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Are You a Wounded Healer?

Are You a Wounded Healer?

August 21, 2014

“Wounded Healer” sounds like the name of a Native American hero, but it’s actually a concept that is very effective for businesses today. If you incorporate it into your marketing plan, it can have an impact on your company’s success.

When psychologist Carl Jung coined the term “wounded healer,” he was referring to something very specific. According to Jung, therapists are more effective when they have experienced the same problems as their patients. In fact, British psychotherapist Allison Barr has conducted research that shows that 74% of counselors and psychotherapists experienced one or more “wounded” experiences that led to their career choices.

As I see it, the same concept applies whenever you are trying to reach an audience. The most effective communicators -- spokespersons, marketers, individuals speaking on behalf of a cause or communicating through their actions -- are wounded healers touching people from their own experiences. We love people who are vulnerable and are turned off by those who brag.    

Candy Lightener, the founder of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), is an example of  an effective wounded healer. Her 13 year old daughter was walking to a school carnival when she was killed by a repeat DWI offender who was out on bail. From her own tragedy, Lightener decided to speak out about the dangers of drunk driving; her personal experience has enabled MADD to play a significant role in reducing alcohol-related accidents through education and DWI legislation.

Wounded Healers In Business

It doesn’t take a tragedy to become a wounded healer, though.  You can move from any personal wound to effectively helping others. And because you are motivated by something from within, the resulting brand that emerges can be both appealing and genuine.

My dear friend Jim Cecil hated cold calling for business. It motivated him to help other businesses solve the same problem, and Jim went on to create his "nurture marketing system." His own experience propelled him, and that made the result so much more valuable.

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Want to know how I’m personally a wounded healer? Just email me and I’ll share it with you.

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Richard Simmons was an overweight yet charismatic 268-pound high school kid who knew what it was like to be ridiculed and tormented by his peers.  He moved from New Orleans to L.A., took an interest in fitness, and lost over 100 pounds. Simmons went on to become a fitness guru, establishing his own personal brand. Unlike the generic Jack LaLanne ‘muscle man,’ Simmons was different -- and women trusted him. They knew he wasn’t going to judge them, having been judged so negatively himself. As a result, Richard Simmons the wounded healer was able to help people worldwide lose weight and feel better about themselves.

Former engineer Debra Fine and I were once talking and she told me she was once painfully shy. I couldn’t believe it. Initially, Fine, avoided social interactions as much as possible. But she worked hard to overcome her shyness, reading books and slowly learning how to interact comfortably with others.  Today, Fine is the author of the bestselling book, The Fine Art of Small Talk.  She is also a highly successful keynote speaker.  Debra Fine is a genuine wounded healer, writing and speaking from personal experience and helping thousands. (By the way, the best small talk line I ever learned from her was “Give me an update.” If you ask people, “How are you?” they’ll tell you “Okay.” Or “How's the job?” may get you “oh... I just lost my job." By contrast, this line allows them to tell you as little or as much as they want. I’ve been shocked how effective it is.  Some people start sharing their deepest secrets while others tell me “nothing new”. Either way is allright.)

Wounded Healers are Better Than Big Shots

In any industry, you’ll find the big shots who have made lots of  money and moved up to top positions. But in the spotlight, they may not be as effective as wounded healers. Why? Because they simply can’t make the innate connection with their audience as someone who has been wounded.

Why is Jared Fogle one of the most successful spokespersons ever?  Because Jared lost over 200 pounds on “the Subway diet” and went from being morbidly obese to healthy. Jared wasn’t a big shot. He was a “regular guy” with a very real story of his own wounds to tell. His personal experience losing weight while eating Subway food enabled the fast food company to launch a huge, successful marketing campaign with Jared as its spokesman.

Are You a Wounded Healer?

If you can identify the area where you have been wounded and you offer to shed light in that area, you’ll be more successful than people who have never been wounded. Parkinson’s Disease has received much more attention and funding since actor Michael J. Fox announced his own illness and started a research foundation. John Walsh became a well-known advocate for victims of violent crime with the creation of his TV show, “America’s Most Wanted” when his own son Adam was kidnapped and brutally murdered. The current Ice Bucket Challenge rage was the brainchild of Corey Griffin, a 27-year old who wanted to raise money for his friend, Pete Frates, who was battling ALS. Having a personal friendship with someone who can no longer speak or walk propelled Corey to do something drastic to raise funds for research.

The Chicken Lady

In the end, wounded healing is about helping other people.  With that in mind, I want to close this week’s blog with the story of the Chaya Hammer, who passed away a few years ago at nearly 100.  Chaya grew up in great poverty in Russia and eventually tried to emigrate to Romania with her family, where they were stopped at the border and jailed for five months.  They eventually made their way to freedom, living hand-to-mouth as they travelled to Israel.  

Retired from years of teaching, and in her early seventies, she was standing in line at a butcher shop one day when she noticed the butcher giving away a bag of chicken fat and skins to a young girl.  She inquired how many dogs and cats the family had.  The butcher replied that they had no pets, and that this was for the family to make chicken soup.  He could not afford to give them anything more.  

But Chaya could. And from that day forward, until her death nearly 30 years later, Chaya Hammer provided chickens to thousands of poor families in Israel. Her family continues the tradition today.  A wounded healer with a generous heart, Chaya Hammer became known worldwide as “The Chicken Lady.”

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Want to know how I’m personally a wounded healer? Just
email me and I’ll share it with you.

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Take aways:

1. What vulnerability can you share?

2. Where is your passionate connection to a problem that your product or service solves? 

3. How can you take the challenges you’ve been given and do something great in the world?

Taking you from where you are to where you want to be,  

Jon