Lesson 1 of 7  - free your true Self to guide you

What It Means to Be
Psychologically Wounded

Six Common Effects

By Peter K. Gerlach, MSW
Member NSRC Experts Council

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The Web address of this article is http://sfhelp.org/gwc/means.htm

  Updated  01-13-2015

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      This brief YouTube video summarizes what you'll find in this article:

      This is one of a series of Lesson-1 articles which exist to help you understand, recognize, and reduce inherited psychological wounds from early-childhood trauma. This article summarizes six common impacts of these wounds, and what these impacts usually imply. It assumes you're familiar with...

     Six Effects of Psychological Wounds

      As a veteran family-systems therapist, I have studied psychological wounds and wound-recovery since 1986. I estimate that 80% or more of my 1,000+ clients and students showed clear signs of these wounds. Under 5% knew that or what it meant. Most of them were in protective denial of their wounds, and were unaware of how this was affecting their and their kids' lives. These effects include...

  • Being unconsciously attracted to significantly-wounded partners - repeatedly, despite painful results (like divorce);

  • Unintentionally reproducing low-nurturance family environments and wounding their kids;

  • Unconsciously choosing low-nurturance (toxic) work, social, and religious (church) settings;

  • Having to intentionally reorganize their personality and relationships to reduce unhealthy traits and behaviors (i.e. having to "recover");

  • Choosing a human-service occupation and/or depending on wounded, unaware human-service professionals for help; and...

  • Suffering significant health problems and dying prematurely without knowing who they really were or could have become.

      Notice your reaction to these typical wound-impacts. Could they apply to you? To your mate? Your parents or siblings? A child in your life? Here's some...

Perspective on These Effects

      1)  Being repeatedly attracted to significantly-wounded partners despite painful results. The interaction of wounds in two people ruled by false selves usually causes mounting relationship conflict and stress. These promote eventual psychological or legal breakups. This is specially likely if the mates lack basic information on effective communication (Lesson 2) and  relationship management (Lesson 4).    

      One implication is that a high percentage of potential new partners after a mate-death or divorce are significantly wounded. Often, divorcing parents are dealing with a web of unfinished issues with ex mates and perhaps kin, which complicates potential new primary relationships. 

      Other millions of wounded adults simultaneously want and fear relationship commitment, causing a series of approach-avoid relationships. Still others choose non-intimate or solitary lifestyles ("I guess Pat's just not marriage material...") for various surface reasons. Many clinical professionals believe psychological wounds are best healed in the context of a primary relationship. If so, solitary Grown Wounded Children (GWCs) have lower odds of freeing their true Self to guide them.

      Typical GWCs also are apt to unconsciously prefer wounded associates and friends. This can promote (a) significant relationship conflicts and stresses, and/or (b) superficial (non-intimate) relationships, and/or (c) codependence (relationship addiction).

      Another common effect of these six widespread psychological wounds is...

      2)  Until major progress with personal wound reduction ("recovery"), typical adults unintentionally choose and promote low-nurturance family environments. One common result is unintentionally passing on psychological wounds to their minor kids, despite fervent vows to "not be like my (neglectful or abusive) parent/s!" Their wounded childhood caregivers often felt the same.

      Many such kids will begin to show symptoms of false-self dominance ("act out," and/or get "sick," extra angry, withdrawn, over-anxious, "hyper," or "depressed" before puberty. Other kids adapt to their nurturance deprivations and wounds by becoming super responsible, obedient, and relentlessly helpful and cheerful. This is usually an unconscious survival tactic, not wholistic health or happiness.

      And typical survivors of early-childhood trauma...

      3)  unconsciously choose low-nurturance ("toxic") work, social, and religious settings over and over again. These reproduce the familiar environment that they grew up in, even if it was significantly stressful. Such choices promote ongoing personal anxiety, frustrations, and distractions. These inhibit effective wound-recovery and healthy primary and caregiving relationships.

      A related problem may be frequent chosen or forced job and/or location changes. These can reduce security and occupational confidence, hinder income levels, inhibit friendships, and amplify anxiety, self doubt, and/or cynicism. Wounded people in true (vs. pseudo) personal recovery begin to choose wholistically-healthier (higher nurturance) settings and relationships. Over time, their and their kids' life quality notably improves.

      4)  To reduce relentless personal and social stress, psychologically-wounded people must want to reorganize their personality (retrain and harmonize their subselves) and release toxic relationships.

      True wound-reduction requires realizing, grieving, and accepting that the person's childhood lacked major psychological nurturances. As old denials dissolve, recovers must confront feelings of hurt, rage, and sadness that the caregivers they depended on couldn't help them fill their developmental needs adequately.

      Typical wound-reduction requires confronting older family members to release these long-repressed feelings. Parents' and relatives' reactions can range from family-wide discovery and recovery (the best case) to major guilt, sadness, and depression, to rigid, angry rejection, criticism, and hostility ("How dare you accuse Mom and me of being inadequate or 'wounded' parents after all that we did for you!")

      Because traditions, holidays, dependency, and the media impel typical family members to congregate, typical recoverers find themselves torn between needing to "avoid toxic relationships," and feeling obligated to be among kin who usually criticize, ignore, scorn, and misunderstand them.

      If relatives' are too wounded and unaware, family-relationship cut-offs can occur from recovery-confrontations, causing major losses for everyone. Recoverers face the implacable reality they can't force or persuade their family members to accept and support their wound-healing.

      A variation of this occurs for some devout recoverers. As they heal, they may see that their childhood religion promoted major shame, guilt, fears, and pseudo spirituality, so they seek a healthier framework of divine and human communion. "Honor thy Father and thy Mother" have deep historic, religious, and emotional roots. Breaking with family religious traditions can be an exceptionally volatile stressor which can further promote kinship antagonisms and cutoffs.

