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The Wounded Healer, Part 1

Positive Masculinity Contributor - Mac Scotty McGregor

Founder of Positive Masculinity

Also Known as The Gender Sensei

Author of Positive Masculinity Now, Speaker, Author, Coach, Former US Karate Team Champion, Martial Arts Hall of Fame Inductee

Wounded healers are not born but created by conquering adversities, pain, and suffering. They find ways to conquer their fears and to speak their truths in a world that pushes us to assimilate. They shine a light on hurt and loss to help others to find their way through adversities.

Carl Jung coined the term “wounded healer” to describe himself. Having overcome a tumultuous childhood, many noted figures have turned their pain into a quest to make the world a better place for everyone.

As a teenager, I heard Joni Eareckson speak at a youth event I attended. She was paralyzed from a diving accident and permanently in a wheelchair. Yet she talked about finding joy and light in the darkness of her injury. I remember feeling inspired by her; she wore a contagious smile even though her life had drastically changed and she faced many challenges. Her positive attitude would be hard to muster in her situation. As a young athlete, I could not imagine my ability to move freely being taken from me.

Her story showed me how to be a wounded healer, and I quickly followed suit. I knew many others in the world were experiencing situations similar to those I lived through; therefore, sharing my story could help them.

My mother got pregnant with me at only sixteen years old, and she did her best to hide the pregnancy as long as possible. My father was twenty-one, and they tried to make a go of it together, but their youth and challenges made it nearly impossible. By the time I was a year old, they had split, and my mother and I had moved in with my grandparents. My grandparents helped raise me in my younger years, but I constantly got pushed back and forth between them and my mother. My mother had married five times by the time she was twenty-five. She would take me away from my grandparents when she started a new relationship and felt settled. I never knew what would happen or where I would end up by the end of the day.

I have a little brother, who is almost four years younger than me, who was also there when I was with my mother. One night, when I was five, at my grandparents' house, I heard loud noises outside; I noticed my mom was not in the room, and we were all three there earlier. I stood in bed at my grandparents’ house and tried to peek out the window. I could only see lights, then my Nana opened the bedroom door, looked at me, and said, "no matter what happens, you stay in this room until one of us comes to get you." I nodded yes, and she shut the door and left. I tried to see what I could from the window; a bit later, I heard sirens and saw flashing police lights, then an ambulance came. After a while, my Nana returned and told me it was time to sleep. She did not explain what had happened; she just told me it was over now and that I needed to sleep. They took me to the hospital to see my mom a few days later. She was so swollen and bruised up that it was hard to recognize her. They had a police guard at her door. Her husband at the time showed up and was mad because she had left him. He had made several threats, like many abusers, that he would find her and kill her if she left. He tried to do just that.

It was scary as a little kid living with someone who could quickly become a monster. I saw him beat my mother many times and throw our entire dinner table across the room. When anyone said something that triggered him, he changed and became an uncontrollable monster full of rage. I remember that no one ever talked to me about that or any other violent things that happened over the years. No one ever asked little Mac, “Are you okay?” No therapy was given; at that time, you did not go to counseling in the South unless they called the white coats. No one helped me process these things; they were all busy running to fix each crisis my mother had.

My mother went on to marry many more times in life, and we later learned she was mentally ill. I knew she struggled with depression, but it was much more complex. Borderline and bipolar are a challenging combination to live with. As kids, my brother and I never knew what we were walking into when we came home from school. She could be happy and want to talk, have locked herself in her room for days, or be yelling or crying. It was a constant emotional rollercoaster. I walked in softly to check the dynamic landscape daily to determine if I should stay outside and play or if it felt safe to come inside.

I started martial arts training at six years old. I have always called the martial arts my soulmate because my dojo family and training saved my life. I was an energetic kid who needed a healthy place to focus all that energy. It was also crucial that I had some positive people in my life, and my dojo family was supportive, encouraging, and kind. Being there gave me a respite from the chaos at my house. So I spent as much time there as possible. As a small child, I felt helpless to protect my mother and brother. I also had the drive to become a highly trained warrior so I would not feel that again.

That turned into a lifetime of training and using my experience to empower others to protect themselves as a teacher, coach, and mentor. I have taught self-defense and martial arts all over the world. I've taught in women's prisons, shelters, foster care systems, LGBTQ centers, gay bars, community centers, conferences, better business bureaus, and churches. It lights me up inside to do things that help others feel empowered and safer.

As a champion athlete, I began to speak at many events, leading me to start telling my stories. So many young people were living in broken homes with fighting and turmoil. Roughly one in two children will see their parent's marriage break up, and one parent is raising twenty-five percent of children.

Telling my story helped show other young people that you can come from brokenness and still reach your goals and be successful. It also helped heal me. Our stories and pain hold power over us when we keep it all bottled up inside and hold shame around it. Growing up in the South, it was drilled into me that you keep your family's business within the family. We don't want the neighbors to know our dirty laundry, which teaches us that there is shame around divorce, dysfunction, mental illness, and mistakes. I understand that pain loses its power the more we share it. When you share the pain you are carrying, then the weight of it is dispersed.

Today, I know to no longer try to hide that I am a wounded healer. My motivation to make the world a better place came from pain, suffering, and trauma. I no longer try to hide my pain because I have experienced how sharing helps heal me and shows others that they are not alone in their pain and suffering.

Due to the courage of people like Joni Eareckson, Maya Angelou, Eli Wiesel, Victor Frankl, Dan Millman, Oprah, Lady Gaga, Elton John, Marsha P. Johnson, and many more, I carry the lessons and courage I gained from them forward. I am grateful for those who paved the way and taught us that our pain and suffering could come with growth, compassion, grace, inspiration, and purpose. I hope this encourages you to share the stories of your pain and trauma so that others know they are not alone and you continue to heal.


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1 Comment

Yes, many of us can share what you have gone through and now I can say I too am a wounded healer. Thanks for your story.

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