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

An Overview of Recovery
From Psychological Wounds

 How to free your true Self

By Peter K. Gerlach, MSW

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The Web address of this article is https://sfhelp.org/gwc/recover.htm

      This article is for people who are interested in knowing how to improve their lives by reducing inherited psychological wounds. It is one of a series of articles in online Lesson 1.

      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 or ActiveX, the popups may not display. Follow underlined links after finishing this article to avoid getting lost.

      This brief YouTube video introduces psychological-wound reduction ("recovery"):

      This overview hilights...

  • what wound recovery means;

  • requisites for true recovery.

  • pseudo vs. true recovery;

  • typical wound-reduction goals;

  • types of recovery help;

  • typical signs of true recovery; and...

  • seven common recovery themes.

       This article assumes you're familiar with....


      Premise - young kids raised in low-nurturance (dysfunctional) homes survive (vs. thrive) by automatically forming a disorganized group of personality subselves ("a fragmented personality"). This causes up to six significant psychological wounds:

1) a disabled true Self;

2) excessive shame and guilt;

3) excessive fears;

4) trusting too little or too much;

5) excessive reality distortions; and...

6) difficulty empathizing; bonding; and receiving, feeling, and giving unconditional love.

      Until these wounds are admitted and significantly reduced, they combine with unawareness to cause major personal, relationship, occupational, and health problems. I call adult survivors of early abandonment, neglect, and abuse Grown Wounded Children (GWCs). The media calls us Adult Children of toxic (i.e. wounded) parents or of dysfunctional (low-nurturance) families.

       Since 1981, I've spent over 18,000 hours consulting with more than 1,000 troubled women, men, and some of their kids. My opinion is that well over 90% of the adults didn't know about the [wounds + unawareness] cycle that they inherited and were unintentionally passing on to their vulnerable kids and grandkids

      Unseen psychological wounds and other hazards put needy adults at risk of unwise mate and child-conception choices, and eventually divorcing psychologically or legally. This free online self-improvement course can help couples make wise commitment and conception choices and protect their descendants from inheriting toxic [wounds + unawareness].

      I've been learning how to reduce my own GWC wounds since I discovered them in 1986. This gradual healing process has helped me release life-long fears, shame, and guilt by freeing my true Self to guide me. Harmonizing my personality subselves has significantly improved my life, relationships, and spiritual awareness..

      My clinical work with hundreds of recovering GWCs suggests that my own healing experience is common. I've benefited from studying and integrating the works of over two dozen veteran therapists and researchers focused on understanding, healing, and preventing these pervasive, crippling psychological wounds.

      This article overviews a complex multi-year personal healing process - "recovery." For more perspective and detail on reducing (vs. "curing") psychological wounds, see the Lesson-1 guidebook Who's Really Running Your Life? (4th edition - Xlibris.com, 2011). It integrates the key Web articles in this first online Lesson, and is available in print or as an ebook.

   What Is "Wound Recovery"?

       It's an intentional multi-year, mental + psychological + spiritual + social process. Some wounded people eventually hit bottom, break life-long denials, and start this healing process - often in mid-life. Some GWC's begin preliminary recovery before hitting bottom. Millions of other GWCs endure decades of unhappiness, wound their kids, and die prematurely, without ever knowing their wounds and how to reduce them.

      Preliminary recovery and hitting true (vs. pseudo) bottom can trigger...

  • years of increasing self-awareness and knowledge, which promote...

  • permanent changes in key attitudes, values, behaviors, and relationships. The changes include...

  • learning how to identify and grieve many major losses (broken bonds) from early childhood through the present - i.e. learning how to finish grieving them.

      True (vs. pseudo) wound-recovery involves recognizing and freeing your innately wise, resident true Self to organize other personality subselves into a cooperative team working toward clear, long-term personal goals. Part of this process involves seeking and accepting human and spiritual help, and controlling any addictions (maintaining "sobriety").

      Typical false selves are scared to let go of control and follow the true Self, so they can go through the motions of recovery ("talk the talk") without really changing toxic attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors. This protective strategy can be called "pseudo" or "trial" recovery. When a GWC is in pseudo recovery, they don't experience the positive life changes summarized below. 

      Many mental-health professionals feel that the psychological injuries from early-childhood trauma can be greatly reduced, but not totally "cured." In stressful  circumstances, Grown Wounded Children may still be taken over by protective false selves, and old coping attitudes and behaviors (e.g. lying, stealing, self-neglect, etc.) recur. These relapses diminish as wound-reduction continues and becomes a way of life.

Pseudo Recovery

      Permanently reducing psychological wounds usually requires hitting true (vs. pseudo) bottom. That involves converting lifelong beliefs and rituals into stable new attitudes, values, and activities despite anxieties and perhaps others' disapprovals. This can result in a major internal conflict: some personality subselves say "We must change!" Others say "Never!"

      To resolve this impasse, ruling subselves cleverly compromise by thinking, speaking, and acting like a recovering person (a superficial change) but not committing to new values like really trusting their true Self to lead.

