This lesson is excerpted from Lightning Path Workbook Two: The Healing.
As you are now aware, this book is a book to help you heal so that you can successfully reconnect. It would be nice if we could say that healing and reconnection are easy processes. It would be nice if we could wave a magic wand, say magic words like “abracadabra,” and you would be healed and connected. But we cannot. Healing and connecting can be tough processes and they can take a long time, especially if your childhood, adolescence, and early adulthood experiences were difficult, and by that we mean violent, abusive, and neglectful. If you grew up in a toxic environment, if as a child you experienced constant emotional, psychological, verbal, or physical assault, chronic neglect of your essential needs, chaos, growing up, healing and connection will be difficult. In fact, in cases of extreme childhood/adolescent toxicity, which are far more prevalent than most of us would like to admit, the damage will be so profound, and the healing and connection might be so difficult that to accomplish it, you will need to get some help.
Understand, this is not a statement about your strength or weakness. It is just the way it is. Some of us have experienced so much damage that to heal and connect we are going to need help. We may need that help now, or we may need it later. Experience enough trauma and even the toughest among us will eventually need professional assistance. Even the strongest weightlifter eventually reaches their limit. Do not be shamed into suffering in silence. If you need help, get it.
How do you know if you are going to need help with the healing and connecting process? Simple. Pay attention to your own well-being. Take an honest look at your emotional and psychological state. If you are finding things are a challenge, if you seem stuck in the same place, if you are not making any progress with your depression, addictions, self-worth, self-esteem, or relationships, if you feel like you are spinning your wheels, if you find you are long-term avoidant, apathetic, angry, reactive, defensive, or agitated, if you are feeling anxious that you are not moving forward, if you have a feeling that you should be doing something , if you are lashing out at loved ones, if you are struggling with compulsivity, rumination, and mental or emotional disruptions, then you may need to get yourself some help. Life should be lived in calm, serene, peaceful, and (if not blissful, then at least) purposeful contentment. If this is not your life, then you probably need help.
Follow your gut intuition at this point. If it is telling you that you should get help, get help.
If you decide you need to get help, the question then is, how do you find appropriate and competent help?
A good way to get started on this is to ask someone. If you know someone, a family member, a relation, a friend, who has overcome an obstacle, ask them how they did it and query them concerning the kinds of help and support they received. Don’t be afraid to ask them the names of practitioners, books, support groups, etc. Word of mouth is a wonderful way to seek and find appropriate and competent help. Of course, pay attention to the healing progress of the person you are asking.
If you do not know somebody who you can ask, check your one phone book for therapists and agencies, or check your local community for therapists. Many therapists will have a web presence. In addition to looking for individual therapists, call local agencies, like local domestic abuse agencies, and ask them for guidance and recommendations as well.
Once you get to the point where you have some recommended healers in hand, the next question is how do you assess if a therapist or healer is qualified, competent, and appropriate for you?
As for qualification, qualified healers will be healers that have a specific expertise in the area of healing for which you seek assistance. If you are dealing with addictions, this person should have knowledge and experience dealing with addiction. If you are dealing with anger and hatred, then this person should have knowledge and experience dealing with anger and hatred. If you have been sexually assaulted, the person should have knowledge and experience with sexual violence. If you are working with your partner on a relationship, find a good relationship expert.
You get the idea.
You would not discuss your suicide ideations with your mechanic, unless he’s been on a successful healing path. Likewise, you should not discuss car repairs with a psychologist, unless they know something about cars. It is the same with anything. Pay attention to specialization and expertise. Ensure that the help you are receiving is coming from someone who has studied and has knowledge, expertise, and experience in the issues you are seeking support with.
In this regard, education is important. Whether we are talking physical, emotional, psychological, or spiritual, healing is a complicated thing and education helps a person understand these “things” at a deeper level.
How do you assess someone’s qualifications?
Start by examining their educational credentials and the institutions who conferred these credentials. Specifically, you want to look for credentials from credible institutions. Relevant credentials include Masters level work in psychology, counselling, social work, family therapy, and so on.
