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Healing EEs/EHEs/Healing Process
Record Type: Review   ID: 513

Woman as Healer

Achterberg, Jeanne

Transpersonal psychologist Jeanne Achterberg examines the feminine role in Western healing traditions. She emphasizes the part played by women in Western civilization and in "the events and ideas that directly affect women healers in the United States" (p. 2). She also focuses on the role of woman as regards the restoration of physical health. She notes two important threats throughout the several thousand years this study spans: (1) "the intimate connection between women healers and the cosmology" and (2) "a thread of consciousness that links the feminine aspects of healing" (p. 2). In a nutshell, the first point is expressed as follows: "The Western cosmology supports a hierarchy that popularly hold that man is superior to woman, but that woman is more connected to the earth. For this and other complex reasons, women, and what is typically regarded as the feminine perspective, bear the brunt of ecological stresses. The fate of woman and the fate of the earth are inseparable, perpetually linked by the metaphors of woman as nature and nature as female. "Woman as Healer is antithetical to the cosmological structure that binds the Western world" (p. 3).

Point 2 she describes as follows: "A thread of consciousness weaves through the centuries, connecting one era of women healers to the next. It relates to the feminine myth--the behaviors, abilities, and belief systems traditionally associated with women. Whether the myth originates in culture or biology is debatable and somewhat irrelevant--it simply is. In terms of healing, the feminine myth relates to such attributes as intuition, nurturance, and compassion. When expressed in professional practice, it supports the virtues of nature as healing resources, and the curative aspects of caring" (p. 3).

The history of women as healers is presented chronologically in four sections: (1) "Medicine Woman: The Ancient Cosmic Connection" (7 chapters, covering the period from ancient times to medieval times); (2) "Women and the Genesis of Scientific Thought" (4 chapters, covering the 13th-18th centuries); (3) "Women and the Professionalization of the Healing Arts" (4 chapters, spanning ca. 1450-1900), and (4) "Twentieth Century Women and the State of the Healing Arts and Sciences" (2 chapters). She observes that in the past few years, "women of a special caliber--the vast majority well-trained professionals--are appearing in great numbers" (p. 4). They are imbued with the awareness that the feminine approach must "influence, not replace, advanced technology and sound, scientific strategies for helping and healing at all levels--physical, mental, and spiritual" (p. 5). Her characterization of these women deserves to be quoted in full: "They can be found working in hospital emergency rooms, and well-baby clinics, and hospices. They staff shelters for battered women and victims of rape. They minister to congregations and teach students. They are everywhere--in the creative arts, in the social sciences, in allied health professions. They heal with their hands and their words and their deep conviction that they have a knowledge or talent that will help others in some way.

Their work is likely to reflect a broad sense of healing that aspires to wholeness or harmony within the self, the family, and the global community. They see body, mind, and spirit as the inseparable nature of humankind; they believe that any healing ministrations have an impact on each element of this triune nature. They regard sickness as a potentialcatalyst for both emotional and spiritual growth, among other things. These healers have chosen to accompany, help, lean, teach, and care for others who seek wholeness.

These women view healing not as something one does to another, but as a process that takes place through the healer/healee relationship. Healing relates not so much to techniques as to philosophic and spiritual foundations. The bond that is established between the healer of this genre and the healeee is life-giving and life-enriching for both. The relationship, itself, is held in reverence, with the awareness that it is made of trust, love, and hope. They aver that they are, indeed, working in sacred space" (p. 4).

Publisher Information:Boston, MA: Shambhala, 1990. 241p. Bibl: 223-232; Chap. bibl: 207-222; 1 fig; 18 illus; Index: 233-241; 1 table
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