      One of my clients in pseudo recovery was a bright, articulate divorced mother. She said proudly "I've read every self-help book ever printed on codependence, 12-step recovery, spirituality, and toxic relationships." She could quote the authors and key ideas at great length, and spent hours counseling others on healing inner wounds.

      Yet at 40, she was obese, diabetic, in a codependent relationship with a terribly wounded, never-married man, stuck in a depleting relationship with her (very wounded) mother, living in poverty and often on welfare, and enduring the rejection of one of her two teen-aged daughters.

      She vehemently insisted these all had other causes, and that she was in true recovery from a very low-nurturance childhood. This was a reality distortion - i.e. her artful Magician subself at work! Some years after I wrote this, I heard this woman died alone in a wheelchair - apparently without ever having hit her true bottom. There are millions of others like her around the world who are unaware of what you're reading here..

      Thousands of 12-step "Anonymous" and other self-help meetings are full of such tormented people who work to stop toxic compulsions, and deny they're compensating by using another form of self-medication (e.g. addiction/s to food, work, tobacco, sexual gratification, Web surfing, shopping, gambling, collecting, etc.). 

      In Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), addicts in pseudo recovery are called dry drunks. They've stopped using alcohol to self-medicate, but haven't changed their "stinking thinking" (false-self attitudes) and harmful behaviors. Their words and actions don't match - i.e. they have elaborate justifications and excuses for not "walking their talk." This is because they're still dominated by protective false selves.

          Do you know anyone in pseudo recovery?

      The personal recovery process is complex, painful, confusing, scary, freeing, exhilarating, empowering, and literally life-changing. Every birth-family system, personality, and mix of psychological wounds is unique, so there is no absolute "right way" to recover. This article summarizes healing requirements, goals, and guidelines that (I believe) apply to all GWCs.

 Seven Requisites for True Recovery

      Though each wounded person recovers in their own way, permanent  healing seems to require these factors...

  • clear personal and social awareness,

  • knowledge and life experience

  • steady motivation to heal - often from "hitting true bottom"

  • nourishing spiritual (vs. religious) growth and faith

  • stable sobriety - freedom from toxic compulsions and obsessions

  • a pro-recovery environment, and...

  • a range of accessible recovery resources.

      Here's some perspective on these requisites:

§1)  AWARENESS wanting to become habitually conscious of...

  • what I think, feel, and need now and over rime; and...

  • how I behave in various relationships and situations now and over time.

Evolving self-awareness promotes recognizing these factors in other people. This helps in choosing a pro-recovery environment and communicating effectively with other people.

      Another requisite for effective wound reduction is...

§2) KNOWLEDGE and life experience

      Psychologically-wounded people need to...

  • learn (a) about early-childhood abandonment, neglect, and abuse (trauma); and (b) how to recognize the psychological wounds these stressors usually cause (see Lesson 1, Parts 1 and 2);  and...

  • learn about personality subselves and how to harmonize them under the leadership of the wise resident true Self ("Inner-family therapy" - see Lesson 1, Part 3); and...

  • learn to apply communication, grieving, and relationship basics (Lessons 2 - 4);

      And committed recoverers need to...

  • evolve a clear understanding of high-nurturance families (Lesson 5), effective parenting (Lesson 6), and the [wounds + ignorance] cycle and what it means,

      People need to accumulate years of life experience to understand and validate these topics. Gauge your knowledge of them by taking these quizzes when you finish here,

      And GWCs also need…


      This requisite usually requires accumulating enough pain, frustration, weariness, and despair (hit true bottom) and decide “I can no longer live like this (be controlled by false selves).” This motivation is specially strong for wounded parents of young vulnerable kids.

      Another recovery asset is...



       Typical recovering GWCs want to…

  • evolve steady faith in an attentive, responsive, benign (vs. "wrathful, vengeful," and "jealous") Higher Power; and then

  • give up control to this Being; and turn over whelming problems to It/Her/Him to gain daily serenity.

      And some recoverers need to...

5) Admit and control any ADDICTIONS

      Paradox: addictions (harmful compulsions) self-medicate against inner pain caused by inherited [psychological wounds + unawareness]. Reducing this pain requires clear thinking and self-care. False selves often prevent one or both these. This is why hitting true bottom is usually needed to break this paradox and achieve stable sobriety.

      Achieving sobriety for at least 12 to 18 months. is the gateway to permanently reducing psychological wounds. Some GWCs can grow sobriety and reduce their wounds simultaneously. For more perspective on controlling (vs. "curing") harmful  compulsions, see this and  this after you finish this article.

      Another universal requisite for permanent wound-healing is...

§6) A Pro-recovery ENVIRONMENT

      Social environments can help or hinder GWCs' personal healing. People who create a pro-recovery environment...

  • are usually guided by their true Selves or are working toward that; and they...

  • can distinguish low-nurturance (dysfunctional) from high-nurturance (functional) relationships, settings, and belief-systems; and they...

  • understand and accept personality subselves and psychological wounds;

      And pro-recovery supporters can…

  • think clearly, empathize, and communicate effectively; and they...

  • are evolving their own spiritual (vs. religious) faith and awareness, and they...

  • genuinely (vs. dutifully, skeptically, or strategically) support psychological-wound reduction.

