Elizabeth Bear started me thinking about this with a post that is both fabulous and true for a given value of truth and a given value of broken. It's about reading and writing and cultural expectations and the idea of epiphantic healing and I wanted to like it much more than I did, since it clearly touched a lot of people. But something about it didn't work for me at a very deep level, and my subconscious has been picking at what that something is until this came out.
In the dungeon nothing is wild and free
Sometimes a myth is all that keeps you alive, a myth in the shape of a story or book. You can't leave the dungeon. If you could, it wouldn't be a dungeon. But stories are day passes that let you out for a time, myths that let you believe for a little while that there's another kind of place, one where happily ever after really happens and that a moment of magic or insight can make the pain stop. When you're in the dungeon you don't need someone to tell you that those moments aren't true, that pain doesn't just go away, or that the magic moment is never going to happen. You know that.
What you need is very different from what you know. What you need is that day pass, that myth that allows you to believe that somewhere the reality of the dungeon is the myth, and the idea that it can all be made better is the truth. It's the myth that keeps you sane, the myth that allows you to keep breathing every day, to hang on a little bit longer.
How you got into the dungeon isn't as important as the dungeon itself, but I'm a storyteller, so I'll tell you a little bit about one kind of dungeon.
It's the dungeon of being a child who doesn't have the power physically or legally to walk away from the situation that causes the pain. The pain doesn't even have to be something that everyone would agree is awful, though often it is. All it has to be is unbearable and inescapable by normal means. When you're in the dungeon, instant healing is not a "lie" it's a "myth" and a reason to keep on keeping on. And in this particular dungeon sometimes you do get out, sometimes you grow up and you get the keys to the dungeon and you walk out into the light. And while the healing won't actually be instantaneous or magical, that moment that you realize you're out is, that epiphantic moment.
Sometimes a lie is a myth. Sometime a lie keeps you alive long enough for myth to become truth. Again, for a given value of truth and a given value of broken. So, if people want to keep writing myths where breakage can get better in a moment, there's an audience out there who really needs them.
Clearly Bear's answer is right for her and for a lot of her readers. I just had to write this because some people need a different truth.