Jung and the wounded healer cont..

Jung is inspired by the archetype of the wounded healer. He makes direct associations of the important meanings attached to this archetypal idea: ‘Only the wounded physician heals. But when the doctor wears his personality like a coat of armor, he has no effect’ (Jung 1989: 132). He advocated that fruitful psychotherapy requires the therapists to be self-reflective and able to accept and heal their own wound without losing their sensitivity: ‘The doctor is effective only when he himself is affected’ (ibid: 134).

Jung (1961) sees himself as a wounded healer, having being affected by the presence of his troubled father and emotionally distressed mother in his childhood. He describes himself as having a ‘dual personality’ with splits in his psyche, giving rise to various personal conflicts and tensions including his aggression and abrasiveness as well as his dedication to spirituality and mysticism (ibid). In light of Jungian ideas, a therapist’s sense of woundedness refers to an unavoidable human condition of experiencing feelings such as fear, suffering, loss and insecurity. His break with Freud was the catalyst for a personal crisis that left him in a state of a depressive disorientation, often described as his ‘creative illness’, which provided him with essential material for his lifetime’s work (Hellman et at, 1986).

How would a therapeutic engagement in light of the above be healing, if we think of someone who has experienced depression and has chosen to train as a therapist? Holmes (1998) argues that an acceptance of therapist’s wounded and healing aspects will bring inevitable uncertainty, anxiety and an opening to mortality. Such human aspects would seem to resonate with the client’s expressed distress or malaise. Holmes suggests that a well-framed and reliable therapeutic relationship can provide the appropriate grounding, and convey to the client the therapist’s stability in the light of their open or healed wounds: ‘a relationship that is unambiguous, consistent, and reliable may also be considered as a healing force, as it would tend to stand in direct opposition to the client’s past, early, unstable relationships’ (1998: 2).

There is a need for an uncertain balance here between the therapist’s congruence and vulnerability on one hand, while being stable and strong enough to manage and endure dark and destructive aspects in the therapeutic process.

Sometimes nature and animals also show us that taking risks, wounding ourselves, learning and growing is part of our nature … Toby, my cat, got into a fight with another cat over garden territorial disputes! He got injured, but also learned a lesson I think 🙂 and he’s recovering well…

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