      Acquiring such supporters usually involves (a) replacing some toxic family, work, and social relationships with more nurturing ones, and (b) grieving related losses. This requires reducing or ending relationships with wounded parents, siblings, partners, lovers, and some co-workers and/or friends.
      And typical recoverers also need to...

7) Acquire and use resources (below)

      The more of these seven requisites a psychologically-wounded person (GWC) has, the more likely they are to free their true Self and permanently reduce their wounds over time.

      Pause and reflect. Can you name these seven wound-reduction requisites? How many of them do you have now?     

      Now let's examine...

An overview of the GWC Recovery Process

       Trial or true recovery usually begins with a traumatic trigger event or a series of events which finally break life-long protective denials. These events may include a prized relationship ending; bankruptcy; job losses; major injury, disability, or illness; an abortion, a "breakdown," and/or a child's major distress. People in 12-step addiction-management programs call this "hitting bottom" or "hitting the wall." Addicts who relapse are said to have hit a false (preliminary, trial, or pseudo) bottom or wall.

      There are many kinds of recovery triggers. Some are sudden and dramatic. Others occur on a trip, watching a movie, taking a shower, in church or a confrontation, driving to a store, reading, or in a sleepless night. I recall one divorced, middle-aged addict saying "I realized one morning that my life was just... gray, and I HAD to change." Approaching or experiencing middle age seems to make hitting the wall more likely - perhaps from really accepting the inevitability of limited remaining years and eventual death.

       Once a Grown Wounded Child begins to admit their inner pain and emptiness to themselves and others, they often experience a confusing period of searching, mood swings, and disorientation. Lifelong attitudes and beliefs are no longer valid (e.g. "My childhood wasn't as fine and 'normal' as I've always thought!"), and new beliefs aren't clear or solid. This is typical of true core-attitude shifts.

      Some early recoverers pull into themselves (isolate) for a period, others frantically seek companionship. Through "chance" (a conversation, a book or TV program, a sermon, ...) they come across the idea of addiction recovery or some version of "Adult Child" (GWC) recovery. Something "clicks," and they seek more information.

       The next stages of typical wound-reduction are wonderfully varied. They can include combinations of...

A hunger to learn - reading self-help books voraciously ("bibliotherapy"), using audio or video recovery tapes, going to recovery lectures, finding and talking with others in recovery, asking family-history questions of relatives, meditating, journaling, etc.

A growing feeling of "AHA!", "rightness," or "centeredness" about cascading new personal awarenesses, without being able to identify why; or starting to see their early nurturance-deprivations ("I realized my Mom never said 'I love you' or hugged me."), and how those promoted GWC personality traits, beliefs ("I'll never amount to much"), and behaviors (like self neglect). Vague or compelling longing for a "better life" blooms.

Unexpected relief may occur from some long-suffered physical aches, cramps, and pains; and from some old sleeping and/or digestive problems,

  And typical early-recoverers experience...

A gradual shift of daily focus from external events, relationships, goals, activities, and material things to internal awareness, exploration; and growth. This shift may feel alien at first, and gradually morph into a way of life. And...

A growing comprehension of how many other people are unaware of early-childhood trauma and of being ruled by a protective false selves. As their true Self becomes more trusted, recoverers gradually shift from blaming, resenting, criticizing, envying, and/or fearing such people to calm compassion. They may try to persuade wounded people to try recovery, and gradually accept that such decisions must come from within when the time is right for each person.

   And recovering people usually experience...

A gradual thawing of emotional and physical feelings repressed and numbed for decades, and/or a satisfying validation of lifelong "unexplainable" feelings - usually surges of resentment, rage, deep sadness (usually healthy grief, vs. "depression"), guilts, regrets, and profound shame.

      This thawing can come in rushes or in unpredictable spurts, over months or years. Growing conscious awareness of these legitimate feelings and their prior repression can evoke intense feelings of anger at parents, themselves, others, and/or a "loving" God. Long-repressed grieving of lost childhoods, relationships, and life-opportunities begins;

       As these emotions, senses, and awarenesses cascade and amplify, typical people in early wound-reduction may start ...

Seeking and accepting various kinds of recovery help, including individual and/or group therapy; self-help (e.g. 12-step) groups; inpatient addiction-treatment and aftercare programs; spiritual communion and guidance; Tai Chi or meditation classes; dance, massage, or art therapy; retreats and wilderness sojourns;... 

      All these experiences add to a growing wholistic awareness of the original early nurturance deprivations, the old coping behaviors and their impacts, and a humbling, exciting visions of the person's true Self and a possible new truly-authentic lifestyle;

As old denials and repressions dissolve, people in true (vs. pseudo) recovery confront a series of difficult inner and social conflicts. To keep healing inevitably requires changing or replacing self-harmful...

  • attitudes and beliefs (e.g. "It's OK for me to work 65 hours a week," "I can skip breakfast with no risk," or "There is no real God") with Self-nurturing ones;

  • relationships - e.g. with significantly-wounded mates, parents, siblings, friends, co-workers, and employers;

  • activities, like stealing, spying, lying, affairs, law-breaking, polluting, bullying, abusing, and bigotry; and ...

