The Greek legend of Chiron, the wounded centaur, was adopted by Carl Jung to epitomize the relationship between healing and wounding.
The details of Chiron's personal journey are available to all via any internet search but essentially he dedicated his own life to the healing arts despite his own suffering. More important, however, is the notion that real healing occurs when those of us who have been wounded by life's dramas use our own suffering to help others.
It is clear to me that much suffering centers around a sense of loneliness. Pain of any kind– physical, emotional, mental–isolates the sufferer and this exacerbates the suffering.
Only those who have felt real pain can empathize with others. In fact the Buddhists speak of the benefit of suffering–a path that leads ultimately to compassion. And compassion is the ultimate cure for our own suffering.
So we come to realize that all healing is mutual. The healer and the healee are engaged in an active, bi-directional process of sharing what is the most profoundly human, our fragility, our weaknesses, our sense of vulnerability.
It takes great courage to admit weakness and suffering. We are programmed not to do so. We put on a front, wear a mask by which we act out our lives. Revealing our suffering is difficult for most of us because of that revelation that we are imperfect and perhaps weak.
Even physical disease states have a tremendous emotional component to them. Often as a physician, the best I can offer is a compassionate look, an arm across the shoulder, a quiet listening. This human expression is often the only form of healing that I can offer. But it often helps. It is a recognition of shared feelings–that awareness that another human being, doctor or not, cares. That element of being alone can be conquered, at least for the moment.
The truth is that we are ALL wounded in one way or another. The nature of that wounding is so deeply personal and relies completely upon our perception of life's events that even revealing it to others may make no sense to them.
By offering compassion to others, we can admit our own experience of suffering without stating it. Those who are best at healing others tap into their own suffering for the source of their true compassion.
In the process both are healed.