Image: Journey of a Healer by Alex Grey

The WOUNDED HEALER is one of the 12 primary archetypes that Carl Jung identified in the architecture of the psyche. Healers may be originally self-identified as seekers, but when healing a deep wound – healers may grow beyond seeking to find sources of knowing and become more conscious.

They then become naturally inclined to helping others heal and ready to share authentically from their own life experience.

You can only take someone as far as you yourself have gone.

“Healing may not be so much about getting better as about letting go of everything that isn’t you – all of the expectations, all of the beliefs – and becoming who you are. Not a better you, but a ‘realer’ you. People can heal and live, and people can heal and die. Healing is different from curing. Healing is a process we’re all involved in all the time. Healing is the leading forth of wholeness…” 

~ Rachel Naomi Remen, M.D.

Only the Wounded Healer Heals

Woundedness, suffering and illness are a prerequisite to taking on the role of Healer or Medicine Woman. This is a truth recognized in the myths and lore of traditional cultures and underlies the Shamanic vision of the Healer in Siberia, Native America, South America, Africa and Australia.

Traditionally, the initiation into healing comes through falling radically ill from a disease that cannot be diagnosed and for which there seems to be no cure.


Recovery comes only when the patient recognizes the illness as a “Call to Adventure” (see “Hero’s Journey” diagram below) and agrees to become a healer. This woundedness signifies the Medicine Woman’s unusual sensitivity to the Spirit World – the realm of visionary experience. Unless this sensitivity is used on behalf of others, it will destroy the individual who has it.

The apprentice Shamaness is taught how to use her access to the spiritual realm and channel her gifts according to her culture’s tradition.

When others fall ill, the Shamaness re-enters the “other world” in a visionary state to learn how to recover the patient’s soul (or healing). This is a metaphor for quieting the mind, entering into an expanded, meditative awareness and intuiting the next steps in healing or recovery.

The Medicine Woman guides those who are navigating the journey of pain, challenge, loss or fragmentation. Healing is an active, moving energy that slowly turns us toward a new wholeness. It is the activation of transformative change that is initiated by circumstance.

Healing is a journey that moves one through a threshold of initiation to seek, find and bridge a renewed or reconciled experience. It is a journey of integration. Healing seeks the pathway of relief, release and movement.

Healing does not hold the same charge, or motivation, as the intention of curing. 

It does not serve to repair, but to mend. Instead of returning one to “how it was”, healing moves one beyond the edge of “how it has been” to a new place of understanding and possibility.

Each circumstance, experience and relationship in our lives is a Soul Contract. We are offered initiatory fires of purification – initiatory rites – to reclaim pieces of our Soul, learn new lessons and integrate these missing pieces back into our psyches.

Whether the healing be physical (cancer, illness) or psychological (heartbreak, loss) the aim is not to return to who/where we were, but to take the Heroine’s Journey, answer the “Call to Adventure”, go out and fight our battles (Threshold of Initiation), call upon our guides, help and new skills and finally, return to the tribe with the treasure. The treasure is most often not a tangible, physical treasure chest of boons – but, a newly formed aspect of Self and the wisdom and changes that emerge from understanding.

The Wounded Healer is initiated into the art of healing through some form of personal hardship. Regardless of the shape of the wound, the challenge inherent in this initiation process is that one is unable to turn to others for help beyond a certain degree of support. Only the initiate can ultimately heal the wound. We are called to activate our spiritual and psychological powers, dig deeper than ever before to face the tiger in the eye.

The Wounded Healer archetype emerges in our psyche with the demand that we push ourselves to a level of inner effort that becomes more a process of transformation than an attempt to heal an illness. If you have successfully completed the initiation, you inevitably experience a  healing. A path of service seems to be divinely provided shortly after the initiation is complete.

The empathy, humility and strength garnered from making it through an immense challenge often motivates us to help. It may seem like the only purpose and become our raison d’être. We are poised, more than anyone else – to serve and speak about just the kind of wound  we have experienced.

For example, if you are a survivor of sexual abuse, you can teach and hold space for this in a unique way of deep understanding and knowing that someone who has not experienced this cannot. If you survived cancer, perhaps you are motivated to write or speak about it to help others.

Comment below to share: What is one SACRED WOUND that you have experienced? How has it helped you understand and serve others?

Aho! Awen! Blessed Be!