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The Wounded Healer

Jung pointed out “the mythological truth that the wounded wounder is the agent of healing, and the sufferer takes away suffering.” (1) Chiron represents ‘the one who is wounded,’ the one who wounds self and others, ‘the wounder’, and ‘the one who suffers’ because of the wounding. (2)

Asclepios is often called the Father of Medicine. Some say that he was rescued from his mother’s funeral pyre and raised by the centaur Chiron, who taught him the art of healing. (3) The myth refers psychologically to the capacity “to be at home in the darkness of suffering and there to find germs of light and recovery with which, as though by enchantment, to bring forth Asclepios, the sunlike healer” (4)   

Looking back upon wounding encounters, we might see that it brought us inner growth and a deepening of compassion. The birth of healing power from the ‘original wound’ that we must address in the therapeutic relationship, belongs to the archetype of the wounded healer. An archetypal image can manifest in human psychology consciously or unconsciously, or often, as a mixture of the two, entangled with our wound and presenting us with a problematic situation which we must address consciously, both as therapist and as patient. The therapist as the healer has his/her own wound which may be drawn in if it provides ‘hooks’ for the patient’s projections. By each working separately on the problem, the archetype is constelated within the therapeutic space, bringing movement along the path. (5)

The wound holds a key: it plays an important role in the process of individuation as that which is the source of one’s inner suffering as well as the bringer of healing and transformation, not only to oneself, but also to others, a gift in service of Life.

Von Franz says: “In seeking for the meaning of your suffering, you seek for the meaning of your life. You are seeking for the greater pattern of your own life, which indicate why the wounded healer is the archetype of the Self – one of its most widespread features – and at the bottom of all healing procedures.” (6)

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons, Chiron

References:

  1. CG Jung, Four Archetypes p. 136
  2. M Reinhart, Chiron and the Healing Journey p. 81.
  3. ARAS Concordance (wounded healer/NIGREDO): E. Edinger, quoting Kerenyi, Anatomy of the Psyche par 0.
  4. ARAS Concordance (wounded healer/SHRINES-AND-ORACLES-OF ANCIENT-GREECE): E. Edinger, Eternal Drama par 0.
  5. ARAS Concordance (wounded healer/TRANSFERENCE-COUNTERTRANSFERENCE): E. Edinger, Mysterium Lectures p. 317
  6. ML von Franz, Puer Aeturnus p. 114