The Healing Process Essay, Research Paper
The Healing Process
This is a brief psychological overview of the healing process. The image of
healing is best described by Gloria Vanderbilt in “A Mother’s Story” when she
talks of breaking the invisible unbreakable glass bubble which enclosed her that
kept her always anticipating loss with echoes of all past losses. She wrote, for
example (Page 3),”Some of us are born with a sense of loss there from the
beginning, and it pervades us throughout our lives. Loss, as defined, as
deprivation, can be interpreted as being born into a world that does not include
a nurturing mother and father. We are captured in an unbreakable glass bubble,
undetected by others, and are forever seeking ways to break out, for if we can,
surely we will find and touch that which we are missing”.
This concept of healing was also described by Philip Berman in “If It Is
Not Good Make It So” as changing positively from the unhappy attitude of(Page
48) “we never got the habit of happiness as others know it. It was always as if
we were waiting for something better or worse to happen”.
Psychological theory of change suggest it is possible to heal, to break
out of the glass bubble, to develop the attitude of happiness. For example, in
“The Process of Change: Variations on a Theme by Virginia Satir says on Page 89
that “successful change-making turns out to involve struggle, necessitating
skill, tenacity and perspective”. The struggle occurs when a foreign element
produces chaos until a new integration occurs which results in a new status quo.
Kurt Lewin echoed this view in saying that an old attitude has to unfreeze, the
person experiments, a new attitude develops and a refreezing occurs.
Janis and Prochasky suggest a person starts in relative complacency, is
presented with challenging information, the person evaluates the new challenge
to habit or policy and reviews alternate policies to create a new policy or
return to the original one,
The psychological theories focus on perspective and rational thought.
The significance of the therapist is in giving a new perspective and in aiding
self-esteem in order to break down resistance to change. Otherwise, Satir
suggests people are likely to revert to their trance like state of automatic
thought and previous habits.
Maslow (1991), on the other hand, theorized that inherent in each human
is a self-actualizing instinct. This was “not merely a matter of fulfilling
one’s own particular talents; it also involves actualizing those potentialities
that one has as a human being” The key for Maslow in engaging in this process
was that of openness. People must be (Page 117) “receptive and responsive to
information from the world and from themselves. They do not repress or ignore
uncomfortable facts and problems and their view of these facts and problems is
not distorted by wishes, fears, past experiences or prejudices”. This freshness
of perspective permits spontaneity, creativity which then promotes growth.
Growth is perceived as being open to one’s self and to others which leads to
Maslow felt that the purpose of therapy with its “unconditional positive
regard” was to lead the person to such growth and that the result would be love,
courage, creativeness, kindness and altruism. Breaking the old habits was the
key. Page 127 “To the extent that one is open, one rises above the level of an
automaton and becomes more of a creative, autonomous subject. And by these means,
openness helps give us a sense that our lives are rewarding”.
Most psychologists seem to feel therapy is paramount in the process of
change. Schoen, says for example,(Page 52) that before therapy “we are walled
off in ourselves, often with evident obstinacy, at the same time, we may puff
ourselves up, with obvious arrogance. We are in pain”. He theorizes that there
is a miracle in therapy. He says (page 53) that the act of appreciating the
person actually produces a chemical change that permits a freedom of the soul to
stop defending all the conditions that maintain it in its pain. “The new
creation is a flexible ego that can be new, fresh and express passion and
compassion from the place of a new variableness in existence” (Page 54).
Morrow and Smith describe the healing process as strengthening the
person to move beyond mere survival to wholeness and empowerment, from managing
helplessness and being overwhelmed by threatening and dangerous feelings to
problem focused strategies.(Page 32). Therapy permits the therapist to
understand that the “profusion of dysfunctional symptoms really can be seen as
rational and reasonable coping strategies”.
Bugental discusses that therapy is useful in showing how we all imprison
ourselves. He theorizes that when this recognition is deeply experienced, “the
world is already beginning to change-because the crippling element in these
definitions is the belief that they are and can be the only way one sees
He says we cripple ourselves by making us into objects and forgetting our
subjectivity. In therapy we learn to recognize and respect our needs, emotions,
anticipations, apprehensions and our sense of concern. But we learn not to be
dominated by them.
We learn the frightening quality of relationships, that of the lack of
control adds to the richness of relationships. We learn to invest in life and
that relinquishment can be a sign of something right not necessarily something
that has gone wrong. We learn that laws and mores are not absolutes but open to
constant revision as we are to do with our inner selves.
Psychology seems to share the ideas that a person in emotional pain is
stuck in a self made prison which can be escaped through unconditional positive
regard and a fresh perspective. What isn’t clear is how rational thought
combined with ‘love’ enters the person’s heart and soul.
Bugental James,F.T. “Lessons Clients Teach Therapists”, J. of Humanistic
Psychology Vol.31 No. 3 Summer 1991
Mittleman Willard “Maslow’s Study of Self-Actualiztion: A Reinterpretation”
Journal of Humanistic Psychology, Vol. 31 No.1, Winter 1991 Pages 114-135
Morrow Susan L. and Smith Mary Lee,”Survival Coping by Sexual Abuse Survivors”,
Journal of Counseling Psychology 1995 Vol 42, No.1, pages 24-33.
“The Process of Change:Variations on a Theme by Virginia Satir”, J. of
Humanistic Psychology, Vol. 34 No.3, Summer, 1994 Pages 87-110.
Schoen Stephen MD “Psychotherapy as Sacred Ground”, J. of Humanistic Psychology,
Vol 31 No.1, Winter 1991 Pages 51-55
Vanderbilt Gloria, “A Mother’s Story”, Alfred A. Knopf, N. Y. 1996