Of course, this is unconscious for most people. Most wounded healers feel like they've done everything they need to do to take care of themselves. No one thinks (at least no one I know) that they're a wounded healer. So it's a tricky topic to discuss because the humility required to realize that you are a wounded healer typically is not yet present. If someone has that humility, they are probably seeking to address their issues because by and large, healers do try to take care of their issues.
But there are some signs that you may be a wounded healer or that you may be working with one. I'll take some time in this post to say what those are and what it takes to come back into integrity with the service you want to offer.
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- Emotional abuse and trauma
- Physical abuse and trauma (Sexual abuse is a big one under this category)
- Psychic abuse and trauma (and other kinds of subtle energetic infringements)
- Mental abuse and trauma
Creating Your Grand Healer DisguiseBecause helping others and being of service is a truly noble thing, it can serve as one of the best kinds of disguises for the wounded healer. It also keeps the attention off of you. Everyone's attention is re-directed to the work that you are doing to help feed people in Africa, house the homeless in the ghettos, heal victims of torture, and so forth. And yes, these are awesome things to do! Please do not think that I am questioning the importance of this work.
However, a lot of wounded healers are unconsciously looking for avenues to heal themselves, so there's a tendency to do healing work on issues that they themselves have not addressed. So if you have lots of repressed memories around sexual abuse, you may find yourself as a counselor working with lots of people with repressed memories around sexual abuse. Because your initial wounding is still in you, this kind of work can be hugely upsetting and draining, which are key signs that you have not healed everything you need to heal.
Going back to the disguise making, inner wounds can make someone feel like they've never done enough. On some level, you know that something is wrong inside. But since society teaches us to find validation externally, it's extremely easy to get caught up trying to do more and more and more. This will also lead to a level of depletion and exhaustion, and if a person tries too hard, they can end up hating the healing work that they are sharing. It is all heading towards a cataclysmic crash.
The Wounded Healer's Demise and the Big CrashThe more the wounded healer does, the worse things get. They keep feeling more and more drained or internally shutdown until they don't want to help anyone. Or their healing abilities shut down, or the quality of their work diminishes. In some situations, clients seem to all disappear, or the healer starts to get a lot of negative feedback. Because the wounded healer has very little internal emotional stability (because most of their energy is still trying to hide the wounds inside--they probably don't know this however), detractors and criticism (even constructive criticism) is meant with hostility. It strikes a fight or flight response in the wounded healer. The person may try to over-compensate to fix the situation, which makes them even more drained. Or they may go through a whole set of elaborate clearing rituals erroneously thinking that the energy around them has gone sour. But how does energy around us go sour if we are clear? We set a big part of the energetic vibration of the space around us, so if we're clear, most passing negative clouds don't phase us. And it really doesn't take that much incense and prayer to clear a space.
With all these external mirrors showing that something is wrong inside, a person can take the hint, or they can head to a big crash. This crash can show up in all kinds of ways such as the healer closing their business, getting chronic fatigue of some kind, all their clients disappearing, running away to "re-charge," and so forth. A big element for any healer is to have sustainable work. Re-charging and vacations are good, but they should not needed all the time if you are in integrity with yourself.
Signs that You're a Wounded HealerI've already pointed out some of the signs that you're a wounded healer, but let's make it really explicit:
- Being drained by your healing vocation
- Inability to be with client criticism
- Inability to maintain a healthy inner space while regularly offering healing. This can mean that you take on some of your clients' issues. For instance, if you're dealing with shame in some one, you feel shame for several days afterwards.
- Needing approval from others for the work you do
- Getting the same types of client issues over and over again (This needs pairing with the other issues because if you're specializing in something like drug and alcohol abuse, you will get certain types of clients again and again). These repeated issues often reflect similar issues in you.
- Being triggered by certain issues your clients have
- Over-giving of yourself to heal others. The wounded healer can't discern what is too much to share and how to let their clients self-heal.
How to Heal and Become a Healthy HealerI do want to emphasize that we need all the healers we can get. There is no level of society that doesn't need healing, so healthy healers are in strong demand. I know. I'm getting pretty busy these days.
But if you are not fully healed and you have identified multiple signs that you're a wounded healer, you are not doing yourself a service by trying to serve others. Furthermore, sometimes the healing we're attracted to is about healing ourselves and not using that healing modality or interest as a tool to heal others. In this way, many wounded healers have confused their healing work with their life work, and I talk about that more on this blog post:
Confusing Healing Work With Life Work
The first step to becoming a healthy healer is to stop offering the healing. You need all your healing energy for you. If this has become a mainstay of your income, you'll need to find a way to tone down the amount of healing you're offering or supplement that work with another source of income. Healing yourself is always primary if you truly want to be a vehicle of healing for others.
Deepening Back Into the GloomIt can be a little demoralizing for a wounded healer to have to go back down into issues, especially ones that they'd thought they'd dealt with. But until something is fully healed, it is not time to heal others in such subtle and important ways. And the more deeply you offer your healing, the more deeply you need to be clear and in a space of love in your body. The last part is important. Many wounded energy and psychic healers jump out of their bodies and do healing in psychic realms to avoid themselves. The more someone does something like this, the more of an indication that there are major unresolved issues in the body. A psychic and energy healer is an amazing person if they are grounded in their physical space. The quality of the energetic healing that they can offer is transformed to a new level of power. So while any kind of healing at any level of awareness can be useful, the most important is embodied, and that works when we are not running from painful issues still stored in our bodies.
The Multiple Layers of Healing
Returning to Healing DutyI can't tell you how long your sabbatical from healing others may be. For some of you when the wounds all finally heal, you may find that you have no interest in healing anymore. If that's true, that's great. The world needs you where your heart is.
If you really are a healer, then healing your wounds will only make you a more powerful and effective healer. Your passion for it will grow. It will be a practice that is sustainable to you, and you will be able to accept good and bad feedback because you are at peace with yourself. The days of feeling drained or triggered by your clients will be gone, and you will be offering a MOST needed service to any and all people who come to sit with you in the sacred space of healing that you provide.
This photo is a gift from my student, Sean. Thanks so much!