Monday, July 10, 2006

The wounded healer

Yesterday I quoted a passage by Joel and Michelle Levey that talked about how experiencing pain can help us cultivate compassion for others if we work with it skillfully. Henri Nouwen has written quite a bit about the concept of the "wounded healer" - someone who is able to help others because of the suffering he or she has gone through. Linda Cole sent me a passage today by Nouwen that speaks to this:

Listening With Our Wounds

To enter into solidarity with a suffering person does not mean that we have to talk with that person about our own suffering. Speaking about our own pain is seldom helpful for someone who is in pain. A wounded healer is someone who can listen to a person in pain without having to speak about his or her own wounds. When we have lived through a painful depression, we can listen with great attentiveness and love to a depressed friend without mentioning our experience. Mostly it is better not to direct a suffering person's attention to ourselves. We have to trust that our own bandaged wounds will allow us to listen to others with our whole beings. That is healing.

This passage speaks to the importance of self care. We need to spend time with someone who is skilled in listening and helping - who can assist us in binding up our own wounds - before we try to help others.

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