"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.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

The Wounded Healer - again

However we define and categorize our wounds, we now know that who we are and how we behave as adults is not only a combination of our inherited gene and possibly also our meme makeup. We are also affected by subsequent influences in our upbringing and our experiences as we develop through childhood and beyond. This is what is meant when we talk about ‘nature versus nurture’.  So as well as our inherited physical characteristics, we pick up mental wounds from the collective experiences of our ancestors. The unhealed wounds of mankind inflicted through millennia of evolution by strife and violence and disaster mean that hundreds of millions of people are psychologically, emotionally and physically scarred and wounded and in need of healing. It has even been suggested by some psychologists that ‘human culture as a whole has been saturated by unhealed wounding, which, if unchecked, will continue on a downward spiral toward inevitable disintegration.’* This is not a good thought. 
Books abound, both popular and academic, on the psychological study of why we behave as we do. But I think the bottom line is that we must understand how our wounds manifest themselves in many different and undesirable personality traits. We see greed and envy, craving for love and attention, consumerism, lust for power, superiority, violence, overspending, addictions to work and substances, depression, cynicism, despair. All these come from our unhealed wounds. What we need to cultivate instead is a compassionate trend, always sensitive to the pain of others. We are wired for empathy - we just shut it out a lot of the time! We need an instinctive urge to support the weak and the vulnerable. And we must combat violence, both against each other and against the planet. Violence is probably threatening our very future more than anything else. And the most obvious violence that we inflict upon this fragile planet is consumerism. That I have written of before, and will do again!
I have just found another good blog commenting on the Wounded Healer.
There the point is made that we can all be Wounded Healers. I cannot wholly agree.
Yes we certainly, most of us, have the capacity to become Wounded Healers, but along with many others, I believe that there are stages of healing along the path to the ultimate Wounded Healer when we can do more harm than good. See for example Conti-O’Hare’s excellent book The Nurse as Wounded Healer where she writes of the “Walking Wounded”, and also http://www.intuitive-connections.net/2004/book-beethoven.htm where Clayton Montez reviews Pearsall’s The Beethoven Factor, and writes on the Thriving Response. And there are other stages. The author of the said blog, writing clearly from a medical healing perspective, confesses to a lack of empathy by the bedside. Yes that is certainly true. There is much that needs to be done to reintroduce empathy and soul back to the sick bed, and I have written at some length on this myself elsewhere, re our health services, following in the footsteps of Larry Dossey, Dawson Church, et al. But I also believe that this archetype of the Wounded Healer has enormous social healing significance beyond the caring professions, for healing the world’s greater woes. I will come back to that in later posts.

*see Judith Thompson and James O'Dea "Social Healing for a Fractured World."

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