The Engine and the Caboose Part II

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trains going up and down hill

The Engine and the Caboose Part II

Top-Down and Bottom-Up Healing

This engine and caboose concept (see previous blog, The Engine and the Caboose Part I) is related to Top-Down versus Bottom-Up healing.

Top-Down Healing

tall tree tops

Top-Down healing means primarily connecting with The Light or The Absolute, identifying with that as completely as possible, and moving from that perspective. The Infinite is certainly the most powerful resource for a complete healing! The trouble arises when we insist on Top-Down healing methods only, and decry any hint of Bottom-Up (pathology-focused) healing.  

In examples of the most extreme viewpoints, adherents of only Top-Down healing consider Bottom-Up healing methods to be a waste of time that prevents you from actually merging with the Infinite and achieving Enlightenment right now. They consider pathology-focused healing to be fundamentally self-indulgent and ego-based. Their message is: Dis-identify with your ego. All that wounded crap is just ego. Dwelling on what happened in your last relationship is ego. Identify only with the light. 

In other words, get rid of the whole rest of the train and just be the engine.

tall pale trees

This sounds great, but I find that it is often unrealistic. I have nothing against Top-Down healing as long as the healing makes it from the top all the way down, as opposed to leaving us identified with the top but cut off from the rest of our own humanity. That’s really the issue. Is the healing going from the top all the way down? Is this healing transforming my caboose or repressing and denying my caboose? Am I so ashamed of my caboose that I’ve disowned it enough that the light can’t get there anymore, because I’m trying to be way more evolved than I am? My top half, the engine half of the train, is in the light and meanwhile, my caboose bottom half of the train is broken down, and I can’t move forward any further until I attend to it.

A great deal of what goes on in my classrooms is Top-Down Healing. Heart light comes flooding through, and we say, “Yeah! Bring in the good stuff!” As a result of what’s coming in from the Top-Down, people say, “Why do I need this old stuff?” I think Top-Down healing is great; I use it much of the time as the basis for this work. I’m not anti-Top-Down healing; I’m all about it. Bringing ourselves into Heart space is connecting to that which is greater than us, to bring in the Deep Love and the Pure and the True. It’s from that Pure and True, and our accessing of it and washing it through us, that healing occurs.

trees reaching to light

It’s got to go all the way down, though. It’s not enough just to wash our face in the Light. Too often Top-Down healing on its own can lead to people who are living in the sky, and out of touch with the bottom and the inner and the human ground. There’s often unconscious shadow material that’s being pushed down and not acknowledged, and it’s going to come out someplace. In the meantime, in order to perpetuate our denial, we may avoid empathizing with others on the same issues that we are denying in ourselves.

Bottom-Up Healing

As for Bottom-Up healing, on its own it can be just as problematic as solely Top-Down healing, but in a different way.

tree sprouting

Therapy is a very good example of a Bottom-Up healing method. Not all therapists are Bottom-Up only—some therapists have a connection to Something Greater, and work from there. Many claim to believe in Something Greater and work in the context of that belief, but the Infinite is not actually the source of their healing methodology. Their healing methodology is the use of the human mind, talking, getting into your muck and grime, and moving it around in there, re-arranging the emotional furniture in the apartment. By talking about what’s inside of us, we are often able to have more insight about it: “Oh I understand this now.”

Often there can be some significant accomplishment of insight, but insight is not the same as transformation. It seems to take a gruelingly long time to end up actually feeling better when we’re healing only Bottom-Up, working from our humanity on our humanity.

sprouting out of dead leaves

When we bring to light and express the wounded and traumatized self for its own sake, it doesn’t necessarily mean that a healing occurs at all. If you have a cathartic release, temporarily you do feel better because you’re no longer holding it at bay; it’s no longer heavy and hidden. But if it is not met with Something Greater coming from the top-down, it doesn’t actually resolve. You just know yourself better, but you don’t actually change. It’s still there, waiting for the next healing session to do it again, and again.

Just as there are many Top-Down healing modalities that don’t make it very far down, just so there are many Bottom-Up modalities that don’t get very far up. Not all of them are incomplete in that way. It’s just a significant issue that we need to be aware of, either way.

How It All Comes Together

face in tree

Whole Heart Connection is Bottom-Up and Top-Down healing coming together. It’s each for the sake of the other. All of the Whole Heart Connection heart-centering exercises, including Cup that Runneth Over, are Top-Down modalities designed to help us come directly in touch with the best in ourselves, feel our connection to the Infinite, and allow transformation to occur naturally and gently as a result. The Whole Heart Connection exercises in the self-healing section which are more focused on connecting with painful or wounded places, and then making a healing connection between these places and the heart, are more from the Bottom-Up tradition (although it can be argued that they are also Top-Down at the same time, because they are relying on the heart as the source of healing).

When the Top-Down healing is for the sake of getting all the way down, and the Bottom-Up healing, no matter how gritty, is for the sake of getting all the way up, that’s what Whole Heart Connection healing is all about. I’m all for both sets of skills. I think both sets of skills are really important, but only for the sake of each other. We’re opening to the Absolute but only for the sake of bringing that light of Loving Truth into every single aspect of our humanity. We’re embracing our humanity, but only for the sake of bringing it all back home into the One.


To learn more, join Thea at her upcoming Whole Heart Connection Intro a live webinar held on Zoom on October 16-17, 2021. Find a list of all the upcoming live workshops here.

To join the discussion, find us on my Perennial Medicine discussion listserv (all are welcome).

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