Break the [wounds + unawareness] cycle!

Study 7 Lessons to end toxic unawareness

Will You Alert Other
People to the Cycle?

If you don't who will?

By Peter K. Gerlach, MSW


The Web address of this article is

Updated 03-19-2015

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      My research and experience as a family therapist since 1979 suggests that millions of average families experience major stress from inherited psychological wounds and unawareness. Average men and women - including media and human-service professionals and legislators - are unaware of this inheritance and its toxic effects.

      If you're not clear on the [wounds + unawareness] cycle, watch this brief YouTube video. Then watch this introduction to alerting other people to the cycle:

Should You Read This Article?

      This article is for you if you've studied and are applying the ideas in this online self-improvement course. If you haven't experienced benefits from doing this yet, I respectfully suggest you do so now rather than reading this.

      Whether you're reasonably clear on your life purpose, or not, clear your mind, breathe easily, and experience this 1-minute inspirational video about your life. Then learn something about yourself by taking this 1-question anonymous poll. If you're concerned about the [wounds + unawareness] cycle and its effects, this article proposes...

Options for Alerting People

    Decide whether your true Self guides you now in most situations. If not, are you committed to freeing your Self to lead your other subselves? If not, focus on Lesson 1 rather than on alerting people to the cycle.

Alert Family and Friends

      Think of all the adults who mean the most to you. Identify those who...

  • are raising minor kids, or may do so in the future, and...

  • who show signs of being a Grown Wounded Child (GWC).

      These people can benefit the most from learning about the cycle and its effects. You can alert them by...

  • casual conversations alone or in a group;

  • referring them to this nonprofit Web site (, and/or by...

  • giving them a copy of this description of the cycle, and discussing it.

      Stay clear that you aren't responsible for "saving" anyone or their living or future kids from wounding - they are. Keep the Serenity Prayer in mind as you offer your people this vital awareness, and stay focused on applying these Lessons in your own home and life. As you inform these people, be alert for any who may share your desire to help others break the cycle.

Alert Other Local People

      If you've ever worked at reducing some social problem, you know that the first steps are believing in a vision, and that your efforts to bring the vision to life really count. So to help reduce the lethal [wounds + unawareness] cycle that's eroding our culture and Earth, first...

Create a Vivid Vision

      Imagine your neighborhood, church, social community, state, nation, or our world where...

Most kids...

  • are raised to know and appreciate the subselves that govern their personality, and...

  • are helped to harmonize their subselves by serene, aware parents and teachers who are guided by their own true Selves and Higher Power.

And imagine...

Most people wanting to learn how to problem-solve effectively as partners, rather than fighting, denying, blaming, avoiding, or fleeing. And imagine a region or world where ...

Most people are aware, motivated, and able to help each other grieve life's inevitable losses (broken bonds), and to avoid alternatives like addictions, "depression," medication, numbness, illness, isolation, or "acting out."

And envision...

Local state, and national laws encouraging men and women to be fully qualified to conceive children - i.e. steadily governed by their true Selves, and demonstrating knowledge of these essential topics. And...

Addictions, homelessness, obesity, and "mental illness" becoming minor social problems; and...

Divorce dropping from ~50% to ~10%, without most of the other 90% being in denial or enduring daily misery.

      Notice your thoughts and feelings now. Are you inspired by this vision, or are your dominant subselves cynical and pessimistic?

Confer With Your Wise Future Self

      Now relax, breathe easily, and imagine sitting in pleasant, quiet surroundings with an elderly person you care deeply about. It is a time for appreciation, regret, and goodbyes, because the person is close to death. S/He is your future self. Now imagine having a heartfelt, honest conversation with this person about the meaning, achievements, and regrets of your life. S/He knows you better than anyone else.

      Reminisce about what you dreamed (or didn't), and what you risked to realize your dreams. Imagine reflecting together on the people whose lives were benefited in some way by your talents, energy, passions, and risks. Imagine hearing "If only I..." How would you like that conversation to go?

      Some day you really will have this conversation...

      Reflect on the idea that every person - including you - has a unique talent and purpose for being alive. Can you think of a person who has identified their life purpose or mission and steadily devoted their time and energy to it? Does the slogan "Be all you can be!" describe you now?

      Psychologist Abraham Maslow called living "on purpose" self actualization. Psychology professor Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi published an intriguing book about it called "Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience"

    Professional motivators suggest living each day from a thoughtful personal mission or vision statement. Recovery expert John Bradshaw observes that most of us are so habitually caught up in daily trivia and distractions that we should be called Human Doings rather than Human Beings. Social reformer John W. Gardner observed "By middle life, most of us are accomplished fugitives from ourselves." Is that your experience?