  • social memberships - e.g. working in a low-nurturance organization and/or regularly attending a toxic (low-nurturance) church, club, or other group.

      Here, toxic means any relationship, activity, belief, value, or setting that consistently promotes (a) personal illness, shame, guilt, distrust of self and others, anxiety, confusion, frustration, pessimism, anger, despair, and "failure;" and/or that promotes (b) disabling one's true Self. Restated: in this context, toxic means wholistically self-harmful and self-neglectful.

      As typical GWC-recoverers try these scary, exciting changes, the alarmed Guardian and Inner-child subselves of other (wounded and unrecovering) people try to manipulate them back into their old ways of believing and behaving. True recovery rocks everyone's securities!

      Typical wound-reduction is an organic (vs. linear) process. There are periods of "no progress" (which are usually useful periods of rest and integration), regression to "the old ways" (reminders); confusion (a sign of  healthy change); doubt; and/or aimlessness.

      As these periods accumulate, there is a growing serene acceptance that true recovery from too little childhood nurturance is a ever-evolving spiral of attitude, values, and behavioral changes - an increasingly-satisfying new lifestyle, and a continual becoming.

      People who begin to understand personality subselves, wounds, and the need for wound-reduction can feel overwhelmed by the apparent complexity and alienness of these ideas. To offset this, consider: "How do you raise a healthy child? A day at a time." Personal recovery happens a day at a time by identifying and working patiently at a series of goals like those below.

      What follows assumes that you have done each step in Parts 1 and 2 in Lesson 1 in this Web site. If you haven't done so recently, see this.

      Lesson 1 proposes that early-childhood abandonment, neglect, and abuse (trauma) cause some or all of the psychological wounds below. Once admitted and the requisites above are acquired; these injuries can be permanently reduced via patient self-healing.

button  Overview of Wound-reduction Goals

      Healing inherited personality damage (wounds) is a multi-year process, which becomes a way of life. It consists of...

__ becoming aware of the wounds, their origins, symptoms, and their personal and social impacts;

__ usually hitting true (vs. pseudo) bottom, and vowing to change; and then...

__ freeing the wise, resident true Self to retrain, unify, and lead the other personality subselves, with human and Higher-Powered help, while...

__ gradually deepening compassion and spiritual awareness, and...

__ gradually improving personal communication, grieving, and social skills, and...

__ intentionally choosing nourishing (vs. depleting) relationships and environments, and reducing toxic ones; and...

__ proactively protecting young people from inheriting psychological wounds + unawareness.

      The overarching recovery goals are to free your true Self from blendings,  unify and harmonize your inner team, and convert each psychological wound into it's opposite, over time

      Typical wound-reduction is an organic (vs. linear) process. There are periods of "no progress" (which are usually useful periods of rest and integration), regression to "the old ways" (reminders); confusion (healthy change); doubt; and/or aimlessness.

      As these periods accumulate, there is a growing serene acceptance that true recovery from too little childhood nurturance is a ever-evolving spiral of attitude, values, and behavioral changes - an increasingly-satisfying new lifestyle, and a continual becoming.

      People who begin to understand personality subselves, wounds, and the need for wound-reduction can feel overwhelmed by the apparent complexity and alienness of these ideas. To offset this, consider: "How do you raise a healthy child? A day at a time." Personal recovery happens a day at a time by identifying and working patiently at a series of goals like those below.

      What follows assumes that you have done each step in Parts 1 and 2 in Lesson 1 in this Web site. If you haven't done so recently, see this.

      Lesson 1 proposes that early-childhood abandonment, neglect, and abuse (trauma) cause some or all of these psychological wounds:

      Once admitted and the requisites are acquired; these psychological injuries can be permanently reduced using steps like those summarized below..

button  Overview of Wound-reduction Goals

      Recovery from these injuries is a multi-year process, which becomes a way of life. It consists of...

__ becoming aware of the wounds, their origins, symptoms, and their personal and social impacts;

__ usually hitting true (vs. pseudo) bottom, and vowing to change; and then...

__ freeing the wise, resident true Self to retrain, unify,, and lead the other personality subselves, with human and Higher-Powered help, while...

__ gradually deepening compassion and spiritual awareness, and...

__ gradually improving personal communication, grieving, and social skills, and...

__ intentionally choosing nourishing (vs. depleting) relationships and environments, and reducing toxic ones;

__  thoughtfully assessing for - and correcting - any inherited toxic life scripts; and...

__ proactively protecting young people from inheriting psychological wounds + unawareness.

  What's Your Attitude?

      Note two views about the main goal of GWC recovery: it aims...

  • to reduce (vs. "cure") up to six stressful psychological injuries (glass half empty), or...

  • to gradually convert each wound into it's opposite - e.g. to   (glass half full).

Which attitude feels better to you?

      Here's a summary of typical wound-recovery goals, based on my 36 years' professional study and experience. I've found inner-family therapy ("parts work") to be an effective way to achieve these healing goals over time. Most clinicians, coaches, and self-help guides aren't aware of this powerful healing process, and use different recovery strategies. The section following this summary leads to  more detail on each wound's recovery goals. 

