The other day, I met a woman, online
A supposed healer, offering her services for a free half an hour
I signed up, curious.
What ensued was a lambasting of my soul, under the auspices of “healing”. In fact, she said it was my soul that was wanting me to change.
I was analysed, to death, in the space of those few minutes as stuck and in denial of what is really happening and as someone with so little self-esteem because, if I truly meant what I say to my partner, he would pick up my strong, self-assured vibrations and change by agreeing to get help with his issues.
I was accused of having blind spots, of not going deep enough, of using lack of money as an excuse to not confront my inadequacies.
In the middle of our half an hour, I felt the shutters coming down – this woman was encouraging me to look into my heart while tearing into me with her well-meaning words. There was no way I could connect with my sacred heart while all that was going on.
Later, I firmly declined to spend what is a fortune to me right now, on letting her go into my akashic records to release me from my stuckness. Her response, in her words, was to not mean to “browbeat” me but that I have been stuck for years and if I don’t do something which I have never done before – her once in a lifetime akashic soul searching session – then nothing would change.
This experience has raised some serious questions for me. Those that know me will tell you that I am not one to shy away from inner work. I have worked, in depth, with my stuff for a very long time and I do explore things that I have never explored before. That’s how I came to be a hypnotherapist and EFT practitioner. It’s how I came to study and practice craniosacral therapy. It’s how I went to a man last year for help with healing my innermost issues around being a woman.
As a therapist myself, this experience showed me, once again, the importance of creating a safe space for people when they come for help. It reiterated the necessity to not make assumptions about people. This woman really does not know what I have been though or what I have done to heal or even how deep or not deep I have been. It is dangerous to assume that your clients are ignorant. Also, even if you do believe you have some power to access unseen realms, watch out for arrogance and thinking that just because you can do this, you are right. The work which I do with clients is to assist them to access their own inner wisdom – it is not about going to get the information for them. It is about teaching people that the wisdom is within. We can guide, but in truth, we cannot access the truth for others as truth is relative and sometimes biased.
This kind of spiritual arrogance sets up an experience of powerlessness – we rely on others to go and get the information and tell us how and why it is that we are a certain way – but because we think we do not have such an ability, we think you cannot do this for ourselves. What this means is that, mostly, people land up believing that what the psychic/spiritual practitioner told them is true. They have no way of verifying this information. Giving your power away to someone in this way can be dangerous and demeaning.
What this experience has shown me is that, as healers, we need to take care when working with others. At the end of my half and hour, this woman said: “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to make you feel more depressed, but you need to look deeper, your soul is asking you to change.” If I was not someone who has a deep and strong connection with my inner-self and if I was not aware of the manipulation that was going on, I might have done something harmful to myself. Again, as therapists, we need to be very cautious when working with others. We need to build trust, we need to encourage people to find their own answer , we need to treat people with love, respect and compassion and not judge them as being unable to change without our help.
Speak to my heart of love,
For it’s been covered by the desert sands of grief.
Pour love’s truth into the broken crevices
So that the raging ache is forever stilled and satiated,
And the emptiness is filled.
A poem written during my time as a paediatric palliative care social worker:
Have you ever?
Have you ever watched a child’s tears track their course of misery upon a smooth soft cheek?
Or looked into a sixteen-year old’s eyes who knows he’s going to die but is too afraid to speak?
Have you ever heard the anguished wail of the one-minute-ago recently bereaved?
Or seen the helpless agony of a parent as they hold their dead child’s body in a last embrace?
Have you ever entered ICU and seen the curtains drawn?
Or acted as a silent witness to the doctors bringing a little one back to life?
Have you ever felt the atmosphere of death – the silent, watchful suffering that barely draws a breath?
Or felt the unspoken dread simmering in a hospital ward of the very sick?
Have you ever wondered how we can move on and past the pain if most of it is hidden, unacknowledged, laced with shame?
Have you ever wondered how humanity can heal their broken, ravaged hearts?
Or about the toll of a constant barrage of desolation and despair upon the human soul?
Have you ever wondered about the effects of a massive accumulation of harrowing pain and grief?
How do we heal that?
Recently, I had an interaction with a person whom I trusted and at the end of the contact, I felt disregarded. At first, I noticed how enraged I was …. which is unusual for me. I tend to sit on my anger and suppress it.
While speaking through my reaction with two friends, I was like a spewing demon, using words I never use…wow! Talk about over-reaction!
When I notice something, I begin my inner work…. In this case, I tapped and tapped and I still felt angry. And I wondered why this person had provoked such intense anger in me.
