The Wounded Healer
When I graduated from medical school, my wife Angela crafted for me an embroidered picture with the following words on it. “Treat each of your patients as a loved one. Feel his pain his loneliness his fear. You will suspect everything and miss nothing. Like it or not, you will be loved as you love.”
In Greek mythology, Chiron was the wisest of the Centaurs. While in battle, he was wounded by an arrow that had been dipped in Hydra’s blood. He became very ill. The resultant lifelong anguish set him on a journey of discovery in search of his own cure. Along the way, he discovered how to heal others. He found that by teaching others the art of healing, he himself found a haven of healing for himself.
Chiron, the archetypal Wounded Healer came to understand what his patients were experiencing because he himself had felt the same pain.
I used to think that I shouldn’t get emotionally involved with my patients. My mother had even suggested that I shouldn’t become a doctor because I wouldn’t be able to handle losing a patient. But I learned that although objectivating the experience makes one perhaps more efficient, it also removes the humanity from the service to others. Carl Jung explains it this way, “The doctor is effective only when he himself is affected. Only the wounded physician heals.”
It is through surviving the personal pain and turmoil of challenging sufferings that one can acquire great wisdom and healing skills. These tools cannot be learned from reading a book. It is only by living life that these special skills can be learned; only from experiencing the pain yourself can you learn how to heal yourself, first and then by truly relating to the pain of others, help them along their path of healing. It is only through your own brokenness that you can help others repair their fractured human spirit.
Each of us will face trials in our lives involving disease, pain, heartache, abandonment or emotional trauma. It is through dealing with the pain that we learn compassion, the key to the healing process.
As the Buddha once said, “Our sorrows and wounds are healed only when we touch them with compassion.”
Enduring such pain can teach each of us how to be Wounded Healer. We must first care for our own wounds; only then we can help with the wounds of another.
For many years, I practiced within mainstream medicine, helping to “cure” my patients of various diseases. I have since learned that there is a huge difference between curing someone and participating in their healing.
Curing involves the practice of medicine and utilizing the mind and knowledge gained from science. Healing on the other hand emanates from the heart of a wounded healer connected to the heart of another. It is in that flow of energy that true healing becomes manifest.
The Wounded Healer feels empathy not just sympathy for his patient. They become connected on a spiritual plane helping each other heal thus transforming both.
As Rabindranath Tagore once said, “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.”