In addition to looking at educational credentials, you also want to look for specialization and additional training in the specific area you are requesting assistance in. Most therapist will specialize in a specific area, like addictions therapy, family, therapy, and so on. Make sure their specializations, if any, line up with what you are seeking help with.
In addition to specialization, finally, look for evidence that the practitioner keeps themselves up to date. Practitioners keep themselves up to date by going to conferences, doing workshops, and keeping current on the field by reading books and journal resources. You can ask potential counsellors directly if they do things to keep themselves up to date.1
When you are looking for help, finding qualified help is important. But, relevant education and training is not the only thing you should be looking for. In addition to being qualified in the area you are seeking help in, the therapist should also be competent. This is an important consideration. Not all healers (doctors, psychologists, therapists, life coaches, etc.) will, for whatever reason,2 be competent in their practice, even though some of them have years of “book learning” behind them. It is not safe to assume that just because a healer has gone to school, just because they are recognized by a professional organization, and just because they have their own practice, that they are sincere, effective, and competent in their chosen field. Healers come from the same families that you come from and deal with the same toxic environments that we all do. Consequently, they experience the same traumas as everybody else. A healer can read all the books in the world and take all the best classes from all the best universities, but their effectiveness and competence as a healer will be compromised if they haven’t fully healed themselves.
How do you tell if a healer is competent or not? Primarily, make sure they have resolved any issues they may have that are relevant to your concerns. You simply cannot expect an addictions counsellor who is addicted to shopping to help you with your addictions. You cannot expect a relationship counsellor who has been divorced several times to understand the nature of relationships. You cannot expect a psychotherapist who is obsessive/compulsive to help you with your disorder. You cannot expect a family counsellor whose own children have mental health issues to be able to guide you with you and yours. In general, you want to avoid healers who have unresolved issues of their own to deal with, especially when those issues are close to the ones you are dealing with.
How do you tell when a healer has done the work? You can ask them directly if they have ever been in therapy.3 You can even ask them if they had, or are still dealing with, with any childhood issues. If they tell you they didn’t have any issues emerging from their childhood, find another therapist. Nobody grew up in a perfect environment and so we all have, or had, issues to deal with. Any therapist that denies this is clearly not self-aware. In addition, any therapist that cannot be open about their issues probably has not done the work necessary to resolve them. The bottom line is, anybody that is not self-aware and has not done the work will not be able to help you with your issues.
Of course, if you ask this question, be prepared for defensive responses. Some therapists will be uncomfortable with questions like this. Some may even get defensive and hostile. They will say you are crossing personal boundaries and not want to share with you their histories. To an extent, this is true. You should not expect to be able to constantly query your healer about their own personal histories. At the same time, they should be comfortable enough to make some general statements about the work they have done during the initial consultation, or in the first session or two, when rapport and trust are being established.
If their reaction is overly defensive, if they won’t tell you generally about the work they have done, chances are they have not done the work. Any therapist, and individual, who avoids answering your questions, any therapist that tries to tell you that they have not experienced emotional or psychological trauma, any therapist who tells you they haven’t had issues to deal with, or any therapist who aggressively tries to put you down for asking, is either lying, self-delusional, or both. We have all got trauma to deal with and if a therapist is not open enough and self-aware enough to at least acknowledge that, they probably have not done the work needed to heal their trauma and damage, and they are probably still dealing with deep guilt and shame. If true, then it is very unlikely they will have done the work necessary to understand and heal their own trauma and damage. If they have not done work on their own trauma and damage, they will not be able to help you with you and yours.4
This goes for professionals, friends, and family. If you are relying on help from individuals who are not grounded, informed, or healthy themselves, your healing will be compromised. People who are sick themselves will not be able to help you heal. People who have “done a little” might be able to “help a little,” but they will only be able to take you so far, which is fine, to a point. A person does not have to be a fully ascended master healer to you helhttps://www.thecut.com/2017/12/a-beginners-guide-to-finding-the-right-therapist.htmlp heal and connect. At the same time, they can only lift you as high “up the ladder” of healing and connection as they are. Don’t be afraid to assess the healer. Be honest with yourself about the help you are receiving.
