of yoga or meditation who can help you to balance yourself internally, spiritually -- you've got to learn to do this because it's the counter to imbalance. Keep abreast of all research being done on MS, because it's in an epidemic proportion right now, and a great deal of research is being aimed in that direction.



Milicent from Baltimore: Do you believe in therapy as a part of healing? What about support groups?

Caroline Myss: Oh yes, I think it's a crucial part of healing -- not for everyone, you don't need it for broken legs. If therapy becomes a lifestyle, that's when you have a problem.



Kathleen Sykes from Seattle: I've often found comfort in believing that God only gives you what you can handle and what doesn't kill us makes us stronger. It sounds like part of WHY PEOPLE DON'T HEAL adheres to that belief, especially with "symbolic sight." Am I on the mark?

Caroline Myss: Yep! Well done, I might add.



Barbara from Washington State: Can you tell us anything further about your planned guided tour to Egypt in 1999?

Caroline Myss: There's a lot of additional social activity that the brochure did not list that introduces the group to Egyptian culture. The people running the tour are very familiar with Egypt as they've done this for 36 previous trips, so their contacts within Egypt are superb.



Elke 28 years old from New York City: Dr. Myss, I am slightly familiar with your work and intrigued by the idea that chronic problems can be attributed to our spirit. I suffer from chronic head colds/sinus infections and have tried everything in terms of prevention. Where should I look -- in terms of my psyche or spirit -- to minimize them?

Caroline Myss: Have you tried a sinus specialist, or an acupuncturist? I suffered from sinus headaches for 30 years and found that the cause was actually not spiritual, but that my body could not tolerate cold air and air-pressure changes and what caused the headaches to reduce by 95 percent was to wear a ski headband across my forehead I'm wearing one right now to keep warmth in my sinus cavities.



Pam from Kenwood, CA: You write about the contract we make before we incarnate. This is a concept I'm having trouble grabbing onto. I've never heard this before. Could you elaborate?

Caroline Myss: Nobody lives a random life; everybody has what appears to be a specific life purpose, for no matter how much we might try to live in other directions, to make other choices, the fact remains that the vast majority of people end up living a life they had not planned to live. This suggests that a life pattern was already at work within us and on our behalf prior to our incarnation. And, incidentally, I coined the term.



Llama from Bridgewater, NJ: I read that you will be starting a series on PBS, à la Andrew Weil. Has it started yet? Could you please tell us more about it?

Caroline Myss: Yes it has started, and this Sunday from 4 till 8 it will be broadcast on the East Coast;thanks for asking about that.



Debbie from San Antonio: I read ANATOMY OF THE SPIRIT and was fascinated about the biology of the mind, but couldn't understand how to put the knowledge to good use. Does your new book cover information about how to stop wasting energy once we've identified the sources?

Caroline Myss: Oh yeah! In depth, I might add!



Bill Charleston from Columbia, SC: I've been married twice, and going into both marriages I thought that they would work through their problems and we'd "live happily ever after." But, it seems ALL the unhappiness got turned TOWARD me. QuestionDo you just avoid everyone who isn't healed who you may want to get close to, or do you just keep them at a distance when all those problems seem to surface? I used to feel love could conquer ALL, but I've found out differently.

Caroline Myss: I suggest that you read fairy tales and about how knights need to rescue damsels, because what you're describing is the classic example of the wife who's a perfect damsel before marriage without seeing any shady sides to her until after the marriage. You've got to realize that before you know someone's shadow sides, you shouldn't marry them.



Blake Tabackman from Baltimore: What was your life like as a child? Like where did you grow up?

Caroline Myss: I had a great childhood, I was never abused, etc.... I hung out with cousins and relatives very often. I grew up in Chicago -- cold in the winter, humid in the summer.



Garcia from Vermont: I was particularly intrigued about "woundology" in ANATOMY OF THE SPIRIT. Do you talk a lot about "woundology" in HEAL? Have we become a nation addicted to our own problems?

