Wounded healer

“Since the hurt we feel may be a part of the experiences that have touched us most deeply, we are often loathe to let it go. It is frequently easier to keep our pain at our sides, where it acts as a shield that shelters us from others and gives us an identity—that of victim—from which we can draw bitter strength.” ~DailyOM

The quote above comes from a fantastic post from DailyOM called Healing with Hurt. The focus of this post (which is worth reading for its own sake) is on the idea that we can use the pain that we have experienced in our own lives to become better healers because we know what pain is like. This is the archetype of the wounded healer, one I have identified with for years.

The part that hit me upside the head like a metaphorical 2×4 was the assertion that it is through the setting aside of the view of ourselves as a victim that enables us to heal others. In other words, it is letting go of what has hurt me that can make it useful.


I have so often tried to do just the opposite. I cling to the things that have hurt me because the fact that they are the things that have touched me most deeply, they are the things that seem to define me. My wounds, my resulting scars, and both the strength and weaknesses revealed by them tend to take center stage in my view of myself. It is those things that I have always thought made me a healing presence to others.

And yet, upon reading this, I realized that I have been wrong. It is not the clinging to the wounds or their effects that make me effective as a wounded healer; it is my ability to grow beyond them and let them go that brings healing to others. It is my showing through my own example that it is possible to be hurt deeply and to still thrive and grow without that wound defining who I am that will inspire others to do likewise. As long as I am still clinging to my pain, I may be able to bring the comfort of companionship in pain to another who is hurting, but I will never inspire them to grow toward healing.

This is one of those moments that has shaken my view of the world—and of myself—more than I care to admit. I am embarrassed to realize just how fully I have been holding onto the view of myself as victim, using that as definition, protection from others, and as a source of “bitter strength.” I don’t think I want to do that anymore.

I think this is one of those things I’d like to leave behind with the chrysalis as I take flight as a butterfly. I want to be defined by more than my pain. I want to find a source of true strength that is nourishing and not bitter. I want to stop using old wounds as a way to hold others at a distance.

I think it’s time to let go. It’s time to really heal—for myself first and then hopefully as a benefit to others as a wounded healer.

A Note on Comments: A chrysalis is by nature a fragile and vulnerable place to be, so I am committed to keeping this a safe place for me and for my readers. Comments sharing your own journey, even if your experience is different from mine, are always welcome and encouraged. Expressions of support or encouragement are also welcome. Comments that criticize, disparage, correct, or in any way attempt to undermine the validity of another person’s experience or personal insight are not welcome here and will be deleted.

4 thoughts on “Wounded healer

  1. Hello
    I’ve been fascinated by the Wounded Healer archetype for several years now, believing that there is a social significance here, for healing the world. I have put all my thoughts together into a book, Healing this Wounded Earth, (with compassion, spirit and the power of hope), that I think perhaps you may be interested in? Details at http://www.eleanorstoneham.com
    Best regards Eleanor

  2. Wow. Thanks for this. Your post gave me the courage to write something this morning (about playing tennis with my husband who has Parkinson’s Disease.) It is so true that we must transcend our identity as victims to become more whole. I felt this way, too, after 9/11. I did not want people to think of New Yorkers as victims but as people who are strong and creative.

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