"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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Saturday, 21 December 2013

Wounds as a source of healing in pastoral and medical care

I love the idea of the Wounded Healer, the concept that a person's own suffering can be a source of healing for others. I believe this has enormous social significance for us all, in many different ways. 
This idea was reflected in the consolatory ministry with its accompanying literature from Ancient Greece onwards. I'll write more about this consolatory ministry later. Suffice to say here that by the seventeenth and eighteenth century in Western Europe the idea was well established in pastoral healing, mostly among the clergy of the time, but also in use by some physicians. Men such as George Fox, who founded the Society of Friends (or Quakers), George Trosse and Timothy Rogers, both Nonconformist English clergy of the seventeenth century and the English Physician George Cheyne, these and more used their own personal stories of suffering in their successful healing ministries. They were all reflecting the power of the wounded healer to heal others. 
But it was only with the development of the modern psychological schools of Freud, Adler and Jung, picking up the threads of pre Hippocratic holistic care, that the concept was first articulated, by Carl Gustav Jung (1875 – 1961), as a recognized healing archetype. Research papers and specialist textbooks on the concept of the Wounded Healer are plentiful, but these are mostly within the realms of analytical psychology. Both Jung and Sigmund Freud (1856 – 1939) were at certain periods of their lives deeply disturbed psychologically. By submitting themselves to their own styles of self-analysis, they both came to understand their own sufferings more clearly and were able to appreciate and treat their patients more effectively.
Jung introduced extensive self-analysis as an essential part of the training of a psychotherapist, to be followed up by continuing clinical supervision, because, he said,
"The patient’s treatment begins with the doctor…in any ongoing analysis the whole personality of both patient and doctor is called into play. There are many cases that the doctor cannot cure without committing himself. When important matters are at stake, it makes all the difference whether the doctor sees himself as a part of the drama, or cloaks himself in his authority. In the great crises of life, in the supreme moments when to be or not to be is the question, little tricks of suggestion do not help. Then the whole being of the doctor is challenged…the Doctor is effective only when he himself is affected…‘the wounded physician heals.’ But when the doctor wears his personality like a coat of armour, he has no effect." (1)

Elsewhere Jung wrote:

"Without too much exaggeration a good half of every treatment that probes at all deeply consists in the doctor examining himself, for only what he can put right in himself can he hope to put right in the patient…It is his own hurt that gives the measure of his power to heal. This, and nothing else, is the meaning of the Greek myth of the wounded physician." (2)

Jung’s followers proceeded to give the term special significance in their work and thinking and it was Jungian analysts who apparently started referring to the Wounded Healer Archetype as a recognized tool in the healing process. Jung’s ideas were specifically developed in the context of the doctor and his patient in psychotherapy, but this wisdom is surely just as relevant today within the context of the general medical practitioner’s relationship with his patient.

It was the Dutch priest and successful spiritual writer Henri Nouwen who did so much to popularize the use of the term Wounded Healer in his own works in the context of pastoral healing. In the introduction to his book The Wounded Healer he wrote; ‘nothing can be written about ministry without a deeper understanding of the ways in which the minister can make his own wounds available as a source of healing.’

Like Carl Jung, Alfred Adler (1870 – 1937), a pioneer Austrian Psychiatrist, was a prominent member of Freud’s psychological group, before they both broke away from Freud to develop their own psychological theories. Jung developed a more analytical psychology, introducing the concept of the introvert and extrovert and the Collective Unconscious, with a description of the various archetypes of man’s basic and inherent psychic nature. Adler on the other hand developed his own ‘individual psychology’ theory, and introduced the concept of the ‘inferiority complex’. ‘The method of Individual Psychology begins and ends with the problem of inferiority,’ he wrote. Adler believed that all human motivation was power induced, for example by the drive to be superior or the drive to control others. Somehow that rings very true in much that we see around us today!

But these psychological theories and the treatments arising from them were developing apart from rather than in cooperation with clinical medical practice. 

Indeed in many medical circles the new psychologies were viewed with suspicion and regarded as nothing more than ‘quackery’. 

Science was coming to be regarded as the supreme truth: that nothing could be real unless scientifically proven. 

The scientists thought that there was no room for an intangible global value to exist alongside the material and capitalist values that were reigning supreme. Indeed in many academic circles today the writings of Freud and Jung are still regarded with scorn, on the basis that their theories are too anecdotal and can therefore be of little value to any furtherance of understanding of the human condition and the mind/body problem.

But these ideas should not be dismissed so carelessly. Those of Carl Jung in particular seem to me to be very much in line with some recent developments in the fields of consciousness and intuition, ideas which are slowly gaining some credibility and significance in modern medicine, as I shall explain later on...

to be contd......

(1) Jung, Carl G., Memories, Dreams Reflections (London: Fontana Press, 1995) pp.154-156.

(2) Jung, Carl G., Fundamental Questions of Psychotherapy, in The Collected Works of C G Jung, 1953-1979), vol. 16: 111-25, on p. 116.

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