The Healer Archetype
The healer archetype and the wounded healer archetype are extremely popular these days. It is really astounding how many people feel called to and covet these patterns of power. The upside is that there are more helpers out there healing humans, animals and the planet – maybe more than ever before. On the other hand, the popularity highlights the gifts, talents and light of the healer archetype while denying the possible destructive nature.
The light aspect of the healer is the ability to channel healing energy for others. Healing energy comes in countless manifestations, too many to name, but here are a few examples. A healer can assist a patient through an emotional crisis and bring him or her to peace. A doctor channels healing by being an excellent diagnostician and prescribing a lasting cure. A massage therapist not only brings relaxation, but also helps the body move into balance. A healer in the light aspect is what we all long for in times of great need.
Someone with the healer archetype may be born with the ability to heal or may have to learn it. The healer’s confidence in her knowledge and skill is critical to the effectiveness of the healing.
To heal means to make whole, to alleviate, and to repair. The true mark of a healer is the ability to create, catalyze, and/or channel lasting, positive change for their patients. A healer works on behalf of others and delivers the gift of health. A healer can be one who mends broken spirits, minds, bodies, and/or hearts. The key piece here is that the healer is changing the condition of the patient, she is acting on him. This is a profound, humbling and seductive power to have over others.
The Shadow Healer Archetype
The healer archetype carries a good deal of authority. Patients come to the healer in a weakened state asking for help. This automatically sets up a power imbalance that, if not properly managed, can cause massive damage. The healer is tasked with using her power wisely. The shadow healer archetype surfaces when the healer either gets over confident or, conversely, loses faith.
A person seduced by the power of the shadow healer archetype can get wildly over confident. She will claim to have a remedy that cures every ailment, hurt and disease. This healer knows best. She might take all the credit when healing happens. The over zealous healer preaches to the patient and stops listening. She is more interested in helping herself feel better, bigger and more important than in bringing true healing for the patient. The patient often unwittingly hands over her power to the expert and is set up for a healing crisis down the road when this imbalanced model inevitably fails.
The shadow healer with a lack of faith in healing disempowers through doubt. This version of the shadow healer no longer believes in miracles. She delivers devastating, mounting, and sometimes permanent diagnoses. Her assessment feels like a curse more than a cure. The patient leaves feeling hopeless rather than hopeful, and disempowered rather than powerful. This healer’s cynicism infects everyone around her and causes more harm than good.
My wish is that you have not been victimized by the shadow of the healer archetype yet, but chances are that you have. The greatest protection from this force is your own self-esteem. Know that regardless of how gifted or educated a person is, that ultimately no one knows better than you what it is like to be in your body. Trust your instincts and choose healers that listen, demonstrate humility and help you cultivate one of the most profound healing energies of all, hope.
The Greek God Chiron – A Wounded Healer
Chiron, the eldest and wisest of the centaurs, was born to a nymph named Philyra. Philyra was the mistress of the god Cronus when he took the form of a stallion. Chiron was thus a half-man, half-horse.
When Chiron’s father was discovered in his infidelity he fled. Chiron’s mother abandoned him when she prayed to escape the shame of bearing a bizarre son. She was turned into a linden tree by Chiron’s half-brother Zeus. This left Chiron orphaned. Some sources suggests that Apollo and Artemis raised Chiron as they taught him healing.
Mentored by the primary Greek god of healing, Apollo, and his twin sister Artemis, Chiron had a first class education in medicine. Chiron was not selfish with what he knew, and instead took on many pupils. He taught healing to a host of famous heroes, gods and demi-gods including Achilles, Asclepius, Hercules, Jason of Jason and the Argonauts, Actaeon, Phoenix and more.
In true wounded healer fashion, Chiron’s heart opened to another being suffering the same fate as he did. Chiron raised the orphaned Achilles with the help of his wife Chariclo.
Chiron received the wound he’s most known for when he was injured by Hercules’s poisoned arrow. The arrow bore the blood of the many-headed serpent, Hydra. Chiron never healed from the wound, as the blood of the hydra is immune to medicine. The wound also inflicted terrible pain. Eventually, Chiron sacrificed his immortality to escape the agony and free another hero named Prometheus. Chiron was memorialized as the constellation sagittarius.
The Wounded Healer Archetype
A person with the wounded healer archetype is able to draw on the experience of her own suffering to generate boundless compassion. In the shadow, this manifests as the bleeding heart that gives well beyond her capacity to people with similar woundings. In the light, this is the battle-hardened champion that is able to show up in a relevant and particular way that provides just the right remedy at the right time.
The wounded healer archetype implies an intimate understanding of agony. Sometimes the wounded healer is able to heal her own wounds and use this knowledge to help heal others. Other times, the wounded healer taps into her own suffering to channel healing energy. This energy miraculously cures others but leaves her untouched. The story of Chiron teaches us that the wounded healer does not need to be healed to be effective.
Healed or Not?
The challenge for the wounded healer archetype is the malady that is unfazed by all attempts at healing. The gift is the infinite compassion that pours forth from the same wound. A deep appreciation for the suffering of others matched with an uncanny, natural healing ability creates the wounded healer.
If you have you come through the other side of your illness and are completely healed, be careful not to think you are safe from suffering. This will harden your heart, create a callous over the wound, and prevent the free flow of grace towards those you seek to help. An acute understanding of and intimacy with your own vulnerability is key.
If you think you have the wounded healer archetype and feel you’ll never be free from your pain, take heart. This archetype carries with it a deep wisdom that teaches you how to bear the pain in the right spirit. The triumph comes when you give up endless attempts to alleviate the pain, and instead learn how to break its control over you. The most powerful person is the one that does not fear suffering. The absence of the fear of suffering turns you into a beautiful, clear channel for healing and grace.
By finding the higher purpose of humbly helping others, you can release the myth that this life and this illness is all about you. Then somehow, miraculously, you find a way through.
More about Chiron: http://www.theoi.com/Georgikos/KentaurosKheiron.html
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About Author, Stacey L. L. Couch
Stacey L. L. Couch is a Spiritual Director who teaches about archetypes and symbolism. Her speciality is working with soul pioneers - those of you who are making it up as you go along the spiritual path. She works with beginner and life-long spiritual seekers. Through working with Stacey, lost seekers find their way home and professional spiritual guides receive mentorship. Stacey empowers people with the ability to explore their purpose and calling. Wisdom found in story, mysticism, and nature provide guidance and healing in her work. She is the author of Gracious Wild: A Shamanic Journey with Hawks. She values mindfulness, wonder, and compassion in her daily spiritual practice. Learn More about Stacey.