Psychological Wound General Recovery Goal

1)  A disabled true Self (false-self (dominance) - i.e. having well-intentioned but distrustful Guardian and young subselves that take over the true Self and cause stress. This wound causes all the others below.

     Some wounded people have  vigilant Blocker and/or Saboteur subselves whose trust must be gained to allow recovery. See goals 5 and 8 below.

Accept the idea of personality subselves. Then using some form of inner-family therapy (a) identify all  subselves and who leads them, (b) persuade them to trust and follow the resident true Self, and (c) harmonize all subselves into an effective team over time. The end recovery goal is to live authentically from one's true Self in all relationships and situations.

2a)  Excessive SHAME - core feelings of personal worthlessness, "badness," incompetence, and unlovability. This may include feeling self-disgust and/or self-hatred.

     These thoughts and feelings are usually caused by a Shamed-Child subself and several devoted Guardian subselves who work to soothe and protect this volatile young personality part - which usually lives in the past..

     Common symptoms of this wound are personal self-neglect, (below) and tolerating or choosing shaming habits, values, relationships and environments.

    Habitual self-neglect is choosing or accepting low-nurturance, toxic  settings, relationships, and activities (e.g. addiction, little exercise, and avoiding medical care) as normal and OK (a reality distortion) despite harmful or painful results.

    Patiently (a) meet and introduce the shamed Inner Child/ren to the resident Nurturer subself, and (b) see if the Kids need to be rescued from the toxic past. (c) Persuade the Inner Critic and related Guardian subselves to reduce and rephrase self-blame, and reduce or end shaming settings and relationships.

      Experiment with intentionally promoting your feelings, needs, and opinions to equal, and praising your own achievements as you would other people's. Respectfully confront and retrain any subselves who want to discount or sabotage valid self-love and self appreciation.

      Work to (a) identify your personal rights, (b) assert them effectively, and (c) view mistakes as useful chances to learn how to set and enforce firm boundaries with people who shame you.

Wound 2b Excessive GUILTS - frequent intense thoughts and feelings from subselves who fee they broke someone's rules - i.e. should (not)s, ought (not)s, cannots, and must (not)s.

     Usually, excessive guilt comes from zealous Inner Critic, Perfectionist, People-pleaser, Obedient-child, and Guilty Child subselves. Excessive guilts usually amplify excessive shame, so reducing them automatically helps to improve self-esteem over time.

   Learn to value moderate guilt. Then authorize yourself to evolve a Bill of Personal Rights to help replace others' life-rules and values with your own.

     Identify rues you inherited from other people, and replace them with rules that fit YOU. Retrain your Guilty Child, Perfectionist, Cr3itic, and other subselves on your personal rights, and new rules. Practice using your Rights and effective-communication skills to minimize new guilts, as you edit and reduce old ones.

3 Excessive FEARS of rejection, criticism, abandonment, the unknown, emotional overwhelm, (and thus of intimacy and conflict), success, and "failure" - and fear of fear.

     Excessive (vs. moderate, normal) fears are caused by one or more  Worried, Scared, or Insecure inner Children and attentive Guardian subselves  like the Pessimist, Catastrophizer, and Worrier.

     Often, these personality parts are living in the past. This means they don't know how wise and reliable the true Self and other Managers have become, compared to childhood..

    Patiently grow your Guardian subselves' trust in (a) your true Self and other Manager subselves; (b) a nurturing (vs. judgmental, punitive) Higher Power, and in (c) reliable people, to provide enough security.

     Shift the care of the Scared and Worried inner Child/ren from unaware Guardians to the empathic Nurturer (Good Parent) and other  Manager subselves.

    Intentionally increasing self-confidence and self-esteem (Goals 1 and 2a above) automatically reduces various fears, over time.

4) Significant TRUST PROBLEMS - (a) blindly trusting abusive, selfish, or indifferent others, or (b) distrusting "safe" others. Variations are chronic Self-distrust (excessive self doubt), and/or distrusting a loving, responsive Higher Power.

    A major recovery task here is converting Guardian subselves' outdated distrust of the wise true Self to steady reliance, loyalty, and faith.

   Identify which subselves cause this wound (e.g. a well-meaning Skeptic,  Pessimist, Cynic, Doubter, Conservative, People-pleaser, and/or Worrier, who guard Scared, Shamed, Naive, and/or Lonely Inner Kids. Trusting wisely improves as these subselves learn to trust your true Self, other Managers (Goal 1), and a benign, attentive  Higher Power.

Psychological Wound

General Recovery Goal

5) Significant REALITY DISTORTIONS. False selves protectively see things that aren't there (i.e. illusions, delusions, idealizations, exaggerations, and projections), and/or they don't see or believe things that are there (via denials, repressions, numbing, "forgetting," and minimizing).

    Identify which Guardian subselves cause this wound (e.g. a well-meaning Magician, Idealist / Optimist, Saboteur, and/or Catastrophizer), and which Inner Kids each of them is protecting. As the Guardians and Kids learn to trust the Managers to lead (Goal 1), distortions are replaced by perceiving internal and external realities as they are.

