"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

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Friday, 13 May 2011

The social significance of healing

I have written rather a lot about healthcare lately, within the context of healing versus curing. Let’s assume that healthcare professionals recognize their fundamental role in the relief of suffering. However I believe there seems to be less understanding of the social significance of this true, holistic healing. Carl Jung and Scott Peck, Carl Rogers and Aldous Huxley, have all written in their times of the social impact of wounded behavior and the significance of individual healing within this context.
I think I have mentioned the work of psychiatric and mental health nurse Conti O’Hare before but make no apology for this. She has a vision for the importance of nursing in the healing of society in the twenty first century. Writing about the nursing profession in the USA she urges nurses to understand the wounded healer concept in their profession, stressing how important it is for them to heal themselves properly before they can generate true healing in their patients and in their profession. Conti-O’Hare reflects on the ills of the world, such as terrorism, addiction and violence on our streets, that she recognizes as symptomatic of our inner woundedness. Nurses, she says, have the potential not only to heal their own profession but to foster healing in the world. ‘We can only wonder,’ she says, ‘if people with serious emotional disorders will seek healing solutions or continue to inflict woundedness on others by their antisocial and unacceptable behavior…What a glorious expectation for nurses to be armed with the knowledge that they are wounded healers who have participated in transforming their own health and that of others.’
O’Hare has developed what she calls the Q.U.E.S.T. Model for Self-Transcendence to help nurses and other health professionals to heal themselves and their professions, as an aid for them to transform and transcend wounds to become true Wounded Healers. This transformation (from walking wounded to wounded healer), she believes, ‘will have a positive impact on the health care system, society and the nursing profession as a whole.’
While O’Hare merely hints in her book at the profound responsibilities of the nursing profession as Wounded Healers to the world, there are others who are more positive in their vision. J. J. Means, a pastoral counselor at the Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center, Iowa USA, is more certain of his wider healing role in society. The medical and caring professions are in privileged and indeed socially responsible positions to reach those psychological and spiritual roots of social strategy, within the domain of the nation’s healthcare and soul care. And while the ills of the world at first sight may seem to be far removed from the day-to-day practice of medicine, in fact I agree strongly with these pioneers that here are issues that are inextricably linked. I think these professions have a profound responsibility to recognize their role as healers to the world. As is so often the case, North America seems to be taking the lead in this, for other countries no doubt to follow in due course.

Conti-O’Hare, Marion, The Nurse as Wounded Healer: from Trauma to Transcendence, Sudbury, Massachusetts: Jones and Bartlett Publishers. London: Jones and Bartlett Publishers International, 2002, p. 141, 144.

Means, J. J. ‘Wounded Healer/Mighty Prophet,’ The Journal of Pastoral Care and Counseling, Spring 2002, Vol. 56, No. 1.
Means, J. J., ‘Pastoral Counseling: An Alternative Path in Mental Health,’ The Journal of Pastoral Care Fall 1997 vol. 51 No. 3.

© Eleanor Stoneham 2011

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