Ask Amy: You Have to Feel to Heal

Guy QuestionQ:  I’ve been told, “You have to feel to heal” and I’m not sure what this means, whether it applies to Course students, and how to do this.  Can you clear this up for me?

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAA:  “You have to feel to heal” is a saying used by psychotherapist, members of 12-step groups, and many other recovery venues.  John Bradshaw may be the one who introduced this expression in 1986 in his excellent PBS series, The Family.

Normally, in a healthy organism, e-motion (energy in motion) flows unobstructed through the body from head to toe.  Just watch a baby laugh or cry to see this is true.  “You have to feel to heal” means you allow yourself to become aware of emotion that is held in your body.

You learn to stop denying, avoiding, minimizing or blocking emotional pain (and sometimes joy).  You raise your consciousness about how you tense your muscles and restrict your breath in order to not feel.

Lots of people are “living from the neck up,” in other words, stuck in their head, compulsively thinking, without a healthy, integrated flow of thought and feeling all through the body.

What does this have to do with A Course in Miracles?  Well, in ACIM, Jesus asks us to look with the Holy Spirit at the ego and how it works.  This is not just an intellectual process.  On a physical level, you need to locate your repressed feelings in order to heal what has been hidden.  “When what you have dissociated is accepted, it ceases to be fearful.” (T-10.II.1:6)  As you “feel to heal,” you dissolve the fear that makes the ego seem so real.

In lots of families you’re not allowed to be angry, frightened, sad, or even happy.  As children, we learn to get with the family program and bury or split-off taboo feelings.  Some families repress and numb out, other families overflow with emotion.  The excess of feeling (hysteria) is another way of protecting family members from the genuine deep pain underneath all the commotion.

The ego loves to divide and conquer.  Spiritual healing is about integration, and on a practical level it usually involves a lot of breathing to locate old wounds and soften tough emotional scars.  The way to feel to heal is to pay kind attention to yourself.  Be willing to discover your physical holding patterns and develop an appreciation for your defenses.

These blocks were brilliant creative adjustments you made as a young child to cope psychologically with abuse, neglect or trauma (this is not unusual — the ego sets up families to fail, be it dramatic or subtle).  For those of us who are practiced at stoicism or dissociation, it can seem impossible to loosen control.  A “little by little” approach is recommended.

Try body-oriented psychotherapy — look into the Hakomi Institute, Dr. Margaret Paul’s inner bonding work, the Center for Somatic Studies, and yoga psychology by Anodea Judith and Bo ForbesGary Zukav’s book, The Heart of the Soul: Emotional Awareness, is worth reading, and I’ve been told that Raphael Cushnir’s work is very good.

The body is the symbol of the ego thought system of separation.  Paradoxically, embodying your feelings heals the split mind, eventually revealing your True Self — perfect and whole.  “Would God teach you that you had made a split mind, when He knows your mind only as whole?” (T-6.V.1:4)

If you “feel to heal” the guilt-ridden personal self, ultimately you will uncover the Innocent Formless Self you truly are.  Remember, “You are the work of God, and His work is wholly lovable and wholly loving.” (T-1.II.2:3)

This Q&A appears in the Ask Amy column from the July-Aug 2014 issue of Miracles magazine.  Miracles is a well-loved staple in the ACIM community.  To get a subscription, email or call 845-496-9089.  To ask Amy a question, email miracles (at) amytorresacim (dot) com