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The Source of All Good Healing Psychology and fundamentalism at best have been polite opponents. In recent history, say the last 50 years, this opposition has become vigorous and often less than polite. Many churches, such as Calvary, completely eschew all mental health practitioners (whether social workers, psychiatrists or counselors) and staunchly maintain that all healing comes directly from God or prayer and that all you need in order to develop and maintain a robust mental health may be found in Scripture or a prayer session. This rejection of psychotherapy may have been a reaction to the "I'm okay, you're okay" generation of therapists who did very little for most people except to allay the anxieties of narcissists and sociopaths by telling them "if it feels good, it is good." In the eyes of both Orthodox Jews and Christians, the field of humanistic psychology took the whole program of selfimprovement one giant step too far, putting man in the center of the universe, particularly his own. Their objections were not wrong. And I say this as a holistic psychotherapist with almost 25 years of experience in the field. I have seen far too many well-meaning therapists do little more for their patients than make them feel better about being sick. They are loath to challenge or confront negative behavior or unhealthy thinking because they fear being seen as judgmental. As a result of their tentative relationships with the truth, they fail in their relationships with their patients. They do not see what needs to be healed so the patient is left unhealed. This is truly a disservice to the patient because what it ultimately does is feed the pathology and starve the essence of the person. I think all good and true healing flows from the same Source which means that there can be an alliance-and an important one-between the Biblical and Mental Health communities. But only if we have an understanding of our terms and are actually seeking the same results. What is Healthy? What is Unhealthy? According to Samuel Hahnemann, M.D., after whom dozens of medical colleges around the world have been named, physical health presents with a very clear picture which is eternally derived from a healthy spiritual state. "In the healthy human state, the spirit-like life force (autocracy) that enlivens the material organism as dynamis, governs without restriction and keeps all parts of the organism in admirable, harmonious, vital operation, as regards both feelings and functions, so that our indwelling, rational spirit can freely avail itself of this living, healthy instrument for the higher purposes of our

existence." He goes on: "The material organism, thought of without life force, is capable of no sensibility, no activity, no self-preservation. It derives all sensibility and produces its life functions solely by means of the immaterial wesen (the life principle, the life force) that enlivens the material organism in health and in disease." depends on a healthy wesen or life force or spirit. It is a process that proceeds from above down, from the inside out. This is also the philosophical underpinning of a proper holistic psychotherapy and the pivot point of all Scripture on the subject of good health. Biblical Healing Let us start with basics. What has the Bible been saying about health (whether mental, emotional or physical) for the past several thousand years? The following is a small sample of references: "Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear and respect the Lord and shun evil. This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones." Proverbs, 3:7-8 "Hope deferred makes the heart sick; but when hopes are realized at last, there is life and joy." Proverbs, 13:12 "Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. And are you not worth much more than they?" Matthew, 6:26 "This is what the Lord says: 'Your wound is incurable, your injury is beyond healing. There is no one to plead your cause, no remedy for your sore, no healing for you. All your allies have forgotten you; they care nothing for you.... But I will restore you to health and heal your wounds...'" Jeremiah, 30:12-14, 17 "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." John, 14:27 Even in this cursory perusal, it's easy to see that the biblical concepts of health are the same as those taught to graduate students in counseling: Hope, faith and an acceptance of reality, an understanding that we are not the center of the universe, peace of heart (a release of worry), generosity, service, humility, joy, and love. I am sure there is more, but I believe this is a good core to start with. Clinical Healing I have worked with individuals, families, couples and adolescents for almost 25 years. They have been both mandated to see me under duress and crawled in desperate for help. I have seen a wide enough range of people to ask a few pointed questions and hopefully seen enough recovery and healing to offer a couple of observations.

