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Chinese Medicine and the Splitting of the Doctor-Patient Archetypes
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The interaction between a doctor and her patient is one of the most fundamental human relationships. This course will consider the ethical implications that arise in every healing encounter as they relate to power and authority.

The first section explores the dual nature of healer and patient that exists in each person. I propose the idea that a doctor has an "inner patient" just as the patient has an "inner doctor." These basic principals form what are called archetypal patterns.

The second section delves further into the doctor-patient archetypes and describes the ways in which they manifest in a clinical setting.

From here we proceed to the important sections on the splitting of the archetypes. I show how both the doctor and patient can split, deny, or repress one side of this archetypal pair. The consequences of splitting for both patient and doctor are also explored.

The final sections propose practical ways in which the doctor can prevent splitting the doctor-patient archetypes in both himself and his patient.

While much of this material may at first seem theoretical, this course provides a pragmatic approach to dealing with common clinical relationships.

A note on terminology: I use the words doctor, physician, clinician, and healer synonymously. I likewise use the words patient and client synonymously.
What are the doctor/patient archetypes?

The doctor-patient relationship is as basic and fundamental as the relationship between parent and child or teacher and student. These relationships are seen in all cultures and throughout human history.

Commonly occurring patterns of thought and behavior are considered archetypal insofar as an archetype is an "inborn potentiality of behavior."[1] Then confronted with a typical and recurring experience, we tend to act archetypally. Just as a teacher tends to behave "teacherly" when in that particular role, so too a doctor in his clinic acts "doctorly."

Many of these archetypal patterns appear in pairs: sickness-health, parent-child etc. The pairs of archetypes therefore exist as latent potentials in everyone. So, not only does the patient have a doctor within himself, but there is also a patient within the doctor.

When you were in Chinese medical school, do you remember going through a phase when you believed you were suffering from all the patterns of disease you were learning? These were important moments because we began to understand that these ailments are in ourselves. The recognition of our own pain, sickness, and potential for disease brought us closer to what is commonly known as the "wounded healer." Yet we were also learning the modalities of Chinese medicine that would enable us to heal and improve our own health. At the moment of this recognition we were intimately connected to both archetypes - the sick, wounded patient and the inner physician and healer.

Having awareness of both sickness and healing keeps the archetypes of doctor-patient together. As students, we recognized, for instance, that almost everyone has Spleen Qi deficiency and Liver Qi stagnation, yet we knew which acupuncture points and herbal formulas would help with those patterns. We had no delusions that we were exempt from those patterns, nor a sense of being removed from the conditions we were studying.

Take for example the typical old country doctor. He would do house calls, knew intimately the families that he treated, and was humble in his abilities. He would do his best to help but was imperfect and did not always have the answers for a correct diagnosis and treatment. He wasn't necessarily the epitome of health and perhaps had his own health problems. This may serve as an example of a person with an un-split doctor-patient archetypal pair.

For those of us who feel that being a doctor is our true vocation, the health-sickness archetypes may hold an especially strong lure and fascination. What was it that attracted us to study medicine in the first place and which continues to hold our deep interest? Which side of this archetypal pair drew us in: the power of the all-knowing healer, the magician of ailments, or the sick and weak apprentice in need of healing?

As students, we may have kept the doctor-patient archetypes closer together, as we were acutely aware of our own limitations and weaknesses. However, as we gained confidence and experience, the doctor archetype most likely became stronger and more dominant. This shift is a natural development in the process of embodying the role of a physician.
[1] Guggenbuhl-Craig, Power in the Helping Professions, p. 80.

Embodying the Doctor Archetype

Once we have the experience of alleviating a patient's pain or sickness, it is as if we become a magician. Our patients look at us with awe and gratitude, especially if their condition improved dramatically or rapidly. Perhaps after performing massage you have heard your patient say, "You have magic hands,' or other similar compliments. Our patients will then refer others to us, often singing our praises. "To be recommended gives a doctor an aura, a history, a shred of magic." [2] We grow into the role of a magic healer with each successful treatment.

If we are competent clinicians, and particularly if we are given a personal referral, an authoritative aura may surround us. People might say, "Go see so-and-so, he is really good...he can help...he totally fixed me!" This kind of statement can create a kind of mystical presence that paints a portrait of a doctor who has power and "can work wonders." It is not difficult to see how easily the clinician identifies with the healer archetype.