     Protective "amnesias." Typical Grown Wounded Children (GWCs) "can't remember" key childhood people, places, events (e.g. birthdays, holidays, dinner times, vacations, traumas, and losses), and/or certain time periods.

     This usually occurs because one or more Guardians fear that remembering will cause (a) emotional overwhelm to an Inner Child, and/or (b) the loss of protective illusions - like breaking denials. These are symptoms of Guardians distrusting the Self and other Manager subselves to keep Inner Kids safe.

      Assess for the influence of a Blocker subself whose function is partly to repress key childhood recall. Alternatively, identify the subself who oversees  long-term memory. Over time, work with them to safely access key memories and associated feelings.

     Remembering early traumas often happens unexpectedly as recovery evolves. This often triggers strong emotions and the need to grieve painful losses as they are recognized.

    Option: ask other family members what they remember about key childhood events, people, and situations. Note that they may be wounded and distort reality themselves.

    Blocking and Emotional "numbing" ("I don't know what I feel...") or intense surges ("jags"  or "attacks") of anger, frustration, fear, shame, guilt, or confusion. The former is caused by a Lost Child and/or an Anesthetist, subself who protects Inner Kids from intense discomfort.

     The latter is caused by a Rageful Child or Warrior / Amazon Guardian overpowering dominant subselves. Numbing + unawareness promote incomplete grief. That promotes significant secondary problems like addictions and obesity

     "Blocking" occurs when a protective Blocker and/or Saboteur subself fears that allowing some or even all emotions and related thoughts and memories are apt to stress one or more Inner Kids.  .

    Using some form of "parts work," establish trust and communication with the Blocker and/or Anesthetist. Learn which Inner Kids they guard, and connect these kids with the Nurturer (Loving Parent) to help the Anesthetist relax.

     Teach all subselves the names of normal emotions, and practice full breathing and naming current feelings ("What am I feeling now?")

     Help all subselves to see that all emotions are helpful (vs. good or bad), because they signal current needs to fill. Eventually reassign the Anesthetist (Numb-er) to a new inter-family role.

Wound 6) Difficulty bonding, empathizing,  and loving - i.e. trouble forming true psychological-spiritual attachments to ideals, living things, a benign Higher Power and to one's self. Key symptoms are isolation or (some) divorces, affairs, and pretending to bond - i.e. pseudo intimacy, caring, and love. Some moderately-wounded people can bond selectively - e.g. to animals, plants, and/or some people.

     This tragic wound seems to result from all the wounds above interacting. It may be promoted by unempathic (wounded) parents. It is prevalent enough to merit a psychiatric diagnosis (Reactive Attachment Disorder -  RAD), and at least one national support organization: ATTACh. Our society seems to be in widespread denial of this tragic wound.

     This widespread wound s really a result of all five other psychological injuries (above).

    Symptoms of this wound are chronic senses of emptiness and alienation from one's Self, other people, society, and from a benign,  accessible Higher Power. This can manifest as social alienation and isolation, and having no spiritual faith.

      Other symptoms are inability to tolerate real intimacy, having no sense of true life purpose, and striving for goals that seem trivial and meaningless in later life.

    As subselves' true-Self trust and inner-family harmony increase over time and the five wounds above subside, the goal here is to take safe risks in being vulnerable to caring about, and accepting care from, selected (safe) other people and living things.

     Often gentle inner-family therapy discloses a reactive Lost Child who is terrified and distrustful of caring because of searing real-life childhood shamings, abuse, and abandonments.

    Recovery aims to bring true validation, comfort, security, and relief to such subselves. Doing so gradually increases the ability to empathize, to feel, give, and receive genuine love; and to form healthy bonds.

      Access to a person who models exchanging genuine love is a great help in reducing this wound. .

    Grow genuine self-worth, self-purpose, self-identity, realistic, stable personal  boundaries and empathy and safety with other people and living things.

     Inner-family therapy goals are to (a) identify, validate, and soothe Inner Kids who fear intimacy and bonding, and (b) invite them to gradually trust the true Self, Nurturer and other subselves; and then (c) extend that to (healthy) other people, over time.

      A natural part of true (vs. pseudo) wound-reduction is a growing faith in a benign, responsive Higher power, and feeling "I am never alone!" Another common result is increasing clarity on, and motivation to pursue, your life's true purpose.

      These recovery goals are concurrent, not sequential. True recovery yields progress toward these goals in fits and starts. Some people prefer a structured recovery plan ("I'm working on reducing my shame and increasing self-love, this month"). Others evolve an organic healing process without explicit goals.

      Though the latter takes longer (I think), the end results are the same: a calmer, clearer, more aware, focused, spiritual, and productive daily life based on living authentically from your true Self. This promotes increasing clarity on, and acceptance of, your strengths, limits, daily balance, and of your life purpose.

      We just reviewed "the big picture" of the process of reducing inherited psychological wounds using inner-family therapy (parts work).

Recovery Detail

      Every Grown Wounded Child's (GWC's) personality, genes, ancestry, history, and environment is unique, so no two recoveries are the same. However, all effective wound-reductions need the seven requisites on p. 1.

