I’m next in line and apprehensive. She is a young widow. For seven years her husband had been fighting brain tumours. He came to me for treatment three months ago and responded well initially. Now I’m at his funeral waiting to express my condolences. The chapel is sunny. The grief is thick.
Common wisdom would say I failed him. Good sense would tell me this funeral is the last place I should be. Next thing I know she’s throwing her arms around me, sobbing, “Thank you so much John.” Before I can register what’s happened I’m being hugged by his mother, she is also thanking me – then his father.
On some level these people get what it took me years to figure out as a therapist; that what we call healing isn’t about getting better, it’s about something else.
When it came to being a therapist I was no slouch. I’d had the dramatic recoveries, the crutches that were hobbled in on, carried out under the happy arm, the surgeries that were canceled, the specialists that were flummoxed. I’d set up a well respected school, taught internationally, been featured in magazines, on the radio, the lot.
There was no doubt I was successful yet there were some people who just didn’t get better, and they were the ones that stuck in my mind. Why did some people get better and some didn’t?
Beyond the physical and emotional reasons for illness there was something deeper going on. It seemed like each person was living out an elaborate story uniquely significant to them. All the circumstances and events in their lives were an intricate part of this story. They were working something out through the living of their story, but what it was they were working out was a mystery, and I think that’s the way it’s supposed to be.
Not knowing what you’re working out seems to be part of the deal. Like not wanting to know the end of a movie because it will ruin the enjoyment of watching the movie.
Physical or emotional disharmony can lead to sickness, and so can being out of harmony with your story. What is called healing is a process of getting in harmony with your story and whatever it was you are working out through it.
In hindsight I can say the young man’s story ended with his death but at the time I didn’t know that, I’d seen it go the other way with people many times. My role was to support him to come into harmony with his story in whatever way he wanted, and in the end he achieved that.
I know he was in harmony with his story when he died because I worked with him days before his death. The connection in craniosacral therapy begins physically but goes deep; right to the depths of the being if the person being treated wants it because that’s where the healing happens. It’s not caused by anything external. Certainly not by me. No one heals anyone else. If we’re lucky we get to help someone in the process of healing themselves. It requires a lot of humility, respect for the other persons story, and a spirit of supportive non-interference. His death was part of his healing process. In terms of harmony it was no different from someone who got better.
That can be a lonely perspective to have, particularly as a therapist, because the world is very results oriented especially when it comes to health. On that bright September morning I was glad his family shared it with me.