To be effective healers, we do of course need the healthy expression of the doctor archetype. "The archetypal magician is a knower and a master of technologies. In its highest expressions, this archetype is socially creative and often healing." [3] Indeed, our confidence in our ability as doctors, as magicians, is part of the effectiveness of the healing encounter with our patients.

Likewise, a person who seeks the assistance of a doctor cannot help but live out the role of the archetypal sick patient. At the most basic level, a person who is sick, in pain, or in need of some kind of medical care, will generally place hope in the doctor that he will feel better. This is an inherent power dynamic that is unavoidable.

However, over time it is easy for the powerful and competent physician to forget or deny that he has weaknesses and is vulnerable to pain and sickness. The patient, too, may forget or repress that they have their own inner healer who is strong and wise. In both cases we are dealing with a situation where the doctor-patient archetypes are no longer working together, but have instead split apart.

[2] Broyard, Intoxicated by My Illness, p. 34.

[3] Gillette & Moore, King, Warrior, Magician, Lover, p. 229.

Splitting of the Archetypes

As we have discovered, every person has elements of both student and teacher within him. For many of us, it is not difficult to connect to the part of us that likes to teach or show something new to others. We also all have a childlike part that is curious and delights in learning new things.

But what happens when a knowledgeable adult no longer has that childlike wonder, forgetting or suppressing the innocent, curious child within? We would see an adult who is closed off, ridged, and unable to learn anything new. We would thus witness someone who has split the teacher-student archetypes.

Since a doctor has an "inner patient" and a patient has an "inner doctor," there is, like with the teacher-student archetypes, the potential for the doctor or patient to split, deny, or suppress one of the archetypes. Occasionally we can observe this split outwardly, but more often the split occurs internally. "The splitting of the archetype is an inner event, depending less on the external situation than on the doctor's own psychological development and capacities."

Let us now examine how this splitting occurs in the doctor-patient relationship. There are at least six ways splitting can happen:

1. The patient and/or doctor believe that only the doctor has the authority and power to heal. The patient has no power and is helpless.
2. The patient and/or doctor believe that only the patient has the authority and power to heal. The patient is solely responsible for changing.
3. The patient and/or doctor believe that illness has an external cause only (virus, bacteria, etc.).
4. The patient and/or doctor believe that illness arises from within the patient only, with no external cause
5. The doctor forgets, denies, or suppresses her own wounds, limitations, and inferiorities.
6. The patient forgets, denies, or suppresses her own strength, resiliency, and responsibility for self-healing.

These ways of splitting can occur independently, but more often they occur in combination. The most common scenario in the United States is thus:

A helpless and powerless patient is diagnosed and treated by a powerful doctor with full authority. The illness has an external cause and the patient is not responsible for the origin or recovery of their illness. "Unfortunately, our entire health care system is built on an assumption of helpless patients who need to be rescued by all-knowing doctors."
[6] At the same time, these powerful doctors seldom show or admit their own wounds, thereby splitting the archetypes further.

[4] Guggenbuhl-Craig, Power in the Helping Professions, p. 87.
[5] Greenwood & Nunn, Paradox and Healing, p. 49.
[6] Ibid
How the Doctor Splits the Archetypes

There are several ways, both overt and subtle, that we as clinicians split the doctor-patient archetypes.

Perhaps the most common form of splitting occurs when the doctor denies his own pain in an attempt to maintain a stance of superiority over his patients. "Physicians are educated rescuers who often devote their lives to rescuing the ill and denying their own pain."
[7] The denial of our own pain is one way we maintain a sense of power, but it splits the archetypes. This subtle and unconscious psychological strategy is common among healers.

I have, for example, gone to work with back or shoulder pain and tried as much as possible to not let my patient know I was in pain. At other times, I withheld from my patients the fact that I was having conflicts with my loved ones when my patient was also struggling with similar issues. In both cases I did not want to reveal my weaknesses and problems to my patient. I thought to myself, "Who would want to be treated by a wounded doctor? To show that I am sick is bad for business, right?"

It is not easy to admit, but on other occasions I have had thoughts about how unhealthy and pitiful my patient is, which made me feel especially strong by comparison. In this mostly unconscious situation, "the doctor is no longer able to see his wounds and potential for illness. He sees sickness only in the other. He objectifies illness, distances himself from his own weakness, elevates himself, and degrades the patient." [8]

Another way that splitting occurs is when we do not admit our mistakes. When we do not let our patients know of our mistakes, we maintain a pretense of superiority and power over our "inferior" patients. However, this is quite unreasonable because as clinicians we are bound to make mistakes. Diagnosis, treatment, scheduling, etc., are areas where mistakes frequently occur.

