News Article: Healing the Healer: Addicted to Love

Rue Anne Hass, M.A.

I call the work I do Intuitive Mentoring. It could also be called spiritual life path coaching. I am not a psychotherapist, but maybe you could call it counseling, as long as you didn’t mean that I actually offer counsel. I think of my work with someone as a co-creative partnership. I do it because it deeply satisfies my need for a kind of snowboarding of the spirit — a hanging-out-on-the-edge-of-the-unknown-always-open-to-revelation state of being….a deep grounding in my body as a portal for connection: to another being, to the spirit of the earth, to the chalice of what is possible.

I used to be a Fixer. Especially when I learned the magic of NLP and filled my toolbox with all those useful tools. It actually became possible to not only save the world, but to also save souls. What radiant, seductive power!

When someone tells me about a problem they are having I can feel a response rising in me that wants to make things right. I might find myself falling into an archetypal self image: the Healer, The Compassionate One, the Rescuing Knight. (Alternatively the complexity of the problem might throw me into the Disempowered One, the Failure, the “This is Beyond Me” persona, the Hider, the Retreater.)

I know that when I respond as the Fixer it is an automatic response to the energy of the problem. I become shaped by the energy of the problem. The corresponding archetypal energy patterns lodged in me become activated. They velcro together and there I am, caught in an unconscious response that isn’t healthy for me or anyone else.

Both the positive and the negative self images drain me and block my access to the creative, out-of-the-box kind of thinking where the opening, untying energy lives.

It was during my early study of Neuro Linguistic Programming that I began to free my inner Fixer, the part of me that wanted to Save the World. (You know the drill: the whole world has to be saved and made safe to live in before I can tend to my own needs…) I happened to be the demonstration subject at the end of my Practitioner training, when the class was divided into groups and charged with using everything we had learned to work through a complete session with a person.

What I remember most was a piece using parts integration. I don’t remember quite how we got there, but I do remember that my eyes were closed, tears that I didn’t understand were streaming down my face, and my hands moved through space toward each other without my conscious volition. I felt the thick brown cords that had grown from my heart to bind me to clients in a frame that saw them as broken and me as able to be expert, authority, savior. I felt these cords dissolve and become replaced by radiant streams of light that flowed through me to the person I was working with, nourishing me with joy and a bright sense of creative fun. This was a powerful inner experience for me, a convincer for sure, and when I opened my eyes there were lots of tears and smiles in the group.

In the years since then I have learned to understand this experience more deeply. What I felt in that moment was the seed for a sense of “integral love,” a love that respects and enhances both myself and the person across from me. I have come to understand that my first order of business as a healer is to maintain MY integrity, wholeness, and sovereignty. I have the capacity both to love and to assist in another’s healing. But there must be nothing in me that gets in the way of honoring the client’s right to be who they are as a sacred and sovereign human being that I share the earth with in this time or another. I can’t need to heal anyone. “Fixing them” isn’t good for them. Or me.

Being a mother has probably taught me more about working in this way than anything else I have ever done. Finding the fine balance of how to let someone know that you love them wholeheartedly, unabashedly, even while you disagree with them, at the same time as you allow them to do what they feel is right for them, while still expressing your own opinion about it, but not in a way that restricts them from learning how to act from their own will, and absolutely not just to please you. Holding them in your heart while freeing them to be fully them. Etcetera. (Marriage/partnership is a pretty good classroom for this too….)

The issue here is about where in us is our response drawn from. In any situation, in my work, in my family, in the world, I can be drawn to the part of me that looks for problems and sees them everywhere, and goes into complain, attack, or fix-it mode. Or I can activate the part of me that looks for how a thing is working itself through, and changing, seeking what goodness is trying to emerge, untwisting and untying and smoothing, and set myself to assisting that process, rather invisibly.

In The Four Fold Way, Angeles Arrien says this about the Healer:

The archetype of the Healer is a universal mythic structure that all human beings experience. Among indigenous cultures the Healer supports the principle of paying attention to what has heart and meaning. Healers in all major traditions recognize that the power of love is the most potent healing force available to all human beings. Effective Healers from any culture are those who extend the arms of love: acknowledgment, acceptance, recognition, validation, gratitude.

