I often talk about projecting our issues as well as our desires and love onto other people and situations. It’s like we break ourselves into these little pieces and fling them on to everyone else. Then we go through this elaborate game of trying to recollect all these pieces back (well, at least the good ones).

With the painful pieces, we try to avoid the situations and people who seem to be the bringers of that pain. Putting aside serious things such as physical assault and abuse, we are actually caught up in a game of trying to avoid our own pain. Our pain is within us.

Other than the aforementioned physical injury, we choose the emotional responses that come up inside of us. It is powerful medicine to not choose to be angry, scared, or otherwise upset when someone is yelling at you. It means that you have gained a great deal of spiritual freedom, and you now are the master of your emotional space. Until then, pretty much anyone can manipulate you consciously or unconsciously, and that’s a lot of power to give up to other people whether it is your misbehaving dog or a cruel and sadistic lawyer.

But to deal with our pain and our responses to it, we have to take ownership of it. That’s why assuming that someone else is in pain is so problematic. Furthermore, our pain is very shifty. Sometimes the ego will assign a perception of pain and darkness on another and then try to heal that person, who may or may not actually have any of that issue. The wounded healer is a very common role people take on to do just that. Furthermore, some people go so far as to look at actual healers and other helpers in their life and project their pain onto those people. In this way, some of the people who could help them the most are now neutralized in this person’s mind. They’re either not good enough or pure enough to help, or they need to help fix the healer (which of course is simply trying to help heal their own issue).

7 Signs You’re a Wounded Healer

Yes, it can be a sticky mess, but let’s explore it together to unwind this gnarly bit of yarn so that you can see yourself and others more clearly.

Noticing the Mud on Your Windshield

A good portion of the spiritual path is about learning to understand yourself. Part of that is understanding how you construct your reality. What ideas and beliefs color your perception? What is the mud on your windshield?

In an interesting side note, there really aren’t spiritual miracles. A miracle is simply something that has fallen outside the ego’s ability to define life. If it is completely outside of what someone thinks is possible, then it is consider a completely profound miracle, and as such, it’ll be treated as an outlier. This means, the person won’t believe that it could ever happen again. This is set up by a lot of beliefs, and those beliefs are part of the mud on your windshield.

Consider this. Jenny has a problem expressing her truth. But she doesn’t believe she has this issue. However, she can continually see lots of people who are having trouble expressing their truth. They’re all around her in her life. In some instances, she’s probably upset by people who are really vocal, and she “colors” these people as jerks and assholes. But really, their volubility and vocalness is simply igniting her own issue about speaking her truth. Instead, she constantly criticizes those types of people as well as other people with her issue, and in some cases, she may even counsel people on how to speak their voice. Truly, this is the blind leading the blind.

Until Jenny notices the mud on her windshield, she will be limited in her ability to help others. She will also be really upset and feel overwhelmed by those who already do know how to speak their voices.

What Is Spiritual Inner Work?

The Consistency of the Issue

I know that if you haven’t dealt with many issues, you may be wondering how to see this mud. Sometimes, you can find help from others as I mentioned in 5 Tips for Finding Your Blindspots on the Spiritual Path. You can ask others what they notice about you, but you have to be sure to talk to more than a few people and make them diverse. Oftentimes, we collect together a lot of people who reinforce our stories about ourselves. As such, we have a limited perspective on ourselves because we’ve limited our social circles (usually unconsciously).

But in general, these issues show up again and again in numerous situations. When an issue shows up over and over (such as meeting the same types of people with the same types of issues), that’s a powerful mirror reflecting back to us the issues we are projecting out. The more we don’t like what we see, the more deeply and the bigger the issue within us is. However, this may not be enough to get someone to start healing. Instead, a much more dramatic and sometimes traumatic tipping point is often needed to ignite someone’s will to change. As such, the consistency and the density of the issue tends to grow. Weeds unchecked in the garden clog up more and more things. Life gets duller or more burdensome. It can then get more and more painful and unbearable. Something is asking for your attention, but until you turn your gaze inwards, you are headed to a breakdown or depression instead of healing and rejuvenation.

Turning Your Light Inwards

Until you turn your light inwards, the world is full of all kinds of unsavory, stupid, cruel, and heartless people. But people are just people. While most are trapped in their karma and social belief patterns, pointing the finger at others is an escapist tendency that all too many so-called spiritual people have. Wherever we are upset by others or see others as wounded, we often need to re-assign that pain to ourselves. We need to start asking ourselves questions such as:

  • Why does this trait, belief, or action in another person upset me?
  • What am I seeking from this person or other situation?
  • If I get what I seek, then what? What does that mean to me? Do I get to feel good then?

