In the West we’ve been taught to believe that intelligence resides only in the thinking mind of human beings while everything else is programmed to be a mechanical, biological machine, determined by physical laws. While this thinking was upended one hundred years ago with the advent of quantum physics and with the discovery of cellular biology (or 2,500 years ago by the Buddha, or thousands more years ago by indigenous traditions!), somehow it persists in our psyches and school systems. We are 21st century human beings still living in a 19th century ideology! In our culture today, the idea of applying the word “intelligence” to anything outside of human thought still feels like it just doesn’t fit.
However, the reality is actually the inverse: our thinking minds are mostly fumbling in the dark, trying to uncover the infinitely complex intelligences that are interwoven all around us and within us. Around us there is a vast web of organic intelligence that many have come to call Gaia. It is now well known that trees communicate in forests, species interact in ways we are only just starting to see with scientific approaches, whales communicate across thousands of miles, and even single celled organisms make highly complex choices. That’s outside. Inside there are 50 trillion cells in the human body, all acting in concert, each of which is constantly executing complex functions in complex environments. Bruce Lipton is an author that has done well to detail this complexity, summarizing myriad research studies that all point to cells making precise decisions to maximize their well being in every moment.
The body automatically tends towards healing, from the cellular level all the way up. When we get a cut, as long as we don’t poke at it, give it some space to heal, and in bad cases tend to it through stitches or other care, it will close, a scab will form, and then delicate scar tissue will develop, later to be replaced by more durable skin. Eventually it may be difficult to tell there was ever a cut to begin with. It would be laughable to believe that the cut only healed because we engaged in the appropriate sequence of thoughts! No, cuts heal on their own. Cuts want to heal. Cuts know how to heal. We just facilitate the process.
How does this relate to psychotherapy? The problem with mainstream approaches is that they assume the emotional body is a machine and that the way to tune it is through the correct sequence of thoughts. This is a profound misunderstanding of human being. Thinking is just one tiny aspect of the picture. The emotional body, like the cut, both wants to heal and has the innate intelligence to do so. We just have to get out of the way.
Authentic approaches to personal transformation can include certain forms of somatic psychotherapy (such as Somatic Experiencing), energy work, creative movement and imagination, acupuncture (traditional Chinese medicine), ecopsychology and nature healing, vision quests, somatic meditation, and a vast array of traditional healing approaches. What all of these have in common is the recognition of the body’s innate intelligence down to the cellular level. These approaches don’t “do” something to you the way that a doctor uses tools to apply some technique in a mechanical way. Rather, these approaches facilitate the natural healing process by helping remove barriers to what already wants to happen, just like you would with a cut. The only difference between a professional healer and a layperson is that the healer can see what wants to happen and then acts to help that process along.
The real issue, a much larger topic that I may write a book on, is that our current cultural configuration no longer creates an organic environment for emotional healing to occur. Rather than dressing the wound and treating it with kindness, our culture today tends to do just about everything to exacerbate our dis-ease. I call this “trauma culture”. What people need for emotional healing is a feeling of safety at a visceral level, strong community and family ties to help hold their pain, methods for moving the energy through the body safely, and a right understanding of the process so that people can be open to the change that must occur. In our culture today it is exceedingly rare that people have a sufficient amount of even one of these. The result is we end up saddled with our pain, unable to heal, and we need to find specialists to help us.
Practically speaking, what this means is that authentic healing will help you to feel safe to move into territory you were taught is dangerous or even unreal. The practitioner will guide you and support you with love as your body releases the old emotional experiences locked away in your viscera (trauma energy). They will help you to unravel that which holds it in place such as body tension, unconscious patterns (syndromes), neurotic thinking, belief systems and fear. An effective healer will trust your process so you can too, rather than foisting their “expertise” onto you. In other words, a good healer will not have to hubris to tell your cut how it should heal; they will study your cut to find out the way it is wanting to heal, and then take steps to support that process with kindness and attunement. So too with processes of a healing heart.
Learning to trust the organic intelligence of the body takes time. You were taught your whole life that your body was a dumb biological machine, something to be embarrassed about and hidden because it poops and pees and longs to make love and dance. You were told it was something to be ashamed of when it feels. Religious institutions may have even called your basic, visceral being “sinful”. No matter how liberated we think we are in our culture, this ideological foundation has been dredged into the psyche of every Westernized person for centuries. So it takes a lot of support and experience to unlearn these damaging views of life for something more real, healthy and accurate to emerge.
As with everything true, this is not something you have to believe in. Working in an embodied way with a healer that trusts your body’s intelligence will show you, in one experience after another, that the wisdom for the healing you need is already within you. The real barrier to personal change isn’t the pain, but learning to let go into the pain, because we have been taught so deeply to distrust our subjective experience. We all need help with this initiation into our humanity, a function past cultures automatically provided.
Authentic healing will also create deep transformation by shifting your conscious relationship with the world because a good specialist doesn’t just do something to you - through your suffering they teach you how to process your pain in a way that works so you are empowered the next time you face a similar challenge. A healer is therefore also a teacher, helping to make up for what the dominant culture had forgotten generations ago: that we already have the wisdom we need within us. And then you can reclaim your subjectivity - your vitality, that throbbing being within you that wants to live! - one real experience at a time.