We have a love affair with miracles.
Most of us have been brought up on a diet of miracles in our fairy stories, our religious traditions and popular culture.
Ever since the princess kissed the frog turning him into a prince we have had a fascination with miracle cures – the single act that changes everything in a moment – the one thing that makes the problem go away in an instant.
It’s an appealing idea and people are often looking for a simple way to solve all their problems.
If they could just win the lottery, take the right pill or hear the right words of wisdom and all their troubles would just drop away.
But the miracle cure, or the idea of a miracle cure, has problems:
1. Miracle Cures Are Very Rare
There are times for a client when one session, one sentence, one insight or one change affects everything and that person’s life is turned around.
Unfortunately, like the jackpot win on the lottery they are very rare occurrences.
For the rest of us personal change and healing can be a long, complicated and sometimes uncomfortable process.
2. Miracle Cures Give Power To The Therapist
The idea that someone can cure us with a touch, the wave of a magic wand or the recitation of a powerful spell is very appealing. The all powerful, all knowing therapist does something miraculous and we are cured.
But is it good to make your therapist all seeing and all powerful and leave everything up to them?
After all it’s your life, you are the expert in your experience but for a miracle cure you have to give up that expertise and your resources to let the magician change things for you.
It might not be good for you (or the therapist) to think that they are all knowing and all powerful.
This isn’t to say that therapists, or experts of any kind, don’t have useful expertise in areas you don’t (that’s why you go to see one in the first place) and that you shouldn’t make good use of them. That relationship should be a collaboration between two responsible adults not a surrender of power from the client to the therapist.
3. Miracle Cures Take Power From The Client
If the purpose of therapy is to empower the client to make beneficial changes in their lives and step into their own lives, the expectation of a miracle cure takes you in the opposite direction.
If you give your therapist your power then you are making yourself less powerful and capable.
How can you learn to deal with the difficulties of life if you give over that job to another person?
Imagine that you have injured your leg. Your doctor prescribes a course of physiotherapy to improve your mobility.
You expect the physiotherapist to give you some exercises to do and to supervise you when you are doing them. You don’t expect your physiotherapist to carry you around on their back because you have difficulty walking. Their job is to help you stand on your own two feet.
The therapist’s job is to help you stand on your own two feet and reclaim your power.
4. Miracle Cures Can Be Misused
The promise of a miracle cure can be very alluring. When desperation mounts and options narrow, the offer of a miracle cure can become very powerful.
At times like this the promise of a miracle cure can be misused, there is a lot of money and prestige available to people who offer to cure the incurable.
Unscrupulous or deluded therapists and healers can make a lot of money by exploiting this desperation.
5. Miracle Cures Can Make Things Worse
What happens when the miracle cure fails?
Imagine you have had emotional difficulties for a very long time. You have been to see many therapists, each one offering a promise of help, but each time the ‘miracle cure’ has failed. It would be easy to get discouraged to see yourself as failure or a hopeless case.
How optimistic are you going to be that you can find help when even the miracle cures fail?
6. Miracle Cures Create False Expectations
If you have seen the adverts and watched the videos you may go to see a therapist carrying some bad ideas about therapy and the therapeutic process.
- It’s going to be quick – miracle cures are quick aren’t they? If I have complex and long-standing difficulties it’s unlikely to be resolved in just one session. Some things take time and effort to undo, if I expect to be cured in just one session then I may be disappointed or frustrated that it may take longer.
- It will take no effort – all I have to do is sit back and let the therapist do the work. I don’t have to do anything. If I find that the therapist does want me to do something then it’s going to come as a shock. If they want me to join in.
- The results will be complete and eternal – miracle cures last for ever don’t they? If I have the miracle cure then I will be cured completely and for all time. The expectation is that I’ll never be bothered by anything ever again because I’ve been cured. Even though we know that life has an inexhaustible supply of challenges.
7. It’s Miracle Cure Or No Cure At All
If you think whatever therapy you are going to try next is a miracle cure then you could be forgiven for thinking there are just two options:
- The miracle cure will work and will be a complete and instant success.
- The miracle cure won’t work and will be a complete and total failure.
If you have this idea then the session you go to will either be a total success or a total failure then you either walk away with the prize (unlikely in just one session) or walk away dismayed that what’s on offer does not and could not work.
Just because the therapy didn’t achieve the instant miracle in one session does not mean that the approach doesn’t work, it just means that it may take more than one session to get good results.
What should we do if miracle cures are so rare?
Don’t waste time waiting for the latest, greatest, cure everything at a stroke technique.
Use what you know to change what you can right now. Repeat that process again tomorrow and the day after that. Enough small steps will take you a long way.
“Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.”
– Theodore Roosevelt
If you need assistance from a therapist choose one who (amongst other things):
- Knows their own limits and the limits of their art and is quite straightforward about it.
- Doesn’t promise the earth unless they are certain they can deliver it.
- Wants to put you back in touch with your power.
- Expects you to do the work you need to do to make the changes you want