About a year and a half ago a friend recommended to me that I see Michael. Frankly, I was very skeptical about the whole thing. I
I had the honor and pleasure to meet you.
I met Michael Hartzel in 1999; As soon as I met him I knew I could trust him. There was an instant rapport; Michael is kind considerate and caring and that comes across as soon as you meet him. Has a warm aura around him
"A truly gifted healer, Michael Hartzel holds people,
A little over a year ago I went to see Michael Hartzel at the
About a year and a half ago Chetan, the man with whom I was studying the Human Design System told me that a healer, was coming over from England and suggested I might like to se him. Actually, I didn’t really want to. I’m very skeptical about “healing”. When it doesn’t work it’s all the patient’s fault – which can be kind of discouraging – and well, frankly I think it’s often just BS. I told Chetan I wasn’t very interested and was pretty upfront about my reasons.
“Look,” I said “if I pay this guy money and he doesn’t deliver, I’ll be annoyed with him and also with you for suggesting it. I really don’t like to spend money on things that don’t work. I don’t want to follow your suggestion only to have it mess up our relationship.”
Chetan was still positive about it so I figured, well, if he’s willing to chance the strain on our relationship I guess I can give it a try. I had some nerve damage to my hip and leg that had been bothering me for years. Chiropractic, massage and acupuncture hadn’t healed it so I figured I didn’t have much to lose. A one hour session was only $70 – not exactly an exorbitant amount. So I set up an appointment.
When I arrived I was shown into a small room where a massage table took up most of the space. Chetan introduced me to Michael, who sure didn’t look like a healer – not that I know exactly what a healer looks like, but whatever it is, he didn’t fit the bill. A very unprepossessing fellow, of medium height and build, he sort of looks like every man. Only his eyes set him apart in their remarkable gentleness.
In a middle class British accent he greeted me saying, “Well I hear they dragged you here kicking and screaming.” Smiling as he said it.
OK, I was a little surprised by his candor, but I appreciate things being open so I responded in like fashion.
“Yes, I guess they did. I really don’t like to spend money and not get what I pay for.” I wasn’t accusatory about it, just honest.
“Fair enough,” he replied. “If you’re not happy with the results you don’t have to pay anything.”
Oh. I didn’t expect that at all, but I was pleased with the arrangement.
“Let me tell you a little about what I do,” Michael said. “Basically I just give people love and provide a safe environment where change can take place, where things can shift.”
“OK,” I nodded while wondering what that actually meant. What I wanted was for my hip to stop hurting and didn’t quite get how that related to shifting anything, but hell, I’d been seeing an acupuncturist once a month for a couple of years, and she talked about energy blocks, so who knows?
We chatted for a few more minutes and he asked me what was bothering me. “My hip and leg,” I said pointing to my right hip. He must have asked me something else, though I no longer remember exactly what it was. I mentioned something about my mother.
I have to make a digression here to explain about my mother. When I was born in 1944, my dad was in the navy and about a week after delivering me by C section, my mother decided she wasn’t really up for parenting. So she left me in the care of my father’s parents and went back to her job as a reporter in Seattle. When I was just a few months shy of three my dad was discharged form the navy and he and mom retrieved me from his folks and we three moved to San Diego.
For me a very pleasant life with my grandparents quickly became a living nightmare. Mom was a cruel, spiteful, very angry bitch to put it simply, and for the next 12 years I lived in a nearly daily state of fear and anxiety. She was very unpredictable, so I never knew what might set her off. Mom was black Irish and when she was angry her eyes blazed, her face became distorted and she fired her words like venom tipped arrows. There was such malice in every gesture, in every clever nuance of word that her target never doubted her very real intent to grievously wound.
By the time I was five, her arsenal of punishments for average five-year-old transgressions included horsewhips and matches. I ran away from home at age 5 and again at age 6. Unsuccessfully and with very unpleasant consequences.
As a small child I had to control my anger at her somewhat in order to survive. Being half black Irish myself, I found that hard to do and sometimes failed – with pretty extreme results. Though I learned to control my words around her I could never control my eyes or my attitude. Unless she commanded it I would never look away from her anger and she couldn’t help but see the defiance that seethed within me. I would focus it and my little eyes would burn like hers with as much force as I could muster.