A doctor splits the archetypes when she does not empower her patient to care for herself. This happens when we maintain that illness is only external; the patient has no responsibility for the origin or cure of the sickness. Consider this statement from Dr. Subhuti Dharmananda:

"A large part of the alternative health care movement in the U.S. has focused on the concept that many ills, including cancer, are mainly caused by persons other than the one who suffers from the disease. Therefore, blame is placed on pollutants, food additives . . . . No doubt there are several external factors introduced in modern society that contribute to ill health, but the tendency to focus on these influences may result in a particular sensitivity about considering one's personal responsibility for making daily choices that promote good health." [9]

We know of course that illness has internal and external factors: personal, cultural, and environmental. But by maintaining that our patient's illness has only external etiologies, we consequently split the archetypes.

Splitting also occurs when clinicians, for instance, do not ask their patients questions related to their internal experience, i.e. emotions, thoughts, fantasies, etc., while also failing to acknowledge the possibility that the patient is at least partially responsible for their illness. Many of my patients have confided to me that few doctors have ever asked them what they (the patient) think is the source of their pain or sickness. What does this reveal about the assumptions of those doctors?

Conversely, on the other extreme end of this split are doctors who blame the patient for being completely responsible for their situation. In both cases the doctor has split the archetypes.

[7] Ibid, pp. 77-78.

[8] Guggenbuhl-Craig, Power in the Helping Professions, p. 83.

[9] Dharmananda, How Emotions May Contribute to Cancer, pp. 6-7.

How the Patient Splits the Archetypes

Our patients have a tendency to split the doctor-patient archetypes as much as we clinicians do. One common situation is when a patient, feeling helpless, turns to their doctor for answers.

When patients reject or deny their own innate wisdom to understand their symptoms, they lose touch with their own inner doctor. They therefore look to external authorities to tell them what is wrong. "Patients want to know what caused their illness, and doctors want to give them a plausible explanation. Yet often there is no particular cause of an illness apart from the patient."

Because the power dynamic between doctors and patients is so strong, many patients repress their ability to assess their own condition and turn to doctors, lab tests, and machines to make a diagnosis. What does the blood panel show? What are the results of the MRI? "We are so under the sway of our belief in technology and so afraid to trust ourselves, that we seem instead to prefer to start a mad rush around to physicians looking for someone to make us feel better right away." [11] The inability or unwillingness to trust aspects of their own health is a clear sign that the patient has split the archetypes.

Another way the patient splits the archetypes is when she forgets, denies, or suppresses her own strength, resiliency, and responsibility for self-healing. She can no longer access her inner healer. She has become completely helpless.

Your patient may say, "I have no idea what is going on with me. You're the doctor, you tell me what to do." This is a type of projection, meaning the patient sees healing powers only in the doctor. When this occurs, the patient "may no longer be concerned with his own cure. The doctor, nurses, the hospital will heal him. The patient no longer has any responsibility. Consciously or unconsciously he begins to rely completely on the doctor to bring about improvement. He hands his own healing over to the doctor, and so to speak, sits back and takes it easy."

Since much of our American culture is obsessed with youth, childhood, and innocence, we should not be surprised that adults continue to act childish well into later life. Like a child, they take little to no responsibility for their healing and at the same time expect those with power to do everything for them. "We seem in fact to have given ourselves completely to the maternal voracity of the health care system, hoping we will be coddled from the cradle to the grave." [13]

Clinging to a childish state contributes to the splitting of the doctor-patient archetypes. When our patients do not follow our instructions or recommendations, we should be thinking about whether they have denied their own inner healer. The patient may be resisting taking responsibility for their own health, hoping the doctor will fix them without their own involvement. On the other hand, a patient who resists the instructions of their doctor may actually be connected to their own inner healer, who may disagree with their doctor's advice. Not following their doctor's instructions may be indicative that the patient knows best. We may take this as an opportunity to reflect on what might be true for our patient and our own sense of knowing. How do we react when our patients do not follow our instructions?

Our patients may have already been to many physicians who maintained the power split by never holding their patients accountable for their illness and recovery. In fact, "illness is often unconsciously used to bolster a denial of personal responsibility. And when society as a whole supports this denial, it reflects a colossal collective denial."[14] Thus, in the patient there is a resistance or avoidance of self-reflection and a lack of accountability for their own health.

[10] Greenwood & Nunn, Paradox and Healing, pp. 31-32.

[11] Ibid, p. 54.

[12] Guggenbuhl-Craig, Power in the Helping Professions, p. 81.

