II. Why it’s hard to approach a healer, even if you want to. The flakiness of the “healing industry”
So you’re sick and tired of feeling sick and tired. Or in pain. Or stuck. Or toiling away at the same unsatisfying job. Or wondering how it is that these are even the details of your life - how did this happen, you ask?
You’ve decided to try some unconventional healing modality as your next thing that might help, but you’re finding it hard to bust into this world and a bunch of stuff is turning you off.
You’re not alone.
I often have a hard time describing what I do. Sometimes that’s because it’s just, well, weird by conventional standards. Sometimes I feel shy to wade into the potentially confusing miasma of perceived flakiness and misunderstanding.
Is it reiki? No, it’s not reiki.
Is it counselling? No, it’s not counselling.
So here’s the breakdown of my objections to and explanation of this strange world of healers.
i. A quick list of shit that drives me nuts:
That opening the third eye is the holy grail and where we should all be focussing our intention. Bullshit. So, so, so harmful.
That cannabis is in any way a healthy doorway to these other dimensions. It’s handy, sure, fun, even. But not sustainable as a long-term tool for healing (at least in my experience).
That some crystals, without your kind and sustained attention to self, will fix you.
Handing over your authority to a reader, any reader. Maybe once you’ve got a relationship and know that you can trust the advice (and still take it with a grain of salt), but really, take it as interesting information and not absolute truth.
That everything can/should be healed and that you are somehow failing if you don’t. There’s an intense emphasis on the “norm” and it’s harmful. This is why there is so much push-back going on right now around body positivity and celebrating physical and neurological differences; and why many people in differently-abled and neurologically-divergent communities object to ableism and seeing “normal” as the goal.
That healers can somehow address any issue. This belief is held by a lot of healers also. It’s just not true. Healers are people. Some people can see and help with some things.
Statements like this spoken with utmost seriousness: “I’m living entirely on a higher spiritual plane now.” (Actual quote, for fuck’s sake. Dude - do you eat? Grocery shop? Shit? Drive a car? Spare me.)
I’m (he, she, they, you are) SO spiritual, where, in this context what I understand the person is saying is into crystals, able to talk about manifestation, higher self, chakras being open or closed, etc.
The belief that somehow being involved in this stuff makes you automatically a better person, free of judgment and bigotry, connected to the earth and just generally fabulous.
When people feel that unsolicited “intuitive” advice is welcome. You’re picking up owl energy in my field? Well, fucking fantastic! I didn’t ask you, nor do you have permission to read me or speak what you see, and I can’t do anything with that information, so please fuck off and get some boundaries.
ii. Where is the flakiness coming from?
I think what makes some of this industry flaky and some of it not is what is underneath it. Are the trappings and language of the healing process being used to cover over pain that is still unprocessed and hide, or is it being used to bring those shadow places to light? It's really easy to use this stuff to make it look like you're doing your healing work, when really you're still mired in your coping mechanisms, prejudices, assumptions, unworkable family patterns, etc.
From personal experience, it is confusing and painful to be in the care of someone as a mentor who is still massively struggling through their own shadow - you get drawn into strange power dynamics and unhealthy patterns. I guess this can happen with any practitioner, but if it happens with someone who is making active effort to look at their own shadow places, it will get cleaned up more quickly and there will be a greater chance of restoring connection.
There is this myth about this industry that this kind of “woke” consumerism is good for the earth. Or at least better than a lot of consumerism. Think, though, about all the crystal mining. Think about the people in Indonesia and India turning out those batik wall hangings for next to no money under intense conditions (and it’s not even that more money would make it ok). Think of the salt lamps and Buddha statues and where they come from. This isn’t a sustainable category of consumption.
iv. Aim for Yoda:
We are all human here in this community, whether we identify as a healer or not, and the same shit pieces of humanity, sexism, racism etc, exist within the healer/seeker communities, though they might have their own flavour. So the aura of white-light, soft-spoken sanctity is often a front or a cover-up, in my experience. When you find those people who have done their own deep healing work it feels like meeting Yoda. You can feel the years of hard-fought wisdom and digestion of mistakes and humility. You can feel his knowing. He’s not flaunting that he knows more than you, but you sure can feel that he does. You can trust that people like Yoda know what they know and won’t be thrown off by your flailing. These, to me, are the people that you want to learn from.
v. Cultural appropriation:
Cultural appropriation is a huge deal here in the yoga and healer communities, so let’s not pretend that it’s not.
