The How of Healing
Lessons from a Modern Day Socrates
by Pamela Tames
Complete Healing is Possible
Some things break you in life but that doesn’t mean you’re broken for good. Complete healing is possible. That was one of the first things Viola Fodor told me when I met her after a decade-long battle with anorexia/bulimia which I was clearly losing.
Fodor, a Canadian psychotherapist, is creator of “Life Process Transformation™,” or LPT. It’s a process that teaches you the “how of healing.” She wrote about some of the essential elements underlying LPT in her first book, Desperately Seeking Self, which was updated and republished in 2019. This year, she published her last book, Where Have I Been All My Life?
The way I saw it, all the ideas she taught were important to my healing process, but some really stood out, resonating to this day—3 decades after I completed LPT and healed my eating disorder.
Before I get into those key “life lessons,” some backstory.
At age 14, I developed anorexia. It started as a diet—I thought I was chubby—and evolved into anorexia, then bulimia. I went to a psychiatrist who specialized in eating disorders. He told me if I didn’t eat, he’d hospitalize me. That meant forced feeding or food schedules and exercise restrictions. I said I’d rather shoot myself and quit psychiatry.
The destructive binge/purge cycle raged on, consuming my life. I tried other “experts” (including a hypnotist specializing in past-life regression, and a shaman who did some weird kind of voodoo making me laugh uncontrollably). I read books. I went to workshops. I tried “purification” diets, herbs, and supplements. I gave anti-depressants a shot and turned into a zombie. And then I gave up, resigning myself to another decade of crazy eating punctuated by thoughts of suicide.
What happened next was pure coincidence. I found Viola when I wasn’t even looking for help. Two years after I went through LPT, I was cured—as in a caterpillar-into-butterfly, never-going-back-there cure. After always being told I’d never fully heal my eating disorder (as though my very spirit were indelibly stained by it) and I’d have to always be vigilant around food, it seemed a miracle.
But it wasn’t a miracle. It’s what happens when you know yourself on the deepest level possible. Viola, through LPT, showed me how to do that.
Lesson 1: experience who you are on the inside
The first time I met Viola, she asked me a question no one had ever asked me.
“How’s your sense of self?” She said softly, a kind, gentle look in her eyes.
“My what?” I blasted back, Little Ms. Know It All was annoyed by a question she couldn’t answer. “What the hell is that?”
“Do you have a sense of who you are on the inside?”
“Let me put it this way, Viola,” as though I were going to teach her lesson, “Given how cray-cray my life is on the outside, if there actually is someone home inside—and I seriously doubt it—can you imagine how nuts they are?”
As it turned out, developing a relationship to my inner self was the beginning the transformation process. I’d be going within and meeting my true self for the first time. In doing this, I’d come to learn true self is an experience—or put another way, it’s a place you go, beyond words, any intellectual concepts you have about who you imagine yourself to be, and beyond ego or personality.
To this day, my relationship with my inner self is the most important one in my life. It is the portal through which I access all my inner resources, such as will, creativity, insight, intuition, strength, and guidance. As Aristotle said, “Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.”
Lesson 2—open your awareness to see what is
There’s a lot of talk these days about finding your authentic voice. To do so, you need to go to the source, your inner self. And you do this by sitting quietly with yourself, opening your awareness to what’s going on inside you. This is called reflection and it’s an innate capacity we can develop through a practice Viola called, Quiet Time.
Quiet Time isn’t meditation. It really is as simple as sitting in silence, allowing whatever needs to come up, to come up without analysis, rationalization, or judgement. “Opening your awareness to see what is,” is how Viola would put it.
As it turns out, this seemingly simple thing, is ridiculously hard at first. You’re shocked by the cacophony of mental chatter that has hijacked your awareness, keeping you focused on your anxieties, fears, distractions (cell phone!), wishful thinking, rumination, plans and to-do lists—everything but the quiet place within.
Soon you see this mind chatter is actually quite repetitive and certainly not deserving of all your attention, all the time. Mine bored me to tears. I was determined to learn how to “un-think.” So, I stuck with the practice, going deeper, diving below the surface thoughts, a diver breathlessly searching for pearls.
In Quiet Time, asking simple questions, such as, What do I need to learn here? can help open your awareness. In fact, questions were such an important part of how Viola taught that I came to think of her as a modern-day Socrates. Socrates was the ancient Greek philosopher who used a question-and-answer approach to get the truth (the so-called “Socratic Method”). He’s also the one who said the unexamined life wasn’t worth living.
Some days, I’d beg Viola for her actual opinion, some concrete guidance, but I always got another question. For good reason: Questions direct you to dive deeper, to find your own truth.
Even though reflection is a natural function of the mind, getting the hang of Quiet Time took me a couple of years. I was seriously addicted to over-analyzing everything. When it finally clicked, I soon realized I’d had it all wrong. The outside of me was crazy because I was so disconnected to the inside of me, blind to my inner self.
Lesson 3—meaning in life comes from taking 100% responsibility
There’s a lot of talk these days about selfcare and finding your true purpose. Viola was teaching on these things decades ago. She came at it from the point of view of becoming aware of our needs and then taking 100% responsibility for them.
Needs included all the usual things you’d associate with selfcare—eating well, getting enough sleep, taking time for yourself, being with friends. As important, though, were the deeper needs—things such as developing your unique gifts so you can make a meaningful contribution to the world based on your capacity. Or, learning from your life experiences even if it means facing painful issues.
When Viola asked me, “If you’re not attending to your needs, who’s taking care of you?” I couldn’t bring myself to say, “No one.” I’d been so used to abandoning myself and ignoring my needs with crazy eating and destructive relationships that by the time I got to Viola, I didn’t think I had any needs. I was Humpty Dumpty, ever-poised to fall and break into a hundred pieces.
It’s one thing being told you have all these needs after a lifetime of treating yourself like a robot. It’s another to realize, it’s 100% up to you how you respond to them. Like they say, no one is going to do the “work” for you.
I soon learned, it’s not really “work.” It’s living life on your terms and this brought a joy I’d never known before. Your unique needs define you as you. Each inner need calls you forward to engage in life, to assert your agency. If you ignore that call or abdicate the fulfillment of your needs to others, then you are truly lost in a world not of your making, and likely not to your liking if only because it fails to satisfy your needs and thus, doesn’t reflect the real you.
There were so many other things I got out of LPT but for me, those were the top ones. Even before Quiet Time became an indispensable part of my life, I could feel my perspective shifting. I was going from an externally directed life—the world telling me who I was and what I should do with my life—to an internally directed one.
This shift to an inner perspective was changing everything. Now I had the strength to assert my true self and my needs, becoming director of my own life. When this happened, my eating disorder simply fell away. I just didn’t need it anymore.
I went on to study under Viola, becoming certified as an LPT Guide. After decades of learning from her, I began to get what she’d been saying all along—that a life crisis, such as an eating disorder, is actually a spiritual crisis in disguise. It’s a sign you’re not living the life you were meant to be living.
In Memoriam (And One More Lesson)
Voila Fodor died on March 9, 2020, after an illness of many years that had no definitive diagnosis. She died the way she lived—with full awareness, being loved by so many and loving all. Her life and death exemplified perhaps the most important lesson of all: there is a life force in each and every one of us; it is good and supports our growth if we allow it; and it carries us forward, towards the fulfillment of our unique self and right through to our death, which is never an ending, merely another transformation.
To learn more about Viola’s work and Life Process Transformation, please visit ViolaFodor.com. Her teachings live on through the thousands of people she helped and those who are certified in guiding others through LPT.