[13] Greenwood & Nunn, Paradox and Healing, p. 89.

[14] Greenwood, Braving the Void, p. 40.

Consequences of Splitting

What happens when the doctor-patient archetypes get split? What are the clinical manifestations from such occurrences, and what are the ethical implications?

If we take into consideration what we have discovered so far, it is not difficult to see how splitting the archetypes is damaging to both the patient and doctor.

First, let us look at this from the perspective of the doctor. If a clinician splits off his inner patient, he can no longer relate to or empathize with his patients. "He begins to have the impression that weakness, illness, and wounds have nothing to do with him. He feels himself to be the strong healer. The only wounds are those of the patients, while he himself is secure against them. The poor creatures known as patients live in a world completely different from his own. He develops into a physician without wounds and can no longer constellate the healing factor in his patients. He becomes only a doctor, and his patients are only patients."[15] In other words, by splitting the archetypes the physician is a less effective healer.

To the degree that the healing encounter is predicated upon the relationship between doctor and patient, any inauthentic thoughts or behaviors will undermine that relationship. Further, a clinician who denies his own weaknesses and limitations, seeing only sickness in his patient, ultimately betrays the doctor-patient relationship.

The potential healing that could take place is compromised when the doctor denies or suppresses his own wounds; he is a less effective healer. Whether known consciously or unconsciously, the patient may experience a subtle sense of betrayal.

Now let us investigate the consequences of splitting from the perspective of the patient. We discovered that one common way the patient splits the archetypes is when they ignore their own inner healer. "The patient wants the health promised by medicine and so follows the physician's instructions without question. The decision to surrender power in order to receive the benefits of the physician's presumed knowledge sets the patient on a dangerous path of submission in the blind relief that the medical profession has all the answers."
[16] Thus, the patient loses a sense of agency and the ability to participate in their own healing.

For instance, a patient will follow their doctor's recommendation to take drugs or receive surgery even if they don't believe it is the best course of action. How often have you heard your patients say, "My orthopedic doctor wants to do surgery, so I guess I should go ahead and have it done." Or, "The doctors told me they don't know what's going on with me, but they gave me a prescription for antibiotics. I don't want to take it, but I suppose I should just listen to them."

"Objective knowledge is the basis of our system of well-trained physicians and surgeons, and any hint of subjectivity is rigorously ruled out of order. But any individual who denies her own authority and submits blindly to professional intervention does so at her peril."[17] Without even asking the patient what they think is going on, or whether their recommendations are in alignment with their beliefs, doctors impose their authority and consequently disempower their patients.

[15] Guggenbuhl-Craig, Power in the Helping Professions, p. 82.

[16] Greenwood & Nunn, Paradox and Healing, p. 197.

[17] Guggenbuhl-Craig, Power in the Helping Professions, p. 82.


The disempowerment of the patient by both the doctor and the patient themself is perhaps the most detrimental and damaging aspect of splitting. It not only hinders the healing process, but also may contribute to further sickness. As Dr. Michael Greenwood points out: "Any medicine which does not assist us to recover our inner strength and fails to teach us how to look after ourselves in the end only creates a self-serving dependency - or to be frank, a co-dependency. Though we may seem to get well from such treatment, in fact the root imbalance will remain and we will configure new illnesses, one after another, until either death or true healing occurs. In this way, our present system of medicine actually betrays us while appearing to help." [18]

To assume that patients are helpless ultimately disempowers them. Both clinician and client can make this assumption. Even when patients have no clue how to help themselves, it is the doctor's ethical responsibility to educate and empower her patients.

Failure to empower your patient will contribute to the patient's belief that they are weak and powerless. "When we are ill we are not helpless at all but rather deny our own power, willfully blinding ourselves to our own strength; and, further, that it is this blindness to our true nature that is ultimately what illness is."[19] Part of what creates sickness in the first place is the loss of power and agency. Thus, another consequence of splitting is the perpetuation of illness in the patient.

What, then, can be done to keep the doctor-patient archetypes intact?

[18] Greenwood & Nunn, Paradox and Healing, p. 197.

[19] Ibid, p. 37.

