by Selena Whittle, PhD, MS, LPC
There is a fire in the soul of every healer that will not be denied. This is the fire that touches the healer’s awareness and ignites the desire, even with a sense of urgency, to be of service in the healing of others. As we look out on the sea of humanity, (or more personally, as we look into the eyes of another), we recognize the suffering, we feel deep empathy and compassion, and we naturally seek to be a partner in eliminating that suffering. The looking, the recognizing, the feeling, and the seeking to eliminate suffering all originate with the fire in the soul of a healer.
What is this fire within you? Does part of you rise up in recognition of the above description? “Ah yes,” you think, as you read, “I know that fire. I know the inner pull towards doing this work…In fact, I am called to do this work.” Or perhaps, you feel the edges of the fire, but don’t have a strong sense of it, can’t really feel it fully. Or perhaps you remember the fire from long ago, but now the feeling is vague within you, muted by too many years of difficult healing work. Yet simply contemplating the fire probably tugs at something within you. You know that if you were able to remember it, feel it, get in touch with it more fully, it would renew your passion for your healing work. You’re right. It would.
Here, we are going to take a look at what underlies the desire to do healing work, but we will not start with the fire, for the fire lies at the center of it all, at the soul level. It is pure, untainted by other aspects of the being. We’ll look deeply into the nature of that fire, but first we need to give a nod to the less pure motivations of healers.
The Dark Side of the Healer
If we’re going to be honest with ourselves, many of us healers tend to be what Dr. Stephen Karpman called rescuers (Weinhold & Weinhold, 2017). Slipping on the Superman or Wonder Woman costume, our superhuman sensitivities tell us when suffering is happening and we leap, dive, fly forward to save the person, situation, organization and so on. We are Harmony Heroes! We make everyone happier, restoring harmony everywhere we go; never mind that we’re taking responsibility inappropriately much of the time and disempowering the one that we’re saving. We might even be entering into a co-dependent relationship when we do this, contaminating the healing relationship with a dynamic that is harmful, but we do it anyway. Why do we feel the need (for it is a need) to do rescuing?
For me, I do it because I don’t like conflict. Disharmony in emotions feels like the discordant twang of a wrong musical note in a melody (which is my equivalent of scratching a chalkboard with your nails or biting on foil). Shivers everywhere. This will not do. Harmony must be restored! So off to work I go tuning the world to harmony. Notice that this need to restore harmony doesn’t come from a particularly altruistic place. I restore harmony because I can’t put up with disharmony. It has nothing to do with the other person, (which makes sense; after all, we are talking about the dark side, aren’t we?). Maybe you share this dislike of conflict or maybe your version of it is slightly different.
Another reason for rescuing is that the healer experiences inner stress as a result of suffering. “I need to fix you because your suffering bothers me.” This reason is right next to having a dislike for conflict. The motivation to heal comes from discomfort in the healer, rather than from an altruistic motivation. Sometimes the need to end the suffering is so extreme that we don’t even mind whether healing happens or not, as long as we don’t have to witness the suffering. The thinking goes something like, “I can’t stand to see you cry! So, I’ll tell a joke, distract you, make you laugh. There you go. All better!” Better for the healer at least.
In considering the tendency for healers to be Harmony Heroes, we have given a nod at the dark side and rightfully so. (After all, we’re as willing as our clients to take an honest look inside, right?) Being gentle with ourselves, we can acknowledge that these dark elements are temporary wounded spots in our selves. Once we heal these wounded places, I would bet money that the motivation, the driving passion to help others heal would still be strong within us. With that nod at the darkness then, let’s turn now to exploring the pure fire within us that ignites a truer passion, down deep in the soul.
Love for the People
Beneath all those wounded places that display the taint of darkness lies a pure and bright motivation, a fire that radiates from the soul. We have to look deep, deeper even than the layers of psychological mess that is ordinarily the purview of therapy. Look deeply. Focus on that fire in your healer’s soul. Feel into it. What is the primary feeling that radiates from it?
Love. Love is the fire. “Whoa,” you say, “wait a minute. We’re talking about therapy and healing here. We can’t love clients…” (cough, cough, sputter, sputter) “there are boundaries that should be maintained, potential ethical issues!” Right you are. This is probably why Carl Rogers (1951) decided to call it unconditional positive regard, a much safer and acceptable label, but it is love nonetheless. And love is a perfectly acceptable word to the soul. After the initial balking, we can open to the idea that the purest love, the love of the soul, fuels the fire that burns within us.