Some of the possibilities were:
One week later, I was still stewing. Granted, the anger was less intense, but still there… So, I tapped and tapped, but still could not release it.
I went for a walk this morning and I tapped while I walked and contemplated. I realised that what was irritating me was the disregard of my needs. I had not been given an opportunity to explain why I was only responding now to his communication. To me, it felt like his needs were more important (I understand that this is my experience of the situation; his would be different).
I asked myself why we find it necessary to be harsh and hard with others – and yes, there are a myriad of reasons; some of which can be traced back to early childhood experiences and learnings, but I realised that, often, we are harsh and tend to look after our own needs while disregarding the needs of others when we feel that we need to protect ourselves.
I recognised that my inner bitch appears when I feel threatened or attacked…. In such circumstances, I can be scathing in order to protect myself.
I also recognised that beneath my anger was a deeper feeling of “not being valued”. Underneath was a cesspool of feelings which included feeling less than, less worthy and disregarded. Needless to say, I tapped... on this specific incident and on “all experiences that have ever caused me to feel undervalued, not valued, not worthy, less important, not as good as etc.”
And while tapping, I realised that I would like to expand the circle of regard in the world… regard for others as well as ourselves. I wondered what it would take for us to regard others’ needs as just as important as our own. I imagined a world, where, instead of being harsh, cruel and dismissive of one another, we can sit together in a circle of regard and acknowledge each other’s worthiness simply because we are human and alive. I imagined a world where we can talk to each other about what we need and then about how we can find ways of taking the needs of all into account, negotiating solutions that meet our needs in innovative and respectful ways.
Through this one incident, I have recognised how important having true regard for others is. And I am grateful for the lesson.
What does it mean to be compassionate?
The roots of the word compassion are from old French and can be summarised as “to feel pity together” and “to suffer with”. I prefer Paul Gilbert’s definition which states that “compassion can be defined as behaviour that aims to nurture, look after, teach, guide, mentor, soothe, protect, offer feelings of acceptance and belonging – in order to benefit another person” (Gilbert, P; 2013, p.217).
We cannot forget the need for self-compassion and therefore I would extend this definition to include ourselves. In learning to be compassionate people, we also need to learn to be compassionate with ourselves.
Why is compassion necessary?
Well, looking at current affairs, the world over, it seems to me that our world has become harsh, cynical and uncaring. The emphasis is on what we can get for ourselves with a growing disregard for the needs of others. We have become selfish and unconcerned about humanity as a whole and this attitude could very well lead to our demise.
Taking time to contemplate compassion as a lifestyle may seem strange. However, think of how kindness and care from others makes you feel. Your first thought may be “What does she want from me?” Gone are the days where you can simply trust what another says – these days we often look for the ulterior motive behind kindness. How tragic is that - the fact that we cannot trust one another?
According to psychological theory, the first task that a newborn needs to learn is to trust. Without trust, life seems hopeless. Fast forward to adulthood and see how not meeting this primal developmental milestone has affected us. Often, we do not trust one another. This makes us feel afraid and uncertain and leads to what the Buddhists may term “grasping” behaviour – the behaviour of looking out for myself without concern for others.
Now imagine a world where we begin the maturation process by choosing to focus on compassion as a way of being… not just as a passing thought. According to Paul Gilbert, compassion is a skill that can be learned and practised. How wonderful that is! We can learn to be more caring, more kind and more loving to one another. For me this is very empowering and I have made the choice for compassion. In fact, I choose it as my lifestyle and my way of being.
This body of compassionate work focuses on assisting each of us to choose and practice kindness and compassion – again and again and again. I would love you to join me on this journey so that we can create a different world where peace, kindness and love are no longer the exception.
My commitment to compassion being my way of life takes awareness and practice. I need to be brave enough to acknowledge those parts of me that champion “being right” and are disinterested in taking the kinder view. Ultimately, this requires that I move into the murky depths of my being to discover the shadows and the light. Sometimes, I am ashamed of what I see. Sometimes, I’m in awe. Through it all, I am learning acceptance, patience and love. I am learning to honour and love myself, with compassion, so that my experience of love expands and I am then able to let go of judgements and honour and love others, with compassion.
Carol Cooper-Steyn is a social worker who has worked in the fields of child protection, child and adolescent sexual abuse and paediatric palliative care. She qualified as a craniosacral therapist in 2002 and is a certified non-medical hypnotherapist and an emotional freedom techniques (EFT) and matrix reimprinting practitioner. Her clients view her as an incredible ‘soul coach’.