These are only the start of the questions. More questions will be needed as you play the process. Whenever I say “play the process,” I mean that you have to take it one step at a time. The ego mind will tend to try and jump to a conceptual conclusion, but concepts earn you very little on the spiritual path. A lot of the time, they attempt to jump over a lot of uncomfortable steps, realizations, emotions, and even physical sensations to get to some goal that is perceived as having what you want. But this does not work. However, the mind is a powerful tool, and as you turn your light inwards, it’ll help you to illuminate itself first of all. Starting to look at how you think and for the topic of this blog, why you always see others in so much need of your help or healing (or in other cases derision, degrading, and maybe even punishment) is part of how the mind can be retrained and turned into a powerful ally.

The Arrogance of the Spiritual Ego

Yet, the ego is very crafty, and when we don’t go deep enough inside, it can be quick to put on new clothes as I’ve mentioned in Beware the Spiritual Ego and A Spiritual Belief System Vacuum and Filling the Void. When the ego gets slightly exposed, people tend to try and wrap themselves up in a whole new layer of clothing. With pain still inside and plenty of mud on the windshield, there is no end to all the stuff this wounded healer needs to fix in others. These people tend to complain about the unconsciousness of other people. They can become the door-to-door or blog-to-blog spiritual proselytizer telling people how to live or trying to point out others “unconsciousness.” There’s quite a long list of traits, although the reverse are the ones who swear off the world and hide on a mountaintop or monastery to get away from all this pain. But wherever we go, there we are. We carry all of our issues with us. The former type of spiritual ego will often engender a lot of external world resistance. It’s pain calling to pain. This type of person is likely to find others who want to argue the opposite point with them. I think in some ways this how many people come to wholeness. They create a polarity on one side, and it almost seems to magnetize the opposite to appear in their lives.

Additionally, many wounded healers who have been attempting to heal their pain through healing others will get the same types of people with the same types of issues over and over again. The more regularly someone is working with the same types of issues, the more likely that this is a reflection of an issue within them (although the healed and whole healer or spiritual teacher oftentimes may have a specific niche of work that they do that calls in people with the same types of issues).

Regardless, humility is the cure here. Humility makes space for things to arise, and it keeps a very watchful and humble eye on oneself. In this way, you also start to become clearer and clearer about when an issue is coming within you and when you are simply working with people who have a lot of similar pains (because there a lot of common issues globally such as self-hatred, fear of not having enough, and so on).

5 Misunderstandings About Humility

Owning Your Pain and Clearing Your Sight

As you own your pain and your issues, it gets easier to see others as they are. In the earlier example, Jenny may find that she doesn’t like coaching people on using their voice after she’s healed herself. She may also find that she gets along really well with loud, boisterous people. Until she healed this issue, she couldn’t see how much she had in common with them. That’s what issues do. They really do cloud our ability to see and appreciate life as well as to identify opportunities.

This type of clearing goes on and on as more illusions and pain that obstruct our vision get dissolved. It’s natural, actually. It takes a lot of effort to be in pain. Each morning we get up bright and early and throw mud on our windshields. From then on, our perspectives are skewed, and we continue to make poor choices based on a lack of clarity. This is why so much pain gets perpetuated in our lives.

But we don’t have to live this way, and any time you find yourself particularly upset about someone else or think they’re living in a lot of pain, you may want to pause to check in with yourself. Are you seeing what is really there? Or are you misinterpreting it by projecting your pain onto another?

Psychics and Muddied Vision

One last thing I can say on this point is that psychics can tend to be some of the worst offenders of this issue. While some people naturally have a lot of ability to see energy and other things in people, they can make some of the worst interpretations of the energy they see because of the mud on their windshields. Psychics (especially if they are working professionally) need to do more inner work to clear their subtle energy fields as well as their heart, body, and mind to fully allow messages and clear interpretations to arise.

Even if this isn’t your regular work, the more sensitive you are to what is going on around you, the more important it is to be clear within yourself. That clarity allows you to see and understand–as best you can–subtle energetic information.

No Longer Driving Blind

It is a wonderful thing to no longer be driving blind. It tends to take awhile to be clear because we are so committed to our stories and pain. That commitment keeps us unclear. If you have a story that says you really want a romantic partner, then you may resist seeing the truth that this a time for solo travel. The reverse is true too. The truth is what it is, and we have to learn how to fully accept what we see about ourselves and our paths. From that space, it is easier to accept what is going on with others, and for most people. that is a lot of pain.

However, when we really have no interest in someone else’s pain or whether they heal or not, we become truly powerful healers. It’s because we can allow whatever needs to happen to happen. Sometimes the way out of pain takes someone into way more pain. The healer or teacher in his/her clarity can see this and allows things to take their course. It’s never fun to watch someone suffer, but that seems to be how most people learn on this planet. In the clarity of your inner truth, you can see this and allow this as you continue to let go of your own suffering and open into your beauty and truth.

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I'm a spiritual teacher who helps people find freedom from suffering.

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