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

Behavioral Traits of
Psychologically-wounded People

How many describe you?

By Peter K. Gerlach, MSW
Member NSRC Experts Council

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The Web address of this checklist is http://sfhelp.org/gwc/1_traits.htm

Updated  03-30-2015

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       This is one of several checklists to help you assess how the inherited [wounds + unawareness] cycle is affecting you and your family. This unseen, toxic cycle promotes most personal, marital, family, and social problems. Lesson 1 in this online self-improvement course is about improving your life by identifying, and reducing psychological wounds and unawareness.

      This brief YouTube video introduces what you'll find in this behavioral-trait checklist: The video mentions eight self-improvement lessons in this Web site - I've reduce that to seven.

      This trait-checklist assumes you're familiar with...

  Psychological-wound Trait Checklist

      This checklist summarizes 43 typical behavioral traits of psychologically-wounded people ("Grown Wounded Children," or GWCs). The wounds causing these behaviors come from early-childhood abandonment, neglect, and abuse (trauma).


      Print a copy of this checklist, and choose a place and time where you won't be distracted. Choose the open mind of a student, and expect to learn something useful.

      See if you feel a mix of these traits: centered, grounded, peaceful, alert, awake, "up," confident,  "light," focused, purposeful, resilient, realistic, compassionate, serene, calm, strong, and clear. If so, your true Self is probably guiding your other subselves. If you don't feel some of these now, expect skewed results from this checklist.


  • this checklist is not about blame or "badness," it’s about discovering long-term opportunities to heal and grow.

  • some behavioral traits below are either "x" or "not x";

  • these traits are in random order. Some traits cause more stress than others; and note...

  • the theme of each of these traits, rather than taking them too literally. There are many variations.

      Take your time, and note any feelings and thoughts that occur to you as you go. Consider journaling about these to add to your learnings.

      Pick one or two people you want to rate (e.g. you, your partner, an ex mate, a parent,...). Then thoughtfully check each of the behavioral traits below that generally fits one or both of them.

Me / You

__  __  1) S/He usually thinks in black-or-white ("bipolar") terms: s/he sees things as either right or wrong, good or bad, relevant or not, logical or "stupid" - not somewhere between, or a mix. S/He's significantly uneasy with ambivalence, vagueness, or uncertainty.

__  __  2) S/He is often a (compulsive) perfectionist. Achieving perfection is just "normal" (vs. special); S/He has trouble enjoying personal achievements, and is often uncomfortable accepting merited appreciation and praise.

__  __  3) S/He is often rigid and inflexible. S/He thinks obsessively, and/or acts compulsively, even if personally unpleasant, unnecessary, or unhealthy; or s/he is overly passive and compliant fearing to take personal, social, and occupational initiatives and risks.

__  __  4) S/He is usually serious, intellectual, and analytic, wanting to understand life and situations, and know in detail why things are as they are. S/He may be interested in psychology, counseling, and/or study and discuss human behavior "endlessly."

__  __  5) S/He is often confused, disorganized, overwhelmed, and helpless; or s/he is fiercely independent, controlling, and overcompetent. S/He depends excessively on, or chronically procrastinates or avoids seeking appropriate medical, psychological, social, and/or spiritual help (self neglect);

__  __  6) S/He is uncomfortable being silly, spontaneous, or childlike ("doesn't know how to play"), or s/he is frequently silly, simplistic, childish, and joking. S/He is uncomfortable with, and frequently avoids, prolonged emotionally-intimate personal contacts.

__  __  7) S/He is very responsible (over-willing to take charge, organize, and fix things, even if personally taxing); or frequently irresponsible and undependable; and probably denies, minimizes, or rationalizes (explains) doing either one.

__  __  8) S/He often has trouble feeling and/or expressing strong emotions, and/or tolerating them in others - specially anger, hurt, fear, and sadness. S/He often feels "nothing," or s/he has frequent unpredictable or inappropriate outbursts of rage, sadness, weeping, depression, and/or anxiety. S/He may never apologize, or apologizes all the time.