The first question: What are the things that lead to poor health, whether physical or mental/emotional? In my experience, they are the same things the Bible warns us about over and over and over: Pride, Sloth, Greed, Gluttony, Envy, Lust and Wrath. Almost every single patient I have ever had was doing battle with pride in some way. Some were engaged in battle with nearly all of them at once. And I admit openly that almost every pain I have ever suffered myself had something to do with at least one of those sins or as some people call them, "character defects." One woman whom we shall call Sonia came to my office about 15 years ago. She was addicted to pain killers. She had some physical symptoms, but they were not the reason for the prescription or the solution for the pain she needed to heal. She complained about her mother, even though she had not spoken to her in many years and was enormously indignant (a combination of pride and wrath) about how she had been wronged. As she spoke of all the things her mother had done to her, she clenched her jaw and her hands. When later in treatment I offered up the possibility that her continued rage (wrath) at what had been done to her those many years ago was actually only hurting her and that perhaps it was time for her to accept the fact that her mother had failed her and begin to consider forgiveness, she became outraged (pride). In her mind, accepting the reality of her mother's inadequacies (without making them her own) was unthinkable. Her mother had to be shown who was right and who was wrong. Sonia equated acceptance with excuse and could not, would not see it any other way. The end result? She stayed in pain and addicted to pain killers. Her pride would have it no other way. When the choice between being "right" or happy was presented to her, she chose to be right. The second and perhaps more pertinent question: How do we treat these problems in the modern world? What is a psychotherapist to do if the purpose is to facilitate true healing and he or she is not a priest, pastor, or rabbi? We are not preachers. Our job is slightly different and the people who come to us are not always ready for (or necessarily interested in) an extreme spiritual makeover. People who may not be ready to go to a church or synagogue may need to someone objective who will just listen to them and hear their suffering. Many people need to talk before they can learn to pray. And the therapeutic relationship-if it is handled properly-can be the training ground for having other relationships, including one with God. There is a difference between preaching and manifesting. It is good to inspire others with great thoughts about God. It is also good to manifest God's love through presence and compassion. There are times that a patient may be too angry at God to hear someone say, "God loves you," but not too angry to have God's love quietly demonstrated through patience, understanding, and honest integrity. And this may be the first time he or she has ever experienced it. In my experience, what we have to do to be healing in psychotherapy is not all that different than scripture prescribes even if it is presented and packaged a little differently. After working with patients for these 20+ years, I have broken it into five segments or stages, all of which I believe are biblically supported although none of these are dependent on one particular

faith or point of view. All the seven deadly sins (or character defects) may be individually or collectively addressed at any point along these five stages. These stages are only clinical observations, not rules and shouldn't be approached legalistically. I: Hope All recovery-whether from drugs, depravity, or desperate fear-begins with a promise of hope, that there is "another way" to be, to live, to feel, to love and be loved. This hope is offered in different ways by different people, but I have found it best received by my patients in the form of personal and true stories of redemption (mine or others), of living examples of other people's recoveries, of their emotional, mental and spiritual salvations. When we see the pain of the other person's struggles, feel the roller coaster of his unfolding temptations and challenges, identify with her frustrations and longings and then witness her release and deliverance...we can begin to hope. If it happened for them, perhaps it can happen for me...? All a good psychotherapist needs is one good perhaps and the work can at least get started. Most of my initial work with patients is an infusion of hope. Some are so habituated to sadness, to pain, to loss, to deprivation, that they simply cannot imagine anything but the way they've always been. "But you are here in my office, so there must be some small ember still burning," I tell them. But many need quite a bit of tender care-a very careful fanning-for that flame to begin to burn again. So I pace them. (Pacing (*1) is a clinical term meaning that I am walking with the patient rather than running in front of him or dragging behind him.) II: Surrender Surrender is a word that gives moderns the shudders. What we are told to want for ourselves is power and control. We are carefully and consistently taught in graduate school to nurture in our patients their "self-empowerment" and imbue in them a solid sense of control. This can be important and necessary in very measured doses, particularly when a person has been abused and even the most personal controls have been denied them. But it can go too far and be endowed too freely. Even some evangelists have done that with "prosperity gospel." In that philosophy you can tell where a person is spiritually by what he owns and how well his career is doing. Ask and ye shall receive, they remind us. But instead of its focus on the spiritual it has become a modern, media spin on the Doctrine of the Elect and Predestination: How do we know you have found God's favor? Because you're successful. How do you get to be successful? By God's favor. So, the goal is to acquire wealth, prestige, and power. Somewhere along the line even the ministers have forgotten, "Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." In the beginning of my own rebirth into sanity, the idea of surrender terrified me. I know from my own experience that surrender is at the very least an uncomfortable concept for most people. And some are not just tentative about it, they are panic-stricken, which is only reasonable since they have not yet come to trust that the universe is purposeful, creative, and meaningful. (For me that is God and, again, my surrender only came when I came to believe that God actually loved me.) For

