Something For The Back Burner

I ran across this article and it really set me to thinking – I wish I had written it.  I need to read it several several times and let it simmer for a while until I can create a picture in my mind.   It comes from – a site about chronic illness and the articles are written by people in the group.

The Wounded Healer Within: How Chronic Pain Can Have a Transformative Effect

Arjan Bogaers

One of the archetypes belonging to modern time is that of the Wounded Healer. The concept of an archetype can very briefly be explained as being an original model serving as a prototype of human behavior on which all other similar persons, objects or concepts are patterned. The Wounded Healer archetype is represented by the ancient Greek myth of Chiron.

Born of his mother Philyra, who, in order to escape Zeus’ attentions turned herself into a mare, and his father, the God Zeus, Chiron is half man, half god, symbolized in his body as a Centaur. Upon seeing her newborn, Philyra is so appalled that she abandons her child. This is Chiron’s first wounding: rejection.

Later, he is accidentally shot with a poisoned arrow by his friend Hercules.  This

is Chiron’s second wounding: that of trust.

This poisoned wound is very painful and cannot heal, and as Chiron, being a half-god, is immortal, he cannot die and thus be free of his pain. In his suffering and his attempt to heal himself, Chiron searches in the world for a cure, and through this profound sojourn eventually becomes a compassionate and wise master healer for others.

In Chiron we encounter the very opposites that are present in us also – we are of this earth and subject to our biology and personality, but we are also immortal beings of soul and spirit. Healing lies in reconciling those opposites. But this can only happen if one is willing to consciously experience and go through one’s wound to receive its blessing and emerge on the other side.

In the case of disability, physical illness and/or mental illness, the condition often has its origin in early conflicts of rejection and trust, or in its course gives rise to feelings of the same. Rejection by or loss of trust in: parents, friends, safety, life, God, a future, a lover, justice, etc. If you can relate to this in any way, your healing lies in being and doing for yourself what others could not or would not be or do.

“Nobody escapes being wounded. We all are wounded people, whether physically, emotionally, mentally, or spiritually.” – Henry Nouwen

Our immediate experience is usually that our wound obstructs our wholeness, but it is in truth the very expression of it, for it introduces us to the part of us that is whole, well and free. That awakening enables us to see that we are not our

wound, we have it. The wound, therefore, simultaneously contains both the pathology and its own medicine. Of this, Carl G. Jung confessed:  “I would

wrestle with the dark angel until he dislocated my hip. For he is also the light and the blue sky which he withholds from me. It is our own hurt that gives the measure of our power to heal.”

The wound’s inherent medicine however, is present as a dormant potential. Acceptance of what is and being receptive to what emerges is a necessary practice in the healing process. Sometimes this requires a deeply challenging change of attitude, from one of “doing” to one of “being done to.” At times, the task can be to await transformation, not manufacture it.

This is particularly difficult in a world where everything that does not fit into the healthy, ambitious, performing and (re)producing “archetype” is viewed as being less than whole or a disorder of some kind, that “should not be” and therefore needs to be fixed. Many of the qualities necessary for the transformative healing of the wound, such as patience, surrender and endurance are not part of our quick-fix consumer society. To be clear, I would at all times promote healing and the alleviation of suffering, but a balance may have to be found between what we want and what needs to happen, in order for the wound’s inherent medicine to be emerge. The real transformative and healing effect is found when you allow yourself to be recreated by your wound by going through it.

In this process, as with Chiron, the physical or mental affliction may not be cured and hence remain, but not your attachment to it.

Every strength has its weakness, every potential has its danger. A profound wound is a theme around which your life will be organized until it is healed and you have received the gift of that wound. In this, the degree of hold your wound has over you is also the measure of its power to transform you. But that power is at the same time seductive, and therefore: the degree of hold your wound has over you is also the measure of its power to entrap you. When you over-identify with your woundedness, you can remain stuck in its associated victimhood of rejection and damaged trust, long after the necessary suffering has served its purpose. You are then in danger of blocking the wound’s medicine and with it your transformation.

It is a difficult and sometimes painful task for us to develop discernment between what our wound presents in terms of necessary suffering as a gateway to wisdom and compassion, and the subconscious development of what is sometimes referred to as woundology. When finding comfort in discomfort and when pain and disability have become a tool for finding attention and have made you establish a bonding ritual with others of like condition, you become entrapped because healing would threaten that status quo.

A wound finds us not to destroy our life and keep us from what we wish to become, but to destroy our illusions and push us into who we really are. We each have the ability to move beyond our issues, our problems and troubles, albeit not on our own. What is considered to be a prison can be the very gateway into freedom.

This is from an article on Google.

Paolo Raeli

1. When you give other people advice, it feels like you are telling your younger self what you needed to hear. It’s this dynamic that makes you love to help others. Healing them heals you.

2. Since you were little, you’ve known that you wanted to help people. You may not have known how you were going to do it, but you were aware that you wouldn’t be happy unless your life amounted to service in some capacity.

3. Being recognized for your work is both your most intense desire, and your worst fear. You want other people to see you as a healer or teacher or writer or whatever, but at the same time, your deepest, most conflicting fear is being seen in that way.

4. You believe that without struggle, you cannot truly know happiness. You believe that there is a purpose in suffering, and that it is so we can see with complete clarity what it means to be at peace.

5. It’s hard not to let your work become your life. You give everything you have to what you do – and sometimes it’s hard for you to know when to draw a line. Your work is your life, but you wouldn’t have it any other way.

