The wounded healer: revisiting the archetype

“When I stand before thee at the day’s end, thou shalt see my scars and know that I had my wounds and also my healing.” ~ Rabindranath Tagore

“The doctor is effective only when he himself is affected. Only the wounded physician heals.” ~ Carl Jung

This is the archetype that has made the most sense for me during these last years. It helps give meaning to what has otherwise been an exceedingly difficult task of healing from the iatrogenic injury incurred from the psychiatric drugs. Many of us who have been harmed in this way are doing this together. Nonetheless, it has become clear that all our journeys are distinct and unique.

woundedThe Wounded Healer is initiated into the art of healing through some form of personal hardship–anything from an actual physical injury or illness to the loss of all one’s earthly possessions. Regardless of the shape of the wound, the challenge inherent in this initiation process is that one is unable to turn to others for help beyond a certain degree of support. Only the initiate can ultimately heal the wound; if it is an illness or accident, it will frequently be one for which there is no conventional cure. The Wounded Healer archetype emerges in your psyche with the demand that you push yourself to a level of inner effort that becomes more a process of transformation than an attempt to heal an illness. If you have successfully completed the initiation, you inevitably experience an exceptional healing, and a path of service seems to be divinely provided shortly after the initiation is complete.

The shadow of both the Healer and Wounded Healer manifests through a desire to take advantage of those who need help, including claims that you can heal any and every illness a person has. — Carolyn Myss from A Gallery of Archetypes

Most important thing to learn to minimize the risks of the shadow is that everyone has their own path and we never know what is right for another human being. Someone with similar issues can still have a radically different way of finding well-being. There is no room for anything that resembles coercion in real healing.

We help and heal one another. My solace comes from those who know. In that way I come to trust myself.

hibThe healing of our present woundedness may lie in recognizing and reclaiming the capacity we have to heal each other, the enormous power in the simplest of human relationships: the strength of a touch, the blessing of forgiveness, the grace of someone else taking you just as you are and finding in you an unsuspected goodness. Everyone alive has suffered. It is the wisdom gained from our wounds and from our own experiences of suffering that makes us able to heal. Becoming expert has turned out to be less important than remembering and trusting the wholeness in myself and everyone else. Expertise cures, but wounded people can best be healed by other wounded people. Only other wounded people can understand what is needed, for the healing of suffering is compassion, not expertise. — Rachel Naomi Remen, M.D.

More on healing and archetypes:

See also: Information and inspiration for the chronically ill

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Author/Editor Beyond Meds: Everything Matters