On Becoming a Wounded Healer

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