review of healing troubled hearts

book cover

There aren’t too many of us who could say that they have read nearly everything written about inner healing prayer (in the Christian sense). As this was the subject of my doctoral studies, I waded deeply into this territory because I was convinced that there was something very important happening in that practice, especially for recovery from trauma. It’s a unique field of literature and tricky for a scholar because so little of it is academic material. It tends instead to be passionate personal testimony layered with countless anecdotes.

It seems to take a certain personality to enter the ministry of inner healing. Particularly it takes believers, by which I don’t mean the average adherent of a faith tradition but people who become immersed in a confident adoption of the language and belief system which gives them a unique viewpoint from which to see and interact with the world. From this comes their strength as individuals who can engagingly invite others into their world and see transformation. It is also the reason why academics or those who simply want a measure of balance or objectivity want to pull their hair out when they read the books of inner healers.

I chose to read Bill Day’s Healing Troubled Hearts because I thought his history as a Catholic theologian and humanistic psychologist would provide a unique perspective on where the field has moved in the ten or so years since I completed my dissertation. Unfortunately, the very aspects of his own history which I had hoped would provide new insights are instead trashed and rejected. Day does not appear to be one who spends much of his time “extracting the precious from the worthless.” Rather he separates himself from most of what he has left behind when he converts to a new passion. I think this is just a little ironic since the practice of inner healing prayer began with the ministry of Agnes Sanford who fearlessly learned and experimented from all manner of sources in order to find a way to bring light and healing to people in pain.

To be fair, I expect Day probably has held onto to some of what he has learned along the way, but the heart of my frustration with the book is epitomized by a section in which he describes “what inner healing is not.” Here we find that inner healing is not at all like a lot of other secular things with which it actually has much in common. For example, inner healing doesn’t have anything to do with hypnosis; in fact, it is the “opposite” of hypnosis. For years, Ed Smith (developer of Theophostic Ministry) has said this kind of thing and it makes me want to scream a little: INNER HEALING ALWAYS HAS A LITTLE TO DO WITH HYPNOSIS – BEING DEEPLY FOCUSED AND IMMERSED IN ONE’S IMAGINATION TO THE POINT IN WHICH OUR BELIEFS AND UNDERSTANDINGS MAY BE ALTERED IS PRETTY CLOSE TO A DEFINITION OF TRANCE. There, that felt good. Fear of the dangers of hypnosis (and there are some) has put blinders on Christians for years who also have trouble admitting that deep worship experiences of many types are hypnotic. Let’s grow up and stop being afraid of hypnosis and trance.

Now all that being said, my overall opinion of this book is that it is pretty much as good as the typical book written by most practitioners of inner healing. I think it is a sincere and passionate invitation to see the potential for healing that exists if one explores a more experientially and imaginatively engaged relationship with God. People will read this and be inspired, and people will find ministers like Day and be transformed and that is a very good thing.

However, if one is hoping for an insider’s look at inner healing that also has a nuanced understanding of how the dynamics of inner healing relate to other psychological theories and practices, one won’t find it here.

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