Who could have predicted so many “unprecedented” catastrophes would descend upon us in just one year? On top of the seemingly never-ending wars and recurrent natural disasters, we have been ambushed by a stealthy and deadly virus, forced to confront deep-rooted racial tension and social inequity, and paralyzed by divisive, contesting ideologies threatening to tear us apart. While debates continue regarding what went wrong and how to fix them, one thing most of us can agree upon is the primacy and urgency of healing. I hope that my coming book, Wounded Healers: Tribulations and Triumphs of Pioneering Psychotherapists, might be useful in helping us to work toward such a worthy goal.
Why should we pay attention to the concept of Wounded Healers? Healing is a compassionate act, arising from our being able to suffer (passion) together with (com-) our fellow human beings. We become compassionate towards ourselves and others by facing our own adversity; accepting our own vulnerabilities and limitations; confronting our woundedness, taking stock of our regret, confusion, anger, and grief that are part and parcel of being human, along with strivings, progress, and joy. Through such a process, we become agents of healing and constructive changes – helping ourselves, helping others.
The book focuses on the life stories of fifteen pioneers in the fields of mental health and psychotherapy, who vastly enriched our understanding of the human mind and behavior. Together, they serve as powerful examples of how woundedness may be transformed into wellsprings for healing. Dazzled by the richness and depth of their systems of thought, we might easily assume that such profound inspirations simply originated from exceptional geniuses. Yet, at a closer look, we might be surprised that, without exception, significant obstacles and hardships repeatedly challenged their lives; they often suffered from prolonged inner struggles, psychic pain, and relationship difficulties. Their theories and methods did not emerge from thin air, but came from their need to save themselves. These struggles were matters of life and death, and they did not come out of them unscathed. Seeing these “explorers of the mind” through such a lens enable us to understand Freud’s psychosomatic afflictions and addiction to cocaine and nicotine, Jung’s craving for female admirers and near-psychotic meltdowns, Melanie Klein’s ferocious fights with her close ones, Margaret Mead’s obscuring her bisexual attachments, and Erik Erikson’s decade-long roaming of the countryside. None of them were perfect, but they still deserve our admiration and emulation, for their ability to transform suffering into profound insights on the human condition and develop theories and practices facilitating the healing of countless souls.
We are entering a critical time for healing, for ourselves and the entire society. Stories of the luminaries included in this book may encourage us to also examine and integrate our own “woundedness,” enabling us to take part in and contribute toward healing, for ourselves and our fellow human beings.