Have you ever read a book that changed your life? Some 30 years ago I came upon a book titled The Wounded Healer by Henri Nouwen. It’s impact on me continues to this day.
The image of the Wounded Healer has been with us for centuries. It embodies the notion that we are all wounded mentally, emotionally, or spiritually but that these wounds can become a source of healing for others. To become a Wounded Healer, however, requires the very crucial, very difficult step of facing and embracing our own wounds.
When I first read that book, I was in the grips of addiction. I knew where I was wounded. Some 2 months after I read The Wounded Healer I sought help. It was time to face my own woundedness. Henri Nouwen’s book coming into my life is one of a handful of strong experiences that allow me to say that grace is real.
Since then, I have come to see that many of the men and women I consider to be spiritual mentors were and are in fact wounded healers. Bill W. faced his own addiction and founded Alcoholics Anonymous. Viktor Frankl confronted his experiences in the Nazi death camps and gave us logotherapy. Thomas Merton’s sense of emptyness led him to a monastery. Even Henri Nouwen was wounded, struggling throughout his life with making peace with being gay.
One doesn’t have to be a professional therapist to be a wounded healer. But one does have to have the courage and humility to admit to pain and to brokenness and to understand that the learnings found amidst wounds may not apply to everyone but do constitute what AA refers to as “experience, strength, and hope.”
I encourage you to face and embrace your own wounds. Therein you may find seeds of wisdom.
Reflection: 1. In what ways are you wounded? Do these wounds allow you to reach out to others in any way?
2. Are there any Wounded Healers that have helped and inspired you?
Further reading: Henri Nouwen The Wounded Healer
Viktor Frankl Man’s Search for Meaning
Thomas Merton The Seven Story Mountain
There are a few areas that I’ve perceived as wounded areas. There is one in particular that I feel acceptance of it has brought me immense healing and peace. I’ve always struggled with the relationship with my mother, a significant person in my life. When I embraced the reality of this situation and I released myself from the bondage of feeling unique and broken to the point of no remedy, because of the lack of it, I felt an immense sense of healing pour over me. Today I feel a sense of self that is beautiful, whole, and complete. I don’t need anything else because I am enough. I believe anyone can have an incredible life even if they don’t fit in to the idea, or ideas that someone else has placed in their mind content. The truth is that some of us just don’t get to experience all types of relationships and it is okay. Maybe our purpose is to help others move from their shadow side to the light, just as we have. Many wounded healers have come into my path both, professional and not. They are truly the individuals that have embraced their own wounds and pain. In doing so, they’ve taught me that I am not as uniquely broken as I once believed. I am filled with gratitude for wounded healers!
Yes, well I must admit that the light is as real as the darkness. I have been blessed to have a few
wounded healers in my life, including Richard Patterson! Those of us who have experienced
redemption are less likely to condem others. Recently a few boys at a prestigious high school where I
live were under the influence of alcohol. They were immediately expelled though they were good
students and had not been in trouble before. Having fallen myself and having been raised up by what
Dr. Patterson calls grace, I would have not expelled the boys but let them grow from it instead.