6. You sometimes help too much, and struggle to let people self-heal. You’ve learned the hard way that often, you can tell people the answer, but until they figure it out themselves, it won’t truly resonate.

7. Criticism feels particularly painful to you. As someone who has been deprived of love in some way (that’s what all wounds are made of, FYI) sometimes criticism can sting more than it should (but you pull through).

8. You are grateful for the difficulties you went through. You recognize that the most painful times in your life were the most deeply transformative; without them, you would not be who you are or where you are. They were necessary (and transitory).

9. You are always working on yourself. You are committed to self-growth, and you are always open to ways you could be more open-minded, more loving, or more aware.

10. You want to fix everything, sometimes to a fault. It’s hard for you to see the difference between being a perfectionist and being driven toward the life you want. You often blur the line between dedication and near-insanity.

11. You have a very sound sense of purpose. You know why you’re here, and you know what you’re here to do, even if it’s just be present and be as kind as you can.

12. Your life goal is to know that you helped even just one person, even just a little. You don’t have to save the world, and in fact, you don’t really care to. All you want to know is that you helped at least one person in their life. That, to you, is success.


In our everyday lives reminders that striving for perfection should be our number one priority surround us. The media perpetuates the myth that emotional and physical flawlessness is something that everyone should work towards and we are made feel ashamed by anything that looks or feels imperfect or ugly.

We can spend a lot of time and energy resisting change or taking the next step into unknown territory on our personal journeys for fear of being hurt or wounded in the process. But it is these very wounds that can make us grow and stretch into the warriors we were meant to be.

It allows us then to create a map for others going through this struggle and gives us a point of reference in order to help people on their personal journey.

In Psychology

The psychologist Carl Jung, when talking about a particular relationship between client and therapist first popularized the phrase ‘The Wounded Healer’. He believed that to be ‘wounded’ in some way could actually be beneficial to the therapeutic relationship. For Jung, ‘a good half of every treatment that probes at all deeply consists in the doctor’s examining himself… it is his own hurt that gives a measure of his power to heal. This, and nothing else, is the meaning of the Greek myth of the wounded physician.’

The therapist however needs to make sure that he is fully aware of his own struggles as his own wounds may be activated in certain situations, especially if his client’s wounds are similar to his own. This is the nature of healing and why many people go on a journey of self-discovery before embarking on a healing path.

Shamanic Roots

‘The wounded healer’ is a significant archetype in shamanic traditions also. The Shaman itself embodies what it means to be a wounded healer. Shamans are thought to be “called” by dreams or signs, which require lengthy training.

There is a phenomenon often referred to as the shamanistic initiatory crisis. This is a rite of passage for shamans-to-be, and commonly involves physical illness and/or psychological crisis. The significant role of initiatory illnesses in the calling of a shaman can be found in the detailed case history of Chuonnasuan, the last master shaman among the Tungus peoples in Northeast China. (Specific details of Chuonnasuan and his initiatory illnesses can be found in Richard Noll and Kun Shi’s essay ‘The Last Shaman of the Oroquen of Northeast China’ which is available to read online).

The wounded healer is a kind of archetypal journey that is very important to the novitiate shaman. He/she undergoes a type of sickness that pushes her or him to the brink of death. In the shamanic traditions, this happens for two reasons.

Firstly, the shaman crosses over to the under world. This happens so the shaman can venture to its depths to bring back vital information for the tribe and in particular its sick members. Secondly, the shaman must become sick to understand sickness. When the shaman overcomes her or his own sickness, they will then hold the cure to heal all that suffer from this.

As a Personal Philosophy

But what is the significance of adopting this archetype for yourself? We can see our lives through a variety of lenses, and our perception of ourselves and how we fit in the world around us is what makes our reality real. In CBT for example we are taught to restructure how we think about things to get a more positive and measured outlook on our lives. There is also the idea of ‘post-traumatic growth’ which is explored in Maureen Gaffney’s book ‘Flourishing’. It refers to positive psychological change experienced as a result of the struggle with highly challenging life circumstances. These sets of circumstances represent significant challenges to the adaptive resources of the individual, and pose significant challenges to individuals’ way of understanding the world and their place in it.

Post-traumatic growth is not simply a return to baseline from a period of suffering; instead it is an experience of improvement that for some persons is deeply meaningful.

The Dutch theologian Henri Nouwen is also synonymous with the concept. Henri, in his book entitled ‘The Wounded Healer’ tells a story to illustrate the idea of this archetype.

A Rabbi who came across the prophet Elijah and said to him:

“Tell me—when will the Messiah come?”

Elijah replied, “Go and ask him yourself.”

“Where is he?” said the Rabbi.

“He’s sitting at the gates of the city,” said Elijah.

“But how will I know which one is he?”

“He is sitting among the poor, covered with wounds. The others unbind all their wounds at the same time and bind them up again, but he unbinds only one at a time and binds them up again, saying to himself, “Perhaps I shall be needed; if so, I must always be ready so as not to delay for a moment.”

Nouwen adds, “What I find impressive in this story are these two things: first, the faithful tending of one’s own woundedness and second, the willingness to move to the aid of other people and to make the fruits of our own woundedness available to others.”

What this story also might illustrate is the idea that to become ‘The wounded healer’ there is a level of sacrifice that may need to take place. In order to fully embrace becoming a healer you must give over a part of yourself to the people that need your help.

Nietzsche recognized the transformative potential of negative experiences, and while you may not go as far as he did, to wish suffering upon those closest to you, it can be a consoling thought that hurtful experiences could be the very things that lead us to a more enlightened view of the world and a stronger version of ourselves.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: