Gail B. Malloy, PhD, RN
[I]...define my spiritual journey more as one of listening and tuning to what is than of choosing. The spiritual journey, as I now conceive of it, is a progression from truth to ever-deepening truth.
Ram Dass (and Mirabai Bush) Compassion in Action
As a nurse I've always been interested in healing. In the past six or seven years that interest has begun to incorporate theories and models which explain phenomena often referred to as alternate methods of healing.
My first foray into the realms of psychic healing was to learn Therapeutic Touch. This method, developed by a fellow nurse, Dr. Dolores Krieger, is derived from the ancient practice of laying-on of hands. It is based on the belief that man is an open energy system in mutual, simultaneous interaction with the environment. The healing act is one of human energy transfer and can be explained through the Sanskrit notion of prana. This energy system is believed to underlie and organise the life process. It is related to air and motion and is derived from the sun. Healthy people have an excess of prana and ill persons have a deficit. Since prana can be transferred, Krieger (1979) proposes that the 'functional basis of Therapeutic Touch lies in the intelligent direction of significant life energies from the person playing the role of the healer to the healee'. The healer acts on the assumption that the human energy field extends beyond the body boundaries. From a centred state, the healer uses the palms of the hands to assess the energy field of the healee, several inches beyond the body, for quality and flow. Areas in the field that feel stagnant, bound or congested are mobilised and the healer consciously directs energy to assist the healee in repatterning of his or her energy (Krieger 1979; 1981).
I practised Therapeutic Touch for a few years and then attended one of the LeShan Introductory Seminars in Psychic Healing. There Joyce Goodrich taught that in Type I healing the healer makes no attempt to 'do' anything to or with the healee, that healing occurs when both are in a 'state of consciousness wherein healer and healee could become so totally one that for at least an instant, there [is] no separation in the healer's consciousness' (Goodrich).
I was then faced with an immediate and compelling dilemma. How could I reconcile two seemingly incompatible systems, neither of which I understood too well in the first place? One system directed me to use myself in an active, assertive manner - to do something to someone. The other system directed me into a more passive unification model - to be something with someone. Both systems claim to be healing modalities - and indeed, I 'felt like' a healer whichever model I used. Further, I often observed changes in healees using either modality.
I have generally been pretty successful in relating to the world in the cognitive domain so I did what many good professors might do. I approached my colleagues and discussed my problems - interestingly, intellectually, endlessly and futilely. The discussions left me with many hypotheses but still with my dilemma.
Shortly after this, a child who lives near me developed an inoperable tumour. His treatment was palliative and his prognosis was poor. I knew the child only by sight but he was an acquaintance of one of my own children. I felt inexorably drawn into the situation. I passed his house on my way to work each morning and I began to notice a most peculiar, spontaneous and compelling response. As I drove by, I became totally focused on my image of him and, for a split second, I was swept up into an experience I find difficult to explain. The entire experience lasted only a second or so and by the time I was past the house it was over. This happened every time I passed by, even if I wasn't consciously aware of being near the house and regardless of whether I had been daydreaming, listening to the radio or engrossed in my own thoughts. There was no intent, no meditation, no contemplation, no centring. Still, I began to believe that this was some sort of derivative of Type I healing, although certainly not of a 'pure' type. I thought about using Therapeutic Touch from a distance, being more familiar with this, but the notion of sending energy somehow seemed totally alien to the situation and I was completely unable to do it. Eventually, after a few months, my healing response faded. I drove past the house without thinking much about it and have never had the urge to heal him since. I have no contact with this child and hear about him only if I think to ask, which I do periodically. It is striking to me that now, three years later, the child is well enough to be in school and to have resumed most of his activities. It certainly looks as if his state of health and my need to heal might have been somehow related. What drew me to him, why I had to use the less familiar Type I healing, and why Therapeutic Touch seemed so wrong and impossible were questions that puzzled me completely. Healing happens in a domain quite different from our usual cognitive, sensory, going-to-work state and, it occurred to me, the solution to my dilemma might also be found in the more intuitive realm. I decided to try a phenomenonological approach, to become a participant observer of my intuitive choices of when and where I used Therapeutic Touch or Type I healing I changed my questions from "What is happening and why?" to "Under what conditions does it feel more compelling, more natural and more appropriate to use each type of healing?"
The revised question opened a whole new perspective. I noticed, for example, that Therapeutic Touch felt right and appropriate when I worked with several people with asthma, a child with an earache, nausea and vomiting as side effects of chemotherapy, and sometimes when a person exhibited symptoms of anxiety. In each of these instances I didn't always use my hands. Sometimes the mental imagery of sending energy was sufficient but it was always an energy model. Most often there was a decrease, or some sort of change, in symptoms after the healing.
Type I healing felt appropriate in situations more difficult to describe: a dying person; a person who was concerned about a health problem; a leukaemic patient; an infant with an overwhelming infection; a person who was very frightened; a patient who was en route to surgery (and whose subsequent incisional pain 'called for' Therapeutic Touch). In Type I healing, results were more difficult to evaluate and the evaluation of 'success' or 'failure' seemed to depend on the definition of healing, health and wholeness used. For example, could death be equally as valid a way to measure successful healing as recovery?
