The Wounded Healer
CW: ableist language. I'm a Burn Survivor. This summer, I will try to celebrate the fact that I survived 39 years after a car accident that changed my life (half of the car's occupants died that night, one died 24 years later; while her death certificate says "colon cancer" the actual COD was "Survivor's Guilt"). And yet I'm really at the beginning of my Integrating Trauma Journey. About 5 years ago, I wrote a piece on ancestor work for an anthology the Ile I was then in was publishing, and that set off a whole host of emotions that made me realize that I had a bunch of unexamined, undiagnosed, & unresolved issues related to the accident that I needed to address.
So now I attend a monthly support group for Burn Survivors, Caregivers & Loved Ones; last year I went to my first ever World Burn Congress & then a month later a retreat for Burn Survivors; a few weeks ago I had my initial session in a 6 months focused Trauma therapy ride; and a couple of weeks ago I had a consultation with my herbalist about how herbal formulas can support me on this journey. And if I had a dollar for every time some sentence or comment or concept was said to me that was related or almost a twin of something I've said to my clients...well I wouldn't be rich, but I could treat myself to an expensive tasty meal with some really nice booze.
Integrating Trauma/Coming to Wholeness/Living with PTSD, however you want to title my journey, has me reflecting a lot on the archetype of The Wounded Healer. The power that comes from recognizing how your healing journey mirrors the healing journey of your clients & how those healing journeys affect each other. And why you need to be clear on what healing you're receiving from the healing work you're offering in the world. And of course how being grounded in the erotic fuels that work.
I come to offering erotic & sexual healing not through any specific need around my own sexual/erotic wellness, and yet it relates very much to my own healing journey. I'm learning in a whole new way about just how integral to everything the erotic is. I knew all of that intellectually, & have spent the last 2 decades or so talking about that in public & private spaces; but I am constantly having that reinforced by my clients in new ways, or I am somatically understanding the importance of the erotic in new ways. My clients are teaching me things about myself all the time. I am learning that the non-sexual, non-erotic contexts in which I disassociate look really similar to the erotic & sexual contexts in which my clients disassociate. I came to realize that I had blank spots in my own self-image (where my burn scars are) only after repeatedly hearing from clients about the blank spot in their self-image where their pelvis and/or genitalia are. I am hearing my herbalist talk about body awareness using almost exactly the same language that I use to talk with my clients about erotic energy.
As a healer ("one who helps others heal themselves") I've started looking at my own needs differently now, understanding how my difficulties actually enable me to empathize somatically with what my clients are going through. I've had ongoing physical issues related to my pelvic bones, which has greatly strengthened my understanding of how connected the pelvis is to the rest of the physical body. My ability to orgasm through penetrative sex alone is a relatively new phenomenon & came about through some combination of aging & trying to figure out a sex position that wouldn't stress out my injured hip (yes dear, I know you'd like to take all the credit), so that I am able to tell the story of how our relationship to sex & orgasm can change over time, we are never trapped or defined by our current relationship to sex and/or orgasm. There are many other examples.
My mother used to say "All psychiatrists & social workers are crazy. They got interested in psychiatry because they were trying to figure out what was wrong with them in the first place." She said this with disdain. The take-away was that mental health professionals couldn't be trusted because they had mental health issues of their own. So I was indoctrinated early with the idea that only people who weren't in need of help were qualified to help those who were.
But the other side of that is "How can you heal if you've never been broken?" I have issues with the idea that any of us are "broken", unless we agree that we are all "broken". Those of us who have survived trauma are far from fragile, and often have an inner strength & resilience that those who've never experienced trauma don't. I guess for me the question is can you trust a healer who has never been on a healing journey of their own? What kind of insights could someone who has never struggled with self-love & self-acceptance offer to someone who is currently on that journey? What kind of insights could someone offer you/me whose struggle was so far in the past that they can barely remember being in that place?
I am being reminded how much self-healing gets done in the context of my client sessions. When I am touching someone else I have to be listening to my own body on a very deep level so that I can discern what is mine & what is the clients'. When I lead a client through a body scan I am doing it alongside them, dropping into & communicating with my body. If I want my hands to be a conduit for Divine Energy, I also have to let myself feel being touched by that Divine Energy. If I can convey with every touch that the flesh under my hands is sacred & worthy of reverence, I have to remember that my flesh is also.
What I mostly want to convey is that if you've been letting your wounds keep you from offering your healing gifts to the world, you are mistaken my friend. Your wounds are part & parcel of the gifts you have to offer the world. Your wounds inform your capacity for witnessing anothers' struggle & showing them it is possible to thrive with (not in spite of) trauma.
The challenge as a Wounded Healer is to remember that I don't need to be perfect, don't need to be at the end of my healing journey in order to help others with their healing journeys. And to give that nurturing, that empathy, that compassion, that deep listening that I give to clients to myself.
“The wound is the place where the Light enters you.” ― Rumi
"Erotic Breathwork for Healers" has been postponed.
Stay Tuned for more info.