The concept of healing can be a confusing one. Most people think that being healed means whatever symptom or illness they may be experiencing is suddenly gone, as in “I had a headache, took two aspirins, it’s gone, and now I am healed”. Or, “I had cancer, they removed my cancerous body part, and now I am healed”. These situations more aptly describe ‘curing’ rather than healing, because healing is a process that encompasses much more than throwing away the crutches and suddenly walking again.
As Donald Epstein, DC describes in his book The 12 Stages of Healing, healing is journey rather than a destination. Healing doesn’t necessarily mean that a disease will go away, but rather it is a path that a person must take to become one in mind, body, and spirit, regardless of the outcome of an illness. This is a path of discovery where we learn about ourselves – everyone we meet and every situation we encounter is designed to help us grow, become empowered, and realize that healing comes from within us, and is not supplied by any outside source. Every story we read, and every movie we watch covers this theme, but none is a better example than The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.
There is hardly anyone alive who is not familiar with the story of Dorothy and her journey to the Land of Oz. Dorothy lives on a small farm in Kansas with her Auntie Em, Uncle, a few farm hands, and her dog Toto. It’s the middle of the Great Depression. We don’t know much about this little girl other than she is not very happy. Nothing is said about who her parents are or were, and how she came to live here. Her aunt and uncle are nice enough, but too busy and don’t seem to express much love for her. Her only friends are the farm hands, but they are adults and also too busy to spend time with her. Her only love comes from Toto. Her life is as grey and dismall as the Kansas dustbowl she lives in.
One day, one of the neighbors, Miss Gulch, comes by and complains that Toto ran through her flower bed and destroyed it. She demanded that they give her the dog so she can have it destroyed. Dorothy’s aunt and uncle don’t even stand up to this mean old busy body, and hand over the dog amidst Dorothy’s crying and protestations. Dorothy’s only source of love and comfort is now gone. She is suffering, and decides to run away.
She doesn’t get very far when she encounters a kindly gentlemen, a traveling salesman, camped by the road. They talk, and he convinces her that her aunt and uncle will miss her if she does run away and she should go home, especially since a storm was brewing. In the meantime, the storm is getting very bad and has spawned a tornado. Dorothy’s farm family locked themselves in the cellar of the house (remember only half heartedly looking for her before they locked the door), as Dororthy returns home. Unable to get into the cellar, she runs into her bedroom for shelter. During this time, Toto escapes mean Miss Gulch and has joined Dorothy in her bedroom. But the wind is very strong as the toronado hits, sending a board flying that hits Dororthy in the head knocking her unconscious. The house is whisked away by the storm, and lands with a jolt waking Dorothy up. As she takes stock of her surroundings, she realizes that she and Toto “are not in Kansas anymore”. Welcome to Munckin Land. And this is where our story of healing begins.
The first stage of healing begins with suffering. We suffer when some aspect of ourselves is suddenly lost. This can be a job, spouse or partner – something that we put our identity into so strongly that the loss equates to our own loss of sense of self, it’s as if we died. Picture a beautiful model who ages and is no longer in demand – her career and life appear to be over. Her identity is with her looks and career, now they are gone. This can induce deep depression – suffering. Dorothy has been unhappy in her home life, she almost lost her dog, and now she finds herself in a strange land, with strange people, and responsible for indirectly killing someone when her house landed on the Wicked WItch of the East. Enter Glinda the Good Witch.
When we move out of the stage of suffering, we look for someone to save us. This is the second stage of healing. We still are suffering, but we have decided to do something about it. We feel powerless, but there is always someone who has the answer or procedure to make us right again – they have the power that we lack to make us whole again. Glinda arrives on the scene in a giant bubble waving a wand, it’s obvious that she must have the answers Dorothy seeks. But, she doesn’t as she tells Dororthy to go and find the Wizard of Oz, because he is grand and glorious and is the one who has all the answers. Of course, Dorothy doesn’t know how to get to Oz, and Glinda points down to the ground and says, “Just follow the yellow brick road!”. Keep in mind, that was her only instruction – to follow the yellow brick road.
If healing is a journey, then the journey occurs on the path we are on. The path can take us to many places, meeting many people, and experiencing many things. All of these will play a role in our healing quest, if we pay attention. Dorothy’s path is obvious, it’s the path paved in gold. Ours may not be so obvious, but it doesn’t matter, because wherever you are is the yellow brick road.
Dorothy begins her journey skipping and singing on her quest. After a bit she comes to a fork in the road and doesn’t know what to do. Totally perplexed she stops, trying to decide which way she should go. This is when she meets the Scarecrow, who tells her that some people go one way, while others go the other. But what did Glinda say? “Follow the Yellow Brick Road!” It doesn’t matter which way Dorothy goes because both paths are the yellow brick road and both will take her to Oz. It’s just that each path will have its own set of challenges, lessons, and people to meet. Both paths will support her, but each in a different way. The path they choose gets them to meet the Tinman, the Lion, and a couple of run-ins with the Wicked Witch of the West. What path did the other offer? This we will never know.
Now Dororthy has met the Scarecrow. He, too, is suffering. He is not whole because he doesn’t have a brain. He also has trouble standing up, but doesn’t seem concerned about that. Dorothy tells him that she is going to see the Wizard who should be able to send her home. Scarecrow wonders if the WIzard can give him a brain. Dorothy assures Scarecrow that he probably can, so they take off together to find the Wizard.