      Other recoverers are blessed with liberal religions, clergy, and congregations that empathically endorse and support healing from spiritual and psychological abuses. That can help the whole family adjust to evolving true recoveries. A sign of real healing is spontaneously finding and using effective recovery supports. There are many!

      We're reviewing six common impacts of being psychologically wounded (ruled by a well-meaning false self). Another common impact is...

      5)  Choosing human-service occupations like counseling and consulting, medicine, social service, clergy, law, customer-service, insurance, teaching, nursing, casework, and "human-relations" jobs. Perhaps this is because providing humanitarian service is specially apt to fill our longing to feel our lives mean something (have value and worth) to offset what we were taught as young kids ("You're totally worthless.")

      Often the most empathic and effective human-service pros are recovering from major psychological wounds, and will say so. Others unintentionally stress or wound their clients because of unrecognized false-self dominance. As I write this, headlines focus on the latest round of outrage at priests who molest children...

      One implication is that early recoverers need to learn how to discern whether a potential counselor, therapist, or mentor is guided by their true Self (capital "S") or not. Wounded adults' false selves can distort such evaluations for many reasons.
Typically, wounded helpers will overplay or underplay childhood trauma and its impacts, and/or have distracting or harmful biases.

      Possible result: recovery-seekers get little or even harmful professional help. Conversely, human-service professionals who are Grown Nurtured Children, or who are well into true wound reduction are more apt to give effective help. That may not be true if you're in a divorcing family or stepfamily.

      6)  Perhaps the most tragic impact of unseen psychological wounds has been described by recovery guide John Bradshaw. He said that unaware Adult Children of Alcoholics (i.e. all survivors of early-childhood abandonment, neglect, and abuse) risk major illnesses and dying prematurely without ever knowing who they really were or could have been if their true Self had guided their lives. If you think this is overdramatic or exaggerated, see this sobering research summary, and this letter.

      Pause, stretch, and notice what you're thinking and feeling now. Do you recall why you began reading this article? Is this what you expected?


      If you're in a low-nurturance (troubled) family, the odds are high that you, your mate (if any) and/or other family adults are unaware of (a) a disabled true Self, and five related psychological wounds, and (b) these six major effects. Unless you assess for significant wounds honestly, that means...

      You and any kids will probably experience family breakup, no matter how right, rare, and delicious your adult relationship and situation feels now. Alternatively you may elect to live alone. That's safer - and lowers your odds of effective wound-recovery.

      Your mate (if any), and/or your parents and siblings and any ex mates are probably also denying significant wounds and their effects. That means they...

  • will probably be steadily difficult to get along with,

  • may resist, disparage, or sabotage your personal wound-recovery, and...

  • will unknowingly promote false-self development in dependent kids, over time. There are exceptions.

      And the six wound-impacts above imply...

      Any minor kids in your care will probably experience significant unintended shortages of these ~30 nurturing factors until all your family adults honestly investigate true personal recovery from psychological wounds. If you or your partner have grown kids, they'll probably be wrestling with significant health, relationship, parenting, work, financial, and/or spiritual problems because of their own wounds + unawareness.

      Because these implications scare your personality subselves, they'll want you to defer committing to Lesson 1 and honestly assessing your other family members for significant wounding. Long term, this can be exceptionally costly for you and your descendents!

Status Check

      See where you stand on these Lesson 1 concepts now: T = True, F = False, and ? = "I'm not sure," or "It depends on (what?)?

I can clearly describe the concept of normal personalities being composed of talented "subselves" or "parts" to an average high school student now.  (T  F  ?)

I (a) can describe what a "true Self" and a "false self" are to an average high school student now, and (b) I believe these concepts apply to average kids and adults in our society.  (T  F  ?)

I accept that some families nurture their members (fill their primary needs) more effectively than other families do. (T  F  ?)

I accept that (a) typical kids who get too little psychological and spiritual nurturance in their early years (a) automatically develop a disabled true Self, which (b) often causes up to five other significant psychological ''wounds.''  (T  F  ?) 

I can name six personal impacts of significant psychological wounds, and describe at least one major implication of each impact now. (T  F  ?)

I accept that once a person identifies and accepts their psychological wounds, s/he can choose to reduce them (recover) over time, with qualified help.  (T  F  ?)

I accept that regardless of age, experience, and formal education, average wounded adults who don't seek to free their Self and harmonize their other subselves risk unintentionally passing on psychological wounds to the next generation.

I know where to find more information on these topics in this Web site.  (T  F  ?)

My true Self is responding to this status check.  (T  F  ?)

      What did you just learn? If you're skeptical about personality subselves and psychological wounds, try this safe, interesting exercise, and then read this letter to you before you make your mind up.

  Based on what you're learning here, are YOU a Grown Wounded Child?

      What can you do about these sobering impacts and implications? You'll find the answer in Part 3 of online Lesson 1.


      This article describes six common effects of surviving early-childhood abandonment, neglect, and abuse (trauma) - i.e. of being a Grown Wounded Child (GWC). It closes with four implications of these impacts, and key action options. The article closes with a status check to help you see where you stand on these basic ideas.


If you haven't recently, see how psychological wounds and unawareness may be silently passing down your generations;

Learn what you need to know to convert inherited ignorance and distortions into awareness and accurate knowledge. Decide whether to study this free self-improvement course now.

Start or continue patiently studying Lesson 1 in this ad-free non-profit Web site;

Scan these research summaries supporting the ideas in Lesson 1

Relax now, and meditate on all this information and what it means - perhaps over several weeks. Trust your Self to suggest the next right thing for you to do (every day and night)!…

      Pause 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 wise, resident true Self, or "someone else''?

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