Anne Thomas meets Norbert Albrecht, a physiotherapist, psychotherapist and all round inspirational healer…
Being blind doesn’t mean you can’t have a vision. An obvious statement perhaps, but one confirmed when I got to know Norbert Albrecht.
Physiotherapist, psychotherapist, husband, father of two, grandfather of three, a friend to many and – I was to learn – an inspiration to his community, this gentle bear of a man was initially recommended for a problem I had.
I had slipped on the ice one nasty winter and dislocated my knee. It didn’t heal correctly and as I limped from one physiotherapist to the next I became increasingly disillusioned. Finally, an orthopaedist mentioned a man just down the road from me. “Go and see the blind healer! He’ll fix you for sure,” he said.
Shortly after, I was in Herr Albrecht’s small, simple treatment room in Sonnenallee, Neukölln, chatting away as if to an old friend. Something about the man, with his gentle face, natural habit of listening intently to what I was saying, and his impeccably white uniform inspired my trust.
As he massaged my leg and recommended exercises, he talked not only about joints and muscles – which he was obviously very knowledgeable about – but also about inner beauty and confidence. He joked a lot as he worked, and it rapidly transpired that his personal philosophy went well beyond simply physiotherapy; he wanted to show people their path, help them understand themselves…set them on the way to healing themselves.
Herr Albrecht, who was born in 1954, told me he had been diagnosed as completely blind in one eye from the age of six. Doctors said he had suffered a detached retina as a baby that had unfortunately not been identified. A few years later, he suffered the same problem in the other eye and ended up with only 10 percent vision.
He still attended a normal school in Berlin, though he admits it was hard. “I could never see what was on the blackboard,” he recalls “I always needed someone to copy off. Luckily, I always had good friends who helped me.”
It’s through one of these friends that he met his wife. They created a family and he was able to establish a successful physiotherapy practice in Neukölln. However, he was once again put to the test in the early 1990s; he had an accident while mowing the lawn and lost what remained of his sight. He embarked upon a painful soul-searching process to come to terms with his fate, discovering many techniques and therapies along the way.
“I see nothing, absolutely nothing, just blackness,” he told me while dextrously pouring me a cup of herbal tea when I returned for a chat. “I can’t distinguish between different shades of light. But the techniques I picked up did me a lot of good and I started finding a sense in my fate – to be blind but also to be able to help others master their fates. I am convinced this was not a coincidence. I am convinced I couldn’t have done what I’ve done without being blind.”
Herr Albrecht was especially impressed by autogenic training, a relaxation technique and system of self-hypnosis developed by the German psychiatrist Johannes Heinrich Schultz to influence the automatic nervous system. Later, he discovered family constellation therapy as he was trying to process his relationship with his father.
Over the years, it became increasingly clear to him that his patients’ physical problems often had psychological causes. He became a qualified practitioner of alternative psychotherapy in 2004, and now combines family constellation therapy with reiki and kinesiology techniques. He is convinced that we are not only material but psyche, too.
“Subconscious issues rapidly come to the fore,” he says. “Feelings of rejection, sadness, depression, guilty consciences, conflict, suppressed emotions. We are energy. The conflict can be pinpointed and re-experienced. Tears, anger, emotions can then leave the body so it can heal. People come to me three times generally and then they feel well enough to not have to come back. Not always, but mostly.”
He acknowledges that he is no miracle worker: “I cannot actively cure anyone. I can show people the way to cure themselves. We do very deep, intensive work but then the patient has to learn to come back to the here-and-now and say ‘I have courage!” He practices what he preaches too. He does meditation, relaxation and exercise to keep calm and to keep the mind alive for the body. Reiki, yoga and breathing exercises are also crucial elements of his own daily routine and when he has time he skis, cycles and dances.
His talent for helping people lies very much in his being able to create a bond of trust rather than any supernatural talent. He can give people a sense of worth. The fact that he is blind means that women feel less threatened by him as a man and feel comfortable talking about difficult issues such as domestic violence. Many of his patients’ issues are linked with German history, he says, keenly aware of the lasting impact the Nazi era and the Second World War has had on his fellow citizens.
“One woman came to me,” he relates. “She talked about sexual problems, gynaecological problems. We went back into her life and nothing had happened but then it came out that her grandmother had been raped by a Russian soldier. This had not been talked about at all in the family. It was suppressed and became a secret handed down from one generation to the next.
“Many problems are coming out now in the third generation – what German soldiers did there and what women here had to suffer when the Russians came. Now people are talking about these family secrets much more. I have to deal with this a lot in my work.”
Word has got around about the blind healer of Neukölln. He counts everyone as his patients; Turkish women wearing headscarves; their husbands and children; young German couples with private insurance new to the neighbourhood; old working-class Neuköllners who have always lived here.
In the end, he is an inspiration not only because of his services but also because he has never let his disability deter him. Indeed, he freely admits it has encouraged him to become the man he is today.
“It’s fun and rewarding to be able to work and show people that despite my being blind, I can be of use by accepting help. It shows that you can turn a cruel fate into a source of energy, into a force for good. I say thank you for being able to follow this path rather than damning God for making me blind.”
To find more info about Herr Albrecht’s practice, click here…
About The Author
Anne Thomas is half-French and half-American but grew up in England. She studied German and Russian and has a Phd in comparative literature. She now works as a freelance journalist and translator in Berlin. She is also the coordinator of Gunter Demnig’s Stolpersteine project outside of Germany.
About The Photographer
Lara Merrington is a freelance photographer and curator from Adelaide, South Australia with a Bachelor of Visual Arts (hons.) specializing in photography. Over the last few years she has exhibited in solo and group shows and photographed major Australian music festivals whilst also working in Gallery and Museum positions. After living the last year in South America completing a number of artists residencies, making photographs, curating exhibitions and fine-tuning an Argentinian slang to her Spanish; she finds her self in Berlin exploring a whole new world of art and culture. Apart from filling life with all things art and photography, writing and a passion for culinary culture nestle their way nicely into the spaces in-between You can see some of her ponderings and wanderings here at her blogs: Art Elsewhere and A Note To Follow So.