The Wounded Healer

Many healer share a common background, that of the wounded healer, where at some point we may have experienced in one form or another, injustice, suffering or abuse. From the pain that this has opened up, we may find that we can relate to another’s suffering and their feelings of helplessness or isolation and this can promote in us a strong desire or drive to heal others. Having shared similar feelings or experiences, it makes for a connection which can promote understanding and compassion. However, it may help us to serve ourselves by addressing the possibility of imbalances which can occur within relationships where we may feel the desire, or even a need, to heal others.

  • Do we like to be needed? is the first question that we can ask ourselves.
  • Do we feel a thrill, perhaps even a sense of power, when we think that we can be of help to another?
  • Do we think we know best what would help another, without taking their feelings into account?
  • What issues do we have that still require our attention, what do we have difficulty addressing?

However difficult it may be, it may help us as healers to address, or to just be aware of the possibility that by wanting to heal others, we could ultimately still be running from our own unhealed wounds. This is not to negate the stance where it is believed that through helping others, we can also heal ourselves, as this can undoubtedly be cathartic and rewarding. However, to see another in distress can remind us, all too easily, of our own pain that is yet to be fully resolved.

Rather than confront our own pain, by looking within, it is sometimes easier for us to want to save the world instead, but as Gandhi said ‘We must be the change that we want to see in the world’, so the responsibility for changing lies within ourselves. We may want to live in a peaceful world, but how can we demonstrate peace ‘fully’, if we ourselves lack inner peace? Being in the presence of someone who is at peace with themselves and others can be a healing experience in itself, without the need for the laying on of hands.

To be aware of and to know of our own motivations for wanting to heal others gives us a firmer foothold along what can sometimes be a rather rugged path. If this is an area where we are still clouded with pain ourselves there can be underlying influences of not so self-less motives. Hidden motivations can cause us to place conditions upon another, whether we are aware of those or not. We may still have subconscious expectations which can have a knock-on effect on those that are vulnerable which can lead us into territory which is unethical and cause more damage to another than good.

An inability to address our own inner pain with courage, clarity and compassion is contradictory of the path that we walk, in the sense that we may not be walking in the path of the truth that we believe. ‘Do as I say, not as I do’ sends out mixed messages, that we lack authenticity and genuineness and on some level that conflict will be perceived by another as insincerity. We may not be able to side-step this truth forever, it can confront us head-on as obstacles occurring on our path, in an attempt to help us to recognise that we may not be practising what we preach.

Admission of our own vulnerabilities and our imperfections, and practising trust of others by sharing these qualities in safe, appropriate circumstances can ultimately build up our own trust in our Self and our sense of self-worth. It’s ok to be less than perfect; it’s grounding to be less than perfect. The admission of such can open up honest communication, trust and understanding and ultimately promote liberation in others too. It’s so much easier once one has taken the steps to admit their vulnerabilities, for another to voice their own and this sharing can be healing in itself if this is the approach that you choose to use.

The Karpman Triangle

A drama that we can become entangled in is the ‘Rescuer, Victim, Persecutor Triangle’ (Karpman Triangle). This is where someone (the rescuer) perceives that another (the victim) cannot cope and rushes to assist, or ‘help’ them, rather than taking a step back and giving the other space to take the steps themselves to find their own solutions and by this ‘to grow’. This can be difficult to weigh up sometimes, and often we may rush to help, believing it to be the right thing to do. However, as illustrated by the Karpman triangle, it is often the case that when we have done the rescuing, the person may have a realisation that they could have done this themselves. They may feel ‘cheated’ of the experience, they may feel patronised and their own healing may not occur, there can be any number of reasons which result in them feeling anger towards the rescuer. The victim that once was then becomes the persecutor and the rescuer that once was, as a result of the persecutors anger, then becomes the victim. The persecutor may then feel ‘guilty’ for their anger and seek to comfort the victim, by saying ‘it’s alright etc’, thus rescuing the victim from their own anger – and thus it goes round.