I believe that the shadow aspect of the healer is the addict. At its deepest positive intention, addictive behavior would seem to be about seeking spirit, a sense of connection, feeling like you belong, anything that generates a sense of purpose, power and peace. Whatever it is that brings us these feelings can be seductive, whether it is alcohol or drugs, and even — or maybe especially and initially — admiration, being looked up to as a savior, a healer, a fixer, being needed.

Arrien’s research suggests that human beings share four basic addictive patterns, each of which masks a positive intention that she calls the “unclaimed human resource”:

  • The addiction to intensity. The unclaimed human resource is the expression of love.
  • The addiction to perfection. The unclaimed human resource is the expression of excellence and right use of power.
  • The addiction to the need to know. The unclaimed human resource is the expression of wisdom.
  • The addiction to being fixated on what is not working rather than what is working. The unclaimed human resource is the expression of vision and ways of looking at the whole.

Often the people who walk through my office door are people in the helping, fixing, serving professions. Often they suffer from addictions to behaviors or substances. I think of them as being addicted to love. Looking for love in all the wrong places, as it were.

I worked with a man recently who typifies this archetype. He is actually an AODA counselor, and continues to battle his own addiction to pain killers, among other deep rooted issues in his life. He is seeing various professionals for all those problems, and comes to me because his soul is in pain and I offer something different from his doctors and his psychotherapist.

In a recent session we had a conversation about how hard it is for him to set boundaries with his clients. He gets easily drawn into their lives, too deeply. “When someone is willing to ‘go to bat’ with me, work with me, I become willing to do anything for them,” he said. “I put my own priorities aside. But then that opens a door that I can’t shut. I begin to feel attacked, and it makes a kind of poison in me. I begin to experience a chemical reaction in my body and then I get very sick, emotionally and physically. I don’t know how to tell which clients are going to be toxic for me.”

What we did with this, in this session anyway, is basic NLP, but the results were a revelation to him. I asked him to think of two clients that he worked with as a counselor, one of whom was an example of the kind of person who became toxic for him, and one whom he knew not to get too involved with.

He described Ellen and Steve. Ellen he described as initially resistant, so he had to really work to connect with her. “She really needs help, she really needs MY help — I start to think, what can I do for her? I am one of the very few who can do what needs to be done. I am there 100% for her. When there is a breakthrough in her resistance, any step forward, it blows my self esteem way up when she responds to me. It makes me feel high — warm, fuzzy, hyper. I feel like I am shot up with something. My body gets energy. It’s like being on coke, or heroin. That feeling tricks me. I get way into helping her before I realize that I am overwhelmed, and then the toxic reactions in me start and I am totally a victim to them.”

His description of Steve started out the same way, but quickly diverged. He said, ”I start with the willingness to be there for him. In the same way as Ellen, he needs my help, and as I become more useful to him I get a feeling of being powerful, an excited warm fuzzy feeling, radiant. But then there is a zap.”

I asked him to be aware of how the zap shows up in his body. He thought about it, and then said he first could hear the “zap” in Steve’s voice, by “his tone, and then his narcissistic, negative guilt-tripping, manipulative talk. I can feel the warm fuzzy feeling getting tainted. I start to squirm when I talk to him. There is an all over, internal murky feeling. I find myself stepping back.”

Just the process of becoming conscious of how he was seduced by his need to feel useful, powerful, worthy, and loved was important to this man. He has physiological cues now that will help him to recognize his own body’s warning signs way before he gets drawn in so far that he gets a toxic reaction. And he is actually now in the process of quitting this job, recognizing that he needs to find work that nourishes him in a different and healthier way.

Of course there are many other issues in his history that have led to being addicted to being loved — a life long story about unavailable, abusive parents and older siblings and being sick all the time in his childhood, for starters. And of course NLP and other modalities are great resources for reframing and transformation. This was just a little piece of this man’s growth, but it planted a good self-empowerment seed.

In Zen, they say, “Each step of the journey is the journey.”

And then Mary Oliver says:

The Journey

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice —
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
” Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do —
determined to save
the only life you could save.

Mary Oliver