The First Step Toward Genuine Healing.

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There are only two ways to heal.

The first is called Placebo. It is real—a vast amount of time money and research has proven it.

And there are many ways in which the placebo effect can be triggered. It might be a doctor with a white coat.

It might be a blue pill.

It might be a healer!

Yes, some healers and healing methods, if we are honest, are nothing more than placebos! (This video is a fascinating look at the power of the Placebo effect.)

That sounds derogatory but it’s not really—they do a lot of good in the world. They help many people feel better—about 30 percent of their clients, to be fairly precise.

However, the placebo effect is really a band-aid (even when it works). We can’t really call it “healing” because whatever it is that originally caused the problem remains. Inevitably, even while the symptoms are “healed,” the cause has usually not been addressed.

That’s what separates placebo from real healing.

Real healing is the result of uprooting the cause of the problem—like a weed in the garden. Only if you uproot it will you be free of it. And, as I have written before, the first step in truly healing anything is to take responsibility for the problem.

This piece is about that first step: taking responsibility.

The cause of almost all our problems today is trauma, but it is not the trauma that you take responsibility for—the trauma is in the past, and you were most likely not responsible for it.

What we are responsible for is how the trauma continues to affect us right now.

We cannot go back into the past and erase trauma. But we can go more fully into the present to uproot the connection between the trauma and its effect on us.

That bears repeating: we can become fully present to the connection between past trauma and present symptoms.

And that is the essence of real healing: presence.

The only problem is—it’s not easy to find and be present with your own subconscious “stuff.”

A good healer simply facilitates this process, guiding you to find and be present with and uproot the subconscious blockages. And the result is that you become more present, more conscious. In fact, the word healer is a total misnomer. Because healing always comes from within. The “healer” only facilitates. Which sounds easy, but it’s quite a skill.

And here’s the thing:

If you’re not yet taking responsibility for your problems, then you’re either busy looking for placebos (“heal me!”) or trying to convince yourself that there isn’t a problem—via self-distraction, compulsive behavior, or addictions.

You only find healing when you start taking responsibility. In the meantime you’re just caught up in a game with yourself (and the world around you).

So what does it look like when you take responsibility?

When you start to really take responsibility a number of things happen:

  1. You stop blaming others. You begin to let go of the pattern of anger and blame that, until now, has been a wonderful excuse to not take responsibility!
  2. You start to let go of all the hidden benefits and secondary gains of the problem because you finally desire health and freedom above all else.
  3. Your desire for health and freedom becomes a driving force in your life—so much so that you will stop at nothing to achieve it.
  4. You begin to truly see your own power, recognizing that in the same way that you were creating and maintaining your own brokenness, you are also able to manifest healing. From within.

I want to be really clear on something:

Saying that someone is creating and maintaining a problem is not the same as victim blaming. There are no victims.

Blame is not an issue. Blame is about judgment, and I try not to judge at all. Partly because I’ve been through it all on a personal level and I know what it is like to be broken. Again and again. I know that I didn’t consciously choose my brokenness—I know that I was caught up in a game with my own subconscious. And I have deep compassion for anyone else that is caught up in the same games because I know how hard it can be.

So there is no blame. There is no judgment.

Yes, we are all “fighting a tough battle.” We are all doing the best we can.

Each and every one of us, truly.

Please leave a comment—it’s a complex issue so let’s discuss it! I will try to answer all comments. And if you find this of value, please share it around a bit.


Author: Ben Ralston

Editor: Catherine Monkman

Photo: ElizabethHudy/Flickr

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Ben Ralston

Ben Ralston has been practising personal development—necessity being the Mother of invention—since he was about six years old. He’s been teaching and sharing what he’s learnt along the way for a couple of decades. His main thing is Heart of Tribe retreats—whose very purpose is to help you fall back in love with life, no less. Leading these retreats alongside his woman Kara-Leah Grant—also an elephant journal writer (that’s how they met!)—they combine a deep well of lineage-based yoga teaching experience, with expertise in healing trauma and various other methods of personal development. Ben also works with clients one-on-one via Skype, writes, makes videos from time to time, and is passionate about parenting. He lives in an intentional, tribal community in the hills of Croatia, where you might find him gardening barefoot and talking to the rocks. Connect with Ben on Facebook or YouTube or check out his website for more info.


