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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.

"A healer does not always have to be at the beck and call of the world."

Bernie Siegel, "Love, the Healer" in 
Healers on Healing
, Part 5

Another important facilitator of love in the therapeutic process is the fact that in this kind of work we are daily surrounded by people who are an inspiration. We see people affirming life in the midst of debilitating or life-threatening diseases, such as the courageous AIDS patient who is challenged rather than defeated by his disease, and the cancer patients who still choose to love the world, saying that their disease is a gift and their cancer a beauty mark. Such people are heartening. They keep you going and prevent you from burning out.

Yet if you get to the point where you are not loving what you are doing as a therapist, then it is better not to do it. I like to quote George Halas, the late owner and coach of the Chicago Bears football team, who lived into his eighties. One Sunday a colleague discovered him working in his office and said, "George, at your age what are you doing working on Sunday?" Halas said, "It's only work if there's someplace else I'd rather be." In the same way, if I feel there is someplace else I would rather be, I say so to my clients. I tell them that I cannot always see them.

For example, one woman had flown all the way from Georgia to Connecticut to see me. She got caught in a snowstorm and called my office on Friday afternoon to say she could not make the appointment until 7 or 8 PM. I told her, "I can't see you then. I've got to go home. I have to fly tomorrow." She was furious, but I firmly suggested that when she got to her hotel she should call me again. When she did, we talked some more and she calmed down. I said, "Look, there are other people you can see. Maybe you're supposed to spend the weekend in New Haven." I told her I would see her on Monday evening and that I would stay until midnight then if she needed me.

As it turned out, everything that happened to her over the weekend was so positive that by Monday she regarded it as a great experience. It was better that I did not see her on Friday night, for then I would have resented her for being there. It was better that I said no. This is a difficult lesson for many therapists to learn when to say no. We should remember that we are not going to live forever, and therefore we must say no at certain times. Then saying no is not something negative; it is actually a matter of saying yes to yourself. A healer does not always have to be at the beck and call of the world.

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