In discovering more about ourselves and interactions with others, you may find it useful to google ‘co-dependent relationships’ and ‘psychological transference’. These factors can be entwined in our day to day relationships which when we are aware of them, can help us to de-tangle ourselves, detach from drama and raise our self-awareness. Co-dependency can cause us to be overly concerned about the struggle of others or depending on another outside of ourselves to make us feel good, which can provide a sense of well-being, so perceiving that we ‘need’ someone to make us happy. It can occur when our behaviour is determined by someone else, for example if we restrain our behaviour because we fear rejection or disapproval from another. Transference is characterized by unconscious redirection of feelings from one person to another. Anticipating that just because someone in the past used to shout and get angry at us for doing something, we may presume (transfer onto someone else) that another will also shout and get angry under the same circumstances, when in reality they may not, they are a different person to the person from the past.

Other indicators of transference are when we put someone on a pedestal, literally hanging onto their every word, repeating what they have said parrot fashion to others ‘such and such said this or that’ and treating their word as gospel. We may presume that another is perfect, that they are an authority on life, and take everything that they say very seriously and literally, rather than tuning into ourselves first, to discern whether what they are saying actually feels right and true for us, and thus ‘owning’ it as our own experience.

Limitations

It is also good to be aware of our limitations as a practitioner, by being aware of when we are not able to handle a situation due to lack of experience or without bringing our own issues into it. It may be that it is learning curve for us and we can handle the situation, but we may need to seek a little extra support from someone who is more experienced in doing so. We may decide to refer a friend or client to another healer/therapist who is better equipped and has had sufficient experience at dealing with that particular issue. We are thus protecting the person from potential damage.

Like a paramedic who has to stay calm and detached in a crisis situation in order to do their job more effectively, as healers, clients may experience healing crisis’. To be able to ‘hold’ a person and allow them to express their own pain – or joy – without us interfering with that process by attempting to intervene, justify or reason with it, can work wonders. Walking beside a person on their journey, rather than directing them can be very empowering for another. If someone is in the process of releasing something (crying for example), be aware that moving to hug them affects and changes the energy and it may well interfere with the process of letting something go and getting it out. By not moving to another to comfort them, we may allow another to stay with their pain and allow it to dissolve and get it out, rather than detracting from it by feeling that they have to reassure us that they are ok! (think about it) This can highlight how at ease we are with another’s pain and our own when we are able to just sit and listen to another express themselves fully. It can also be empowering to another in the sense that we trust that they will ok, without telling them what they ‘should’ or ‘ought’ to do.

If we find ourselves feeling defensive at any time, it may be indicating a need for our security issues to be addressed, thus we cannot say that we have true clarity as a healer or an empath. We cannot be entirely self-less or unconditional, because our own motivations are still driving this reaction within us. By looking at the sort of situations where we become defensive, the type of people that trigger this defensiveness within us, we can then become more aware of when we are re-acting our own past and not able to stay truly centered in the present. What triggers do we have?

When we are able to remain fully centered within ourselves, we can then go in to another’s experience empathically and understand what may be another’s pain. When we’ve dealt sufficiently with our own issues, we can then truly start to listen to others, without the interruptions from our own issues, which may present themselves to us as ‘ifs’ or ‘buts’. As part of the process of learning about and getting to know ourselves, we may find ourselves comparing and making judgments such as ‘well I wouldn’t do that, that’s awful’. Perhaps we do have to separate ourselves, initially, ‘to see’ ourselves for what we really are, before we can move on from our judgments.

We may be able to achieve temporary placing of our selves within the present moment, ‘being in the moment’, from time to time. Recognizing what our dramas are and how they can play out allows us to detach when a similar drama to our own is being played out in another, we can thus be mindful not to embroiled within it once again.

‘Struggle is nature’s way of making us stronger’. When we realise that we ourselves have grown through adversity, struggles and difficulties, and wouldn’t change a thing because we truly have grown as a person as a result of this, we are often more able to ‘hold the space’ for an individual. We can do this by calmly acknowledging their discomfort or pain without ‘moving to fix or fade’ their experience. In essence, this would seem to do us out of the role ofhealer’, but paradoxically it is perhaps where the most powerful healing of all does occur, allowing the individual the space, to heal themselves. We become facilitators for such healing to take place and as always it is a matter of finding that balance within ourselves, knowing ‘when to’ intervene and ‘when not to’. It is probable that even with this awareness we will continue for a while to make our own mistakes on this journey of learning. Conscious awareness is often a result unfortunately, but perhaps realistically, of that and error. By taking responsibility for mistakes and learning from them and with the self-awareness of knowing our own limitations we can but pray that our actions are always for the highest good.