The greatest battle in our lives is to transform our trauma, pain and suffering into our strengths. Resiliency comes from vulnerability. And when we transform our pain into power, we can inspire and help others to heal and transform. This is the path of a wounded healer.
Who is a wounded healer?
The concept of the wounded healer was developed by psychiatrist Carl Jung and was inspired by ancient Greek mythology. The concept describes psychoanalysts who treat or ‘heal’ patients because they themselves are psychologically and emotionally wounded. Although the concept was initially developed for psychoanalysts, it can be effectively applied to anyone, in any profession, especially caregivers.
But what does wounded healer mean? Anyone who has experienced adverse life events or is traumatized but chooses to help, inspire or serve others is a wounded healer. However, some healers may still struggle with healing their own issues even if they help others overcome the same problems. They are passionate, and may even be obsessed, with helping others heal so that they can avoid healing themselves. In their unconscious mind, they believe that they can heal and feel loved & safe only if they can heal others. However, this barely heals the wounds of the healer.
Related: 9 Signs You Were Born To Heal
“Often people become healers through personal suffering. Each person, wounded or not, needs to understand his or her own need to be nurtured,” and practice self-awareness and self-care, explains a study. Sadly, wounded healers believe they have addressed the trauma and emotional pain and hence, avoid self-care.
One 2017 study explains that acknowledging and exploring our wounds can be beneficial. “In embracing our own woundedness, we can offer a deep presence that only comes from awareness that our wounds are what make us who we are and connect us to others,” it states. It is only by being present and mindful with ourselves can we identify our wounds and heal ourselves.
Wounded healer in psychology
The clearest wounded healer definition can be found in Carl Jung’s concept of the wounded healer. Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Carl Jung coined the term “wounded healer” in 1951. Inspired by the ancient Greek mythology of Chiron, Jung developed this fundamental archetype as he believed that deep emotional and spiritual wounds are perhaps the best way to train a healer.
“The wounded healer is an archetype that suggests that a healer’s own wounds can carry curative power for clients,” states a 2012 study. Jung believed that these healers use their own wounds to improve empathetic understanding and heal others. This means that the healers may be consciously self-aware of their personal wounds and have made some progress in recovering from their wounds.
However, their emotional wounds may get triggered at times, when they are interacting or dealing with others with similar experiences. As the healer becomes affected by the other person’s suffering, they unconsciously or consciously try to help the other person by sharing their awareness and helping them heal. When helping others, wounded healers do not act superior to the people they are healing, rather they see them as equals and walk with them through their struggles.
Jung’s construction of the wounded healer archetype was positive, as wounded healers have “great empathy and transformative power” and are motivated by their own suffering. “For Jung, ‘It is our own hurt that gives the measure of our power to heal’,” explains a 2021 study. The healers, who are typically insightful and intuitive, inspire others on their healing journey. However, some researchers believe that wounded healers may transfer their own unmet emotional needs onto the people they try to heal. Moreover, such healers are at increased risk of “vicarious trauma” and burnout.”
Wounded healer in mythology
In mythology, a wounded healer is someone who “has special healing powers by virtue of their experience of illness.” One study reveals that the notion of the wounded healer is rather old and not necessarily a new phenomenon. According to Greek mythology, healers are “inseparable from their own persistent wounds. The figures of Chiron and Asklepios (Esculapius) are especially prominent as Greek gods and healers who themselves are wounded,” explains the study.