The Heart of the Wounded Healer: Foundations of Child Abuse & Archetypal Personality Aspects

The wounded healer is the archetype of the Self...

And is at the bottom of all genuine healing procedures.

-Marie Louise Von Franz

"What distinguishes wounded healers from healers is their extra sensitive or intuitive psyches (highly developed right brain capabilities), experiences of intense and often long-term suffering in dysfunctional families, and a Dark Night of the Soul – which is the psychic equivalent of a near death experience." ~Pamela Wells

When a child is abused, the human heart is not nourished, sparking a restorative impulse so essential to the Wounded Healer. There is often a loss of self-esteem and a core belief that because love is withheld, love is not deserved. A child continues to grow physically, but with the early loss of trust and lack of strong foundation in the external world, abused children often find safety and comfort in their internal worlds, creativity, imagination and within their natural ability to communicate with spiritual energy.

Abused children primarily identify with what is unseen and less with what is material or “real” around them. If a child continues to live in an abusive environment, they are subjected to anxiety and fear rather than safety and belonging, and become regulated to perceive high levels of stress on a long-term basis. In order to cope, some children learn how to relieve stress by vigilantly tuning into what others need and meeting that need by repressing their own.

Other coping responses exist in children who are abused, however, meeting the needs of caregivers is a common precursor to awakening the “Wounded Healer.” Through existing primarily in the internal world and developing a strong capacity to perceive the needs of those around them, a child’s early trauma opens them in profound ways. Although certain thresholds for love and bonding are not met in the early stages of life, what is “missing” initiates deep levels of compassion and empathy for suffering. The Wounded Healer knows how to hold space for pain, loneliness or struggle, not because he or she is wholly competent or enlightened, but because they are fully human. How does the Wounded Healer develop?

  • The Wounded Healer develops through experiencing and understanding the deepest tragedies facing humanity and the world's soul.

  • Through empathizing with the hurt and despair of self and others rather than inflicting core wounds and repressed anger toward self/others (i.e. in the form of disease and addiction or becoming a perpetrator of abuse themselves).

  • Through on-going and honest awareness of past abuse or injustices without denying or diminishing their existence.

  • Through on-going expression of trauma-related emotions that otherwise wish to remain repressed or unconscious.

  • Through rising from woundedness, the Dark Night of the Soul, and surrendering to the process of being transformed by it.

What are the light and shadow aspects of The Wounded Healer Archetype?

Light aspects

  • High positive regard for humanity. Wounded Healers hold a core value that all human beings are worthy of love and respect for who they are.

  • Are often caregivers or advocates for the forgotten/ marginalized souls that society tends to harm or ignore.

  • Inspire society toward compassionate awareness, attention, and action in order to support the voices of those who are silenced.

  • Idealistic and strong sense of purpose. Wounded Healers will not give up when it comes to expressing what they believe in and hope to change.

  • Make great leaders, mentors, counselors or teachers as others are drawn to their healing journey, honest discoveries or service-based mission.

  • Naturally very sensitive, warm, kind hearted, and generous.

  • Encourage others to face and uncover the wisdom of their own darkness.

  • Visionary, artistic, and creative. Can stem from a lack of speaking and expressing feelings in childhood, Wounded Healers channel strong emotions into creative pursuits like poetry, theatre, painting and dance.

  • Highly intuitive and psychically gifted due to their early exploration of the inner world and tuning into thoughts/feelings of others.

  • Particularly adept at alternative mind and body medicine practices like Reiki healing, massage, or acupuncture.

  • Mystics and/or Shamans of the world. Spiritually open and sensitive to Nature, deity, and the unseen realms of existence.

  • Wounded Healers hold the key for evolutionary shifts and often act to bridge the gap between what has been with what is yet to be. Because of this, their purpose tends to focus on healing generational wounds and creating a better world for future generations.

Shadow aspects

  • Can become overly sensitive/responsible to the needs of others while ignoring their own feelings. Also known as “people pleasers” or “codependents”-- this is a survival trait carried over from childhood.

  • Underdeveloped personality/identity/ego self. Do not know where their personal feelings end and another’s begin. Have difficulty discerning what they like and dislike.

  • Over-identify as a victim and/or needing to be rescued.

  • Ungrounded and/or disinterested in mundane reality or daily routines.

  • May get depressed and easily overwhelmed when the world does not meet their idealistic visions or dreams.

  • May easily burn out or experience compassion fatigue--especially activists, advocates, or any kind of helping professional who regularly works with trauma related issues.

  • Lack of boundaries and ability to say “No” to others when boundaries are being crossed. Feelings of extreme guilt when boundaries are set.

  • Afraid of criticism or having authority figures disapprove of them.

  • Perfectionistic. Mostly critical toward self but can expect a lot from those who are in close relationship with them.

  • Difficulty trusting people. Tend to validate what others don’t say or do rather than take what is said at face value.

How to balance The Wounded Healer Archetype?

At any time, a combination of light and shadow aspects may be present in the Wounded Healer. When I am under stress I notice the shadow aspects are more present and I tend to revert to survival traits from childhood. When I am engaging in self-care and tuning into my True Self, I notice the light aspects become strengthened and I feel guided by a sense of real purpose rather than inflating the healer within as my primary identity or to gain approval from others.

My self care practices may include painting and singing with my inner child, journaling my dreams, eating slowly, joining groups with other adult children of abuse, consistent therapy sessions, inventorying my daily routine and taking note of how I feel , breathing mindfully, meditation, movement practices like dance and yoga, spending time with my partner, my orange tabby cat, and being held by Mother Earth.

I'd like to know how you see yourself fitting into the Wounded Healer archetype. Do you relate to many or all of the light/shadow aspects? Please let me know how you stay balanced and what self care practices work for you. Let's start a conversation and help normalize our experiences.

>> For more writing on awakening the Inner Child and embracing the Dark Night of the Soul.

>> I also offer private energy healing services here. It is my joy to share with fellow Wounded Healers on their sacred path. With love,


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