Caroline Myss: I thoroughly investigate it, which is why I coined the phrase.



Maureen from River Forest, Il: Good evening...So much of the literature of healing cites the healing of diseases that have remission potential; i.e., MS, lupus, cancer. Does your experience or your new book address the potential of healing supposedly incurable, chronic, progressive illnesses? Or is the healing reality more spiritual in coming to terms with the losses of health and making peace.

Caroline Myss: No, I address very specifically physical healing, as well as realize that physical healing may not be the end result -- the fact is that death is a reality and we can't consider death a failure.



Michael from New York: I read ANATOMY OPF THE SPIRIT but not your current book. I'm 31 and have always had a problem accepting help from others. I'd rather fail on my own than succeed with others. I know this can keep me from what I ultimately want, but I can't seem to let go. Why is it so difficult for me to relax and let others in?

Caroline Myss: Probably partly pride, maybe just accepting the fact that you're more attracted to doing it alone. You need to get over your anxiety about this -- just realize that's how you operate. There is such a thing as loner's pride, but it's not a real thing.



Terry Denny from Urbana, Illinois: We have been discussing your work in a small Roman Catholic study group. Is it probable that a tribal group such as ours can develop into a spiritually advanced state such as you describe in ANATOMY OF THE SPIRIT? Thank you for your wonderful work.

Caroline Myss: I'm assuming you are talking about your study group and not the entire Catholic Church, but as far as your group, it's possible to accomplish anything -- work through the positives as well as the difficulties.



Kathy from Il: How do you determine if a health problem is caused by spiritual imbalance or physical reasons, e.g. your sinus problems?

Caroline Myss: To some extent, it doesn't matter because you benefit by assuming it's connected to both anyway. Ultimately it is connected to both -- everything is ultimately connected to both.



S. B. from CA: Dr. Myss In relation to the concept of a spiritual "contract" we make before incarnation, were you aware as a child or after your psychic abilities appeared at age 14 that YOU had a significant destiny to fulfill in this life? Many thanks for all you sacrifice like homelife! to bring us your insights.

Caroline Myss: I'm not sacrificing much, frankly. But I knew from the time I was very young that I would not have an ordinary life. I announced at age seven to my mother that I would be a writer, but I believe that everybody has a sense that their life is going to be unusual. I will admit that I never anticipated doing what I'm doing, but the bottom line is that most everyone can say that so I don't think I'm living that unusual of a life.



Bernice from Los Angeles: Do you touch on the ancient system of spiritual psychology known as the enneagram in any of your workshops, Dr. Myss? You are a wonderful teacher.

Caroline Myss: No, I respect it, but I don't use it.



Glenn Toups from Spring Houston, TX: In your tape series " Energy Anatomy," you talked about having to go through a dark night to get to know one's purpose. Can you elaborate a little more on that? Thanks.

Caroline Myss: You need to be able to stand on your own spiritually, and be able to hold your center and not need others' approval of your choices in life. A dark night is a journey away from the power others have over you and connecting to the powers God has within you.



Jodie from New Hampshire: I have so enjoyed your tapes. I am giving them as Christmas gifts. I hope to be able to meet you at your workshop next fall on the East Coast. Are you by any chance familiar with the material in "A Course in Miracles"?

Caroline Myss: Thanks for your support. Yes, I am very familiar with the material in "A Course In Miracles." I have a deep regard for it, but I don't bring it into my workshops -- it is not my role to teach the work of other people.



Moderator: Thanks, Dr. Myss, for guiding us to the path to wellness! Goodnight and happy holidays!

Caroline Myss: Thank you, bless you all.


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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 16, 2002

    Obscure reasons for not healing.

    Caroline is more than intuitive, she has definite reason and there is a step by step analysis in this book which can be applied and is absolutely helpful. She uncovers obscure or hidden pains and emotional ties which the reader would have difficulty confronting without her expertise.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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