Transactional Healing – Is It Sabotaging Your Healing?

By Marshall Burtcher.

A heads up: This article will be a bit of what I call “bluntcake”.  Bluntcake is a term I apply to concepts that challenge us to reflect on how we are behaving and showing up with ourselves and others.  It can be confronting and activating just to consider one’s behavior (especially since we often carry massive amounts of shame for mistakes, failures, and the challenges we face).

Please check in with yourself before reading further.  Use this check-in to gauge your capacity for hearing things that may be confronting.  Read this later if your capacity requests it.  


There’s a concept I teach called, “Transactionalism.”  Transactionalism is the pattern of doing things to get something in return.  This is especially prominent in toxic relationships and toxic cultural and religious systems.

We see transactionalism happen around our worth.  “You’re loveable when you’re being loved” or “You’re desirable when you’re desired” are very common forms of internalized transactionalism around one’s worth and value.

Transactionalism can be quickly detected when we evaluate if having, being, or doing something is dependent on another condition, such as a person, place, or thing.

For example, if you believe your worth depends on someone else liking or loving you, or depends on an authority’s approval, you have discovered that your worth has been hijacked by a transactional model of worth.

Transactionalism isn’t inherently toxic.  It has its place in creating agreements of exchange around resources, such as jobs, business, and commerce.  It is toxic, however, when applied to a person’s inherent worth, to love, relationships, and healing.

Transactional Healing vs Real Healing

This is where the bluntcake shows up, my friends.

Are you trying to heal in order to get something else?  

In the 20 years of my own healing journey, this is a question I didn’t ask myself until 10 years or so.

It came out of a deep and painful series of experiences where I thought I had “done the work” and “should get my reward”, or put another way: “I have done the healing, so where is the result I was promised?!”.

That was met by the question above:  “Are you trying to heal to get something?”

My body said yes, and my mind screamed, “NO!”

It was a profound moment of clarity and disillusionment.  

You see, I’d been promised that healing would create outcomes for me. It would bring in the love, the money, the prosperity I was seeking.

So, I “healed”.

Yet, I didn’t.

The transactionalism in my healing work never allowed me to connect with me. It never empowered me to know myself, much less care for myself.

Loud bursts of emotion, anger, and shame swamped me for a good while as I faced this reality within myself.  I was coming into accountability with myself, my intentions, and reality.

This was also the first deep step into real healing work for me. 

You see, real healing isn’t done to get one’s self from point A to point B.  

Real healing doesn’t have a destination or outcome assigned to it’s purpose.  There’s no agenda beyond loving whatever shows up.

Real healing is driven from a warmth and a love to know and care for one’s well-being, self, and pain.

Here’s an example to contrast Real Healing and Transactional Healing.

Situation:  A burst of shame floods me after making a mistake

Transaction Healing:  Wow! That shame is BACK?  I’m a real failure! I thought this should be gone!!  

Real Healing:  Hi. I love you.  You are welcome here, shame.  You are welcome in, mistake.  I am grateful you are here. I love you regardless of all the mistakes and successes you create.  I am here with you.

Real healing has no agenda or expectation of arriving or being any certain way.  It is only receptive, caring, and warm to whatever shows up.

This is where the healing that lasts emerges.  This is where the body and heart learn a new way of receiving their lived experiences.  This is where real, inward safety and peace are nurtured.  Not in the absence of challenge, pain, or pleasure – but in the response to it.  

If you’re stuck, frustrated, or feeling like a failure in your healing efforts, consider saying the following to yourself while making eye contact with yourself in a mirror:  I love you anyway.  I am here with you always.  You do not have to be anything or any such way anymore.  I love you anyway.

That is your first step into real healing.

In addition to being a regular contributor to the #1 Online Magazine For Codependency Recovery, Marshall Burtcher, Codependency Healing Expert, helps codependents, people-pleasers, and perfectionists stop fixing themselves and start loving themselves. Join Marshall for his next free live workshop, “The 8 Factors That Heal Codependency Permanently” by clicking here:

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