The Wounded Healer
The first noble truth of Buddhism is that life contains inevitable, unavoidable suffering. It is also true that suffering is exacerbated, not ameliorated, by avoidance or denial. One myth of being a caregiver is that we somehow have to "have it all together" before we can be of assistance to others. While we do not want to practice the healing arts with a lack of self-awareness that results in harm to others, we also do not want to wait until we are perfectly whole before answering the call to serve others through our health care ministry. The concept of being a wounded healer is helpful in navigating the tension between acknowledging our own pain while also attending to the pain of those for whom we care.
Consider the following reflection on the wounded healer by nurse Naomi Judd.
"Caregiving is the work of the soul. We are here to grow in love, and in service to others. That is the foundation of a caregiver. We recognize we have to do something . . we have to reach out . . . we have to make it better. I have been called, by the people who know me well, a wounded healer. In fact, I believe that in order to be an effective healer you have to have been broken down to understand what pain really is. And it is in that intersection of pain there’s a sense of knowing. It’s almost as if we’ve all been on the battlefield at the same time. So blessed are those caregivers who are able to use their pain as their greatest teacher."
For reflection alone or together:
What does being a wounded healer mean to you?
What has your pain taught you?