Copyright ©1995 The Ares Press
The Fantasy of Wholeness
According to the OED, the word "heal" comes from
the root "hale", or "whole", and to heal means to make
whole. But in therapy, what exactly would be made whole, what would "whole"
mean, and what wouldn't it mean? Is it possible that a person could be anything
but whole? After all, one is wholly what one is. Remember Popeye: "I
am what I am". Perhaps one could imagine a person as being somehow
psychically fragmented, but if I am fragmented, then that fragmentation
is part of the whole of what I am. I am always whole, and I can never be
whole, there always being something outside of me, another time, another
place, another feeling, another thought, which my wholeness may have the
capacity to include.
Furthermore, if one's nature is really true, then one cannot
be cut-off from it. Sullivan seems to use "nature" to mean "essence,"
which, in turn, means "being." The idea that one could "be"
without "being" is non-sensical, absurd. But if this paradoxical
absurdity were left alone, it might be of some assistance, for if a patient
has no idea of what her or she is, then he or she has the freedom to discover
it on his or her own. The problem is that therapists tend to place upon
the patient the therapist's, or frequently, as Sullivan does, someone else's
(Winnicot's (ibid.)) concocted abstraction of what the person is supposed to be. The patient
is then left no room to discover for themselves what their own being is.
The Failure of the Medical Model
In Re-Visioning Psychology Hillman suggests that "The soul sees by means of affliction"(1975/ 1992, p. 107), and "The wound and the eye are one in the same"(ibid.); and indeed Conrad's wound drew his attention inward, allowing him to focus on what he could not see before- so the wound healed. I mean this transitively: The wound healed Conrad. If we get caught in the medical model, we will attempt to get Conrad's functioning back up to the level which he imagines as ideal, to heal the wound, rather than letting the wound heal.
Furthermore, if we take Jung seriously when he says, "The gods have become diseases; Zeus no longer rules Olympus, but the solar plexus, and produces curious specimens for the doctor's consulting room" (1929, p. 37), then any psychology which would treat psychological "maladies" as if they were diseases would shut down communication with the gods. Truly, if the psychological field takes on the medical field's notions of healing we will loose our eye for psyche and our ear for the archetypal. Our fantasy of psychological healing may end up healing ourselves of being psychological.
The Empty Metaphor
From the psychological perspective, our fantasy of healing
remains obscure. We cannot look into the meaning of the word for help, nor
can we look to the ideas of medicine. If wounds are eyes, and diseases,
gods, then they cannot be seen as imperfections in need of repair. They
are both our insight and our connection. Perhaps we should stop healing,
give up our fantasy of healing, get out of the dynamic of healer-patient,
illness-health, disease-cure. Clearly, our idea of psychology as a healing
process gives no clear understanding of what takes place in psychology,
but perhaps that is why the metaphor of healing persists.
The empty metaphor serves not only to leave room for the
images the patient is bound to engage with during the course of therapy,
but it also makes space for an image, or images, of what is transpiring
in the room. The empty metaphor allows us to imagine what happens in therapy
in an endless variety of ways. Rather than being stuck with an idea of processing,
analyzing, working on issues, or treating a psychological illness, we may
imagine patient and therapist, for instance, as forging a sculpture, or
as two alchemists cooking up an extractio animae. The point here is not
to create a new image of what is going on in therapy, to replace the old
fixation with a new one; rather the point is to emphasize the freedom lent
to the imagination of therapy through the use of the empty metaphor.
Goal as Wound
The pervasiveness of the medical fantasy of healing in psychology can be traced to the fact that Psychology was born from the medical model in the first place, when Freud and Breuer (medical Doctors) attempted to affect treatments for symptoms which medicine could not provide. By and large psychology is still perceived through the shadow of this Titanic parent. Patients still go to a psychologist with expectations of being healed and are still caught in thinking of psychology in the medical manner of illness and treatment, that something is wrong and a solution is necessary, that abeyance of symptoms indicates cure of disease.
Psychology's challenge is to step out of the sickness-healing dynamic altogether, to allow its patients (and therapists) ways of imagining psyche that are not trapped within the narrow bounds of the medical model.
The Beauty of Psychology's Wound
Now, near the end of this paper's excursion into healing, I can begin
to heal the paper, to make it whole, helping all of its parts- ideas, words,
phrases, paragraphs, sections- come together and function as a whole. It
is only here at the end, at the completion of the work that I can say what
wholeness means. If I were to have had an image of what the wholeness of
this paper was at the beginning, its writing (and probably its reading)
would have been only an event, not an experience. I would have missed the
many surprises, the sudden realizations and shifts in the way I imagined
healing which have occurred during the course of its writing, right up until
Hillman, J. (1972). Re-visioning psychology. NY: HarperCollins.
Hillman, J. (1983). Healing fiction. Dallas: Spring.
Jung, C.G.(1929). Commentary on the secret of the golden flower. in Alchemical Studies. in The collected works of C.G. Jung. Vol. 13. Princeton: Bollingen.
Oxford English dictionary. (1993). CD Rom Edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Sullivan, B. S. (1989). Psychotherapy grounded in the feminine principle. Wilmette, IL: Chiron.