By age 14 I had grown enough to foolishly fear her a little less. My last act of outright verbal defiance at age 14 resulted in her last beating of me. It occurred a few weeks after my outburst and was levied by her on the pretext that my underwear was too dirty. It left my sorry butt bruised and bleeding from the stick she used.
My dad waited until I was 15 to divorce her, thus ensuring that I would have the choice as to which parent I would live with. Huh! I never faced an easier choice. When my dad told me he was leaving and asked me if I wanted to go with him it required no thought on my part. The answer was an immediate yes. Mom went berserk and I really thought she would kill me. I had to use all of my strength to keep my bedroom door shut against her fury. And she but a wee 5 foot two!
It’s fair to say that by the time of the divorce I hated my mother. For years I couldn’t talk about her without becoming very obviously agitated. Over the next several years I worked hard at coming to some kind of understanding and acceptance of her. I relived the experiences and the feelings. I forgave her. I saw her as my mother in the mythic sense. I worked through much of my own anger toward her. I gave up blaming her for my condition.
After the divorce I only saw her 4 times before her death some 30 years later. Each visit was short and actually pleasant. She could be incredibly charming if she chose. By the time I was in my 30’s I thought I had achieved freedom from her. I’d worked some of it out in therapy, some in Rolfing, and some in various spiritual studies. Although I found some peace with it and affected lots of changes in myself, my perspective and my behavior, there were things I didn’t recognize, and some of those I did recognize, I was unable to change.
Perhaps the most obvious example to anyone who knows me is that as an adult I have tolerated very little abuse from another person. I learned well from mom, the art of rage, burning vehemence and poisoned words, and I fit it nicely into my own package of pride and defiance.
When I was about 30, Madge, a very close friend was able to see a value system in me that I was able to use to temper my retribution. She described me as a knight – very skilled with the sword, but pointed out that chivalry would require that I not annihilate a less skillful opponent. I resonated with the image and began to exercise some modest self restraint. But even so I was not open to being abused. At age 47, dressed in a suit holding a job as a corporate level manager I actually and quite seriously invited another manager who was an abusive bully out into the parking lot – I was ready to fight. I later explained to him that it was my problem with my mother – but even though I recognized that, I told him, I would cut him no slack. If he treated me in the abusive fashion he so regularly employed against others in the company, I would punish him - severely. It seems silly to me now, and very junior-high-school, but that was the best I could do – just give a fair warning. I had to be a victim as a child so I refused to be one as an adult. This has made for some rocky moments in my 28 year marriage.
Mom was a heavy drinker and over the years she would very occasionally call me, drunk, self pitying, and ask for my forgiveness – which I always gave. She seemed very sincere and I wasn’t really holding any grudges. The first time she did that I was 25 years old, married just over a year and living in Williams, Arizona. I came home early one morning from an all night religious American Indian peyote ceremony. It had been exhausting and uplifting – very intensely religious. (It was during this period that I had discovered her as mythic earth mother). Anyway, when I got home my wife told me that the police had stopped by earlier. They left a message for me to come to the police department and call my mother. She had called them and told them that my father had died. A friend of many years was with me and as we drove to the police station I told him I didn’t know what I was supposed to feel at this news. Well, we got to the police station, I called her, and she quite blithely told me that no, my father hadn’t died, she just wanted to call me and since I had no phone she’d hit upon this scheme. Huh! What do you do with that? I forgave her sins and transgressions.
The last time she called I was about 35 years old, living in Hawaii with Lisa, my second wife, and our 1 year old son. She was, of course, almost incoherently drunk and desperately needed to be forgiven. I obliged her, but was puzzled that she had to keep asking. It occurred to me that I’d never confronted her about the way she’d treated me. Never said a word to her. Perhaps, I thought she couldn’t believe the forgiveness because her accusations were self generated. Maybe if I accused her and she then asked forgiveness it would have more meaning for her. So I wrote her a letter and unloaded some of the stuff I'd been carrying. Told her she’d been cruel and caused me a lot of pain. I was honest about it, but not angrily venting, because I’d pretty much worked the anger out for myself. A few weeks later I received her terse reply. “That’s your problem”. Wow! No kidding.
A couple of years after that she wrote and hinted that perhaps she’d come to Hawaii and visit for a while. My terse reply “God forbid you should ever live in a house with me and my family.” Tit for tat. Probably the first time in my life I’d spoken such a truth to her and gotten away with it.