__  __  9) S/He compulsively needs to control personal emotions, key relationships, and interpersonal situations. S/He is overly aggressive, demanding, and domineering, or subtly, persistently manipulative - e.g. using guilt-trips or a "helpless victim" stance, striving to "always" get her/his way. Where true, s/he probably denies, minimizes, defends, jokes about, or rationalizes this.

__  __  10) S/He has significant memory gaps about early childhood years, events, and one or both parents. S/He knows little about one or both parents' childhood experiences and feelings, and finds that unimportant or unremarkable.

__  __  11) S/He's socially very shy or very social, and has few or no real (intimate) friends. S/He has a history of relationship avoidances and/or break-ups, including divorce/s. S/He feels uncomfortable with interpersonal commitment and/or intimacy, and consistently denies, minimizes, or rationalizes (intellectually explains and justifies) this.

__  __  12) S/He may be sexually dysfunctional - e.g. impotent, frigid, or compulsively avoids sexual contact; or s/he is harmfully seductive and promiscuous. S/He may be secretly uncomfortable with, or ashamed of, her or his gender, body (parts), sexual feelings and fantasies, and/or behavior. S/He may have been sexually abused or traumatized as a child or young adult.

__  __  13) S/He "never gets sick," or s/he suffers chronic illnesses like migraines or other headaches, back, neck, or other muscle pain; insomnia or apnea, obesity; asthma; gastric, intestinal, or colon problems; anxiety attacks; phobias; allergies, or other emotional or physical maladies which may not respond to appropriate medications or therapies.

__  __  14) S/He is significantly uncomfortable about revealing personal thoughts, feelings, and experiences (is excessively distrustful, or s/he often discloses personal things inappropriately (naive, insensitive, and overtrusting)

__  __  15) S/He is uncomfortable giving, getting, and/or observing affectionate and appropriate touching and hugging (is "stiff" or "cold"), and/or s/he often touches others dutifully, awkwardly or inappropriately.

__  __  16) S/He often avoids personal conflicts with or between others by changing or controlling the conversation, getting intensely angry, "collapsing," or withdrawing physically and/or emotionally ("numbing out"); or s/he seems to often enjoy triggering or experiencing conflict (i.e. excitement and drama) with or between others.

      Recall - these are common behavioral traits of psychologically-wounded adults and kids.

Me / You

__  __  17) S/He is compulsive about, and/or is or was addicted to, one or more of these:

_  alcohol in some form _  prescription drugs
_  excitement / drama _  a special hobby
_  sugar / fat / carbohydrates _  analyzing / explaining 
_  food / dieting / nutrition another person
_  sexual arousal and release _  fitness / health / exercising
_  lying / secrecy / truth / honesty _  "justice" / "fairness"
_  a social cause _  caffeine / nicotine
_  self help ("recovery") _  competing and/or "winning"
_  illegal ("hard") drugs _  work or "busy-ness"
_  pain / death _  cleaning / neatness
_  God / worship / church / salvation / hell / Satan / angels / demons / ghosts _  money / wealth / saving / spending / gambling
_  material possessions _  self-image / others' opinions
__  __  18) S/He has children, relatives, and/or past or present partners who are compulsive about, or are or were addicted to, one or more of the above. 

__  __  19) S/He has recurring depression, apathy ("laziness"), and/or tiredness "for no reason." S/He may have periodic sleep disorders (e.g. insomnia) and/or nightmares, and may medicate these.

__  __  20) S/He repeatedly feels "empty," "something's missing (in me)," or "I'm different (than other people) somehow...", without knowing why.

__  __  21)  S/He is significantly uncomfortable being alone or s/he prefers solitude to an unusual degree and seems socially isolated and "anti-social."

      We're half-way done. Do you need to stretch?

Me / You

__  __  22)  S/He has markedly low self-esteem and is often harshly self-critical and discounts her/his own talents and successes. S/He is constantly apologetic and/or defensive, and usually deflects or discounts merited praise. S/He often avoids making appropriate eye contact with some or most males / females / authorities / people, and reflexively uses "you" or "we" rather than "I."

