The Term Wounded Healer Was First Used by Carl Jung
Our true nature can never be obscured. It can only be hidden by the clouds in the sky that shrouds sunlight from shining brightly on our inner world.
– Rita Louise, PhD
The term “Wounded Healer” refers to a person who has undergone intense pain and suffering and used these injuries to transform him or herself. They emerge from this profound transformation more in touch with their authentic inner nature with a greater awareness of themselves. These individuals become a source of wisdom and inspiration for others.
Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung coined this term. Jung was interested in how myths and symbolism seemingly permeate our thinking on conscious and unconscious levels. He suggested that within our collective unconscious there exist a series of archetypes, patterns of thoughts and images that are universally present in the human psyche and can be recognized by all. One of these archetypes is the Wounded Healer.
The Myth Of Chiron: The Wounded Healer
Jung links the Wounded Healer archetype to Greek mythology and the story of Chiron. The myth tells us that the nymph Philyra, in order to avoid being raped by the god Cronus, transformed herself into a horse. Cronus, discovering her deception, likewise changed himself into horse form and had relations with her. The result of this union was Chiron.
Chiron was a centaur. Centaurs possess the upper body of a man and the lower body of a horse. He, due to his divine parentage, he was immortal and could not die. Shamed by his appearance, Philyra abandoned him. Sources suggest the god Apollo, the god of inner illumination and healing, adopted Chiron and taught him the healing arts. He was later in his life, accidentally struck by a poisoned arrow from Heracles’ bow. Chiron did not die from this injury. Instead, he suffered excruciating pain for the rest of his life. It was because of his wounds that Chiron became known as a legendary healer in ancient Greece.
Like Philyra’s abandonment of Chiron, we have all experienced varying levels of pain and suffering in our lives. This trauma is most impactful when we are young. Someone close to us is often the perpetrator of this anguish. Many times, they were someone we trusted. Our wounds can exist deep within ourselves, buried beneath layers of a false self that developed as a survival mechanism to help shield us from the overwhelming agony we experienced. The false self helps us to cope with stressful experiences in an effort to better navigate life.
Our Inner Wounds
We may internalize that we have gotten over a situation. We may take an negative life experience and push it back or down and suppress it. We end up lying to ourselves with a false belief that we are ok and doing fine, but the reality is, internally, deep down within us, we are not. Instead, these life events end up controlling who we are and how we express ourselves in the world. They can leave us feeling resentful, bitter or victimized by our past. They keep us from being whole and congruent within our psyches and ourselves.
But, life happens and one day someone or something triggers one of our old wounds. We may feel as if life has gotten us yet again, setting us up for another cruel round of intense suffering. In response, some people become what are considered “lost souls“. A lost soul has had a tragedy, so devastating, that they have misplaced a piece of themselves, a piece of their soul. They will instinctively try to escape their pain by creating distractions and excuses to numb their inner turmoil. They may not be able to find a meaningful direction in life. Their existence is frequently filled with unhealthy choices. They will repeat the same mistakes, over and over again until the agony it creates becomes so intense that it becomes a catalyst for change.
The Emergence Of The Wounded Healer
This opens the door to the emergence of the Wounded Healer and the beginning of an inner journey of change and transformation. It can feel as if we are dying when we enter into this cycle of healing. It is the dark night of the soul. It is when we hit rock bottom or reach a crisis point in our lives that real lasting changes occur. In it, we willingly chose to go into the depths of our own inner hell where we are forced to face and re-experience our old wounds. It is through this process that the old self dies and a new self emerges. A more expansive and empowered self is born. We are never the same once we begin this journey.
This process provides us with the opportunity to feel the feelings (the original wound) that had been too distressful to deal with in our past. We may have been too afraid. The dynamic of the Wounded Healer allows us to finally comprehend what has happened to us and release the limiting belief systems we created as a coping mechanism. This newfound perspective allows us to create a fresh expanded paradigm to live by.
Living The Life Of A Wounded Healer
It takes a considerable amount of courage and inner strength to delve into the depths of the soul and be willing to explore our repressed trauma and pain. We have to be willing to face the terror of who we really are and be open to not knowing where this inner exploration will take us. It forces us to let go and stop trying to manage and control its outcome.
Individuals who follow the path of the Wounded Healer are recognizable by the scars they bare. These scars are not scars of defeat, but scars of victory. Each attests to a battle won and a victory achieved. They proudly let the world know, “I survived”.
Based on Dr. Rita’s book: The Dysfunctional Dance Of The Empath And Narcissist
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