ARE EXCERPTS FROM THE STORY . . .
In your healing your intellect was a door opener for
you--it was a threshold. And the rest of you could walk
through that doorway?
JW: Yes, but I dont want to make it sound easy.
I had to continue to work with my emotions to create
a spaciousness inside. With that, I could engage my
mind with new ideas.
childhood was a bit like growing up in a concentration
camp, though I dont want to compare myself to
the six million Jews who suffered torture and death.
But the camps were a real metaphor. And when your childhood
has that tone, its difficult to feel settled.
Shame lurks in every corner. Feelings are denied. Trust
of others is eroded. Even now, I work at feeling okay
in my body because I could never relax in my home growing
Sacred stories have helped too. I guess thats
the influence of mythologist Joseph Campbell and psychologist
Carl Jung. One of the most important stories has been
the Old Testament tale about Jonah. Using active imagination,
Ive let myself enter the story, rewriting Jonah
to highlight my stages of death and rebirth. When church
members learned I was doing this, they invited me to
perform my "midrash" in our Christian education
To me, Jonah has a traditional sort of heros journey.
He is called by God to preach to his enemy. Yet he resists
by running away. Of course, with God there is no escape
from the call to claim your powers , and Jonah confronts
that truth when he is swallowed in the darkness of the
monster, much as I was swallowed by my dark memories.
Jonah is released through prayer and surrender to a
higher will. I was released in a similar way. In the
myth, Jonah continues to struggle, even with his new
consciousness , even when he accepts that he must preach.
For him, the act of ministry is a challenge. Over and
over, he must confront his hatred.
And thats how I experience transformation. Epiphanies
are useful, but I must continue to do my best to be
consciousto reclaim my relationship with something
beyond the glittering maya of life.
So each day I struggle to love myself and the people
around me. Out of that struggle comes a devotion to
mercy, rather than judgement. And I can only be humble,
knowing how flawed I am.
JH: Back when you began your healing, you speak about wholeness.
What was healing for you?
JW: I initially thought that I would get to a point
where I wouldnt have to experience any more pain.
I guess I thought I would dwell in Nirvana. That was
one of the promises of The Primal Scream. Arthur Janov
theorized there was a pool of pain that could be drained
and turned into a flower garden. But that was never
my complete experience. Pain has diminished but not
ended. Thats where the Eastern perspective has
been useful: Happiness and pain are two sides of the
same coin. Both are infused with divinity, not just
happiness. So healing has meant that I must confront
concepts that keep me from breathing in peace and breathing
out love. Healing has meant many shifts away from old
In the world I grew up in, sex was equated with love.
I needed to let go of that and find something more mysticalto
know love is the energy that pulses through the universe.
In time, I no longer dreaded the evil from my childhood
. . . . I suppose you could say I found a beauty in
sorrowin the yearning to view evil in a new way.
The urge to make sense of suffering propelled me through
I think that the big "aha" occurred when I
realized how a fundamentalist rigidity, like mine, can
block an awareness of holiness. Over the years, I have
come to appreciate a schema offered by writer and mystic
Andrew Harvey. Harvey says that we come whole into the
world. Were awash in a unified field, when were
in touch with our bodies and feelings. Then theres
childhoods socialization and we develop a false
self. We use that self to negotiate our way in the world.
But Harvey says, if were lucky, we get broken
open and the false self is questioned. And thats
what happened with me.
In one sense I was fortunate. I broke open at a young
age and so I was never able to walk la-de-da into the
world. There was always anxiety. There was always fear.
There was always a questioning of how the hell I could
get out of bed and face the day. And so, I could not
take anything for granted. I felt a lot of depression.
But, as I studied mythology, I realized its not
such a bad thing to have these struggles. Heroes are
wounded. The crucible of pain forges the soul.
Jonah, you speak of a wholeness that you experienced
even though you were in pain?