I struggle again and again through my own blind spots of white privilege, and am fully aware that I haven’t come to the end of it. I’ve been divorced from my ancestral land and my lineage. I still try not to just willy nilly grab other peoples’ cultural items.
I have no dream catchers in my healing room. I have magical objects of my own creation.
I have a drum for “shamanic” journeying that is made by a man from the Tsartlip nation. A friend of my dad’s bought it, and my dad traded a djembe for it and gave it to me. I try to treat it well.
I put quotation marks around “shamanic” here because I’m very aware that the word comes from one specific tradition, and I’m not of that lineage, but it has become a shorthand for this way of getting information for someone.
I don’t use incense because it hurts my eyes and lungs. I don’t use sage unless I have gathered it respectfully myself, since I don’t want to buy this medicine anymore. I do use a rattle that my friend (who died about two years ago) gave me. It was made by a friend of his. I use my rattle to clear space in the way that others would use sage.
It’s a bit of a hodge-podge of using what works for me and trying not to be a jerk.
vi. But the thing that winds me up the most in this industry, bar none, is anything that has to do with The Secret, Abraham Hicks, and Positive Thinking:
Maybe these kinds of manifestation techniques work, but I think the way that they are rampantly mis-applied is incredibly dysfunctional and harmful. Many of these techniques are not working from a place of deep self connection and healthy boundaries, so when we ask to manifest _______, we are doing it from a place of looking around at our life and imagining what might fix the thing that we perceive as wrong.
But this is actually unlikely to fix it, and we are likely to still be aching from the hole at the centre of our being afterwards. And it will be confusing because we got what we thought we wanted. We wanted it fast and we got it fast.
I just see it not touching the deep truth of healing.
These techniques skew our perception of others around us who we perceive as failing at their lives. If only they would make greater effort to keep their thoughts positive, we think. If only they would put their mind to manifesting prosperity all would be well. When you flip these beliefs around, it means that someone who is struggling in life is failing to think positive enough thoughts and so when bad shit happens to them, it’s their fault.
We seem to like repeating that everything happens for a reason. Just spare me. Everything happens, yes. And then we make meaning for it. Here we are, humans, the meaning-makers. Yes, life without meaning would be, well, meaningless. But when shitty things happen and we tell people, “well, everything happens for a reason,” we might as well just have slapped them. It is saying, “this shitty thing that happened to you was meant to happen” or, even worse, “you’ve been doing something in your life to deserve this,” or, worse still, we are saying some version of “you wouldn’t be who you were meant to be without this happening.”
All of these nuances are extremely punishing - hitting someone when they’re already down. More functional would be: something shitty happens, we muddle our way through the aftermath to the degree that we are able, and then we look back and see how that shitty thing has shaped our life path from thereon in. Same nuances for out of the blue good stuff too, right? Feel gratitude, please, but not some smug sense of you deserved it because you are just so damned awesome and the universe “meant” you to have this windfall.
So I don’t give a shit about “manifestation” anymore. What I care about is you knowing your feelings and sort of how you want your life to be shaped and being curious about what comes into your life. If you can feel your feelings, then your sacral chakra is clear. Then you can remain in the flow of your life even when what is happening is shitty. The more you are with your life as it is happening, the less you will have to come back and process later. You will perceive your life and its flow as clear and there will be meaning and joy in it for you. So then when you dream of something that you want to have come into your life - a partner, a profession, a calling, a home, a creative passion - you can test it against the yes/no in your belly as you go along: is this right for me still? You begin treating your whole life as your great project.
End of rants.