There is no point “hoping” for the best here. There is no point pretending to feel supported if you are not properly supported, and there is no point desperately clinging on to therapists, family members, or friends who are sick and stuck. In fact, doing that can cause more damage. Clinging to sick people in the hope that they will give you the support and assistance you need is dangerous, because they can do damage. They can do damage by a) offering you bad advice, b) lashing out when you trigger them, and c) undermining you in unconscious ways to prevent you from getting ahead of them. Obviously, if you are putting yourself in situations where more damage is being done, you won’t be making progress on the healing front. So, do not do it. If you do not trust the help you are getting is competent and qualified, find new help.
Finally, when determining competence, pay attention to any weird, unusual, or ref flag behaviours that might give you clues to their competence and mental/emotional state. Do they seek attention and approval? Are they cold and aloof? Are they paying attention and listening, or do they tune out, or keep glancing at their screens. Do they overemphasize the facade?
In addition to being qualified and competent, professional healers should be just that, professional, and they should maintain professional boundaries. They are the healer, you are the client. They should not act like your friend; they should not replace your mother or father emotionally; they should not “have coffee” or “drink wine” with you, etc. It is not a healer’s job to fill your emotional and psychological holes. Rather, it is the healer’s job to heal you. It is their job to equip you with the skills and knowledge you need in order to heal your own damage and patch your own holes. Healers and therapists teach you how to meet your own needs, find your own friends, navigate your own personal relationships, and fix your own damage. Their job is to guide you through a healing process and nothing more. Your therapist is not going to be able to do that effectively is they cross emotional boundaries with you, so be aware.
If you feel like your counsellor/healer is your friend, if you feel a budding emotional attachment to them, and especially if they’ve made you worried about them, something is wrong with the therapeutic relationship. Either you are projecting unmet needs onto the relationship, hoping the therapist will meet them, or they are projecting their needs on you, hoping you will meet theirs. Either way, appropriate professional boundaries are absent. Either way, it is a red flag. If your healer is not at least self-aware and educated enough to know that therapeutic relationships are not “friend” relationships or “partner” relationships or “parent” relationships, or if your healer is not powerful enough to prevent inappropriate attachments from developing, their ability to help you will be limited, and they may even cause you more long-term damage.
Hopefully, this section on “getting help” has been enough to orient you to the importance of sometimes getting help. Hopefully, this section has also given you some information that can help you find the best type of help there is. The lesson of the unit is simple. If you need help, get it; but, be careful and attentive to the type of help you get. Not all help is competent or appropriately qualified to help you on your way. Moving forward, get help if you need it, but be discerning of the type of help you get. Ask the hard questions and watch for red flags. If you do not get answers to your questions, and if you see some read flags, you may need to look for better help.
Before closing out this section on how to get help, there are a few more thoughts we would like to share.
Number one, there is no shame in getting help, even when it comes to seeking help for mental health issues. Remember, your body is a physical vehicle for Consciousness, like your car is a physical vehicle for your body. If your car is not working properly, you do not hide it in a corner and blame it for breaking down, you try and fix it yourself or you take it to someone qualified and competent who can. That is all there is to it. It is the same with your physical unit, your mind and body. Your physical unit is a vehicle for your Consciousness. Your physical unit is a complicated piece of bio-machinery that when broken, sometimes requires expertise and resources to fix. There is as much shame in that as there is shame in taking your car to a mechanic to fix, which is to say, none. If anybody tries to shame you for your illness, addiction, or whatever, whether that person is your mom, your dad, your partner, your spouse, a friend, a priest, avoid physical contact with them, and block them out of your awareness.
Number two, you do not need to actually connect physically and in expensive therapeutic sessions with helping professionals to get help. Sometimes you can “help yourself” by immersing yourself in information found in self-help books, videos, workshops, support groups, etc. These days, there is no shortage of information in this regard, so we encourage you to seek out help in whatever form you can find it. Once again, we remind you, be discerning. Just because somebody has a book, a blog, or a website does not mean they are qualified to help you heal and connect. Pay attention to qualifications, signs of competence, and any red flags that might indicate underlying problems.
