Chiron: the original wounded healer

Carl Jung’s archetype of the ‘wounded healer’ originates from the Greek myth of Chiron, the centaur who was physically and psychically wounded and by way of managing his own wounds he became the empathetic teacher of healing. Chiron’s psychological wounds refer to his abandonment by his parents when they realized that he was different: born half horse, half man (Kearny, 1997). He was adopted by Apollo, the Greek god of sun, music and medicine, who taught him the art of healing.

Chiron’s physical wound happened later in his adult life when he became the mentor of Hercules whom injured him by accident with a poisoned arrow (ibid). His wound was doomed to stay open with his experienced pain reminding him of his woundedness forever, as Chiron was an immortal. He became a great mentor and as Reinhart (in Holmes, 1998: 27) suggests: ‘Ironically his ability to heal others was increased by his continual search for relief from his own vulnerable wound’.

Redemption comes with Chiron renouncing his immortality rather than the healing of his wound. Jung calls for therapists to renounce their omnipotence and accept their wounds and mortality, especially given the seductiveness of ‘hiding’ behind the client’s issues, as in the case of Miller’s (1987) suggestion of covering up or defending against depression with grandiosity.

Guggenbuhl-Craig (1989: 91) argues that ‘The healer and the patient are two aspects of the same’, with one’s self or ego finding difficult to bear the polarized tension of paradox and dilemma, as the ‘ego loves clarity and tries to eradicate inner ambivalence.’ Given such pressures a mutually collusive relationship may develop between therapist and client, ‘[t]he patient, for instance, can project his own wounds on to the patient’ (ibid: 92).

I will be posting a bit more on this very soon.