Eventually they come to the Tinman. The Tinman is suffering – he isn’t whole because he doesn’t have a heart. This makes him very sad, causing him to cry and rust. Rusting doesn’t seem to bother him as much as not having a heart. Dorothy and Scarecrow tell him to come along with them to meet the Wizard who would surely be able to give him a heart.
Finally, they meet up with the Lion. Lion is suffering – he isn’t whole because he doesn’t have courarge. He should be the king of the jungle, but is afraid of his own tail. The others tell him that they are going to see the Wizard, and invite him along so that Wizard will give him courage.
Now we have four travelers who are all suffering. They all feel that there is something lacking in their lives and the only way to get it back is to find that special someone who can “fix” them, in this case, it’s the Wizard.
After a few trials along the way, they finally reach The Emerald City, the home of the WIzard of Oz. It takes a bit of persistence, but they are finally granted an audience with The Grand and Glorious One. They enter his throne room and are confronted with an immense vision beyond anything they could imagine. The Wizard is a giant head sitting on a throne with fire and smoke billowing around him. He has a loud, commanding, and frightful voice as he asks them what they want with him. One at a time, they step forward and plead their cases. The Wizard declares that the only way he can grant their wishes is if they bring him the broom of the WIcked Witch of the West. In terror, they run from his presence and, again, set off on their quest.
The Foursome find they way to the WItch’s castle, eventually confronting her. They are terrified and the Witch grabs a torch and sets Scarecrow on fire – his biggest fear. Dorothy throws a bucket of water on Scarecrow to douse the fire, but most of it hits the witch melting her into the ground, leaving nothing but her hat and the broomstick. The witch’s minions declare Dorothy their hero for setting them free from her evilness, and present her with the broomstick to take back to the Wizard.
When our friends return to Oz from their quest, they present the broomstick to the Wizard who appears even more frightful than before. He yells at them and refuses to grant their wishes as fire
and smoke are blasting all over the place. We all know what happens next – Toto pulls back a curtain to find a little old man yelling into a microphone and pulling all sorts of levers to create the illusion of a Wizard. Dorothy confronts him calling him a “bad man”. The Wizard, we really don’t know his name, says that he is really a very good man, just a very bad Wizard.
This scenario is very typical of the second stage of healing. When we are suffering, we may hear of someone who has all the answers to help us through our suffering and “heal” us. This person may be a doctor, teacher, counselor, religious leader – anyone who has special knowledge and procedures that we are not privileged to know or have – someone who appears to be very powerful. We place our trust in them and do as they suggest, even if the procedures are difficult and painful, to meet our goal of finding relief from our pain. Many times these procedures will “work”, and we will feel better. But most of the time this may be temporary until our suffering returns, since we never do confront the real cause. Then we declare that our new ‘guru’ is a fraud, and look for the next one. In our story, the Wizard is the guru, the procedure was to bring the broom, which was a dangerous undertaking and could have cost them their lives. But the procedure didn’t work, and we find that the guru had no special powers, or knowledge, or was any different from you or me. At this point, Dorothy and her friends could have left to find the next saviour, but, something happened.
The Wizard brought all the citizens of Emerald City together to present our friends with special awards for defeating the witch. He gave Scarecrow a diploma, representing his brain. He gave Tinman a chain with a heart, representing his heart. And he gave Lion a medal, representing his courage. However his message was greater than these trinkets – Scarecrow already had a brain as he masterminded the plot against the witch; Tinman already had a heart as evidenced by his love for his friends; and Lion already had courage as we saw how he stood up to the witch as well as the wizard. At this point the wizard got into his balloon preparing to leave and take Dorothy home again. But the balloon accidentally flew away before Dorothy could get in, leaving her stuck away from home – or so she thought. Glinda appears again.
Dorothy is very upset, as much as she loves her new friends, she really wants to go home again. As the others found out that they all had within them what they thought was missing, Dorothy found out that her Auntie Em truly did love her as she saw in the Witch’s crystal ball. But how does she get home? Glinda smiles and gently tells her that she had the power to go home all along – all she had to do was tap her heels together and say “There’s no place like home!” Dorothy does, and suddenly finds herself in her bed with all of her family standing around her grateful that she recovered from the hit in the head.
Not everyone comes to this realization, but as we move through the second stage of healing, we find out that our suffering often comes from the choices we make. In Dorothy’s case, she was surrounded by love, but didn’t recognize it, and felt lost and alone. Her journey to Oz with all the adventures and people she met, made her realize that she is a very loved individual. Glinda could have told her right at the beginning how to get home, but what would that have accomplished? Dorothy would have not have changed, she would continue to be miserable, and her suffering would have gone on. By going through all that she did, she grew as a person, she became empowered, more whole, she had a healing.
Glinda’s message is one for all of us – the power to heal comes from within. There is no one outside of us who can “heal” us, as we can only heal ourselves. We may find guidance from other people to help us on our healing journey, but all the healing magic comes from ourselves. You are on your own personal Yellow Brick Road. All the people you meet, the situations you encounter, the conversations you have, the songs that suddenly appear on the radio, the articles that you may read in the magazine, are there to assist you on your journey – if you are open enough to receive and listen to the messages.