What is a Wounded Healer?
If you are someone who is sensitive or very intuitive (clairaudient, clairessant or clairvoyant)*, from a family history of emotional or physical abuse, find yourself in the middle of solving family quarrels, and suffer from first chakra illnesses like joint, bone, autoimmune, skin or blood disease, you may be a wounded healer.
*Clairessant: The ability to gain extra-sensory information through feeling. Clairaudent: The ability to hear sound and voices that are outside of the natural range of hearing. Clairvoyant: The ability to gain extra-sensory information through pictures.
In home environments where chaos is the norm, wounded healers are the psychic gatekeepers of the family. They are intuitive or very sensitive to things beyond the range of normal perception either as a result of being born this way or as an acquired survival skill.
Often considered by others to be different, scapegoats or the black sheep of the family, they are the intuitive conduits that keep a dysfunctional family together in an unconscious effort to meet their own survival needs. Their family of origin is the primary place where wounded healers learn how to communicate and trust other people and the first environment that teaches how safe the world is. Wounded healers raised in functional households may have survived horrible traumas such as war, rape or torture.
When a wounded healer survives their challenging past history they have an ability to thrive as a result of gaining greater awareness, understanding and empathy for the human condition as a result of their past trauma.
The Differences Between the Wounded Healer Archetype and the Healer Archetype
Why is a wounded healer different then a healer who may have also suffered from challenging past histories?
What distinguishes wounded healers from healers is their extra sensitive or intuitive psyches (highly developed right brain capabilities), experiences of intense and often long-term suffering in dysfunctional families, and a Dark Night of the Soul – which is the psychic equivalent of a near death experience.
Wounded healers who survive their challenging ordeals and the Dark Night can acquire healing skills for repairing the human spirit. Their special skills are a result of developing their intuition for survival – a skill that cannot be easily taught in a classroom. A wounded healer may or may not have training in mind or body healing but if they do, they can expand and illuminate their healing skills in both western healing modalities and alternative medicine. Wounded healers can also guide others and show them the way back from emotional underworlds of depression, dark thoughts and hopeless despair.
Healers serve others by repairing mind, body or spirit. They are gifted in their ability to help people transform physical or emotional pain into a healing process. Most western healers specialize in a specific healing modality although it is becoming more common to find healers trained in both western and alternative style healing modalities that help patients integrate and then apply a body-mind-spirit approach to health.
The Psyche’s Mortal Wound
Wounded healers often experience deep emotional and mental wounds in their early formative years of childhood and adolescence or through some kind of horrible trauma. This psyche wound can be mortal if it is not eventually healed and result in an early death. Sometimes the psyche’s wound manifests itself into a physical illness or injury where emotional and mental well-being is so deeply conflicted and unstable that a person’s thought patterns result in self-destructive behavior.
One of the unique characteristics of the psyche’s mortal wound is it can only be healed after the symbolic death of the egoic self. Another characteristic of this mortal wound is the wounded healer at some time realizes she has a conscious choice to heal the wound at any time in order to live. Even during what can become a long, slow decent into emotional underworlds of dark thoughts, depression and hopeless despair.
The most self-destructive and critical period in the life of a wounded healer is often referred to as the “Dark Night of the Soul”. Or it is referred to as “hitting bottom” by 12 step recovery programs. This period can last days, months or many years.
It is during the Dark Night that the wounded healer has reached a crisis of faith in themselves and others. This is when fragile belief structures collapse resulting in great internal conflict and confusion. This critical period is when every decision can result in tragic consequences. It is often during these times of deep suffering when relatives and friends of wounded healers feel helpless to stop the downward spiral of self-destruction and they constantly worry about their loved ones well being.
Some Shamans referred to people with mortal psychic wounds as lost souls. They understood that the human spirit was immortal and the only way to bring back the loss of vital power was to have lost souls send out their own guardian spirit or power animal to retrieve the lost soul. Navajo tribal elders knew that to bring the living dead back to life was to ritualize the process of having them call their spirit back into their body.
Western trained healers would understand the psyche’s mortal wound as an emotional and mental violation beyond what the human mind can cognitively comprehend. They would describe the symptoms as some kind of mental or psychological illness or disease. To treat the symptoms, they often prescribe antidepressants that can sometimes prolong the suffering and increase drug tolerance for even more mental and physical complications. The western healing approach may have good intentions but it often misses the third and most important component of a mind-body-spirit solution – spirit.
What western healers can realize is that successful treatment results in a psychic death not a physical death and what may be needed is a more integral approach of both western and alternative healing modalities that include mind, body and spirit. This is why 12 step recovery programs are often successful when other western healing solutions have failed.
The only way for wounded healers to become well is to retrieve the fragmented pieces of their mind, body and spirit. Of course, we never really loose our spirit or souls but to “call our spirits back” is an important and symbolic way to describe returning from the Dark Night – the emotional underworlds of lost souls and the living dead.
(Continued in Part 2.)