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Lesson 1 of 7 - reduce psychological wounds


Free your true Self,
and heal your
psychological wounds

By Peter K. Gerlach, MSW

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The Web address of this lesson is

Updated 02-04-2015

      Clicking underlined links below will open a new window. Other links will open  an informational popup, so please turn off your browser's popup blocker or allow popups from this nonprofit Web site. If your playback device doesn't support Javascript, the popups may not display. Follow underlined links after finishing this article to avoid getting lost.

       This brief YouTube video will introduce you to Lesson 1:

      This article will guide you through the first of seven self-improvement lessons. They exist to help protect you and your family from inheriting toxic psychological wounds and unawareness. This lesson assumes you have read...

  meet other people from many countries interested in freeing their true Selves to guide them in this free private FaceBook group .

 Why Study This Lesson?

      From 36 years' professional study and research, this self-study lesson will help you answer these questions:

Was I significantly traumatized as a young child? If so, how?

Am I psychologically wounded and carrying significant inner pain? If so, what does that mean?

Who are the talented subselves that determine my personality?

Who's running my life - my true Self, or "someone else"?

How can I reduce my wounds and live a more satisfying, productive life?

Am I in danger if passing on psychological wounds to my kids? If so, how can I protect them?

How can I spot other wounded people and relate to them?

How can I judge the functionality (healthy > toxic) of any group, like my family, workplace, and church?

How can I help others break the lethal [wounds + unawareness] cycle?

      Notice what you're thinking and feeling now.


      At least 90% of the 1,000+ typical American adults I've met as a family-systems therapist and educator have shown clear symptoms of up to six psychological wounds from early-childhood abandonment, neglect, and abuse (trauma):

1) a fragmented personality and a disabled true Self. This causes:

2) excessive shame ("low self esteem") and excessive guilts;

3) excessive anxieties and fears of failure, criticism, rejection, abandonment, intimacy, loss of control. and of the unknown;

4) difficulties with self-trust and interpersonal trust;

5) significant reality distortions like chronic denial, minimizing, idealizing, catastrophizing, projecting, intellectualizing, and numbing;

      Combinations of these wounds can cause...

6) difficulty feeling. bonding, empathizing, and loving.

.     Typical wounded people also appeared to be largely unaware of these vital topics:

personalities effective communication healthy grief
relationships family health effective parenting

      The unseen combination of psychological wounds and unawareness promotes most personal, family, and social problems. Hundreds of comments on my Break the Cycle! YouTube videos and FaceBook group from over 40 countries around the world suggest that inherited [wounds + unawareness] are global stressors, not just American or Western.

So What?

      Until recognized and reduced, psychological wounds + unawareness...

  • relentlessly degrade wholistic health, relationships, healthy mourning, and effective communication and parenting - i.e. they significantly lower the nurturance level (functionality) of most relationships, families, and organizations, and they amplify inner pain.

      And unrecognized wounds + unawareness...

  • promote widespread inner pain and addictions, obesity, homelessness, crime, depression, abortions, divorce, isolation, "mental illness," dropouts, gangs, fanaticism, bankruptcies, hopelessness, crime, suicide, and other major personal and social problems.

      In my professional opinion, these six wounds cause most or all (?) non-biological "mental health" problems, like personality and mood disorders, PTSD, paranoias, neuroses, delusions,; dissociation, impulse-control problems, hysteria, "panic attacks," depression, obsessions, compulsions, and so on,

      One implication is that most traditional mental-health diagnoses and treatments (including psychotropic medications) are superficial and misleading. They focus on reducing the symptoms, not the underlying wounds. Internal Family Systems (IFS) therapy (Part 3 in this lesson) coupled with education like this ad-free online course seems to provide permanent wound reduction for most childhood-trauma survivors. 

       This Web site calls adult survivors of childhood trauma Grown Wounded Children or GWCs. Lay literature calls us Adult Children (of toxic parents or family dysfunction). If your reaction is "Well I'M not a GWC!" note that denial (reality distortion) is a common psychological wound.

      To see whether you're a GWC, get undistracted and review this and this. Double-check your responses with trusted adults who know you well. If you feel you're not significantly wounded, this lesson can still be useful - specially if you care for young people.

       The guidebook for Lesson 1 is "Who's Really Running Your Life? Free Your true Self and Guard Your Kids" (4th edition,, 2011). It provides most of the same information as these Web pages, and is available in print and e-book formats. It provides portability for Lesson 1 ideas when online access isn't feasible. The guidebook is not required to do Lesson 1. If you have an earlier edition of this (4th edition) book, see this note.