      What are your inner voices (dominant subselves) saying now? Are they interested and inspired about alerting people to the cycle, or cynical, bored, and pessimistic? If the latter, it may be that they don't yet see any practical way of bringing your vision of a better world to life, or they feel that trying to do so is too hard, costly, and/or risky.

      If you're a human-service professional on any level, I urge you to inform your coworkers and the people you serve about the [wounds + unawareness] cycle and its toxic effects. Your profession and your desire to help people gives you a unique chance to educate and motivate many people to break the cycle and protect their families. For specific ideas, find your profession here after you finish this article

Pick a Target Group and a Goal

      One of the priceless things that recovery from psychological wounds has taught me is to avoid blindly reducing complex situations to only two choices (black/white either/or thinking). This is a common childhood strategy to avoid feeling paralyzed and overwhelmed by too many confusing options. Your true Self will see that your vision has many options, vs. don't try to alert anyone to the cycle (black), or save the whole world (white).

      So - form a version of your mission that seems do-able, and work toward it by (a) picking a group of people you want to affect, and (b) defining what you want to educate and inspire them on. For example alert a...

Target group

  • your family and social circle, and/or...

  • your church, parish, or denomination, and/or...

  • one or more schools or school districts, and/or...

  • residents of your community, and/or...

  • some to all human-service professionals; and/or...

  • some or all 12-step, single-parent, jail inmates, or other group/s, and/or...

  • courting couples in your town, state, or country; and/or...

  • residents of your county, state, country, or continent; and/or...

  • your co-workers, and/or fellow professionals...

  • a media population (e.g. newspaper, Web, or TV audience); and/or...

  • people who speak your language (e.g. English)

to one or more of these

Stress-prevention Topics

  • personality subselves, psychological wounds, and wound reduction

  • communication basics, and one or more of the seven related skills - e.g. empathic listening;

  • why and how to develop personal and social awareness

  • healthy relationships (bonding), losses, (broken bonds) and effective grieving;

  • building high-nurturance families and organizations

  • divorce prevention (healthy-marriage preparation);

  • kids' needs, and effective parenting

  • evolve a stable, high-nurturance stepfamily;

  • some of these questions and answers;

  • how to analyze and resolve most relationship problems

  • This self-improvement course

  • how to start and maintain an effective co-parent support group.

      Notice how many choices you have! Now what are your inner voices saying? If you're working to manage major personal life problems or are controlled by a false self, your voices may be saying "Yes, but... (various reasons you can't act to help people in your target group now, or ever)"

      Once you have a stable view of your target group and prevention goal/s, then...

Pick a Time to Act

      How mature (vs. old) are you? In his classic book Childhood and Society, psychiatrist Erik Erikson proposed that we all encounter eight developmental stages across our lives. He proposed that "passing" each stage required mastering prior stages. The seventh stage is "generativity... concern in establishing and guiding the next generation."

      If Erik is right and you haven't yet reached your generativity stage, it may be too early for you to think about protecting living and future kids from psychological wounding, unhappiness, illness, divorce, ineffective communication and grieving, and premature death. If so, you can...

refer and/or pass on a copy of this Web article to someone you think might be inspired by it, and gain satisfaction from helping someone fill their needs for generativity; and/or you can...

save this article and your current vision, and review it at a future time to see if your generativity stage has arrived, and/or you may...

disregard the topics above, because you already have a passion and life purpose that inspires and motivates you.

      Once you pick a target group and goal/s, and the time feels right, you have many ways you may...

Act on Your Vision

      Our ancient ancestor who first showed others that charcoal left marks on a rock died well short of visioning all humans using pencils, pens, or pixels to "mark our rocks." An inspiring illustration of this concept is the animated video "The Man Who Planted Trees" by Jean Giono (also available as a narrated CD on iTunes)

      Useful questions to ponder that can affect how you decide to act...

  • "Do I want to make money at this?"

  • "Am I seeking fame, power, recognition, praise, or gratitude here?

  • "Am I trying to please or prove something to someone, by acting on my vision?"

  • "Do I need or want help to manifest my vision?", and...

  • "Is this really my vision, or have I adopted someone else's dream?"

Action Options

      Use these suggestions to trigger your own creative ideas about how to bring your vision to life...

