The Wounded Healer = Bodhisattva

 I had believed that climbing to the top of the mountain was to win, to come out on top, to survive. Before I understood there was a journey, I was simply the survivor of my life. Was this not better than becoming the victim of life? I disdained the victim, believing that to have survived was simply the better position to take. The simple truth of the survivor is that they move through life as a victim too.

And thus a terrible spin is born out of this simple reaction to the traumatic elements of our lives that would have us striving to be on top so as to dominate our fears, or becoming so overwhelmed by our fears that we hide so as not to be seen, never to speak from our hearts.

The survivor/victim are two sides of the same spinning coin. The survivor sees them self as the hero in the mythology of the trial in which they believe they survived. The victim believes that their experience is beyond their control from a place of believing they should have control. Their lot is hopelessness. 

But what is sacrificed at the altar of the hero, is the girl. And, perhaps what is laid at the altar of the victim is the boy. Most of us live either in one of these extremes or embody elements of both depending upon the situation and our trauma identified reaction to it. Either way it amounts to the loss of the soul self. 

Perhaps it is through trauma and our unique response to it, that our yin and yang becomes out of balance. To have too much yang as the survivor has equated for me as bravado, a certain fearlessness, that while admirable to some, was void of true feeling and led to very self destructive behaviors. It could carry me forward into a fairly high functioning life, but without the yin, there is no acknowledgment of the pain or vulnerability, except as it relates to my victim mentality.

The loss of the girl/boy is the loss of our own sweet, trembling vulnerability that steps forward through the fear of the unknown to be in relationship with that unknown in our own acceptance of our powerlessness over it. It is the loss of the co-creator in us, that part of ourselves where the wounded healer lives.

Namkhai Nyingpo
When we embark on the spiritual journey, part of the journey is the work we do when we enter into the “dark night of the soul”. That place deep in all of us where all of the unacknowledged feelings live. What does it mean to be the wounded healer? I believe that the wounded healer is the true Bodhisattva that exists in each of us. In the truest sense, the wounded healer is one who has descended into the depths of herself, faced her shadow, and accepted and welcomed a power greater than herself. The healing that comes from this journey, transforms the wounded one. It is not that her wound is removed, but that it is integrated into the larger context of her experience in a way that allows her to be with others in their wound. As the Bodhisattva, she then returns to carry this message of healing and hope to others.

For me it has meant an acknowledgment of no matter what has happened or how far down the scale I have gone, I can see how my experience may benefit others. I must engage world-side but from the place of knowing my own struggle, from the place of humility for the larger struggle which we all face and the powerlessness we feel.

To bring the yin and yang of trauma into balance allows us to see it for what it is...the inevitable suffering that tempers the soul, that fills us to the brim with the full breadth and depth of the human experience which blossoms into the joy of living. There is great joy that is born out of coming to terms with our trauma without regrets, recriminations or pride, without closing the door on our feelings. We can make the necessary amends to ourselves and to others in the true spirit of forgiveness. From this place, we can know the meaning of the words that are embodied in this great teaching:“forgive them, for they know not what they do”, we can begin to understand truly the humility of living what the girl/boy, our soul, has to offer us.

How can we stand up and speak from our heart, from the vulnerability and fierceness of our balanced girl/boy, yin/yang self? Can we take action from this place? We can become the wounded healer. Each and everyone of us has this capacity within us. To drop the survivor/victim spin is to open to the humility and knowledge of the love that is here now, even in the midst of the suffering. As wounded healers, this is what we have to offer the world. We can stand with others as they come to terms with suffering and as they find the joy of living.

My dreams have returned me to the mountain. I entered the mountain and my molecules mixed with the mountain. A huge golem pulled me out of the mountain and I returned, the girl/boy, with all my passion for living in the world. I do not have to conquer the mountain, the mountain is in me!

The dreams will help each of us sort out what this is for us. They will show us how our Bodhisattva wants to manifest in the world. Attend to your dreams, consort with them! They have much to teach you.

Out of the Mountain

Out of the Mountain, Laura M. Smith
9 x 12 (image is 6 x 8) Scored Acrylic Wash on Paper

From a dream where I see a girl and boy (4-5 yrs old) riding their tricycles. They ride into the side of a mountain and disappear in side. I run into the mountain too. My molecules mix with theirs, then we pop out and do it again. A huge man made of the earth pulls me out of the mountain. I can't stay hidden in the mountain. My work is to let him bring me back into the world with the boy/girl brought together in me.


  1. Great post! I love this: "It is not that her wound is removed, but that it is integrated into the larger context of her experience in a way that allows her to be with others in their wound."

    1. Thanks Kathy! It's an important topic for those of us working with others and their dreams. There is a real importance in the dream practitioner's on-going relationship with the Archetypes, especially the Animus/Anima, to keep the practitioner "right sized" when working with others in their woundedness. To stay in relationship with the Divine during this part of the work is to maintain humility. For it is not just through our hard work that we come find the wounded healer in us, but also through grace.