Blog # 25: Wounded Healers

One of my favorite figures from Greek mythology is Chiron, a centaur who had the ability to heal others. The paradox is that Chiron was himself severely wounded, having been shot by an arrow from Hercules. The price for his ability to heal others was to have to live with his own painful wounds. Thus, Chiron became the model of the “wounded healer”, someone who is able to heal other people while having to deal with their own flaws and weaknesses.

I have never yet met a true spiritual leader worth anything who was not personally wounded themselves. The very idea of a spiritual leader who projects the image of someone who has it “all together” is a sign of a wolf in sheep’s clothing. The only one who has true spiritual credibility is someone who has been humbled by life.

The wound suffered by the healer is always the same. It involves the breakdown of the false sense of the supremacy of the ego. It involves, in one form or another, the submission of the ego to ones True Self.

Along with this breakdown comes an inevitable dose of humility. True spiritual leaders or teachers have no image to defend, no aura to maintain, no secrets to hide. They are aware of how limited they are and how unfathomable is the mercy of God. There are no judgments to be passed, no cliches to be mouthed, no unsolicited advice to be given. The wounded healer wants only to share and to help, if help is asked for.

The woundedness never stops. That is what a Chironian wound is all about. But wounded healers can avoid being disabled as long as they find a way to tell their story. Their story always includes, in some way, how they have been cut down to size by life. If such individuals ever stop telling their stories and exposing their wounds, they would probably lose their minds and perhaps their souls as well.

Those who have a Chironian wound have no choice but to deal with their inner lives on an ongoing basis. Once Pandora’s box has been opened, it can never be shut, unless one wants to pretend, as before, that they have all the answers.

Religions have all been started by those who did battle with the forces within. Jacob wrestled with the angel, the Buddha contemplated suicide, Mohammed suffered rejection, and Jesus sweat blood and did battle with Satan. In a similar way, those who wish to follow in their footsteps must go through the same process.

Not everyone suffers from a Chironian wound. Some succeed remarkably well in maintaining the illusion of the supremacy of the ego. But such individuals will never be able to give spiritual leadership to anyone. They may be smart people, religious people, but they are only talking about things that they have never experienced themselves. To find credible spiritual leadership, go to the wounded healers.


Next posting: The Fool


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6 responses to “Blog # 25: Wounded Healers

  1. Rev. Julie Conaron.

    A beautiful description of why we are able to help others in areas in which we have suffered. Many of us who work in hospice have lost someone dear to us from this world, so we help others who are suffering that way. It seems as if that’s the way the Divine heals us all?


  2. So beautifully written. Would you say The Wounded Healer is related to the question “Why do bad things happen to good people”? Now I must buy Henri Nouwen’s book which I have not yet read. Thank you for your post.


  3. To Julie… a paradox here: the story of Chiron goes on to say that if our wound heals over, we lose the ability to heal others. In addition, our wounds keep us humble!
    To Usha… Not exactly. It is not about being “bad” or about having unfortunate things happen to us; it is about being aware of our human frailty. That helps us be aware that we all need healing; that is a blessing that will keep us humble!


  4. To everyone: each blog from number one is available. It would be good to read them from blog #one. But that is up to you. Trust the Spirit within you!


  5. Ooh, I am so sharing this one with our healers’ group. A great launch-pad for thinking more about the wounded healer archetype, but my feeling the healer is not necessarily a leader, but may just be a common, or garden, healer.


    • Correct. The “wounded healer” may not be in a position of prominence at all. This archetype represents anyone who “pays a price” to be of service to others.


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