Joan Poelvoorde

Psychotherapy & Healing Arts


It's great to live, to testify day by day … only by the spirit for eternity, only to the spiritual side of people. But sometimes I get fed up with my spiritual existence. Instead of hovering above I'd like to feel there's some weight to me …to end my eternity and bind me to earth.

Damiel, in Wings of Desire
Wim Wenders, 1987


In this season of miracles, both Christian and Jewish, I am moved to discuss one of my favorite miracles—in psychotherapy the term is "healing the schizoid split". The term, schizoid, describes the unconscious process by which one finds the world too painful to live in, and so abandons the body (flow, feeling, sensation, empathy, need, etc.), and moves to the relative "safety" of the head. Often, for lack of a better alternative, one attempts to become solely a spiritual being. It is clear that living in the fear and isolation of this further separation is not less painful, but what child, unborn, newborn, or older, can know that?

While each of us cannot be described as schizoid, I maintain that we are all products of this disunion. In the beginnings of our existence, we suffer separation from our pre-incarnation unity, then at birth we experience separation from the body of the mother—often a traumatic event.

I call the healing of this condition "Arrival"—an arrival that reclaims the body, feelings, sensations, desires, empathy, care, need, and a willingness to live in a highly flawed world peopled with highly flawed beings, including ourselves.

Literature, poetry, film, and song are filled with often extraordinary expressions of this healing. I am including in this article the lyrics to a Jackson Browne song, a poem by Kabir, and the short quote above from the film, Wings of Desire.

Alive in the World

I want to live in the world
Not inside my head
I want to live in the world.
I want to stand and be counted
With the hopeful and the willing
With the open and the strong …

I want to live in the world, not behind some wall
I want to live in the world, where I will hear if another voice should call
To the prisoner inside me
To the captive of my doubt
Who among his fantasies harbors the dream of breaking out
And taking his chances
Alive in the world.

To open my eyes and wake up alive in the world
To open my eyes and fully arrive in the world
With its beauty and its cruelty
With its heartbreak and its joy
With it constantly giving birth to life and to forces that destroy
And the infinite power of change
Alive in the world.

Jackson Brown
Songs for Tibet
©2008 The Peace Foundation

I said to the wanting-creature inside me:
What is this river you want to cross?
There are no travelers on the river-road, and no road.
Do you see anyone moving about on that bank, or resting?
There is no river at all, and no boat, and no boatman.
There is no tow rope either, and no one to pull it.
There is no ground, no sky, no time, no bank, no ford!

And there is no body, and no mind!
Do you believe there is some place that will make the soul less thirsty?
In that great absence you will find nothing.

Be strong then, and enter into your own body;
There you have a solid place for your feet
Think about it carefully!
Don't go off somewhere else!

Kabir says this:
Just throw away all thoughts of imaginary things,
and stand firm in that which you are.

The Kabir Book, p. 17

Joan Poelvoorde, a professional psychotherapist in Manhattan (NY) offering relationship, personal growth, anger management, creativity, shamanistic & Imago Relationship Therapy