__  __  23)  S/He often experiences mind-racing or mind-churning: ceaseless "inner voices" (thought streams), which are frequently anxious or fearful, cynical and/or pessimistic, critical, catastrophizing, argumentative, obsessive, and/or chaotic.

__  __  24)  S/He is often hyper-vigilant: i.e. anxiously alert to the present and expected painful actions of other people. S/He tends to assume others' (usually negative) perceptions, beliefs, and/or intentions, and to react to things that haven’t happened yet as though they had.

__  __  25)  S/He often smiles and/or chuckles inappropriately when nervous, hurt, confused, scared, angry, shamed, and/or worried. S/He is probably unaware of this habit, can’t explain it, and may joke about it to hide related guilt and anxiety.

__  __  26)  S/He often feels vaguely or clearly victimized by others or "fate", regularly avoids taking responsibility for her/his own choices, and denies or stubbornly rationalizes doing so; or s/he assumes too much responsibility, and feels guilty for things s/he can't control.

__  __  27)  S/He is highly sensitive to real or imagined criticism from others, and unnecessarily rationalizes, explains, and defends her or his actions and values. S/He is quick to blame others or often empathizes with "the other guy’s" situation and gives in easily.

__  __ 28)  S/He commonly fears, distrusts, is tense around, and/or argues with some authority figures. S/He feels very anxious without clear instructions, or s/he compulsively resists them and acts independently despite others' irritation or frustration.

__  __  29)  S/He fears saying "no" and offending people or being rejected by them. S/He avoids setting appropriate limits (boundaries) with others, and feels reluctant to - and guilty about - respectfully asserting her/his own rights, needs, values, perceptions, and opinions.

__  __  30)  S/He confuses pity with love, and/or associates love with pain. S/He usually focuses on others' needs first, and seeks to rescue or "fix" them; or s/he is over-concerned with his or her own needs (is "self centered"). S/He avoids intimacy, or cyclically seeks, then runs from it - i.e. s/he has a history of approach-avoid relationships.

Me / You

__  __  31)  S/He hangs on desperately to relationships that regularly cause significant shame, fear, guilt, hurt, resentment, sorrow, and frustration. S/He may repeatedly cycle between intense jealousy and guilt. Major personal relationship-choices are often largely based on fears of criticism, "being wrong," rejection, and abandonment;

__  __  32)  S/He is unaware of not being able to empathize with some or all kids and adults, and denies or minimizes this

__  __  33)  S/He often feels bored, restless, or uneasy without current personal or environmental crisis, drama, chaos, and/or excitement. At times s/he seems to seek or make crises, and denies, jokes about, or rationalizes (justifies) this.

__  __  34)  Typically s/he waits and reacts to situations or s/he is often self-harmfully impulsive and proactive.

__  __  35)  S/He often feels alone, disconnected, or lonely, even in a group. S/He rarely feels s/he really belongs anywhere.

__  __  36)  S/He often seeks comfort, pleasure, and gratification now vs. later, even if that's self-harmful in the long run. S/He may defend, justify, or minimize this, rationalize it by saying "I can't help it," and/or deflect from it by joking.

__  __  37)  S/He prefers to work independently - e.g. as a consultant, craftsperson, or entrepreneur - and/or to work in a solitary setting. S/He changes jobs often or stays at the same job for years. S/He works in a human-service occupation (e.g. nurse or doctor, teacher, counselor, coach, clinician, lawyer, clergyperson, consultant, sales or service rep,…)

__  __  38)  S/He rarely or compulsively initiates social activities. S/He habitually avoids or compulsively seeks being the center of social and/or occupational attention.

__  __  39)  S/He is frequently self-centered and grandiose or s/he is subtly or clearly self-abusive, self-deprecating, self-sabotaging, and self-neglectful - e.g. eating poorly, overworking, avoiding exercise, and never seeing a doctor or dentist except in emergencies.

__  __  40)  S/He habitually withholds or shades the truth or lies to avoid expected criticism, rejection, and/or "hurting (displeasing) others." S/He denies, minimizes. or justifies this, and secretly feels guilty and ashamed about it.

