The Wounded Healer Grid

Spiritual Formation for Wounded Healers – Part 3

In the previous posts I introduced a framework that can help us “go together” on a journey towards becoming wounded healers.

In Painting with Ashes, I describe the journey toward becoming a wounded healer in four movements.

  1. Loss
  2. Surrender
  3. Restoration
  4. Flourishing

Here I want to offer a framework that can help with these movements. The wounded healer grid can help you and your team move through your own wound, challenge or struggle. Here’s the grid….

As you might notice, “Jesus” is the center of my grid. As a Christian, Jesus is my “higher power.” But this might not be true of you and your team. The key here is that a “power greater than your self” is at the center of this grid, whatever that power might be for you. This will become clearer as we move through the grid.

In the part of the quadrant labeled “loss” this is about your core wound. Core wounds go back to the source of whatever trauma, challenge, or struggle that crippled you to begin with (Click here for a free assessment to help you discern your core emotional wound).

In the part of the quadrant labeled “surrender” we have become aware of this wound and we now see that it is a “dark side” that impacts other people. We have to use our free agency and will to surrender the reality of our core wound to a power greater than us. “Hurt people hurting people” may never get to this stage. They go through life unaware of their dark side.

In the part of the quadrant labeled “restoration” we start to see that we are not alone in our wound. Many others may also be struggling with a similar reality. Parker Palmer talks about the “standing in the tragic gap” that exists between what is and what could be.[1] This describes the tension one feels between a healed world, and the current realities of brokenness. The tragic gap is the uncomfortable spot where we offer ourselves to be a bridge of healing. Standing in the gap, makes the possibility of restoration real for us and others.

In the part of the quadrant labeled “flourishing,” we see how that tragic gap is manifesting in our own context. It is a “wicked problem.” I mean wicked not in the sense of being evil or morally wrong, but rather to describe a complex environment where success is not the most likely outcome. Wicked problems are social or cultural problems that are difficult or impossible to solve. We flourish when we find a way to give ourselves in the tragic gap for the healing of others.   

Deep work

These questions invite you into the depths of yourself.  They cannot be answered all at once.  Be gentle with yourself as you seek to plumb your inner being. Again, it is highly recommended that you find support to process this work (spiritual director, soul friend, therapist, supportive community). It is normal to experience a full range of human emotions as you do this soul work. You may find it helpful to create a sacred space where you can do this work (under a tree, next to a candle, in a prayer closet.) It is very normal to need to either release energy (take a walk, garden, practice yoga, and so on) or rest after doing this inner work.

A Few Questions to Help Paint with Ashes:

  1. In Painting with Ashes, abandonment is a significant core wound for me. Do you sense you have a core wound?  If so, can you name it? Can you tell the story of how it came to be?
  2. My core wound has impacted relationships throughout my life. Can you begin to take inventory of your relationships and how they have been impacted by your wounds? As you remember these relational impacts, can you notice any red flags that could help you discern when you are operating out of woundedness when engaging with others?  See if you can describe them and simply observe when they are most evident. What do you learn about yourself?
  3. My “tragic gap” is people experiencing abandonment and marginalization. What “tragic gaps” are rising in your consciousness in your life and community. Can you begin to tell those stories as a way to take the healing journey further?
  4. In Painting with Ashes, a “wicked problem” is a societal ill that oppresses people and communities? Look around your community and begin to name the “wicked problems” that you are aware of.  Notice your physical and emotional reaction to these problems.
  5. Over time, take stock of the people and situations that lay heavy on your mind and spirit.  As you begin to collect these observations what is becoming clear? How is your own wound connected to the wicked problem you see? Could your wound be used to bring healing to others similarly wounded?

Spend some time with the four quadrants of loss, surrender, restoration and flourishing.  Where do you find yourself in each section of the grid? Where do you sense God’s invitation in these four quadrants? In the following posts we will go deeper into each area.


[1] Palmer, Parker. The Politics of the Brokenhearted: On Holding the Tensions of Democracy, 2005, 254. http://www.couragerenewal.org/PDFs/Parker-Palmer_politicsbrokenhearted.pdf

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