I also discovered another, quite separate category in which neither healing modality felt right. I felt no need to heal at all and, in fact, was not able to do either Type I healing or Therapeutic Touch even if I tried. This situation seemed to be disconcertingly unrelated to the apparent overt need of the healee and was very disturbing to me for a long time. As I worked on sorting out and categorising these experiences I began to see what looked like a pattern emerging. It seemed to me that Therapeutic Touch was useful and felt appropriate in situations where the identified problem to the patient was the symptom and where I as the healer felt as if I were working more with a specific problem. Type I healing seemed right where the identified problem (for the patient) was the illness itself and where I as the healer felt as if I were working with the person. I am making the guess that when the patient fundamentally saw neither the symptom nor the illness as a problem (even if I did), when he 'needed' the illness or symptom in some way, at some level of consciousness, my intuitive response was an inability to heal - I was literally closed out of his or her field or felt no particular need to be part of it for a healing purpose.
To be healthy can be thought of as being whole, integrated, in harmony with one's self, one's environment, the universe. Someone who is ill may be thought of as less whole, more fragmented, not in harmony, out of synchrony with the environment and with the universe. Disease and/or symptoms often accompany illness and can be thought or as derivations, symbols or fragments of the underlying illness. We often seem to make the assumption that the symptom or the disease is the illness, rather than a manifestation of it. We act as if alleviation of the symptom, or curing of the disease, is synonymous with healing (to make whole), although we do not know if this is so. It seems reasonable to suggest that symptoms can be relieved without having anything to do with the underlying illness. We all know people who have been cured of their disease but who do not seem to be well. Further, it may well be that at whatever level of consciousness one makes the choice to be ill, one may accept the illness but desperately want to be rid of the symptoms or of the disease.
If 'treatment of symptoms/curing of disease' and 'healing' are fundamentally different, then Therapeutic Touch and Type I healing can be thought of as modalities on a continuum between them, chosen as an intuitive response of the healer to the needs of the healee.
There are a number of models available that might explain these observations. Many people believe that the fundamental nature of reality is an essential wholeness, interconnectedness, and oneness in which borders and boundaries do not exist. For example, Lawrence LeShan (1974) described this state as the Clairvoyant Reality. David Bohm (1980) called it the holomovement in which all possibilities, all potential, all elements are enfolded or 'implicate'. Also, part of reality is the ordinary, familiar, everyday concrete world we live in, where events and elements seem separate and individually distinguishable, where space and time exist and operate in recognisable and predictable ways. LeShan called this the Sensory Reality. Bohm described this state as a special case of the implicate order which is manifest, unfolded or 'explicate'.
In the sensory or explicate order, Krieger's underlying assumption of energy or prana makes sense. The notion of energy exchange and modulation is not inconceivable in an order where elements are separated. Therapeutic Touch is possible in an overlapping state between the explicate and implicate orders, between the sensory and clairvoyant realities. In therapeutic touch, although the healer is centred, healer and healee are still relatively separate so that energy can flow between them and the healer can direct energy or do something to the healee. Symptoms seem discrete and separate. Relief of symptoms is possible because, closer to the Sensory/Explicate domain, the rules and laws of classical physics, biology and the like pertain - as we know them in everyday reality. Curing can occur without change in the underlying illness, independent of healing. Healing, a fundamental move toward wholeness, if it happens, is a by-product rather than a direct consequence of this process.
If one heals in a state closer to the pure clairvoyant reality or implicate domain, the nature of the healing is one of unification, a Type I modality. To speak of discrete symptoms, organ systems or disease does not seem appropriate in a domain better described in terms of wholeness. In this order, what is dealt with is the more holistic notions of health/illness underlying the manifestations we observe in the body or the mind. In Type I healing, the move is toward wholeness. Symptom changes, if there are any, are secondary. They merely accompany or reflect changes in the fundamental state of health.
My dilemma is far from resolved but these observations suggest to me that there may be many legitimate modes and shades of healing which can be used in different situations. The choice depends upon the sensitivity, intuition and knowledge of both healer and healee. Greatly needed are serious and systematic studies of the many variations in healing modalities, in healers, in healees, and also in the interactions among these variables. The focusing of research efforts on when and where and under what conditions psychic healing occurs will prove more fruitful in the long run than trying endlessly to discover if psychic healing happens.
Bohm, David, Wholeness and the Implicate Order, Boston: Routledge and Kegan Paul 1980.
Goodrich, Joyce, The psychic healing training and research project, In: Fosshage, J. and Olsen, P. (eds), Healing: Implications for Psychotherapy, New York: Human Sciences Press 1978.
Krieger, Dolores, Foundations for Holistic Health Nursing Practices, Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott 1981.
Krieger, Dolores, The Therapeutic Touch, Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall 1979.
LeShan, Lawrence, The Medium, the Mystic and the Physicist, New York: Ballantine 1974.
Reproduced with the kind permission of Joyce Goodrich, PhD, from the Newsletter of The Consciousness Research and Training Project, Inc., Box 9G, 315 East 68 Street, New York, NY 10021.
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Copyright © Daniel J. Benor, M.D. 1993 Reprinted with permission of the author P.O. Box 76 Bellmawr, NJ 08099 www.WholisticHealingResearch.com DB@WholisticHealingResearch.com
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