How the Doctor Can Prevent Splitting in Herself

Having the awareness that the doctor-patient archetypes exist in all of us is the first step toward preventing the archetypes from being split. For the doctor to keep cognizant of his own inner patient alongside his healer persona is perhaps the most essential. This means first of all that we continually acknowledge our own wounds and inferiorities. "To deal with another's wounding adequately, a practitioner must be fully aware of her personal wound and how it manifests." [20]

We need to accept our inherent limitations, weaknesses, and our potential for sickness. Moreover, we must be willing to be vulnerable and reveal our weaknesses in front of our patients. Let your patients know some of your flaws, for instance. Share with them the areas in your life that you struggle with or where you feel inferior. Holding the image of the wounded healer in mind may help:
"The image of the wounded healer symbolizes an acute and painful awareness of sickness as the counter pole to the physician's health, a lasting and hurtful certainty of the degeneration of his own body and mind. This sort of experience makes of the doctor the patient's brother rather than his master."

When I work with patients who have signs and symptoms that I have experienced myself, I make it a point to recall what that was like for me and how I felt. Through this I am able to have deeper empathy for my patient and connect to the wounded part of myself. If I am feeling particularly strong and healthy, I remind myself that I am not immune to getting hurt or sick, and that eventually my body and psyche will deteriorate as I age.

To further guard against splitting, we would do well to admit when we make mistakes, both clinically and personally. It is unreasonable to expect myself, or any doctor, to be perfect. We are all human, each doing the best we can, taking care of each other. Admitting mistakes will serve as a reminder to ourselves and our patients of our human fallibility. We shouldn't be afraid to say, "I don't know" when discussing diagnosis and treatment. It is ok to occasionally admit that we are not omniscient, infallible physicians. This will keep the doctor-patient archetypes closer together.

We should be careful not to make our patients completely dependent on us, which only reinforces the split of the archetypes. If we do nothing to empower our patients, they are more likely to disown their own inner healer and project it onto us.

As Lonnie Jarrett points out, "it is much easier to encourage motivated people to climb out of their own predicaments on their own than it is to build a practice of people who expect us to make them better." [22]
We can, for example, give them take-home exercises or recipes for dietary changes. Having patients return week after week without giving them some kind of "homework" does not empower them to care for themselves.

Lastly, let us be open to allowing our patients to heal us. Just as a student occasionally wants to teach his teacher, so do patients sometimes desire to heal us. Let them. Connect to your inner patient and receive the caring words of your patient"s inner doctor. "While he inevitably feels superior to me (the patient), I'd like him to know that I feel superior to him, too, that he is my patient also and I have my diagnosis of him. There should be a place where our respective superiorities could meet and frolic together." [23]

[20] Ibid, p. 124.

[21] Guggenbuhl-Craig, Power in the Helping Professions, p. 85.

[22] Jarrett, The Clinical Practice of Chinese Medicine, p. 779.

[23] Broyard, Intoxicated by My Illness, p. 45.

How the Doctor Can Help Prevent the Patient from Splitting

Our patients may not be aware that they have an inner doctor that parallels their role as patient. As clinicians, we have the opportunity, and ethical obligation, to use our wisdom and skills to keep the doctor-patient archetypes intact. How are we to do this?

The first way we can help prevent our patients from splitting the archetypes is to activate their inner healer by empowering them. As Jeffrey Yuen once put it: "Are you empowering the disease or empowering the individual?" There are numerous ways we can either empower our patients or keep them in a state of weak dependency.

One way to empower our patients is to include them in the process of diagnosis and treatment. For example, you can ask questions such as, "What do you think your problem is trying to say to you? If the illness were trying to give you a message, what do you think it might be? Do you think there is any connection between ___ and ___?" Asked genuinely, these questions may stimulate the patient's own inner doctor. "Often patients will have their own solutions if their physician understands that illness has a message, and allows it to speak for itself."

After asking these kinds of questions, the patient may say, "I have no idea - you're the doctor, you tell me." An answer like this demonstrates that the patient is giving absolute responsibility to their doctor while denying their own accountability for their illness. This is where our confidence as a healer must come forward. As Jarrett points out, "having confidence in yourself and your commitment to your art forms the foundation of your patients' ability to believe they can heal . . . your own internal alignment, coupled with the respect, awe, and grace with which you conduct your art, is able to initiate healing within the patient." [25]

A common question I am asked is, "How exactly does acupuncture work?" I will often take this opportunity to remind my patient of their inner healer. I might respond, "Basically, the needles are catalyzing or stimulating your own healing response system. The needles are nothing special, and I myself am doing very little. It's actually the intelligence of your own body and psyche that is doing the healing. The needles, massage, etc. just help this process along." This reorients the focus of healing on the patient rather than on my authoritative power.