      NOTE - If you follow underlined links in any Lesson-1 page, disregard the blue box and links at the top of the new page that says "This article assumes you have read..." That paragraph is for people entering the Web site who are not following the lesson guides in order. Also, some lesson-1 pages will refer you to pages in later lessons as a preview. Don't follow any inks in such pages to stay focused on this lesson.

  Before You Start this Lesson

      Inherited psychological wounds and dysfunctional (wound-promoting) environments cause chronic inner pain: guilt + shame + fears + emptiness + loneliness + hopelessness. A common unconscious human reflex to distract from this pain is addiction.

      Addictions to mind-altering chemicals like ethyl alcohol and nicotine distort  perceptions and hinder healthy thinking. If you compulsively use chemicals - including prescribed medications - to manage or reduce inner pain, that will probably slow or block your benefitting from this lesson. 

      To see if you're overusing or addicted to some mind-altering chemical/s including food, search the Web on "symptoms of alcoholism / substance abuse / chemical dependence." Here's a sample of what you'll find. Note that the common wounds of shame and reality distortion promote minimizing and denial ("I wasn't traumatized as a child / am not wounded / have no inner pain / am not addicted.")

      If you may be or are addicted to a chemical ,you can

1) get and stay sober for at least a year before working to reduce GWC wounds; or...

2) achieve some progress at addiction recovery and then start healing your wounds (inner pain); or you can...

3) use the wound-reduction strategy in Part 3 of this lesson to help you get and stay sober as you heal.

Trust your own wisdom to make the best choice. Note that "recovery" can mean "achieve sobriety from an addiction" or "reduce inherited psychological wounds."

      What follows is the step-by-step assignment guide to this lesson. It is the basis for the other six lessons in this Web site. Expect this lesson to take several weeks or months to complete. For full benefit, I  suggest you do NOT skip around among these assignments. They build on each other.


      There are 52 "assignments" (quizzes, articles, reprints, and worksheets) comprising Lesson 1. Take your time, and study them in order. View this as a high-return long-term investment of your time and energy.

      Option - keep a log or journal of your experience as you do these assignments. Also consider finding one or more study partners and do this Lesson together.

      If you're an auditory or visual learner, get the essence of Lesson 1 by viewing  the YouTube videos on psychological wounds and working with your personality subselves ("parts work"). They take about 10 hours to view. Many articles in Lesson 1 begin with one of these brief videos. You can also listen to this 1'20" YouTube interview focused on wounds, recovery, and healthy parenting here:

       Lesson 1 has four parts:

  1. Foundations - learn about early-childhood trauma, personality subselves, and Grown Wounded Children (GWCs),

  2. Assess yourself for psychological wounds;

  3. Use ''parts work'' to free your true Self to guide you, harmonize your "inner family" of subselves, and reduce your psychological wounds and inner pain; and...

  4. Learn how to spot and relate to psychologically-wounded adults and kids.

      Scan all four parts first. If you feel daunted by all the assignments, consider this possible shortcut to Part 3 and learning how to free your true Self using "parts work".

      Each assignment below is best done when you're not distracted physically or mentally. Option: print this page and use it as a checklist to track your progress.

  Part 1 - Learn about Early Trauma, Personalities, and Wounds

       When you're undistracted, read the articles below in order with an open mind. Expect to take several weeks or more to complete this study. These foundation ideas will facilitate long-term wound-healing (recovery).

      This part of lesson 1 will teach you about...

  • Early-childhood abandonment, neglect, and abuse;

  • Human personalities (like yours), and about...

  • Six widespread psychological wounds that pass down the generations unless parents prevent that;

About Early-childhood Trauma

__ 1)  Compare the premises underlying this nonprofit Web site with your beliefs.

__ 2)  Perspective on high-nurturance (functional) families (Lesson 5 preview). Were you raised in one? Many GWCs mistake early trauma for "normal."

