In today’s midday conversation with my wonderful housemate, I was sharing some of the challenges I am experiencing in my transition at the moment. She was asking me how I was feeling, and what I needed.
I mentioned to her that I needed to be acknowledged as a wounded human, and not a wounded healer. Her reaction affirmed the thoughts that formulated after – when a person known as a healer experiences pain and distress, the assumption is that we are somehow way more equipped to handle and transcend suffering than the average human being. The tragedy of this is that healers are, in fact, very much human and because of the healing work they engage in, are prone to being affected by pain and suffering on a level the average human being is not necessarily completely conscious of.
Wounded healers, in my personal experience, are less likely to be vocal about their troubles, sometimes less likely to demand a pity party and much more likely suffer alone because others (and sometimes themselves) assume “they got this.” People around them tend to assume that healers can also magically heal themselves and have a much better rebound time than most folks, so why would they the same level of attention as the folks they serve?
The truth is, healers can be susceptible to incurring an incredible amount of trauma. First, the healers I have come into contact with choose to transform into channels of healing because they have experienced a deep excruciating level of pain. This pain woke them the hell up; it awoke something in them to use their troubles as the very medicine to bring them out of it. That’s the first step to being a channel for healing: healing yourself.
Second, they decide to facilitate healing for others. That is to say, there is a difference between curing and healing: curing is the act of restore someone’s health in which they are not necessarily involved in the healing of themselves. To cure someone is only to address the symptom and not the underlying psychosomatic roots of their illness. Healing requests the active participation of the ailing individual to engage in facing themselves while the healer is only holding the space for them to transform. It is not out of the question for a healer to be retraumatized or triggered by those that they are holding space for. The healing sessions can also be draining because of the amount of time, energy, lack of food and sleep that is required at times (for me as a birth doula, that could mean anywhere from 7 to 24+ hours of being present for a birthing woman). And because of this, healers have to also be healed.
When I use the word healer, I don’t mean just the typical image of a sage, shaman or medicine person. A healer is someone who facilitates healing, and in my broad definition, that can be any person on this planet who has decided to heal themselves and have in turn used their experiences to bring healing to others who want it. Musicians, painters, writers, doctors, librarians, mothers…anyone can be a healer in their own right because the truth is that we all have the capacity to heal ourselves and others. It is those of us who have consciously and powerfully made the choice to make healing their path that are pointed at as healers. Regardless of a title, a healer’s suffering needs just as much attention as the next person.