The Healing Experience

In searching for relief from misery I tried many different things, relaxation, yoga, meditation , fasting, and diet among them. They promised to be helpful but something was missing that I only began to uncover when I started teaching relaxation/surrender. Some of those classes I taught were huge back in the sixties and seventies. To help people I would wander around the class and lift an arm or leg of some of those lying quietly relaxed. I lifted the limb to let the person have an enhanced awareness of their relaxed condition. What amazed me was that often the arm or leg was so rigid with tension it was hard to move. If I let go the limb would remain suspended. On asking the person how they felt they would say, ‘Fine. Really relaxed.’ They didn’t know they were carrying enormous tensions.

Are you relaxing or suppressing?  

It took me a while to realise what that indicated. You could relax surface muscles and feelings, but a mass of tensions were unconscious. Later I learned that such tensions had often arisen from difficult or traumatic past experiences, still locked in the body and emotions. By using relaxation techniques such as dropping the tension of the voluntary muscles or meditating on positive things, those inner tensions were being pushed back into the unconscious – undealt with. When left at that point, relaxation and meditation were a method of suppression and control, not of healing.

With shock I realised this was true of many things that were supposed to be helpful, such as meditation and positive thinking. What they often did was to calm surface feelings by controlling thoughts and body. They did not deal with the real difficulties that had been pushed into the unconscious. Their purpose was to quieten the conscious mind and the voluntary movements of the body, not release unconscious tensions.

I went on an almost fanatical search for what could be done to change that – to release the unconscious problems. The clue was, as Richet says, that ‘the slight instability is the necessary condition for the true stability of the organism.’ I gradually realised that to really adjust to the many knocks and changes we meet in life, our body and mind need to be capable of a type of ‘instability’. It needs to be able to move, to express freely, and to respond automatically or spontaneously. Yet all our cultural training and habits are about control and suppression. Governments also sometimes give huge threats to the people if they do not conform. All in all, we have in many ways been trained to be sick – as I was myself. And, amazingly, my doctor, to deal with depression and physical but undiagnosble pains, was telling me to take a drug, a tranquiliser, to maintain the status quo.

To deal with it is something we need to experience, not something we are taught. The simplest way of describing it is to say it is a process of allowing parts of ourselves to express that in everyday life may never have had opportunity to declare themselves. It is about surrendering our personal egoistic control, and trusting that our Life Process knows how to bring us to wholeness once we yield to It.

“Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.” — T.S. Eliot

“Do nothing, but let things happen.” Carl Jung

In most social settings we usually restrain everything except what may be acceptable to others, expedient in the situation, or judged as correct. This means that we may not give ourselves the freedom elsewhere to allow our own creative imagination – our body, our real self  to discharge tension through movement – experience our intuitive process – and our full range of feeling responses. In this way we gradually diminish ourselves, blocking out much of ourselves that is not of immediate use in everyday affairs. We may in fact diminish our relationship with Life itself.

Later, I found in the writings of Carl Jung and J. A. Hadfield information about how this self-regulatory action also works in the psyche. Jung stated that the psyche is self regulatory. He said that if internal tensions can be allowed to be conscious, then something will happen internally to resolve the conflict.

As for how we can enable this to happen, Jung’s student Marie von Franz says that we ‘must get rid of purposive and wishful aims. The ego must be able to listen.’ Jung also encouraged his clients to allow spontaneous movement. Quoting from my book Mind and Movement Jung says, “In most cases the results of these efforts are not very encouraging at first. Moreover, the way of getting at the fantasies is individually different… oftentimes the hands alone can fantasy; they model or draw figures that are quite foreign to the conscious.

“These exercises must be continued until the cramp in the conscious is released, or, in other words, until one can let things happen; which was the immediate goal of the exercise.”

 I gradually found a way through dreams, and also using T. S. Elliot’s advice to, “… be still and wait without hope For hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love For love would be love of the wrong thing;”

Then having sat for months dropping my aims and beliefs, one night after going to the toilet, I was just getting back into my bed and I heard a disembodied voice say to me, “You have asked how God touches the human soul. Now watch closely.” A couple of days later, having realised all that, I got together with two friends – Michael Tanner and Sheila Johns – to experiment with how to allow this process of self-regulation to express. How did you give your being freedom to express spontaneously so it could rid itself of what it held unconsciously? How did you allow it to re-balance itself when it has been knocked out of balance?

We started our experiments with yoga postures and movements. But instead of pushing our body into a particular given position, we tried to listen to see what our body wanted to do; what posture or movement our own internal feelings led us to. Then sitting with my friends one day in our experimental group I started to shake. I thought I must be cold so restrained the shaking. But at our next meeting it started again, and this time I was wearing a warm jersey, and in no way felt nervous, so pulled slightly apart from my friends and let myself really shake.

What happened was incredible. My body and my emotions discharged the whole experience of having my tonsils out as a six year old. My head pulled back, my mouth clamped open and my arms were in the position of being strapped to my side. Perhaps I had not been fully anaesthetised – I don’t know. What I do know is that I had carried that enormous tension and shock inside me from six until I was thirty five.

Up until that day I had experienced a powerful neck tension that I had tried again and again to ‘relax’ away. My being didn’t need to relax, it needed to discharge in powerful tension, physical struggles and emotion. After this ’shaking’ experience there was never again a tension in my neck, a tension that had been caused by trying to pull away from the surgeon cutting my throat. However, it was not simply a physical tension it released. Powerful emotions were also discharged, ones that had created difficult responses to everyday life.

That was an amazing experience, and from there on I could allow the process to continue its work on me. Gradually it ‘discharged’ the other things from childhood, and another medical operation, that had thrown my body and mind out of balance. I realised slowly that to allow a real meeting with God, first a cleaning process has to occur and all one’s previously unconscious traumas, angers, hurts and twisted feelings needed to be brought ot awareness.

But it didn’t stop at clearing out difficult past experiences, its process went on to expansion of awareness and growth – it moved toward making me more than I had been. All of that came about by allowing my being to express spontaneously without my conscious intervention, by allowing spontaneous movement and sounds, by surrendering or offering my body, sexual self, me emotions and mind to the Life that had brought me forth; to the unknown of myself and trusting it.

Example: “At first I found it difficult to let go enough for my body to freely express. When I did learn to do this my movements were very strong. At the time I was lying on my bed because my movements had started from quietness and stillness. They became so strong I fell off the bed at one point. My impression was that without realising it I had been holding back enormous amounts of my own energy. It was when I let the energy out that I could achieve a new experience of myself. It is like having a dimmer switch on a light in an internal room, and all the time you have it just glimmering, and the room looks dark and dismal. Then one day you turn the power up and the whole room is transformed. All the colours glow, and features not seen before stand out.”

Life’s simple secrets are that your being knows how to deal with the things you carry in you that have harmed you, creating despair, emotional darkness and even physical pain. The process of life in you is also part of the life on this planet. It can read the signs of change and will ready you if you let it.

Copyright © 1999-2010 Tony Crisp | All rights reserved