__ 3)  Preview the developmental needs of average young children (Lesson 6)

__ 4)  Preview this perspective on effective parenting (Lesson 6)

__ 5)  Read about parental abandonment, neglect, and abuse (trauma).

__ 6)  Watch this brief YouTube clip on "Were You Traumatized as a Child"? 

__ 7)  Review these brief research reprints on...

__  parental ignorance and self-neglect.

__  children from "risky families"

__  mental illness often begins in childhood

__  the early roots of empathy, and

__  why do the mentally ill die younger?

__  Option - scan the list of all selected research summaries supporting Lesson-1 premises.

__ 8)  Scan these verbatim Web posts by typical traumatized young people

__ 9)  Learn what it may mean if you feel your childhood was "average" or "normal."

__  10)  Consider this perspective on "mental illness"

       Now learn about the common effects of early-childhood abandonment, neglect, and abuse, starting with personality fragmenting ("splitting");  

  About Personalities

__ 11)  Compare these ideas on human personalities to your beliefs.

__ 12)  Learn about normal personality subselves - your inner family.

__ 13)  Read these Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about personality subselves.

__ 14)  Consider this concept of "false selves." Are you often controlled by one or more?

__ 15)  If you're skeptical about subselves, read this memo to you.

__ 16)  Try this safe, interesting exercise: "interview" one of your subselves.

  About Psychological Wounds

__ 17)  What's a Grown Wounded Child (GWC)?

__ 18)  Learn about six inherited psychological wounds Do you have any?

__ 19)  Learn what It means to be a GWC..

__ 20)  Learn how [psychological wounds + unawareness] are passed down the generations and what that causes. .

__ 21)  Read these examples of real Grown Wounded Children (GWCs)

__ 22)  Study this example of a real stepfamily affected by inherited psychological wounds and unawareness.

__ 23)  If you're suicidal or you care about someone who may be suicidal, evaluate these practical alternatives now.

__ 24)  If you and/or someone you care about had been diagnosed with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), or Bipolar Disorder (manic depression") see these brief YouTube videos..

__ 25)  Verify your new knowledge about wounds and personalities with this quiz

       If you have questions or comments on these Part-1 ideas, please contact me.

      This basic education will prepare you to (a) assess yourself and your family for significant effects from the [wounds + unawareness] cycle, and to (b) decide whether to reduce the impacts. That will promote more satisfying communications, relationships, grieving, and wholistic health for the rest of your life!

      Pause and notice what you're (subselve2s are) thinking and feeling now. Consider journaling about them. When your refreshed and undistracted, put your new foundation knowledge to work:

 Lesson 1, Part 2 - Assess Yourself and Your Family for Wounds

       Premise - Low-nurturance families and psychological wounds are widespread in most (all?) cultures. The wounds range from mild to severe. Most Grown Wounded Children (GWCs) are unaware of their wounds because of denial and social ignorance (lack of knowledge). Implication - you and people you care about may be living with disabled true Selves and enduring preventable stress without knowing it.

__ 26)  Follow these guidelines on wound-assessment.

__ 27)  If you have questions about wounds or wound-assessment, check this Q&A or ask me.

       If you feel you do have significant psychological wounds, continue with Part 3 below. If you're not sure, ask someone you trust to be objective (like a counselor) to review this summary and give you an opinion on who's running your life. If you feel your wounds aren't significant (by your standards), skip to Part 4. Even if you're minimally wounded, you can still benefit from Lessons 2 thru 6 or 7 in this self-improvement Web site.

      Now you're ready to learn how to use "parts work" to reduce your wounds and free your true Self to guide you. Do you need a break now?

 Lesson 1, Part 3 - Free Your true Self and Reduce Your Wounds

       One key to protecting your family and descendents from major stress is to admit and reduce significant psychological wounds. The other key is to convert unawareness and ignorance into knowledge. That's why this self-improvement course exists. If you feel you're significantly wounded (controlled by false selves), this part of lesson 1 will guide you through an effective personal wound-reduction ("recovery") process.

       Option - if you want an overview of this part, view all 15 videos in the Lesson-1 YouTube playlist 1c in order (about 3 hours). If you commit to personal wound-reduction, I recommend you do all the Part-3 "assignments" below in order. Many of the assignments include one or more of the videos.

__ 29)  Study this 3-page overview of how to reduce psychological wounds.

__ 30)  Experience this video on what to expect as you reduce your wounds;

__ 31)  Study this perspective on hitting "true bottom." If you haven't clearly hit yours, view these steps as a valuable learning experience (a trial recovery), and go ahead.

__ 32)  Read this 8-page guide to "parts work" (inner family therapy). This is one effective way to reduce your wounds over time. Other clinicians propose different ways to help you recover from toxic parents and childhood trauma.

       My experience as a veteran (recovering) therapist is that other recovery methods are apt to be superficial and take longer. Exceptions are Voice Dialog, Psychosynthesis, and Eye-Movement Desensitization and Retraining (EMDR). Christians may find Theophostic Ministries helpful.