We moved back to California in 1987 and when mom died in 1990 I found out she lived no more than 20 minutes away from me and I had no idea. I didn’t mourn her passing very much. I was a little distraught by that and managed, digging deep inside, to find a little sadness, a few weak tears. Over and done I thought. Never resolved. Only rarely did I even think of her over the next several years. The only thing that still niggled at me on occasion was that I simply could not understand why she had treated me the way she had. Sure I had answers, ‘she was screwed up, it wasn’t me, she couldn’t help herself, etc.’ All true but not really satisfying, because I had experienced the results as a very young child – not thought them. The intellectual answers just couldn’t connect with the experience in any meaningful way.
I didn’t go into any of this with Michael, just made a few small remarks that my relationship with my mother had never been good, and it still kind of bothered me, though I’d pretty much come to terms with it. But you have some idea of the baggage I brought into that room.
“OK”, Michael said, “Why don’t you take off your shoes, lie down on the table here on your back and we’ll get started.”
I did as he asked, and Michael then cupped my head in his hands. In less than 2 minutes I was crying uncontrollably. My body was trembling violently from head to toe, my torso and gut were wracked with those deep, choking sobs that rob you of breath. “Why?” I moaned.
Oh shit, I thought, here I am again. My mother. Oddly enough, I was somehow both in and apart from the experience. My body was reliving ancient trauma, but my mind wasn’t caught up in it. It wrestled with that old question “Why? Why did she do that? Why didn’t she love me?”
As the deep sobbing began to abate I suddenly saw the whole thing from a completely different perspective. It didn’t matter that she didn’t love me, what was causing me pain was that I didn’t love her. In an instant I saw it so clearly. It wasn’t her love I missed and needed, no, it was loving her that I missed. Every child wants, needs to love it’s mother and I had allowed myself to be robbed of that. I had let her treatment of me determine my very deepest state of being and I had done it to myself. The irony was agonizing.
I’ve identified myself for years with the first American flag. The rattlesnake and the motto “Don’t Tread On Me”. As a child, a young man and an adult I’d fought with all the strength of my spirit against being dominated. I would be myself and nobody could make me be what they wanted me to be. Laughable. Michael’s love poured into me. My very strength my very downfall. It was almost delicious.
Even then I couldn’t quite let go of that insistence on being myself. “Well,” I decided “I will do what I want, what I need to do, and just love her anyway.”
Michael spoke softly. “She’s stuck here,” he said, “She can’t leave.”
That’s terrible, I thought to myself. What a horrible thing. Oh my God, I don’t want to hold her here and something inside me let go of something else inside me. It was such a soft parting, almost intangible. No drama, no pain, just a slip of a breeze.
As we parted a picture of my mother’s face took form in my mind. She was soft, and beautiful and she looked so happy. She was almost preening she looked so lovely. It was a moment of intense joy for me to see her so. So many memories of her angry, contorted face and now finally a memory of her happy and beautiful. I carry that image with me and occasionally I bring it out and look at it. Finally, my freedom. Free to love what I need to love.
I happily paid Michael his modest fee, though he hadn’t cured my hip. I still carry the scars of my mother’s beatings in locked muscles, and I still carry some of the fearful, constant alertness of my childhood in a stiff posture. Michael didn’t remove any of my childhood experiences nor change my memory of them. His healing was simply to give me love and a safe place to relive it and find what it was that I truly needed. Just a shift in things. Not to be loved, but to love. I’m still changing and discovering from that simple little miracle.
In an odd little twist of fate just a few months later I gave my daughter, who was then 31, some advice based on what I had learned and caused a rift between us that lasted for over a year. A singular lack of communication skills and sensitivity on my part! Somewhere in that time I offered to pay for her to see Michael. She emailed me back and asked “Do you expect that to change things between us?”
I replied “I rarely have any expectations about anything anymore.”
She did, however accept my offer and a few months later she worked it out in herself to allow our relationship to heal. She’s never talked to me about her experience with Michael so I don’t what it was like for her. But I was glad that she discovered in herself that she too needed to love her parents. And, OK, I’m also glad she did it because I need to love her, and I honestly don’t think I could have approached her the way she approached me when she wanted to mend it. I still don’t have access to the kind of vulnerability that was required. Maybe some day.