I’m the psychologist here, so leave the googling to me

If we’re a bit screwed, then we are not going to simply unscrew ourselves on our own.

Healing is a team sport. We may have operated as islands in our past, and that might have even been successful.

But now that we’ve committed to living differently, the future needs to be one of connection. Even if that only means reaching out to one other trustworthy person, that’s enough.

The context for healing that which has screwed us in the first place is always going to be the relationship. With self and with spirit, for starters, but also relationship with another living, breathing human being.

Buber, my favorite existential philosopher and psychologist, called this relational space created by the encounter the between. The idea came to be known as the healing relationship model, which has been adopted by therapists and doctors worldwide.

Having reviewed various studies and studied many books, let’s take a look and some of the powerful tools that clinicians use with patients. Each of us can adopt the same ideas with people in our own lives who are suffering, including ourselves. We may not be psychologists, but we can certainly learn to use our relationships as a context for healing.

And so, imagine you’re sitting in a room with someone you love who feels like they’re screwed. Here’s one way to think about it.

The first level is called valuing. This includes a nonjudgmental stance in which you accept everyone as a person of worth, giving your full attention in the encounter and actively listening to their story. It also means accepting and recognizing their subjective experience of illness, and empathizing by connecting the other person’s experience of suffering with your own life experience.

The second level is abiding. This includes the interpersonal continuity of reconnecting over time and the accumulation of caring actions that allow people to know we care. And finally, not giving up even when we feel like we have nothing left to offer.

Being inspired by this framework will require confidence, emotional intelligence, mindfulness and wisdom. Doctors spend years mastering it, so it’s not just some technique you can pick up over a weekend.

But it’s a deeply useful way to think about the healing journey. 

Are you willing to reach out to at least one other person to help you unscrew yourself?


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