JW: Yes, the marvel of something like Primal Therapy
is that you can be immersed in the most gut-wrenching
experience and be in awe that you dont disappear
or go insane. There is a center that holds. You may
feel like youre dying, but thats the false
self dissolving. No matter how much pain I experienced,
God would not destroy me. I might feel crucified, but
thats different from murdering the soul. I believe,
whatever the curse, the soul can be reclaimed.
JH: You broke open but you didnt shatter.
JW: Thats why I say breaking open can be a form
of grace. It sends you on the road towards a higher
integration. It creates a longing to reconcile with
all thats been buried through the years. In my
brokenness, I turned to storytelling, dream work and
the world religions. In all my gnashing of teeth, I
would come upon moments of integration. Like Jung, I
can say I dont have to believe in God. Its
a presence I know.
JH: And that presence is trustworthy?
JW: And trustworthy. But I would not have known that
so powerfully in my body if I had not confronted my
rigid concepts of good and evil. Having decided that
Im not essentially evil, its easier for
me to be a Big Brother, to lead a dream group or to
teach Sunday School. Ive been able to do these
things because I confronted the notion that I had to
be evil because I took part in strange things when I
was a child. I could never heal if I thought I was the
JH: Could you say that the split between good and
evil was healed for you? Do you consider that healingrealizing
that you werent a conduit for the most horrible
JW: There has been a great deal of healing, though I
still have work to do. I still have an immense amount
to learn about love and compassion, especially in everyday
life with others. Its the age-old problem: How
do I chop wood and carry water with an awareness of
the goodness in my village?
JH: Are there places in your story that are still
mysterious to you?
JW: Yes. When I was a child, I felt assaulted by sex
and criticism. But one day, when I was 12, I got out
my mothers typewriter and wrote a letter to the
editor of our local newspaper.
What was that? Was it some sort of rebellious act? Was
there a quiet voice saying, "This family will only
let you be smart on paper. Follow this route to freedom."?
By writing that letter, I found a career that provided
me with a voice on paper. Then as the years went by,
I was able to claim a speaking voice and have a presence
in a room of strangers.
Noticing this, Ive come to believe that our defenses
are an important part of who we are. When were
wounded as children, cynicism and bravado are necessary
at times. As a very young boy, I was probably an extrovert.
Early on, I talked and talked in school. But under a
barrage of criticism and hostility I withdrew. Quietness
was my mask. As an adult, I discovered I didnt
have to keep this mask when I wanted to speak my truth.
I learned to open my mouth and sing. I guess you could
say therapy for me was emotional education as well as
JH: Now, having heard your responses to these questions,
and reflecting on your healing journey, how would you
now define what healing is?
No matter how much we try to understand healing, I believe
it will a lways have a different meaning for every person.
Somewhere inside we carry an image of what it would
be like if we could feel more whole. When we yearn to
become that image we set our life on a new path.
Thats the hero and heroines journey. We
wander into dark places and meet magical beings who
become our teachers. We are like Odysseus and, if we
are lucky, we arrive home, in this life or some othersurprised
that were closer to wholeness than weve
ever been. I think thats when were able
to say in wonder: Ive been healed.
It doesnt mean that pain and struggle end. To
me it means were living more from our very best
selves. And thats our gift to the earth. Whats
been healed in me? I no longer wonder about the existence
of the Divine. Thats because I have been borne
up in my own free fall. And I can say that in addition
to all this pain there is joy in knowing the depths
of life. There is wonder in recognizing that there are
mysteries calling me on to new adventures.
JH: In what way, do you incorporate your experiences
of healing into your work?
JW: In a culture that can be very shallow, I seek to
write about experiences that illumine the depths. Sometimes
I achieve that and sometimes I dont. When Im
with people I attempt to be aware that theres
always a possibility of going deeper. Theres always
a possibility of being kinder. Theres always the
possibility of my seeing something in the other person
that they dont recognize.
And when I see it, I try to reflect it back. I want
to be a mirror of love.