14 Responses to “The First Step Toward Genuine Healing.”

  1. Jill Sarkady says:

    Very interesting — I agree that no longer allowing blame to be the way out of our pain is primarily the most important thing. But healing from within is not linear at all; so as for myself, I would say that there are many aspects to the healing process. Feeling the pain is so essential. We will run again to our usual route of deflecting it but at least we will have felt it. As we become more aware of the pain and the sub title and stories we have created for ourselves to cope we often see that others have the same issues and the quality of being so traumatized and alone can lesson in a bvery real way. It is a solace to realize we are not the only person – we are not ugly and primordially bad. Then somehow in the mish mash of life we can begin to sort out what is what. When the pain occurs we may become confident enough to face it head on as it is and just be with it and go through the tunnel. It has a light at the end and that is a very big deal. Slowly we can really get down into the nitty gritty of it and just be here with it. Make friends with it and then we can begin to move towards a different approach. It is a long process; sometimes painful and often awkward and then sometimes the gains the sense of our ageless burden lifting is so inspiring.

    But one thing that I think can be very hard with the word responsibility is the connotation of blame — even if one says it is not one's fault and further distinguishes the difference between responsibility and fault, blame. I often think more of it like loving oneself.

    Thanks for sharing.

  2. Mary says:

    hi Ben! is there a way, in your opinion, to connect with the subconscious and help release the past traumas/memories/ingrained beliefs you mentioned above (that in turn govern our habitual responses) other than psychoanalysis and the likes? i totally agree that it is a matter of uprooting, but as you also say, the stuff we wanna uproot resides in our subconscious self! thank you. M

  3. niki says:

    Thanks for acknowledging the complexity and your invitation for discussion.

    My guess is, if you are Croatian, you’ve seen some shit and know what you’re talking about. I agree with your points, and have been curious about how, in America, to culturally move beyond blame, judgement, and punitive justice — I get how none of that works.

    Recently, in an organization devoted to cultural transformation, I saw that that through their unwillingness to see someone causing harm, because no blame, no victims, etc. left them without a way to engage that situation, they inadvertently gave someone permission to cause harm, in this case, specifically, permission to a white man to cause harm to women, and that certainly has caused harm to the organization. It seemed the only way for women to ‘take responsibility’ was to walk out, and their concerns were dismissed.

    It seems that sometimes when people want to move beyond blame, judgement and seeing victims, they step into conflict avoidant denial and political correctness that inadvertently (the proverbial good intentions on the road to hell) colludes with and perpetuates abusive behavior.

    This has led me to seeing the limits of my own way of being with no blame, no judgement, no victims and into inquiry of how to take a stand. And then of course, the political correctness of no blame, no judgement, can be used as a deflection to collective inquiry about privilege and perping of cultural norms.


    • Ben_Ralston says:

      There are two ways I could answer this. The first would be diplomatic and easy-going but I'll go for the second trusting that you can handle it.
      All the systems in our society are corrupt to the core. Our very society is totally broken. Because abuse is in-built – it is the product of thousands of years of abuse – of women, of the feminine, of the Earth, of native cultures colonised, etc…
      The only way out is out – trying to change a broken system from within is futile.

  4. rosy says:

    thank you for this post- so timely. so spot on. so perfect for my life and season of life. thank you.

  5. HilB says:

    I too am interested in how one might “uproot” subconscious stuff.

  6. Elizabeth says:

    this s so true. My husband is a recovering alcoholic. When I found out about the childhood sexual trauma he’d been medicating for 20 years I was pretty persistent that he get professional help in addressing it. His counselor at the time told me to mind my own business, that all he needed to do was stop drinking. WELL he ended up at an awesome 6 week inpatient program, that addressed the alcoholism as secondary and focused on his trauma as primary. Once he was taught how to take his healing personally, change was obvious. It is a long road. and it is not over, But it has so far reversed a lot of physical problems, including anxiety, hypertension, psychosis, and pre-diabetes.

    • Ben_Ralston says:

      That's wonderful Elizabeth.
      And to think that not long ago at all trauma simply wasn't recognised as a cause in any emotional health problems!
      best of luck to you and your husband, with love from Croatia!

  7. LayinWait says:

    This is amazing. It’s right where I am and where I want to be and all of the goodness that comes from walking through it. Ahhh! This article is my absolute favorite ever!

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