Create and submit an article, a poem, a novel, a blog, or an artwork about the topics above and your vision; design and sell a line of T-shirts; start a greeting-card company or contribute ideas to one;

Bring your topics up with your friends, and learn from their reactions. Enlist like-minded companions. Refer people to this brief YouTube clip on the cycle;

Call someone who controls communication, policy, and/or education in your target group (e.g. an editor, clergyperson, teacher, or human-resource chairperson), and ask for an appointment;

Learn who sponsors community education in your area and give a class - e.g. "Is your true Self running your life - or is someone else in charge?", and "What are your kids learning from you about 'good grief'?" Publish your class, and train others to give it. Put it on a CD and submit it to educational clearing houses or sell it over the Web;

Identify existing commercial or non-profit groups that work for your target population, and learn how they communicate with their audiences and how to join them;

Learn how laws are made in your state (or policies in your workplace), and manifest your vision by lobbying for a new law or policy - e.g. lobby for a law that all people applying for a marriage license have to pass a knowledge test, including topics like those above. (Notice your subselves' reaction). Option: require all marrying and/or divorcing couples to assess for psychological wounds, communication competence, and/or the ability to grieve well.

Learn the curriculums of the schools in your community, and work to upgrade them as needed to include any of the topics above that you feel passionate about;

Join a local speaker's group; and/or ask local civic, church, or professional groups to let you speak on one or more of these topics;

Ask your Higher Power and/or hire a consultant to help you manifest your vision;

Become a consultant for others helping your target group;

Take education courses for credit to strengthen your credentials and credibility, and expand your knowledge on your selected topic/s;

Submit a grant proposal to a funding source to help finance bringing your vision to life;

Design a board and/or electronic game to teach and inspire your target group. Examples: the Ungame and Life Stories

Create a Web site, online discussion group, and/or publish a print or e-newsletter, pamphlet/s, articles, and/or a book;

Tell others about selected articles in this Break the Cycle! Web site, or the whole site, or these guidebooks, and/or...

Tell human-service professionals in your target area about these stress-prevention suggestions and urge them to act.

      These illustrate a few of the ways you can earn major satisfaction by helping living and future families reduce their stress, raise their nurturance level, and lower their chance of illness, unchosen losses, and psychological and legal divorce.

      You really can make a difference, and enjoy a deeply-satisfying reflection on the value of your life's work!

Options for Responding to "Resistance"

      Alerting people to the cycle occurs in two phases: (1) explaining the concept, and (2) motivating them to assess themselves and their family for wounds and ignorance. The first is relatively non-threatening, because it requires no action or change. The second phase can scare some (wounded) people. They may "resist" assessing whether the cycle has affected them and their family.

      My experience is that there are four types of responses to learning about the cycle:

  • intellectually receptive but not seeking any personal change

  • intellectually receptive and wanting to change something

  • uninterested or indifferent to the subself-wound concept; and...

  • defensive and/or argumentative - perhaps trying to debunk, discount, or "disprove" personality subselves and psychological wounds.

      The best way to respond to the first three of these is to be content with "planting seeds" (knowledge), rather than trying to "sell" some action. Parents and/or grandparents in your audience may be motivated by the idea that without adult awareness and action, the cycle can cause their kids serious psychological injuries, stunt their growth, stress their lives, and jeopardize their health.

      The fourth response is "resistance." It usually indicates the person is unaware of being ruled by a false self which is scared of being "exposed" by wound assessment, and losing power and control. Trying to reason with or debate a protective false self about the cycle is usually useless, because those fearful, distrustful subselves are motivated by distorted reality, ignorance, distrust, and emotion - not logic.

A useful response to "resistant" (wounded) people, is

  • keep your true Self in charge of your personality

  • choose a mutual-respect attitude, and avoid any judgmental feelings or statements;

  • use empathic listening to acknowledge their opinions;

  • mention their option of learning more when they're ready;

  • use the Serenity Prayer, avoid trying to rescue (feel responsible for) the person/s, and be content with "planting seeds." (teaching concepts).

      If your true Self is guiding you, s/he will know how to best handle "resistance" to the cycle in your particular situation and audience.


      This article provides a framework for alerting other people to the lethal [wounds + unawareness] cycle and its effects. It suggests first completing Lessons 1 thru 6 or 7 here, and proposes options on how to use your knowledge and motivation to broadcast your message - specially to parents and others caring for children. The article outlines some of the many options you have for alerting other people to parts of the cycle.

    Another section of this non-profit Web site offers suggestions to human-service professionals for helping people reduce psychological wounds and improve the nurturance-level of their families.

      Pause, breathe, and reflect - why did you read this article? Did you get what you needed? If not, what do you need? Who's answering these questions - your true Self, or ''someone else''?

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