"The penalty good men pay for indifference to public affairs is to be ruled by evil men." attributed to Plato

"Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing." attributed to Edmund Burke

Let's between us make the world a better place.

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

More on the Wounded Healer

It was the Jungian psychoanalysts who probably first started referring to the Wounded Healer archetype as a recognized tool in the healing process. But it was the Roman Catholic priest Henri Nouwen who really popularized the term within a wider spiritual and pastoral healing context when he wrote his own bestselling book The Wounded Healer in 1979. In it he identifies the loneliness that he himself so keenly felt as the most painful of our human wounds, leaving us craving for love and attention. Loneliness, he tells us, is recognized in words such as alienation, separation and isolation. (1) But Malcolm Langford identifies four other basic types of wound: those resulting from the evil of our own life experiences and of others with whom we are involved, those from our own broken personalities and motivations, from our personal prejudices and fears and those which reflect our emotional and spiritual poverty in such a materially wealthy world. (2) We can all relate to some if not all of these examples of woundedness. And there is plenty of need for healing in the world!

Ian McEwan reflected on the Twin Towers collapse on 9/11:

If the hijackers had been able to imagine themselves into the thoughts and feelings of the passengers, they would have been unable to proceed. It is hard to be cruel once you permit yourself to enter the mind of your victim. Imagining what it is like to be someone other than yourself is at the core of our humanity [my italics]. It is the essence of compassion, and it is the beginning of morality…The hijackers used fanatical certainty, misplaced religious faith, and dehumanizing hatred to purge themselves of the human instinct for empathy. Among their crimes was a failure of the imagination. (3)

And as the Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks explains, when bad things do happen to us, we can use these experiences to sensitize us to the pain of others. Rather than allowing such wounds to make us victims of circumstance, let them turn us into potentially life changing agents of hope. (4)

1. Nouwen, Henri J. M. The Wounded Healer, London: Darton, Longman and Todd, 1994, p. 83
2. Malcolm Langford, draws much of his inspiration from Henri Nouwen. Langford, Malcolm, Waking the Wounded: Facing our own Poverty. This was on World Vision site at
http://www.worldvision.com.au/getinvolved/faithinaction/files/grid2000_wakingthewounded.pdf sourced 17 February 2009.
3. McEwan, Ian, The Guardian 15 September 2001, ‘Only love and then oblivion. Love was all they had to set against their murderers.’ http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2001/sep/15/september11.politicsphilosophyandsociety2 sourced 19 February 2009.
4. Jonathan Sacks, The Times, 5 January 2008, Count your Blessings and Begin to Change your Life.

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