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Excerpted from Healers on Healing by Richard Carlson and Benjamin Shield (editors). Copyright © 1989 by Carlson and Shield. Excerpted by permission of Penguin Putnam, Inc.  All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. HTML and web pages copyright © by SpiritSite.com.

"Therapy becomes a process in which client and therapist heal each other's pain."

Bernie Siegel, "Love, the Healer" in 
Healers on Healing
, Part 4

So there are times when body contact is appropriate. And if you really love the world, you don't have to worry about loving and hugging. If I love everybody in the hospital, I don't have to be concerned about hugging a nurse or a patient. Nobody will say, "Hey, what's he doing?" They know, "Oh, he loves everybody, so it's okay."

In my view, therapists need to learn these lessons: It's okay to love. It's okay to touch when the client is ready to let you. It's okay to let the love come back. And, if one is having a tough day, it's okay to tell the client, "I'm having a tough day today. I need a hug."

Similarly, the healer or therapist should not regard anger as something unhealthy or abnormal. Indeed, anger can be positive. If the operating room turns your world upside-down and you feel angry, it's okay to say something. People will allow you to have angry feelings, because they have them too, and they know what you are experiencing. By expressing the anger, by saying how you feel about yourself and your needs, you don't build up resentment against others. After you are done expressing yourself, you are ready to hug others and laugh with them again. Then you all know where you stand, you do not trample on each other's feelings, you respect each other, and you move on.

It is unexpressed anger that is harmful. Too many people confuse anger with resentment. Anger can be positive, whereas festering resentment can cause people to become murderous. It is the things we have never said that harm us most. For then our temper becomes hair-trigger and we may explode over some insignificant item with a reaction out of proportion to the cause.

Living your own message also involves an aspect of openness and humility. As a therapist, you are not seated at some remote vantage point looking down on the ignorant masses in need of help. You just do whatever is necessary, trusting that love will show what is necessary. This means not setting yourself up as an infallible expert with all the answers. Rather, it means regarding the healing process as a dialogue and a learning experience for both patient and therapist. So, if patients want to call me Bernie, it's okay. I don't have to be "Dr. Siegel. " I don't have to protect myself with barriers that get in the way of helping patients open up to love.

In this way, therapy becomes a process in which client and therapist heal each other's pain. It is vital to keep in mind that you must genuinely look at your own pain and deal with it, not merely give advice without living it, without knowing how difficult it is for the client. Love will only be authentic when it comes from living experience; and if it is not authentic, it will not be convincing.

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