many of those just coming into therapy, the universe has been a hurtful, oft-meaningless, chaotic, unfair place. We cannot surrender to the abyss, to a vast darkness, to a deist blob that couldn't care less whether we existed or not, to a universe without love or meaning. I certainly can't imagine doing that. And I didn't. I couldn't. So, I present it in the way it was successfully presented to me-with great care and in small steps: Initial surrender means to accept reality. That's it. Not to like it or excuse it. Just to accept it as real. Accepting reality is something people can consider even when reality is harsh, even when they are scared, hurt, or confused. Accepting reality is the underpinning of sanity. Denial is the basis for all insanity. When surrender is presented initially in this way, it becomes manageable. So, what can they surrender to? I keep it simple. They can surrender to the fact that their lives are not working, or the unhappiness they live with at home, or the way they feel and make other people feel when they're drinking. They surrender to the facts first. Why? We surrender first to reality because as we've been told: "The truth shall set you free. Surrender in this way, taken in these gentle, baby steps, is what gets us strong enough to make the fuller, sweeter surrender, to take the leap into the love-both human and Divine-that is, as C.S. Lewis and Peter Kreeft call it, our heart's deepest longing. III: Honesty If truth is what we need, then honesty is what we must give. Why isn't my life working? Why is my spouse always angry? Why am I so easily offended? Why do I have trouble stepping out of the house? What do I feel? What do I need? What do I stumble over myself again and again and again? This is a coming-clean, a venting, an admission of wrong-doing, a confession of mistakes and a map of wrong turns. It is what Alcoholics Anonymous has called a Fourth Step, what the Church calls a moral reckoning or examination of conscience, and the Jews a "tikun" or correcting. And it is absolutely necessary, whether one is an alcoholic or not, whether one is in a 12-step program or not, whether one belongs to a religion or not. It is a brave step, this one. It takes courage to say "I really loused up that relationship," or "I was a coward when it came to my career," or "I was as abusive as she said I was." Interestingly, it is at this point that the need for hope returns. It is very painful to look at all we've done wrong and terribly hard to imagine that it can ever be any different. In my work, this is a good time to remind someone of what is possible, returning again to the stories-the true stories-of redemption and the view from the top of the mountain. Some ways back I knew a young woman (details disguised to protect identity) who had been seen by numerous therapists. She'd been diagnosed with PTSD, Bipolar disorder, and borderline personality disorder. She'd been medicated, treated with a dozen techniques, restrained for cutting, and finally written off as hopeless. We spoke about her life, current and past. After about a month of piecing together her history, we

landed on the issue of an abortion she'd had when she was 15. She had been so afraid: the boy who had father the child had abandoned her, her parents were busy with work and a very highlevel social life, and she had no older or wiser siblings to guide her. Her life with the family's church had been cut off earlier because everyone had been simply too busy to bother with it. (She had been raised and baptized Catholic.) Ultimately her support and direction came from the media and from the information available at school. I asked her about the abortion and how she felt about it. She answered with honest curiosity, "Why are you asking?" "Because it's a big event, especially for a little girl," I said. "No one else seemed to think so." "What do you mean?" "Everyone else seemed to think it was no big deal. You just go and do it." "Did you see it as no big deal?" I asked. She started to cry. It took some time and many tears, but she was neither borderline, bipolar, nor hopeless. She was guilt-ridden, not by my accounting but her own. In an effort to be what her surrounding culture believed she was supposed to be, she had to lie about how she felt, what she wanted, and what she really needed. Telling the truth was her first step out of the pain and the pathology. This accountability is a way of owning our mistakes so we can move forward to owning our achievements. If everything is everyone else's fault, then we are the victims of happenstance and there truly is no hope. People are awfully skittish about being accountable because they have been shamed and blamed to excess, but this is not about shame. This is the yellow brick road to freedom. IV: Service What does it take to make it better once we know what we've been doing wrong? This is actually a more controversial question than one may imagine because according to many people in the field one must always focus on the positive. And by in large, they make a convincing point. Noticing what works often works. For some patients, I am the first one in their entire lives to say, "I see you. I see what is good in you. Let us look further to see what else you have that is good and can get better." However, I think going fully in either direction-focusing only on the positive or focusing only on all the wrongdoing-is a mistake. There must be a balance, an acknowledgment of both aspects or inclinations of our natures. As the first story of Adam and Eve illustrates, we are not wholly good or wholly evil. We have capacities in either direction and to become good or to continue to be good, it takes a conscious effort and awareness of both those inclinations. We must nurture the one and

starve the other. How is that best done?

First and foremost, through service and good works, even when we don't feel like it. There's nothing better for someone full of self-pity and hypochondria than to get out and volunteer. I had one young woman volunteer at an old age home. I had another at a soup kitchen. It doesn't matter how we give, but in order to grow, we must start somewhere. Through humility even when we feel boastful or proud or angry or indignant. We must do for others, like say we are sorry, even when we want to dig in our heels. Through patience and generosity even when we feel deprived and impatient.