If we as doctors keep our patient's inner healer in our awareness as much as possible, we help them keep the archetypes together. "Many ailments require the ministrations of an external physician. But no physician can be effective without the inner doctor. A physician can stitch up a wound, but something in the patient's body and psyche must help if an ailment is to be overcome. It is not difficult to imagine the healing factor in the patient." [26]

[24] Greenwood & Nunn, Paradox and Healing, p. 236.

[25] Jarrett, The Clinical Practice of Chinese Medicine, p. 772.

[26] Guggenbuhl-Craig, Power in the Helping Professions, p. 80.

Empowering the Patient

What other ways can clinicians empower their patients? One way has to do with the frequency of visits. There are some doctors who keep their patients in a mode of dependency, pushing them to return frequently over many months or years, regardless of improvement in their health. This practice does not empower the patient. However, "as the benefits of treatment begin to last an entire week, the frequency of treatment is then moved to two weeks. In this way, the patient's inner resources are empowered to guide the process of healing as dependency on treatment diminishes."

Despite frustrations and setbacks that frequently occur in the process of healing, we must try to remain optimistic and encourage our patients to take care of themselves. As the authors of the Shanghai College of Traditional Medicine urge: "When practicing medicine, doctors must resist the practice of examining the disease but ignoring the patient, or examining the patient but ignoring his attitude. Instead, they should actively encourage the patient to maintain a spirit of optimism and confidence in order that the patient may help himself to the fullest."[28] In this way, we may help our patient stay alert to, and participatory with, their inner healer.

Finally, we can help our patients by revealing our own inner patient to them. Remind them that we too get sick, have problems, and suffer. If we occasionally allow our patients to give us advice or teach us something new, we will encourage our patient's inner doctor. "The doctor can only work creatively if he bears in mind that despite all his knowledge and technique, in the final analysis, he must always strive to constellate the healing factor in the patient. Without this he can accomplish nothing. And he can only activate this healing factor if he bears sickness as an existential possibility within himself."[29] Just as an inspiring teacher keeps his inner student alive, so the doctor must hold strong to his inner patient.

[27] Jarrett, The Clinical Practice of Chinese Medicine, p. 309.

[28] Shanghai, Acupuncture, p. 549.

[29] Guggenbuhl-Craig, Power in the Helping Professions, p. 87.

The interaction between a doctor and her patient is one of the most fundamental human relationships. It is this relationship that we have been concerned with in this course.

We have focused in particular on the doctor-patient archetypes that exist in everyone. We discovered that there are many ways the doctor and patient can split these archetypes. We saw, for instance, how the powerful and competent physician can forget or deny that he has weaknesses and is vulnerable to pain and sickness. The patient, too, may forget or repress that they have their own inner healer who is strong and wise.

We cannot escape the fact that as clinicians we are in an asymmetrical relationship. A power dynamic is automatically set up in which we are the healers helping those who are sick or in pain. This asymmetry can become progressively more so as we gain in age and experience. If our reputation as a "great healer" grows, it is tempting for us to identify with only the competent doctor and easier for our patients to project their inner healer onto us. This is a common pattern in all medical situations.

Yet there are consequences to the splitting of the archetypes. For the physician, he can no longer relate to or empathize with his patients if he denies his inner patient. Thus, he is a less effective healer.

As for the patient, she loses a sense of agency and the ability to participate in her own healing if she denies her inner healer. She becomes a disempowered and weak patient dependent on the doctor to heal her. But, as we discovered, "illness is a call to the transformative potential within us. We must proceed on our own path, guided by our own inner healer and refuse to give our personal power away to our physicians or anyone else."[30]

It is easy for both clinician and patient to split the archetypes. It is for this reason that we need to be aware of how splitting occurs in ourselves as well as in our patients.

Ultimately, we should be willing to learn from our patients and also to let them heal us. "The healing of the therapeutic relationship is seldom a one-way street: frequently the healer will find herself as challenged, amazed and rewarded as her clients."[31] Just as a child wants to teach something to a friend or an adult, our patients have the healers within them that want to help us.

We as clinicians must be vigilant to not split the archetypes and help prevent our patients from doing the same.

Let us be aware of how our patient's problems constellate our own problems and vice versa. May we remain forever both a doctor and a patient.


I owe much to the work of Swiss psychiatrist, Adolf Guggenbuhl-Craig (1923-2008). His book, Power in the Helping Professions, has been of great benefit to me. I cannot recommend enough this important book to those involved in medicine or therapy.

[30] Greenwood & Nunn, Paradox and Healing, p. 89

[31] Greenwood, Braving the Void, p. 24


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