The word love has been battered and bruised in our society. Love can be used to mean “I’m so drunk with lust and passion for this new person that I can’t see straight,” or “I promise to treat you kindly and never leave you if you’ll do the same for me,” or “I am not strong enough to hold myself up in this life, but your love for me is strong enough.” Whether it’s the murkiness of the rose-colored drug-like state of falling-in-love, the love contracts that are often only tacitly arranged, or the simple need of love, in all of these states of being, for all of these meanings, we would still say, “I love you.”
Here, however, I’m talking about the purest love. This love has a sense of stillness and expansiveness. It is whole and open, completely fearless (for it is powerful). It is silently accepting, no matter where its attention is directed, for it sees. Boldly looking into the eyes of another, it sees the layers of wounds and the darkness that attempts to protect those wounds. It sees the vulnerabilities, the fragility that holds tight to old perceptions for survival. It sees too, the brightness in the soul of the other, the authentic self, the potential for blooming into a shiny light which is so needed in the world. All of this, love sees and love is simply present in this seeing without need or demand. It is within this container of love that healing begins.
Love is the fire and when we refer to love for the client, we’re really talking more broadly about love for the people, all of our people. It is this love for the people—the desire to eliminate suffering, to spur them forward in their soul’s progress, to see them positively thrive in their lives—that emblazons us.
Love for the Creator
This fire in the soul, this purest of love has another side to it. I believe that for many, most, maybe even all healers, this fire nurtures a desire to serve, not only out of love for the people, but also out of love for the Creator.
There is a great work happening on this earth. Humanity is moving forward in a spiritual evolutionary process. Although this topic is far beyond this scope of this article, I will say that gradually, so slowly, we are evolving towards living from soul and eventually towards a full descent of divine consciousness to all of humanity on the earth. (If you’re interested in learning more, please read The Emergence of the Psychic compiled by A.S. Dalal or The Integral Yoga by Sri Aurobindo). This is the Creator’s great work. The love and devotion that resides in a healer’s soul embraces the Creator and then blazes up in a desire to serve. Put simply, love for the Creator fuels a desire to serve in whatever capacity we may. As healers, we serve by assisting others in their evolutionary path and in this way, we serve the Creator in this great work.
Most days, in order to remind myself of these primary motivations to serve as a healer—love for the people and love for the Creator—I offer a prayer that is a modified version of the prayer by St. Francis. I modified it for my own use, but share it here because it embodies the fire in the soul of a healer.
Beloved Creator and Earth Mother,
Make me an Instrument of Your Peace, Light, Love, Power, Grace, and Bliss;
Where there is Hatred, let me sow Love;
Where there is Injury, let me sow Pardon, Understanding, and Peace;
Where there is Doubt, let me sow Faith and Trust;
Where there is Despair, let me sow Hope and Light;
Where there is Wounding, let me sow Healing;
Where there is Fear, let me sow Love;
Where there is Ignorance, let me sow Light and Knowledge;
Where there is Sadness, let me sow Joy and Comfort;
Where there is Darkness, let me sow Light;
Where there is Disrespect, let me sow Inner Sight and Light of Connection;
Where there is Isolation, let me sow Awareness of Your Constant Presence
O Heavenly Father and Earthly Mother,
Grant that I may not so much seek to be Consoled as to Console;
To be Understood as to Understand;
To be Heard as to Listen;
To be Loved as to Love
For I have Vowed to Serve, to be an Instrument of Your Perfect Will.
Thus fill me utterly with Your Peace, Light, Love, Power, Grace, and Bliss
Obliterating completely the Small “I,” so that I might Merge in Union with You
To Serve the People and the Earth Mother well,
Creating nothing less than Heaven on Earth.
Fire indeed. And with this fire, we are ready to serve...
References and Recommended Readings
Dalal, A.S. (2002). Emergence of the psychic: Governance of life by the soul. Pondicherry, India: Sri Aurobindo Ashram.
Rogers, C. (1951). Client-centered therapy. New York, NY: Houghton Mifflin Company.
Sri Aurobindo (1993). The integral yoga: Sri Aurobindo's teaching and method of practice. Twin Lakes, WI: Lotus Press.
Weinhold, B. & Weinhold, J. (2017). How to break free of the drama triangle and victim consciousness. Colorado Springs, CO: CICRCL Press.