“Existence is suffering,” proclaims the first noble truth in classical Buddhist meditations. As difficult as these words are to acknowledge, we recognize that life is not without various degrees of suffering and pain. Pain is an integral aspect of all human existence. Pain is experienced in all cultures, creeds, and colors of humankind. It is universal. As much as we would choose to deny it or to hide from it, pain is our common heritage. When confronting physical or emotional pain, our outlook on life is diminished, our personality is altered, and our relationship with others deteriorates. Pain can control our very being as we despairingly succumb to that which seems beyond our physical or emotional control. From legend and lore we know that pain has existed since in the beginning of time; we also find that the treatment for the alleviation of pain is age-old.
Ancient civilizations knew this well. The ancient Greeks left us the mythological wounded healer, Chiron. He was a majestic centaur, half man and half horse. The epitome of strength, this beautiful creature was the paradigm of one who is in touch with the invaluable instincts of animal nature while at the same time attuned to the human intellect and healing knowledge. Chiron was known as the wounded healer because he was unable to heal his own trauma. Yet through his grief and anguish, he was able to recognize and empathize with the pain in others in order that they might be cured. He taught the healing arts to Asclepius and Heraclitus. These wise ancient figures foreshadow healers of modern time.
In Epidaurus, Greece, we find the ruins of the Temple of Asclepius, the Greek god of healing. There, we see the small cubicles where those who suffered physical and emotional pain came and were attended to by the priests of Asclepius and were healed in body and soul. The Greek healer Hippocrates, known as the father of medicine, gave us the art of caring for psyche and soma and an appreciation of the tremendous battle one endures when debilitating pain inflicts one’s personhood.
Fortunately, medical science and the modern-day priests of Asclepius, our physicians and health-care therapists, have made numerous advances in alleviating pain. Miracle drugs and therapeutic remedies have brought blessed relief to our numerous painful afflictions. But there is more than just a quick remedy needed to heal our pain.
A wounded healer herself, Dr. Sumter Carmichael has explored in this book the many pathways, from physical to spiritual, approaching the complex issue of pain. Through her knowledge, experience, and heartfelt wisdom, she is a guide offering a gentle yet resourceful light into the dark abyss of pain.
Dr. Nancy Qualls-Corbett