Service to others is seen by many as a healing of a higher order, which is why it comes later in the 12-Steps of A.A.-we can only offer what we have learned or gained. "If you want to keep it [recovery], give it away," recovering addicts and alcoholics are told. The meaning there is clearyou must first have it to give it. There is another side to this, though. Some of us call it "Act as if" and contend we only learn what we teach and only get what we give away. I think it works both ways and it is up to a good clinical team (meaning the patient and the therapist) to determine when and how to go about this. I am no Solomon. What I know, though, is that service-at any time it seems possible and right-is beneficial to the mind, the heart, the body, and the soul. V: Forgiveness Without forgiveness, we are stuck in the wrongdoing and don't get to move forward into our new lives. My feeling is that pride is usually the blockage on this. We won't forgive because we're right, damn it! And we want to be vindicated even more than we want to be free or happy. Forgiveness never denies the wrongdoing (Romans 3:10,23). But it forgives the doer, who clearly knows no better or is too sick to ever see the difference. Forgiveness doesn't mean we need to open our door to thieves. It doesn't ask us to be fools. The irony is that the less one forgives, the more hardhearted, vengeful and angry one becomes and therefore the less one is able to see the truth of any kind. Hatred does not only reject joy, it rejects truth and can't recognize a real threat when it's there. Forgiveness is often the last step in this small ladder to emotional and spiritual freedom. As Corrie Ten Boom, a Christian woman who survived a Nazi concentration camp during the Holocaust, said, "Forgiveness is to set a prisoner free, and to realize the prisoner was you." One of the best examples of forgiveness is the story of Joseph and his brothers, who had collectively betrayed him and left him to die because of their own envy and greed. He crawled to survive, then was enslaved and thrown in prison. Many years passed. Still, when his brothers came to Egypt many years later, he not only forgave them after he saw that they had changed

(and showed true repentance), he rejoiced in them. Suffering: Is it Necessary? There is one last issue I'd like to briefly address and that is the notion of suffering. I haven't allotted it its own stage of recovery because it involves all of them. The worst part of modern psychotherapy is that it does not allow for the existence of suffering. It insists on happiness as a human "right" and promotes its open-throttled pursuit along with everyone else in mass media and entertainment. This is the parting of ways between what is ordinary psychotherapy (and even those preaching the Prosperity Gospel I mentioned earlier who believe they can petition God for whatever worldly goods or emotional rewards they desire, quoting "ask and ye shall receive" as if it offered proof of God as the Great Pez Dispenser) and a holistic psychotherapy that is based in traditional Biblical values. Part of the problem is that the modern age of psychotherapists see happiness-which is defined as the attainment of some desired goal-as the end goal of healing. Orthodox Jews and Christians have a different take on this subject. While it is seen as normal to want to be happy, to be healthy, even to have material comfort it is not seen as the purpose of our existence. It is not even seen as terribly important. It is considered far more critical to be good than to get what you [think you] want. Happy is fine. Goodness and purposefulness and joy-they are far better and reach in far deeper. What is even more troubling to me is that I see people wanting the rewards of happiness without even the minimum of self-sacrifice. Americans particularly believe it is their "right." We have been told so repeatedly by the media and psychologists, and even a whole generation of "hip" preachers. Do what makes you happy. It's all that counts. The philosophical pinnacle of this thinking is in New Age theology, where sickness, injury and tragedies are defined as self-inflicted manifestations of poor core programming. In that epistemology, Mystery is abolished and we are responsible for everything that happens to us and around us. If abundant health and wealth and beauty are our birthrights, then suffering means we have either done something wrong to deserve it or written bad scripts for our lives. Given this mental and emotional mulch we are planted in, it is no wonder that we are so worried about our bodies, our bank accounts, and our images. We fret about face lifts more than we do about whether we have a neighbor that needs our help because she has been bed-ridden for a week. Denying suffering has a price that is incomprehensibly enormous. Because when we deny suffering (which as Buddha said is inevitable in this life), we must also deny death. And to deny death, we must deny life. Why should it be included in psychotherapy, though? Shouldn't we want to banish it forever? Why shouldn't we want to avoid it altogether? What's in it for us, anyway? This is the answer I came up with: By being present for suffering, we become present for the

whole of life, for the wholeness of another person. And the reward is nothing less than the ability to love-and be loved-fully. We suffer because we love and want to continue loving. It is a poignant irony, I think. In our attempt to avoid suffering, we cut ourselves off from the one thing that can mitigate it: each other.

Judith Acosta, LISW, is a licensed psychotherapist, crisis counselor and classical homeopath in private practice in New Mexico. She is the co-author of The Worst Is Over: What To Say When Every Moment Counts, hailed as the "bible of crisis communications" and Verbal First Aid (Penguin, 2010), the new book on therapeutic communication with children. She lectures around the country on Verbal First Aid, trauma, stress, and animal-assisted therapy. She may be reached at her website:, where she has an interactive blog.

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