Have you ever felt like you were in a situation where no matter what you try to do to heal, trying to heal yourself just makes matters worse and self help or any other steps you may take towards healing just makes you feel worse and worse and worse? If the answer is yes, then you are stuck in the healing trap.
The healing trap occurs when you have two competing and completely contradictory needs. What are those needs? To understand that, we have to go back in time. We have been living in an emotional dark age for a very long time. People do not understand what emotions really are and do not understand how to interact with them. This means that even the best parents often unintentionally mistreat their children’s emotions. When we are little and we have a problem, the same thing happens as when we are adults. Emotions arise within us. For example, when we have to go to school but really don’t want to, we feel powerless and sad. When the average parent sees this emotion, what do they do? Chances are they do not handle it correctly. What they usually do is to disapprove of the way we feel. At worst, they directly shame us for the way we feel. And at best, they may say something along the lines of “Come on now, everyone has to go to school, quit whining and get in the car we’re going to be late”. They make us feel like there is no good reason for us to feel the way we feel. And so, we decide that there must be something wrong with us. And so, we feel ashamed of ourselves.
To understand more about how to correctly deal with emotions, I suggest that you to watch my video on YouTube titled “ The Emotional Wakeup Call”. And to understand more about shame and how to heal it, I suggest that you watch my video on YouTube titled: “How To Overcome Shame.”
Not only do we spend a very long time in our earliest years completely dependent on our primary caregivers (much more so than most other species on earth), our survival as a group species also depends on our connection with other people. Even though the modern world has evolved to allow us to live and survive single, this is a direct contradiction to the way we are biologically wired. With this kind of wiring, the approval of our caregivers (especially parents) mattered more than anything to us. Approval equals love and survival in our minds. Disapproval equals being unloved and thus being alone and not surviving in our minds.
The process of socialization, which all children go through (including us), is essentially a process of aspects of us being approved of and aspects of us being disapproved of. Parents demonstrate their approval and disapproval in various ways and also punish and reward according to their approval or disapproval in various ways.
We altered ourselves and suppressed ourselves and the way we felt like crazy when we were young in order to get approval from our parents. We did it to gain reward and avoid punishment. But what we don’t remember consciously is how painful this process was. We learned that even if our parents said they loved us, our parent’s love for us was in fact conditional. It was conditional upon us being a certain way and doing certain things. In order to be able to gain their approval by any means necessary, we suppressed a desire. The desire was to be loved exactly how we are. We wanted the experience of real love. We wanted the look in our parents eyes that said, “Nothing is wrong with you, nothing needs to be changed or fixed, you are perfect as you are”. Let’s call this unconditional approval.
Alas, none of us got this message. Instead we had to go on fixing ourselves to earn love. And it was so painful to continually get the message that how we are is not ok; we eventually took over and became our own self-moderators. We took over for our parents and eventually started approving of ourselves and disapproving of ourselves and suppressing our emotion and correcting our behavior before our parents had the chance. We took on the lifelong task of fixing ourselves. It is at this point that people began to call us “good”.
This created a huge split in ourselves. A split between the aspect of us who actually needs a solution to the problems we face (a solution to the way we feel when we feel bad) and the aspect of us who actually needs the exact opposite. The aspect of us who needs unconditional approval, which is essentially to be told, “Nope, there is no change that needs to be made to you, you do not need to be fixed”.
On one hand, healing is a good thing. On the other hand it implies that something isn’t ok as it is and needs to be changed for the better. It needs to be fixed. So what happens if this suppressed and highly subconscious need for unconditional approval is strong within you is that when you try to heal yourself, the aspect of you that needs unconditional approval will be triggered. It will dig its heels in. To the degree you obsessively try to fix yourself, it will resist that same amount and you will soon notice that nothing you ever do seems to work. This is the healing trap. A death defying tug of war between the aspect of you who needs a solution and the aspect of you who needs unconditional approval for exactly how it is. And the more you try to win that fight by trying to find a solution and by trying to heal, the more pain you will feel.
When you are caught in the healing trap, we need to create alignment between the two warring aspects of ourselves by doing the following…
- Showing the aspect of you that needs a solution that the conditional approval that is inherent in our quest for healing is the actual problem and thus unconditional approval as the actual solution.
- Showing the aspect of you that needs unconditional approval that the other aspect of itself is trying to find solutions, not because it needs it to change to be loved, but because it loves it already and thus obviously wants it to feel good instead of bad. In other words, healing can be loving instead of a commentary on wrongness.
- Allow yourself to mentally leave one aspect of yourself out of the picture and where it wants to be while meeting the other aspect’s needs.
We need to accept that as people, we are not a unified self even though we call ourselves by one name. We are a conglomeration of many selves, many aspects of selves and many of them, contradictory in nature. Unless we recognize this in ourselves, we will be forever trying to suppress aspects of ourselves in favor of others and thus will stay in a state of fracture and disunity instead of wholeness.
To address these two different aspects of yourself, I suggest that you do a meditation where you close your eyes and ask to see the two different parts of you. Then in an intuitive imagination experience, you can ask them each questions and let them answer. Eventually you can have them interact with each other, resolve their differences and reconcile to find a way to align. For example, one question you could ask the aspect of you who wants healing is, “What would be so bad about not having a solution”. You will often find it boils down to the fear of being alone if the problem isn’t fixed.
You could ask the aspect of you that needs unconditional approval “Why don’t you want to heal or get better?” You could have the aspect of you that wanted a solution, provide for the aspect that wants unconditional approval, whatever that side has always wanted and needed, but never got. For example, it could provide the message “You’re never, ever going to be alone”.
If you are stuck in the healing trap and are struggling with this process, I suggest that you find either a voice dialogue therapist or a gestalt therapist in your area and explain this exact dilemma to the therapist. Have them guide you through a therapeutic process accordingly. I will tip you off that the side that needs a solution tends to be the adult and conscious side of you, where as the side which needs unconditional approval tends to be a childhood and unconscious aspect of you.
I also suggest that you allow yourself to consciously allow for a split in yourself when you have a need to meet that directly conflicts with the need of another aspect of yours. This is what I meant when I said that the third thing you need to do is to if you’re caught in the healing trap is to allow yourself to mentally leave one aspect of yourself out of the picture and where it wants to be while meeting the other aspect’s needs.
For example, let’s say that one aspect of me needs significance and thus wants to be on stage, but another aspect of me is terrified to be on stage and needs to be kept safe by not being on stage. Instead of bulldozing the aspect of me that doesn’t want to be on stage so I can get on stage, I can close my eyes and connect to the aspect of me that doesn’t want to be on stage and imagine leaving this aspect of me offstage with someone she loves, somewhere that she loves. When I go on stage, I can imagine her off stage in that safe place and then imagine her re-joining me once I get off the stage.
As this concept applies to the healing trap, any time you are seeking a solution to your problem, you can imagine consciously leaving the aspect of you that needs unconditional approval with someone who is unconditionally approving and far away from the hospital or self-improvement technique. Any time you are engaged in unconditional approval, you can for example imagine the aspect of you that needs a solution, being set loose in a library or meeting with a transcendent guide to tirelessly seek out the solution.
When it comes to re-integration work, it is important to know that unconscious splitting is the dangerous kind of splitting where as conscious splitting can in fact be a crucial step towards wholeness.
So, when you find yourself in a situation where no matter how desperate you are to heal, you never seem to get better, consider that you are caught in the healing trap. Consider that the time has come to find alignment between these aspects of you that have directly opposing needs. And consider that all they need to do in order to do just that is to begin to have a positive relationship with each other.