The Path of the Wounded Healer

Part Two: Chiron, the Wounded Healer

By Tonya Madia

Who is the Wounded Healer?

Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung identified a universal language of symbols shared by the collective unconscious of the human race. According to Jung, these universal symbols show up in dreams, literature, art, and religion. Author and lecturer Caroline Myss describes archetypes as patterns of energy that express themselves through us and believes them to be an intricate part of the “symbolic coordinates” through which we navigate our world.

We speak and think in archetypes. Through the language of archetypes a great deal of information can be conveyed in a single word. If I wanted to describe someone to you I could do so efficiently by saying, “she’s a real princess,” “he’s an artist,” “she’s such a victim,” or “he’s a rescuer.” We all possess at least a dozen different archetypes and therefore a “mother” can at the same time be an “artist” and a “storyteller” can also be a “pirate.”

The Wounded Healer archetype is compelled by his or her wounds to help others. Like all archetypes The Wounded Healer must embark on, and return from the Hero’s Journey before their full potential can be actualized.

The Path of The Wounded Healer begins with the wound, which is an essential part of the healer’s abilities. The 13th-century Persian poet Rumi wrote, “The wound is where the light enters” and I believe that it is also where empathic ability enters. It is because The Wounded Healer has experienced deep and profound wounds that she or he is able to understand the pain of another and is compelled to try to ease it. We’ve all been wounded to some extent, but the difference for The Wounded Healer is that their wound or wounds served to break them open in such a way as to activate strong empathic capabilities. Wounded Healers don’t just see the suffering of others—they feel it. It doesn’t matter that the wounds are very different; for The Wounded Healer the quality of the pain is very much the same.

The Wounded Healer’s empathic abilities make them extremely compassionate and very often they find themselves drawn to the healing arts. But regardless of whether they pursue a career in the field of medicine, social work, or other areas of healing, they are subconsciously drawn to try to help ease the pain of others in practically everything they do. Wounded Healers have an innate ability to energetically connect to the emotional frequency of others while at the same time emitting the comforting frequency of compassion required to help ease that suffering. But the natural abilities of The Wounded Healer pale in comparison with the inherent healing abilities these individuals possess. The only way for the Wounded Healer to realize their full potential is through the healing of their own wounds.

In Greek mythology the centaur Chiron represents The Wounded Healer archetype. Chiron sustained two wounds, which never healed—one emotional and the other physical. It was his suffering that drove him to search for relief, and through that search he gained wisdom, experience, and the ability to counsel, teach, and heal others.

With the arrival of my most recent call to adventure, I asked Dr. Grace Reischman, a talented astrologist, to take a look at my chart for some guidance. Here is her reply:

“An event called the ‘Chiron Return’ happens when we are between the ages of 49 and 51.  Similar to a ‘Saturn return.’ it means that Chiron has orbited once around the sun (it takes about 50 years for Chiron) and has returned in your chart to the time when you were born.  I just feel strongly that your health challenge and upcoming surgery are related to your Chiron return.

Chiron is in your 6th house, which is the house of work but also of health and disease. Venus, which rules your femaleness, is there also. Chiron’s return can activate old wounds, deep ones, ones that you might not have been conscious of and with Venus there, it is very possibly a wound that happened to your sense of femaleness when you were born or that happened between ages 1 to 4 and somehow the root of the female health issue is there.”

I found this to be as fascinating as it was accurate. I am 49. My initial wound came between the ages of 2 and 5. Similar, subsequent wounds occurred at the ages of 6, 9, 14, and 18. Details about the wounds are not as important as their overarching theme, which was directly related to my sense of femaleness, exactly as Dr. Reischman pointed out. From an energetic standpoint these wounds are directly related to the sacral chakra—the chakra of creativity, fertility, sexuality, and personal boundaries.

In massage school we are taught that our “issues are in our tissues” and this is very true. Unresolved issues eventually manifest themselves in the physical body as any number of health conditions. From this perspective my hysterectomy constitutes the “crossing of the threshold” in Joseph Campbell’s map of the Hero’s Journey. The removal of the physical condition is only the beginning; the deeper healing comes from the inner work that will take place over the next several months—the work of forgiving and accepting myself and establishing strong personal boundaries without guilt, an ability that I lost when respect for the personal boundaries of my body had been repeatedly disregarded by others.

When I was 14 a boy that I was infatuated with told me that I should be grateful for his time because prettier girls than me were vying for his attention. Those words went a long way toward sealing a belief I had held since childhood—that my self-worth and appearance were inextricably connected. Looking back, it wasn’t so much his words that were at issue, but my immediate willingness to accept them without question. A conditioned acceptance I suppose, because the nature of the wounds carried an insidious message; that my inherent value was contained only in my physical body. It was a belief that I would spend decades trying to free myself from, and one that would remain deeply rooted in my subconscious even after my logical mind had been freed from it.

When my health issues began two years ago my body and appearance began to change and as they did I noticed old beliefs about my self worth begin to resurface. I once again found myself agonizing over perceived deficits in my appearance and it soon became apparent that there was still much work for me to do. Regardless of my logical mind’s willingness to accept that I am worthy in spite of (and perhaps even because of) my perceived shortcomings, it’s time to heal the deep-rooted wounds that insist otherwise.

For me it makes perfect sense that 50 marks the return of Chiron to his natal position, as this age heralds an important life transition. I turn 50 in four months and I look forward to using this time of recovery to challenge the dragon of my harmful beliefs and emerge healed, transformed, and ready to take full ownership of myself as a person, a woman, and a healer. It is my hope that the wisdom gained from my experience will be something I can share with others to help them along on their own Hero’s Journey.



Chiron image retrieved from:

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