      My clinical experience suggests that true (vs. pseudo) recovery is most likely if GWCs learn to apply inner-family therapyy (''parts work''). Part 3 of Lesson 1 describes how to do this.

      If you're already familiar with parts work, see these specific strategies for reducing or converting each wound. Otherwise, see these Lesson-1 articles for more detail and options:

Seven Recovery Themes

      Tho psychological-wound reduction is unique to each person, there are at least seven things all recoverers have in common.

      1)  The six wounds affect each other. For example, excessive shame, distrust, fear, and reality distortion combine to promote difficulty bonding and loving – which promotes shame and fear. The silver lining is, reducing (vs. "curing") each wound makes reducing the others easier over time. Freeing the resident true Self to lead reduces the other wounds simultaneously. tho each condition needs specific healing efforts.

      2)  Each wound is the result of one or more Guardian subselves and Inner Children who distrust your Self and other Manager subselves, and ''blend with''  (disable) your Self.

      3)  Each main recovery goal can be divided into subgoals. This makes progress more easily identified, and the overall healing process less overwhelming. How long do you suppose it might take an average person to make significant progress on all six of these healing goals? Do you see why reducing these psychological wounds is an ongoing multi-year project?

     4)  The overall recovery theme is identifying and helping the personality subselves who cause each wound to (a) meet each other and your true Self and (b) agree on common life goals; (c) relax old perceptions and security-strategies; and (d) risk letting your Self and other Manager subselves make significant life decisions. That frees Guardian subselves to shift to new personality roles (functions).

      5)  Permanent wound-reduction is more likely if the host person evolves a stable faith in, and an interactive relationship with, a nurturing, loving (vs. jealous, punitive, vengeful) Higher Power. Such faith requires (a) wanting to become self-aware and often (b) some kind of enlightened spiritual (vs. religious) mentor/s, encouragement, and inspirations. Reality check: try to find someone in true  wound-recovery who is an atheist or agnostic...

      6)  Note this paradox: effective thinking and communicating are hindered by psychological wounds - and are essential to reducing them. That means that recoverers benefit from working patiently at Lesson 1 and Lesson 2 at the same time and balancing them with other life goals and priorities.

      Because Western media ceaselessly urges the public to be constantly active and ignore self-awareness, healing progress requires recoverers to want to replace some current life priorities and activities with commitment to these two Lessons. Typical false-selves will strenuously resist this change until they trust the increasing benefits of doing so.

      A final recovery theme is...

      7)  Wound-recovery is wholistic and organic, like growing a garden. It yields progress and rewards in different areas, in fits and starts. Some people choose a structured recovery plan ("I'm working on converting my excessive shame to self-respect and self-love this month.") Others evolve an unstructured healing experience without clear, explicit goals. Though the latter may take longer, the end results are the same:

  • a calmer, clearer, more focused, spiritual, enjoyable and productive daily life based on living from your true Self; and...

  • increasing clarity on, and acceptance of, your strengths, limits, and your life's purpose.

Where is your (subselves') comfort zone between structured to unstructured recovery now?

      Many wounded people learn early to not ask for or expect help  True wound-reduction is complex, and usually requires openness to learning and some forms of human and spiritual assistance.

button  Types of Recovery Help

Resources for recovery from "toxic parents," "dysfunctional childhoods," and "(childhood) abuse" have exploded since the 1980s, though few of them use the Inner Family (personality-subself) concepts so far. Options include ...

  • Self-help books and workbooks. One example is guidebook for Lesson 1 here: "Who's Really Running Your Life?" (Xlibris.com; 4th edition, 2011):

  • audio and video tapes;

  • Internet Web sites (search on recovery, inner wounds, abuse recovery, Adult Child, and healing);

  • Individual therapists specializing in aspects of "Adult Child" recovery - specially inner-family therapy;

  • Professionally-run wound-recovery groups;

  • Local and national recovery conferences, seminars, and workshops;

  • Lay-led mutual-help groups, many of which are modeled after the successful 12-step Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) groups. These include

and many more. Most have national or local Web sites and some have online groups. Note that many such groups use the outdated adjective "Anonymous", which reminds us that "addiction" was once thought to be shameful. WRONG!

  • Art, dance, music, and massage therapies and workshops;

  • Personal journaling, retreats, and focused meditation;

  • Spiritual/pastoral, exercise, and nutritional counseling;

  • Various public and private agency or hospital inpatient programs - typically two to four weeks, usually with an aftercare option.

button Choosing Effective Help

§      Four key sources of recovery help are lay and professional people (e.g. coaches, counselors, clergy, and therapists), the media (e.g. authors and speakers), and recovery programs and groups. Each of these can range from ineffective to effective in promoting true wound-recovery. How can you evaluate potential resources?

      Common traits of effective helpers include

  • (Ideally), they have some years' personal experience wound-recovery;

  • They know the difference between high-nurturance and low-nurturance relationships, families, and groups;

  • They accept the realities of personality subselves and psychological wounds, (this is unusual); 

  • They are steadily self-aware and are usually guided by their true Selves, or are working at that;

  • They have specific, realistic ideas about recovery goals and the healing process;

  • They promote using nurturing spirituality (vs. religion) as a vital part of the healing process;

  • They clearly understand the concepts of enabling and codependence; and...