Number three, if you do choose to seek out a professional healer, make sure you feel comfortable and safe with whatever professional you choose to work with. If you do not feel comfortable or safe, either say something to the therapist, or find another therapist. Saying something to the therapist is always the best course of action because a competent healer will welcome feedback, will understand that they won’t be able to “connect” and support everybody, and will appreciate the opportunity to improve their practice. Keep in mind, not saying something to a professional is not doing them any favours. Not providing feedback to a healer prevents a competent and qualified healer from growing their own skill and expertise. Similarly, not providing feedback to incompetent or unqualified healers also prevents their growth. Your single feedback may not jolt and incompetent healer into self-reflection and action, but if they hear it enough times, from multiple diverse sources, it might. Don’t be silent about things. Being silent helps nobody. Always give constructive feedback to your therapist/healer.
Note, the admonition to provide feedback is not a license to be ignorant to people. Don’t be mean to your healer; do not let anger and resentment turn your feedback into emotional or psychological assault. Just be honest about your thoughts and your feelings. Find a way to present feedback in a positive fashion and with helpful intent. Feedback that hurts another person is not feedback, it is assault.
Also, keep in mind, while competent therapists will welcome feedback, incompetent and unqualified therapists may be threatened by your feedback, even when it is presented in a positive fashion and with helpful intent. If a healer reacts defensively to feedback you provide, this is a red flag. As already noted, if you say something to the therapist and they divert, blame you, react defensively, or aggressively push you back down, find another therapist immediately.5
Number four, in addition to getting over shame, learning to help yourself, seeking out competent and qualified help, you also need to distinguish between authentic assistance and enabling. An authentic helper is somebody that challenges you, your thoughts, and your behaviours in order to help you heal and connect. An enabler is an individual who enables your bad behaviour, even when that behaviour is violent and toxic to yourselves and others. An enabler is someone who says “let’s go for a drink” even though they know you are struggling with addiction. An enabler is someone who says, “That is ok,” even when you have done something horribly wrong. Enablers enable. They enable sickness. They enable violence. They enable toxicity and disconnection even while ostensibly trying to help. Understand, being supportive does not mean enabling toxic behaviours. Support means love and acceptance while at the same time challenging wrong thoughts, wrong actions, and wrong environments. You do not want an enabler in your life. You want people who will support your healing journey and encourage you towards right action, right thought, and right environment.
Moment of reflection. Write down two headings in your HC Journal, one that says My Enablers and the other that says Who I Enable. Now, think about all the people in your life.
Under the My Enablers healing, write down the names of all the people in your life that enable your unhealthy and toxic behaviour. You might have trouble at first, but keep this page in mind as you read through this book. Add names as you progress through this workbook and realize who the enablers in your life are. Note, writing names here is not a licence to get angry. It is simply to make you aware. Once you are aware, it is easier to stop the enablers from enabling.
Under the Who I Enable heading, write down the names of the people that you enable. Do you know somebody that likes to lie? Do you avoid challenging them? Then you are enabling them. Do you know somebody with a drinknig problem but do you avoid saying something to them? Then, you are enabling them. Write these names down and learn to interact without enabling.
Enabling, we have to say, is a pretty big problem, and one we cannot go into detail here. Here we’ll just briefly explore two questions, and let you figure the rest out for yourself. Question one is “why do people enable us?” Question two is, “why do we allow people to enable us?”
As for why people enable, enablers enable for the simple reason that they benefit from the behaviour they enable. It might be shocking, but it is not hard to realize. Pharmaceutical companies do not benefit when they heal you, they benefit by ensuring you stay sick, so you can pay them to help alleviate your symptoms. Marketers do not benefit by teaching us that consumerism is destroying the planet; they benefit by fuelling your addiction. Politicians do not benefit by leading healthy and connected citizens; they benefit by having sick and disconnected masses, which they can easily manipulate and control. Similarly, friends and family members enable your toxic behaviours because they benefit from the “status quo” in some way.