__ 33)  Consider shopping for a qualified parts-work therapist in your area. See for leads and helpful resources. I'm a 1992 graduate of their training program.

__ 34)  Meditate on this update of the well-known 12 Steps and consider creating and living by your version of it.

__ 35)  Decide if you want to tell key people what you're doing, and why. Expect others to not know about subselves and/or to be skeptical of parts work. If they are, refer them to without preaching.

      If you can find someone else interested in or already doing parts-work, consider teaming up with them. Know that some personality subselves pretend to want to recover, but aren't really committed. They're not "bad," they're scared, and need patient reassurance and encouragement.

__ 36)  Evolve a list of your subselves, and group them as Managers, Inner Kids, and Guardians or Firefighters. Follow the guidelines in this article

__ 37)  Learn more about your ''inner family'' of subselves by inventorying your personal human assets.

__ 38)  Start with most active subselves who you feel don't know or trust your true Self (capital "S"). Interview them one at a time, and (a) confirm their distrust, and (b) start negotiating to build their trust. Use the parts-work steps and techniques outlined here.- ideally with the help of a trained inner-family systems (IFS) therapist.

__ 39)  Patiently repeat this process with each Inner Child and protective Guardian subself who causes your wounds and troublesome thoughts and behaviors. Keep in mind there are no "bad" subselves. They all mean to help, but often retain outdated or distorted information from your early life and unaware caregivers.

__ 40)  Practice asking yourself "Who's in charge now: my true Self (capital 'S') or someone else? You're "done" with this wound-reduction process when you usually answer "My Self."

__ 41)  As you progress at these steps, periodically reread this overview of wound-reduction and/or the Lesson-1 guidebook "Who's Really Running Your Life?" (4th edition).

__ 42)  Review your options for improving your _ self-respect, self love, and _ self confidence. These increase as you free your true Self and reduce the wounds of excessive shame and reality distortion

__ 43) Review and reflect on this brief YouTube video on understanding and protecting your integrity. It's the root of your priceless self respect and healthy pride.

__ 44) Raise your awareness of the importance of physical human contact, and discover whether you're getting enough nourishing touching..

__ 45) If you have problems with self control, consider these options

__ 46) If you have problems with excessive procrastination, see this brief YouTube video. If you struggle with "laziness," see this brief video.

__ 47)  Review these titles about "Adult Children" (Grown Wounded Children) to see other viewpoints.

      Option - scan this link-index of Lesson-1 resources, and (re)read any that now seem relevant to you and your family.

 Lesson 1, Part 4 - Learn how to spot and relate to wounded people

      As you experience wound-reduction benefits, you'll become more aware of others who are wounded and don't realize they're ruled by false selves. Common responses are to pity, judge, and/or rescue them. This is specially true for wounded mates, friends, and respected (and vexing) relatives.

__ 48)  Use this behavioral comparison to recognize people ruled by false selves. For a more detailed tool, use this.

__ 49)  Periodically refresh your understanding of Grown Wounded Children (GWCs) and what it means to be a GWC in denial.

__ 50)  Tailor these relationship options to fit your style and situation with wounded kids and adults; and...

__ 51)  Edit and add these communication options to fit your situation.

__ 52)  Tell receptive others about the [wounds + unawareness] cycle, what you're learning here, and about any benefits you're experiencing from this Lesson.

+ + +

       As you progress with these assignments, notice any shifts in your attitudes, reactions, and behaviors that feel "significant." Be alert for others' comments on such changes. I suggest you also progress at Lesson 2 - improve your communication effectiveness. These two Lessons use and amplify each other.

       Stay aware that you may "complete" these assignments, but learning from them really has no end. As you gain knowledge and awareness and free your true Self to guide you, your version of these ideas will become a way of life.


      This is the first of seven self-improvement study guides in the nonprofit Break the Cycle! Web site. This guide outlines 52 practical steps to help free your wise true Self and reduce significant psychological wounds. The steps are in four groups:
  • Learn about personality subselves and Grown Wounded Children (GWCs);

  • Assess yourself for psychological wounds;

  • Evolve and act on an effective plan to free your true Self and reduce your wounds; and...

  • Learn how to spot and react to significantly-wounded people

Benefits from the other six Lessons in this self-improvement Web site all depend on progress with this one.

learn something about yourself with this question anonymous poll.

       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?

  This guide was very helpful  somewhat helpful  not helpful    

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