  • Effective helpers clearly...

    • understand what addictions and addiction recovery are,

    • embrace the 12-step philosophy,

    • know the difference between true bottom and pseudo bottom, and they know...

    • how addiction recovery relates to reducing psychological wounds.

§Implication: to evaluate potential helpers, the recovering person must understand all these traits and topics. Reality: most lay and professional people will lack some or all of these requisites, so their ability to help will vary. There are other effective ways to recover besides inner-family therapy - e.g. EMDR and Voice Dialog.

      Another vital question: How to judge whether wound-reduction is working.

button Symptoms of True Recovery 

      This YouTube video previews what you'll read below:

       Common symptoms of true (vs. pseudo) recovery from psychological wounds  are...

A growing spiritual faith in a benign (nurturing) Higher Power and increasing personal awareness and serenity - even in crises and conflicts; and...

Increasingly experiencing the pleasurable symptoms that your Self (capital "S") is guiding and harmonizing your personality subselves; and...

A growing clarity on your special gifts, limits, life-purpose, and priorities; and...

Increasing abilities to make spontaneous, win-win short-range and long-range decisions, and to calmly trust these decisions despite uncertainties; and...

A growing number of high-nurturance relationships, work and social settings, and activities; and...

Increasing comfort in choosing responsibility for your own life, and compassionately giving others responsibility for theirs; and...

      More true-recovery signs...

A clear decline in daily ambivalence, uncertainty, confusion, and self doubt, a decrease in sending other people double (mixed) messages and an increase in thoughtful decisiveness; and...

A rising reflex to laugh appreciatively (vs. derisively) at personal, human, and Nature's foibles, sillinesses, and ironies; and...

A growing acceptance of personal rights and of other people's equal rights - and responsibilities. An enjoyable symptom of this is increasingly-effective assertion and problem-solving; and...

Increasing awareness and serenity in ambivalent and anxious situations; and declining (a) rigid, black/white thinking, and (b) needs to compulsively control feelings, relationships, and events, without undue anxieties.

      And you can feel confident recovery is "working" when you notice...

A growing ability to feel, empathize, and exchange true self-love and mutual love every day. This includes a growing empathy and compassion for others who are unaware of being dominated by  protective false selves; and...

Spontaneous genuine forgiveness of your subselves and other people for past "mistakes" and betrayals; and you notice...

Suspicions, jealousies, biases, scorn, and resentments gradually become empathy, compassion, and firm assertions of your primary needs, values, opinions, and limits with adults and kids who frustrate, hurt, disappoint, or irritate you; and you will notice...

Increasing periods of feeling centered, balanced, serene, hopeful, productive, content, energized, resilient, focused, clear, and motivated -  specially amidst change, crisis, and conflict; and also...

An increasing attitude of gratitude for recovery; human and spiritual support; and the beauty, wonder, richness, and opportunities of daily life on Earth.

      For more on what to expect from effective wound-recovery (harmonizing your subselves), see this.

       Sometimes as a Grown Wounded Child (GWC) breaks old protective denials and starts to recover, other family members get interested and start their own healing. When wounded mates both make personal recovery a high priority, their relationship can grow specially rich and strong. Other times, wounded, insecure kin and/or partners are threatened by the recoverer's new attitudes and behaviors, and their false-self behaviors increase.

      This eventually requires the recovering person to choose between continuing to heal or ranking key others' insecurities as being more important. The latter enables others' denials, and is usually a symptom of pseudo (preliminary) recovery.

bow-ed finger Premise - ignoring or paying only lip-service to wound-assessment and reduction  steeply raises couples' odds of eventual divorce or daily misery. Recall the premise here that true recovery can only begin after a GWC hits true bottom - i.e. after they exceed their personal tolerance for inner pain, weariness, and despair. This often happens in middle age.

       Have you inherited significant psychological wounds? Patiently study Lesson 1 here to find out. If you're confused and unsure as you investigate this, consider consulting a qualified professional trauma-recovery clinician - e.g. a veteran degreed, licensed clinical social worker, pastoral counselor, clinical psychologist, psychiatrist, or counseling-psychology major who has studied (and/or is in) true recovery from a disabled true Self.

      A clinician who is trained and experienced in inner-family systems therapy, Voice dialog, and/or psychodrama can be specially helpful with this.


      This Web article is part of online self-improvement "lesson 1." It provides an overview of the process of reducing six inherited psychological wounds. The article covers...

  • what wound recovery means;

  • requisites for true recovery.

  • pseudo vs. true recovery;

  • typical wound-reduction goals;

  • types of recovery help;

  • typical signs of true recovery; and...

  • seven common recovery themes.

      What would you like to do with what you just learned? Depending on your situation, you can now,,,

  • go back and follow underlined links in this article;

  • start or continue online lesson 1

  • see if you know enough to learn how to use "parts work" to help you reduce your wounds (Lesson 1, part 3). and/or you can...

  • Discuss this article with someone.

      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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