Being a Wounded Healer


“the wounded healer refers psychologically to the capacity “to be at home in the darkness of suffering and to find germs of light and recovery with which,… to bring forth…the sunlike healer.” The archetype of the wounded healer reveals to us that it is only by being willing to face, consciously experience, and go through our wound do we receive its blessing. To go through our wound is to embrace, assent, and say “yes” to the mysteriously painful new place in ourselves where the wound is leading us.”

Many helping professionals are drawn to the field of helping others as a way of giving back what they were given in their own healing process. I know for me, one of the germs of light in the deepest places of suffering for me in my eating disorder 15 years ago was the possibility that this suffering would have meaning for others: that travelling through this wound would allow me to develop the capacity to be present with others traveling through it. I had the same experience in early motherhood. Imagining that I was with someone else who was suffering with mastitis, sleep deprivation, and letting go of their old identity of Super-Accomplished-FastMoving-Independent-Professional-Woman helped bring “germs of light:” kindness, curiosity, willingness to travel through and be transformed by the suffering that tempers one in the initiatory experience.

“Going through our wound, we can allow ourselves to be re-created by the wound. Our wound is not a static entity, but rather a continually unfolding dynamic process that manifests, reveals and incarnates itself through us, which is to say that our wound is teaching us something about ourselves…Going through our wound means realizing we will never again be the same when we get to the other side of this initiatory process. Going through our wound is a genuine death experience, as our old self “dies” in the process, while a new, more expansive and empowered part of ourselves is potentially born.”

This is “going through” experience is why many patients wrestling with eating disorders ask their therapists “Are YOU in recovery/recovered?” The real questions being “Have you BEEN there in this suffering?, have you been humbled by it, have you been transformed by it, have you done the work required to get your whole self back?, and, most importantly, is there hope to grow into a different person?

To quote Kerenyi, a colleague of Jung who elucidated this archetype,

“Going through and embracing our wound as a part of ourselves is radically different than circumnavigating and going around (avoiding), or getting stuck in and endlessly, obsessively recreating (being taken over by) our wound. The event of our wounding is simultaneously catalyzing a deeper (potential) healing process which requires our active engagement, thus “wedding” us to a deeper level of our being. Jung’s closest colleague, Marie Louise Von Franz, said “the wounded healer IS the archetype of the Self [our wholeness, the God within] and is at the bottom of all genuine healing procedures.”

Well said. And note that, just like recovery, being a wounded healer is a process, not an event. And so I invite you, if this speaks to you, to resource yourself, replenish, re-connect with your own inner healer.

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