by Christopher Penczak, edited by Tina Whittle
Sometimes we are not ready to change. We think we are. We say we are. But when the opportunity comes, we either recoil from true change or play along and get mad when it doesn’t work perfectly and then double down on whatever we are seeking to change, becoming even more intractable.
We have all done it. The trick is in not doing it again.
While there are the certain few who thrive on change and even chaos—and more still those who think they thrive in chaos, but who actually generate a different set of problems—most of us don’t like change. We like safety and stability. We might like novelty and new experiences, but we want to return to a stable status quo from the adventure, like going on a vacation. Yet the Witch knows change is the only stable factor. Everything is always changing, and we seek to change and flow with it.
We can find safety and stability in our wounds and traumas. We can let them define who we are and that identity, though difficult, it hard to relinquish for uncertainty. Better the devil we know than the potential devil—or even angel—we don’t. Sometimes the angels are much scarier. They can expect more and be merciless from a human perspective even while they are encouraging our better natures.
When our problem is rooted in trauma, illness, or other harm, and we grow used to the identity entwined with the issue and its roots, we almost have a familial relationship with it, even a romance. No matter how it treats us, it’s a part of us and we are loyal, missing the point that if we heal on any level we are transforming together, not betraying a part of ourselves. Just as people can be loyal to abusers to the amazement of those outside the situation, people can be loyal to these wounds.
To justify this love, we dress it up in our ideals, or as a friend of mine says, we “try to put lipstick on a pig.” We frame our attachment as doing “the work,” implying the great work of enlightenment and evolution. And yes, it is part of the work, but is it the right part? Is that part done and a next stage necessary?
Imagine the alchemist’s lab. While there are many operations of alchemy as models of the spiritual process, let’s keep it simple. We are grinding down herbs in a mortar and pestle so we can mix them into the potion. Imagine being so in love with the tedious work of the grinding that you never give it up to go onto the next stage. There will always be more grinding, but if you get stuck on grinding, you’ll never get out of it. Grinding provides the grist, breaking things down, moving in circles and cycles, over and over again. Think about if you have ever become in love with your “processing” because it meant you were working hard emotionally and spiritually, perhaps much harder than the person you were in a relationship with who was triggering your processing. That level of work can grant you a sense of spiritual superiority and a feeling you can’t go onto the next stage until this person does the same amount of grinding, yet they can never catch up.
While we do this work in relationship, we also do this work alone, and sometimes the work is realizing when to stay, when to go, and when to move forward in your spiritual work without necessarily leaving, but also not being held back. If you have two ounces of powdered herb and the recipe calls for two ounces of powdered herb, throw it into the potion, don’t keep grinding and spilling out the excess in your zeal. Take the next step.
The concept of the wounded healer can be wonderful, but sometimes people use it to remain wallowing in a wound and call that good healing. While the myth of Chiron can do great good, it can also be a detriment, depending on how you frame it. Yes, Chiron’s wound can never heal, for it is a divine wound. Yet he goes on until he’s placed in the heavens as the centaur Sagittarius, and today the planetoid Chiron is named for him. He asks us to look beyond the physical wound to the whole, to the emotional, mental, and spiritual roots. Chiron is where we are wounded, where we have learned to deal with it, and where we can help others, often simply by example, to deal with it.
If you become a healer in any professional capacity, you will get people who mirror your issues. A key issue for me is anger, and when I began, over half my clients had anger issues. The key of the wounded healer is empathy, the sharing of techniques and ideas that have worked for you, but the challenge is to avoid projecting your story onto them or getting drawn into their story. The wounded healer archetype is also about boundaries, as any healing facilitator should be.
I was speaking to a community member and friend about personal practice and the arc of what it does, about forming good habits and learning what is necessary and what is just pomp. There is a stage where you reach a new level of consciousness and draw different support to you than the previous stages. I would describe it in a few different ways.
At one point, your practice galvanizes your vessel of consciousness. You create a stronger, more cohesive container rooted in the authentic self, but not the ego self. A strength develops. A sense of purpose becomes clear. A certain equilibrium is met. Many love this stage and stay in it, sometimes getting stuck, asking “what’s next?” but never getting an answer.
The next stage is almost magnetic, as such forces draw to you all your disparate parts. If you have done the one-on-one issue work facing particular patterns and traumas, your individual wounds, you will reach a critical mass (assuming you have truly done the work and not simply picked at your wounds repeatedly). When you heal enough, a critical mass is reached that draws your fragments to yourself. The process is less about the individual wounds and the individual healing of situations and relationships and more about the whole organism that is your consciousness coming together. The galvanized vessel can hold all the parts until they “gel.” Another metaphor for this process is cocooning. The caterpillar can liquify safely in the cocoon and re-form into the next stage of evolution. But you need the cocoon, the vessel, and you need to make sure you have all your parts with you before you start the transformation.
Those who do may find that their body can literally change—hormone shifts, weight loss or weight gain, subtle changes in eye color, new allergies developing from sensitivities, old ones disappearing. And those are just the outer marks of the inner change in consciousness, which are more profound. Deep shifts in the inner dialogue create a certain stillness, often resulting in a paradox of both deep and profound passion with a cold detachment to the results.
If we don’t fall in love with our wounds, the healing of our practice and our path spurs us along. If our soul is guiding us, we can simultaneously work deeply while also asking what’s next and moving towards it, even if that new thing is different, frightening, or disagreeable. Those who do not embody sacred drama in their meditations and ritual will find that tapping into the vast powers of the universe will often manifest the drama in their daily lives, seemingly lacking the sacred context, yet the dramas will still be our teachers. We’ll attract the people, create the wounds, and force the situations that will put us in touch with the cosmic drama in a very personal way. If we don’t realize this larger context, we will see only villains, abusers, and enemies, and while we would be correct in those perceptions, we also need to see what is behind them. We need to see when we ourselves have been the villain, abuser, and enemy.
The magickal practice is first the container, and then to magnetize. The study and regular work of our practice creates the infrastructure. As we develop our energy bodies and do more of the work, it is the regular practice and study keeping the process going. Through it, we fall more in love with ourselves, with our vision of the divine, and we can love our wounds enough to let them go, let them heal, and let their healing transform us.