The good-looking one, the one in need, the one that almost was
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I loved “At the Heart of Healing,” the interview with Stephen Levine [Issue 167], and I’d like to add some comments.
Levine suggests that the seemingly “aggressive” visualizations that the Simontons have developed may be appropriate for some people at some times. In my experience with my bodywork clients and in my own healing process, I’ve found that disease symptoms usually represent the qualities in ourselves that we’d prefer to disown. The symptoms are symbols made manifest in our attempt to externalize what we’d like to reject about ourselves.
In this context, healing takes place in the process of integration — in the process of reclaiming and embracing the full scope of who we are. Often, this process does indeed look like our idea of “forgiveness” — extending mercy and compassion. However, when the quality that’s being rejected is aggression itself, healing may require the recognition that “being aggressive” is, sometimes, entirely appropriate.
From this point of view, crisis becomes opportunity: the disease provides a legitimate, appropriate setting for the person (at last!) to express hostility. An aggressive visualization provides a safe way to do this.
What to do with evil — whether we have the cowboys shoot it or the Seven Dwarfs dig it up — is something we all must address; it’s not just the province of philosophers. A quick duck into forgiveness as a path to healing is attractive, especially to those of us — myself included — who have preferred to avoid conflict and have been uncomfortable expressing feelings of aggression. Yet true healing does require an unbounded compassion — acceptance without any condition at all — and that includes compassion toward what may seem to be our aggressive minds.