__  __  41)  S/He is secretly or openly critical or ashamed of her or his appearance and/or body. S/He may be extremely modest or very immodest. S/He consistently grooms and dresses shabbily and drably, or "loudly," over-formally, or perfectly.

__  __  42)  S/He repeatedly chooses people with significant psychological wounds as mates, friends, and associates;

__  __  43)  S/He denies or discounts having many or most of these traits to excess, explains them defensively, and/or minimizes their personal significance - and s/he probably denies this denial, justifies it, and/or jokes about it.

      These are typical behavioral traits of someone who has inherited psychological wounds and unawareness. There are other common traits - this is not a complete list. Each wounded person has a unique mix and variety of behaviors like these, depending on their life experiences, circumstances, ancestral inheritances, and which subselves dominate their personality.

  "Scoring" this Worksheet

      There is no research-based "scale" with which to reliably interpret your score here. The more traumatic a person's childhood environment was, the more items above may be checked - but see # 43. Because none of us grew up in perfectly healthy childhoods, everyone has some of these traits.

      The real questions are which traits, how many, and what impacts are all the traits having on the person's life and health so far? Two common impacts are psychological and/or legal divorce or never committing to a primary partner. Other common impacts are addictions, depression, "anxiety attacks," "mood disorders," (some) obesity, and/or chronic health problems.

      If your results suggest that you (or whomever you rated) "aren't significantly wounded," I encourage you to fill out this assessment profile to make sure. The false selves that control wounded people protectively minimize and/or deny (distort) reality.  

      Every adult and child can be subjectively placed somewhere on a line between "slightly wounded" to "extremely wounded." Generally, the more checks or "X's" above, the higher the odds that the person you're rating has significant psychological wounds and a disabled true Self. The greater the wounds, the greater the chances of  chronic trouble maintaining personal health, satisfying work situations, and lasting, healthy relationships.

      As a rough guide, if you checked more than 15 of these 43 items, I suggest you or the person you rated invest time in online self-study Lesson 1.  It's' free, and contains NO ads.

      Many psychologically-wounded people survived major early-childhood trauma (abandonment, neglect, and abuse). For more perspective, view this brief YouTube video on common symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD):

Learn something about yourself with this anonymous 1-quesrtion poll. ..

Status Check

      See where you stand now on assessing for false-self (psychological) wounds - T = "true," F = "false," and ? = "I'm not sure," or "it depends on (what?)";

I accept that normal personalities are composed of talented subselves, like members of an orchestra or sports team (T  F  ?)  If you don't, read this letter, and try this safe, interesting exercise.

I can explain the concept of a true Self and a false self to an average teen now. (T  F  ?)

I can name at least six common symptoms of a true Self guiding someone's personality  (T  F  ?)

I can explain what a family or other social group's nurturance level is, and how it relates to personality subselves (T  F  ?)

I accept the idea that survivors of a low-nurturance childhood often bear up to six "false self wounds.  (T  F  ?)

I can name all six psychological wounds , and at least four common personal effects of these wounds on average people.  (T  F  ?)

I can explain what hitting ''true bottom'' means, to an average teen, and how hitting bottom relates to effective wound-recovery. (T  F  ?)

I believe that once protective denials are broken, significant psychological wounds can intentionally be reduced over time  (T  F  ?)

I am motivated to honestly assess myself now for significant psychological wounds.  (T  F  ?)

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

       All the content in this nonprofit Break the Cycle! Web site assumes you can answer most or all of these items "True," without ambivalence. If not, repeat your assessment if or when you hit true bottom...

+ + +      

           Note without judgment what you're thinking and how you feel now. What does that mean?

       Thoughts / Notes



      This is one of several Lesson-1 worksheets to help assess the impact of the toxic [wounds + unawareness] cycle on you and your family. This worksheet is based on the observable reality that significantly-wounded adults were raised in a low-nurturance environment, and later tend to (a) choose wounded partners and (b) co-create a low-nurturance family of their own 

          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 article was very helpful  somewhat helpful  not helpful   

      Also see this comparison of common true-Self and false-self (wounded) traits. If you're filling out a cycle-impact profile, return to that assessment worksheet..

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