Scientific evidence has not yet come down conclusively on one side of this debate or the other – whatever Wikipedia says – I am afraid it is too biased to be taken seriously as a source. I would be inclined to be very skeptical of any studies that don’t confirm my personal experience – at least in part!
Energy healing and the discipline of Psychology have been intertwined since Mesmer. (Well, actually, since before either of them had these names.) And in fact if I look at any manual of hypnosis published nowadays, I laugh and comment that this is a way of teaching people energy healing without admitting that what they are actually doing is 100% real.
“Visualize a beautiful light filling the area of the cancer, washing away all the pain and darkness.” That is energy healing. (No, please don’t substitute energy healing for scientific care! That is not sensible. Medical professionals are not evil conspirators despite their detachment and other possibly offputting qualities.)
“With each breath, breath out the feeling of illness and breath in peace, vitality and health.” When healers work, we feel and see and taste this energy. It is tangible to us, and we can feel the change in the wellbeing of the client.
I think on some level, we all pick up on this energy all the time – people and animals are intensely sensitive to the energies of one another. It is painful to look into the eyes of a person who is twisted and spiritually misshapen, like a convict or certain powerful people I am not going to list here…
It is healing and serene to look into the eyes of someone who is realized. Who is who they truly are. It is like looking into clarity, transparency, is-ness, emptiness and a perfect reflection all at the same time. Ordinary and miraculous.
So spirituality is key to real healing and integrity, or perhaps healing and integrity are key to spirituality.
In the meantime, psychology and energy healing borrow from one another all the time.
Both Life Alignment and Children’s Accelerated Trauma Therapy (used for treating PTSD in children, but applicable for adults too) use techniques such as creating a safe space, bringing in help. In CATT, this is help from someone who could not have helped at the time. In Life Alignment, it is more magical – the help the client received now during the session re-creates the past. The guardian angel really was there all along. The energy of love and compassion infuses the horror of the past and brings real peace. Real transmutation. Like shining a light into the darkness and seeing that reality is composed of Light.
Wilhelm Reich (1897 to 1957)came up with the idea of blockages in the energy field, held in the physicality of the body, that are embodiments of psychological distortions. Although his psychoanalytical training with Sigmund Freud brought much of the focus of his work to repressed drives and sexuality, this notion is still central to pretty much all forms of energy healing practiced today.
These ideas were taken further by Arthur Janov, and the idea of catharsis as a therapeutic intervention was given more credence – Holotropic breathwork comes from this intellectual lineage, and Osho’s group therapy workshops are another form of cathartic therapy.
Life Alignment does use a gentle form of catharsis – shadow feelings need to be felt and named before they are processed and transmuted, but like modern therapists, we may ask our clients to create distance and safety when feelings or memories are overwhelming. For example, by recalling events as a witness rather than participator, or by building inner resources before getting to the core feelings of a trauma or blockage.
I want to come back to all of this and really go into depth later, but one key difference is that energy healing is directed at releasing and activating positive emotions that derive from Spiritual sources, such as joy, unconditional love, gratitude and serenity.
Transpersonal psychology goes back to Abraham Maslow and to Victor Frankl back in the 1960’s, and was intended to bring spirituality into psychology. Stanislaf Grof is a more contemporary pioneer in “research into the use of non-ordinary states of consciousness for purposes of exploring, healing, and obtaining growth and insights into the human psyche.” (Wikipedia page is again written by skeptics and will need to be taken with a generous pinch of salt, but this is still a nice sentence.)
In some ways, much energy healing nowadays has almost given up on ever having mainstream acceptance, and has focused on experiential learning and using what works. Useful in its creative and open-ended acceptance of all sorts of ideas, experiences, fantasies, mysteries and wonders. At the same time losing out on some of the rigor and objectivity of more scientific work.
The ideal is possibly a state of suspended disbelief, curiosity and patience. Try everything so long as it feels ‘right’ – using intuition from a state of spiritual clarity, stay open to surprises, and do no harm.
From this playful, benevolent and meditative space, the client is free to make great shifts in consciousness, and thus also great shifts in energy, embodying peace and freedom.
Then there is the world of parapsychology, Arthur Koestler’s The roots of coincidence. Again, a whole series of inconclusive scientific experiments – or experiments with contradictory conclusions, and a mountain of anecdotal evidence. A huge body of work, research and theory.
In fact, the more I think about it, the more I realize that energy healing is the Cinderella of mainstream psychology – that is to say, I think it is the true royal Queen, waiting to be discovered, acknowledged and seated at the heart of psychological healing.