Wounded healer is a term created by psychologist Carl Jung. The idea states that an analyst is compelled to treat patients because the analyst himself is “wounded.” The idea may have Greek mythology origins. Research has shown that 73.9% of counselors and psychotherapists have experienced one or more wounding experiences leading to their career choice.
In Greek mythology, the centaur Chiron was a “Wounded Healer”, after being poisoned with an incurable wound by one of Hercules‘s arrows. Jung mentioned the Chiron myth “wounding by one’s own arrow means, first of all, the state of introversion”;
For Jung, “a good half of every treatment that probes at all deeply consists in the doctor’s examining himself… it is his own hurt that gives a measure of his power to heal. This, and nothing else, is the meaning of the Greek myth of the wounded physician.”
Jung felt that depth psychology can be potentially dangerous, because the analyst is vulnerable to being infected by his analysand’s wounds by having his own wounds reopened. To avoid this, the analyst must have an ongoing relationship with the unconscious, otherwise he or she could identify with the “healer archetype”, and create an inflated ego.
Withdrawal of both projections may however ultimately activate the powers of the inner healer in the patients themselves.
Chiron, Peleus and infant Achilles
Chiron was notable throughout Greek mythology for his youth-nurturing nature. His personal skills tend to match those of his foster father Apollo, who taught the young centaur the art of medicine, herbs, music, archery, hunting, gymnastics and prophecy, and made him rise above his beastly nature. Chiron was known for his knowledge and skill with medicine, and thus was credited with the discovery of botany and pharmacy, the science of herbs and medicine.
Like satyrs, centaurs were notorious for being wild, lusty, overly indulgent drinkers and carousers, violent when intoxicated, and generally uncultured delinquents. Chiron, by contrast, was intelligent, civilized and kind, because he was not related directly to the other centaurs due to his parentage. He was the son of the Titan Cronus and the Oceanid Philyra, and thus possible brother to Dolops and Aphrus, the ancestor and eponym of the Aphroi, i.e. the native Africans. Chiron lived predominantly on Mount Pelion; there he married the nymph Chariclo who bore him three daughters, Hippe (also known as Melanippe meaning the “black mare” or Euippe, “good mare”), Endeïs, and Ocyrhoe, and one son Carystus. A different source also stated that his wife was called Nais while a certain Aristaeus was called his son.
Like the other centaurs, Chiron was later expelled by the Lapithae from his home; but sacrifices were offered to him there by the Magnesians until a very late period, and the family of the Cheironidae in that neighbourhood, who were distinguished for their knowledge of medicine, were regarded as his descendants.
We are interested to hear from other wounded healers and help them to learn how to help others.