It is like when you are trying to quit smoking while your “friend” cajoles you with cigarettes. They do this because they benefit from your addiction. They want company with their addiction. They want a smoking buddy. They do not want you to quit smoking because if you do, they will feel bad because they are still smoking. You get the idea. People enable your toxic and unhealthy behaviour because they benefit from it in some way. When you pause to reflect, identify all the enablers in your life and ask yourself why they are doing it.
As for why we allow people to enable us, it is not because there is something wrong with us in any way, it is because we are rewarded emotionally, psychologically, and even financially by the people who enable (and benefit from our) toxic behaviour. For example, we gain acceptance and inclusion6 when we “have a drink with the boys.” We gain esteem, power,7 and inclusion in the “cool,” mean girl/boy groups when we engage in spiteful gossip. We get to play with new toys, or gulp down tasty substances, when we let the advertisers fuel our addictions. On the opposite side of this coin, we are shunned and often attacked when we refuse to participate any longer in the “mutually beneficial” enabling schemes.
It takes a lot of work, and a hard shift, to get us to the point where we are willing to push the enablers out; however, we must do it. If you are trying to quit smoking and you hang out with smokers, you will never quit. If you want to move up in your career, you need to surround yourself with those who can teach and inspire you. If we want to heal, you will need to pause and reflect and take some kind of action. You will need to find good healers and step out of your enabling relationships.
Finally, number five, always remember, as a rule, friends and family are not help. Many people see friends, families, religions, and other groups of non-mental-health-professionals as sources of help. Our society in fact encourages you to find support in friends and family. It is OK to go to family for love, hugs, and feelings of positive inclusion, if your family is healthy. On the LP, however, we do not recommend relying on friends, families, and other non-mental-health professionals for healing and connection guidance. We discourage this for several reasons.
1Kristin Wong, “A Beginner’s Guide to Finding the Right Therapist,” The Cut, December 1, 2017, https://www.thecut.com/2017/12/a-beginners-guide-to-finding-the-right-therapist.html.
2 If you are a therapist/healer you have to be aware, sometimes you need healing too. We’ve all been through trauma at some level, and we all need healing, including the healers. I (Gina) have learned as a domestic abuse and violence counsellor that my effectiveness as a therapist is directly related to my own level of well-being. In my early days, my childhood and adolescent trauma sometimes got in the way of me being an authentic and effective healer. As noted earlier, we all experience toxic socialization and we are all damaged as a result. No healer is going to be an expert when they first start, but if you deny your own need for healing, you will never be a competent and effective healing presence.
3“How to Find the Best Therapist for You,” Psychology Today, accessed October 12, 2019, http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/freudian-sip/201102/how-find-the-best-therapist-you.
4 Note to therapists and healers, especially those working with emotions and psychology, if you ever want to be fully effective and live up to your potential as healer, you need to admit to yourself any trauma you have experienced and damage that has been done and do something about it. And note, it does not take much. Our daughter had her self-esteem destroyed by a single session with an incompetent and unqualified speech pathologist who made her feel stupid with a single word. It took over a decade to build up her self confidence in the face of school authority, and she still struggles from time to time. The damage from that single incident was profound. And that is just a single incident. Most of us have experienced far worse than her. If we do not acknowledge the damage we have experienced, we cannot heal. If we cannot heal, we cannot be an effective healer because our own issues will always block our understanding and corrupt the guidance we give to others. We often wonder what happened to that speech pathologist to make her think what she was doing was okay.
5 Also note, if you are dealing with a healer who cannot deal with even constructive feedback, if you find someone that diverts, blames, reacts defensively, and aggressively pushes you back down, consider filing a formal complaint to the appropriate professional bodies that oversee your healer’s profession. These sorts of attacks might not sound serious, but they are. You can help shift professional awareness and ethical standards by making complaints. Complaints do not have to be mean. They just have to be feedback. If the therapist is not taking your feedback, talk to their professional association. Doing so will not only make it more likely for your therapist to actually listen, but it will also help shift professional awareness and ethical standards in a more positive direction.
6 Inclusion and acceptance are one of our seven essential needs.
7 Esteem and power are also one of our seven essential needs.