The ‘wounded healer’ in the context of Jungian coaching, clarifies the hidden contract between the coach and the coachee
My book, ‘An Introduction to Jungian Coaching’, Routledge Publishing House, London (2021) is a pioneering book which presents my innovative coaching method based on C.G. Jung’s psychology. In one of the 31st chapters which the book presents, we can find a new visioning on the “coaching contract” with the client, from a Jungian point of view.
“Presenting the archetype of the ‘wounded healer’ in the context of Jungian coaching, clarifies the hidden contract between the coach and the coachee. The practical translation of the wounded healer archetype to the coaching milieu lies in the notion that, paradoxically, although the coachee refers to the coach, it is the coachee who eventually performs the coaching assignment. However, I claim that this paradox cannot be accomplished without the active presence of the coach in the equation”.
Greek mythology tells us about Chiron, the Centaurs, half man and half horse. Chiron was entrusted with the rearing and educating of Jason and his sons Medius, Heracles, Aesculapius, and Achilles. Besides his knowledge of musical art, he was also skilled in surgery. The Jungians use this mythological story to analyze the therapist-client transference-countertransference relationships. We can infer this paradigm to the contract between the coach and the coachee. In the contest between Heracles (the coachee) and the Centaurs (the coach), Chiron (the coach) was accidentally wounded in the knee by an arrow that was poisoned. Grieved at this unhappy event, Heracles ran up, drew out the arrow, and applied to the wound a remedy given by Chiron himself. However, it was in vain; the venom of the Hydra was not to be overcome. Chiron retired to his cave longing to die, but unable to on account of his immortality until, on his expressing his willingness to die for Prometheus, he was released from his misery (based on Stephen Fry’s Mythos, 2018).
Let us first understand the complexity of the therapist-client relationship manifested in their contract and how it is dealt with among the Jungians. Then, we shall apply this knowhow into coaching. Samuels (1985), leaning on Meier (1949) and Guggenbuhl-Craig (1971), points out that “the healing practices and rituals in ancient Greece took place within a closed setting, the temenos or temple” (p. 187). This idea of a safe place restricts the Jungian coach to keep the sessions in a protected location mostly because the tools Jungian coaching offer require a holding environment. Furthermore, “The analyst (says Guggenbuhl-Craig) becomes the wounded healer in the analytic setting as the temenos permits regression and the giving up of over-consciousness”. This means that any therapeutic relationship is calling (from both parties: therapist and client) for regressive interactions. Regressive interactions include for example struggling on power or control, need for attention, righteousness, competition and obedience. Guggenbuhl-Craig (1971) clarifies and stresses that in therapy we talk about an archetype, (meaning that therapy in itself has archetypal qualities). By stating “archetypal qualities” we mean experiences which have dual opposing characteristics: “the image of the wounded healer, with its inherent contradiction, is an archetypal image and, therefore, the bipolarity of the archetype is constellated. But (in therapy unlike in coaching) we tend to split the image so that the therapist figure, in the therapeutic relationship, becomes all powerful; strong, healthy and able. The “patient” remains passive and dependent” (p. 187). As previously claimed, in the coaching practice this uneven status is prevented.
How does this apply to Jungian coaching? Coaching puts emphasis on symmetrical relationships between coach and coachee. In this sense, the coaching contract eliminates the possibility of a patronizing approach which might occur in a psycho-analytic setting. Coaching competencies refer to “an ability to create a safe, supportive environment that produces ongoing mutual respect and trust. Shows genuine concern for the client’s welfare and future. Continuously demonstrates personal integrity, honesty and sincerity. Establishes clear agreements and keeps promises. Demonstrates respect for client’s perceptions, learning style, personal being. Provides ongoing support for and champions new beings. The coach must ask permission to coach clients in sensitive, new areas, display the ability to be fully conscious and create spontaneous relationships with the client, employing a style that is open, flexible and confident. Coach is present and flexible during the coaching process, dancing in the moment. Has an ability to focus completely on what the client is saying and is not saying, understands the meaning of what is said in the context of the client’s desires, and supports the client’s self-expression. Attends to the client and the client’s agenda and not to the coach’s agenda for the client. Hears the client’s concerns, goals, values and beliefs about what is and is not possible. Encourages, accepts, explores and reinforces the client’s expression of feelings, perceptions, concerns, beliefs, suggestions, etc.”
If we return now to the coach-coachee relationships in the context of the wounded healer archetype, we can relate to Whan (1987), a Jungian analyst, who speaks in his article about “empathic woundedness” and an “open-wound which indicates inferiority” of the coach. When he develops the concept of “archetypal image of an empathic consciousness” (p. 202), he points out at an inevitable vulnerability from the coach side, caused by the symmetrical contract dictated by the coaching profession. This contract assures the coach does not take over or patronizes the session. The coaching relationships are in accordance with the wounded healer paradigm. This idea is developed and further presented by Groesbeck the Jungian. In his article Groesbeck (1975), who is interested in the transferential relationships within the Jungian analysis, believes that the therapist “remains forever a patient as well as healer” (pp. 133-34) and he states that:” he (the therapist) must also be aware of the dangers of inflations as well as his limitations”. The Jungian coach is vulnerable as he can offer the coachee tools to experience, practice and apply nevertheless, he can not do the job for or instead of the coachee.
I would like to present Groesbeck’s (1975) ‘Wounded Healer Paradigm’ in a simplistic form which may help the coach accept his limitations, which paradoxically work for the benefit of the coachee.
The coachee refers to a well-known coach and expresses (on the Conscious level) his concerns (presented in the diagram as minus sign inside the arrow). Active listening and empathic approach, combined by limited ability to act or patronize the coachee (as the contract confines the coach who can only offer the coachee tools to practice with and work out for himself), position the coach, inevitably, in the unconscious domain of the wounded healer. By surrendering to the passive position (of the wounded healer) , the coach paradoxically enables and encourages the coachee to connect to his own internal coaching assets (dwelling in the coachee’s unconscious) , practice with the tools and benefit from the empowering experiment. This process is beautifully summarized by Sedgwick (1994, p 26):” The patient (coachee) “illness” must activate the “personal wounds and/or the wounded -healer archetype within the analyst (the coach). At this point, in order to help the patient (the coachee) “the analyst (coach) must show himself the way, by experiencing the archetype and its personal ramifications himself. Thus, the analyst (coach) is simultaneously a “guide”, a participatory role model and a catalyst for the patient’s (coachee) ‘inner healer’ “(Groesbeck,1975, p. 132).
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