The Wounded Healer
"Thy eternal providence has appointed me to watch over the life and death of thy creatures. May the love for my art actuate me at all times; may neither avarice nor miserliness, nor the thirst for glory or for great reputation engage my mind... May I never forget that the patient is a fellow creature in pain ... I have been sanctioned to care for the life and health of mankind."
Maimominides, court physician to Saladin in the eleven hundreds.
The key factor about the primal wounded healer archetype is that the wound turns the shaman inward. It is often a "wound" or crisis, physical or psychological that is required to force a medicine man or woman on a journey of transformation, or a "hero's journey." Whereas many shamans become healers because of this archetypal wound, most physicians are attracted to medicine for other reasons such as, altruism, power, prestige, financial considerations, security etc. Any wound in the physician is usually the result of the training process rather than the reason he or she embarks on the career. It is secondary rather than primary.
When it comes to indigenous healing it is frequently a physical disability, a severe illness, an accident, a psychotic break or similar health catastrophe that turns the future shaman’s focus inward, enabling him to heal him or herself. This leads later to an ability to go “in,” in order to heal others as well. The medicine man or shaman having “been there,” is much more likely to be empathetic and become directly involved with the feelings and emotions of the patient. Medical students are taught at all times to remain objective and detached from their patient’s suffering.
In the case of the wounded shamanic healer, the wound creates inner growth, and self-awareness, and endows the healer with a greater appreciation of the suffering of others.
Healers who are unconscious of their own wounds or cannot deal with them are more likely to ignore the potential of a balanced healing relationship. The healer who recognizes the inner healer within is able to see both the wounded and healthy part of the patient, just as he can see the wounded part of himself. This help is always given in humility knowing there is a mysterious force at work with which we need to align. For millennia healers have paid homage to this inner healer. In the current era where the seduction of technology is so compelling, we need to remember who actually is doing the healing. Shamans realize that they do not fully understand the mysteries of healing and work within this framework. They pay attention to psychic forces and uses intuition as well as intellect, compassion as well as their shamanic skills. They recognize that each patient is different, and may require a different psychological approach to trigger his or her specific inner healer. It is just as crucial to understand which patient has the disease as it is to know which disease the patient has.