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

Check Your Family Tree
(Psychological Wounds
+ Unawareness)

By Peter K. Gerlach, MSW
Member NSRC Experts Council

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The Web address of this checklist is http://sfhelp.org/gwc/3_tree.htm

  Updated  02-03-2015

      Clicking underlined links here 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 2-part YouTube video provides perspective on what you'll find in this worksheet. The video mentions eight self-improvement lessons - I've reduced that to seven.

      This is one of a  series of articles in Lesson 1 in this Web site - free your true Self to guide you in all situations, and reduce significant psychological wounds. This is one of several checklists to help you assess if you or someone you care about is a wounded survivor of early-childhood abandonment, neglect, and abuse (trauma).

      This worksheet assumes you're familiar with...

  • the intro to this site and the premises underlying it

  • self-improvement Lesson 1, Parts 1 and 2

  • Q&A about families, and...

  • how to draw your genogram (family map)


          With your childhood family in mind, read these out loud and notice any thoughts and feelings that occur...

  • Some families provide higher nurturance for their members (fill more physical + psychological + spiritual needs) than others.

  • Low-nurturance ("dysfunctional") families are caused by (a) adults inheriting [psychological wounds and ignorance] from their ancestors, and (b) societal ignorance and apathy about this inheritance.

  • Parental wounds and ignorance promote unwise child conceptions and abandoning, neglecting, and abusing (traumatizing) young kids. This promotes psychological wounds in the kids who grow up and repeat the cycle..

  • Family trees of significantly-wounded people have specific traits. Some traits (below) are symptoms of early-childhood caregivers' wounds, and other traits are traumas that cause and/or amplify psychological wounds.

  • Low-nurturance childhoods tend to reproduce and spread down the generations, until a wounded adult hits bottom and intentionally stops the inheritance cycle via personal recovery.

      What are you aware of now?  

 Checklist Directions

      See if your true Self is guiding you. If s/he is, you'll feel a mix of calm, centered, serene, awake, alive, alert, focused, purposeful, strong, grounded, confidant, and "light." If you don't feel such a mix now, a well-meaning false self may skew your answers to this worksheet..

      Get a large piece of blank paper, like two 8.5" x 11" sheets taped together on the long edge. On it, draw your three or four-generational family tree. Draw this diagram large, for you’ll be making notes all over it. Put names by each symbol. Include all the DNA-related (living and dead) people you know of in your family, and those of your current mate, their former mate (if any), and your former mate (if any).

       Reserve at least 45" of undistracted time. Honestly and thoughtfully, note on the diagram each probable or sure instance of any of the traits below. The more time and care you take, the clearer your results will be. Stay clear that this wound-assessment worksheet is about growing your compassionate awareness, not about blaming anyone!

      The table of traits below is illustrative, not comprehensive. If you think of ancestral traits that aren't listed, include them. "Chronic" below means "repeated." You may wish to spend several days or weeks researching your family tree to fill this worksheet out. Option: make this a group project with one or more interested relatives.

      If you think an ancestor may have had one of these traits but you aren't sure, add it to your diagram with a question mark. The psychological-wound traits and traumas in this checklist are organized in these groups:

  • Child-related traumas and symptoms,

  • Relationship traumas and symptoms,

  • Health-related traumas and symptoms,

  • Behavioral wound-symptoms,

  • Social, financial, and legal trauma, and...

  • Other traumas or symptoms 

 Typical Family-tree Symptoms of Psychological Wounds

1) Child-related Traumas and Symptoms

  • Miscarriages; stillbirths

  • Elected or forced child adoptions

  • Unplanned or unwanted pregnancies

  • Death of an infant or young child

  • Minor kids feeling responsible for, and regularly parenting, younger children and/or disabled adults

  • Orphaned children; foster parenting

  • Unusual imaginary companions

  • Serious bullying by older children

  • Child kidnapping or abduction

  • Attempted or completed abortions

  • Major birth defects or birth traumas

  • Parental sterility or infertility

  • Chronic stealing, lying, or vandalism including fire-setting

  • Suspected or sure parental neglect

  • Excessively harsh child discipline

  • Emotionally or physically absent caregivers

  • School suspensions or many transfers

2) Relationship Traumas and Symptoms

  • Chronic physical abuse*,  Attempted or actual battering or torture

  • Chronic verbal or emotional abuse*

  • Attempted or completed suicide

  • "Enshrining" or "erasing" dead or absent family members or other loved ones

  • Stalking or other sexual (or other) harassment

  • Divorces or never marrying

  • Excessive suspicions, jealousy, or distrusts and paranoias; family secrets

  • Cross-dressing (transvestitism ); sex-change operations; or recurring fantasies of same (may have biological roots)

  • An inability to bond and/or to tolerate true intimacy; dying alone; "no family or friends"

  • Associating love with pain, subservience, material things, and/or dependence

  • Suspected or confirmed incest, rape, or other sexual abuse*

  • Spiritual abuse*; excessive terror of hell, Satan, demons, sinning, and/or damnation

  • Attempted or completed murder

  • Excessive sexual promiscuity, aversion/s, addictions, or dysfunctions

  • Unexpected or accidental death of loved ones, specially involving violence

  • Marital affairs or bigamy

  • Marital separation and/or family desertion

  • Prolonged or repeated emotional cutoffs  ("not speaking" to close kin or key friends)

  • Excessive social isolation

  • "Mystery ancestors" (i.e. little is known of them)

3) Health-related Traumas and Symptoms

  • Chronic eating disorders - e.g. anorexia, bulimia, bingeing, obesity, food addiction, phobias, or fetishes

  • Hospitalization for "nervous breakdown"; "shock" and/or psychiatric treatment

  • Addictions to activities, substances, causes, relationships, and/or moods (e.g. excitement or arousal)

  • Dependence on medications for sleep and/or mood-control

  • Chronic exhaustion without clear medical or other causes

  • Traumatic body injury or loss of a limb or organ - including sight or hearing; major disabilities

  • Chronic major muscle tics or spasms; 

  • Severe chronic migraines or allergies

  • Chronic self-neglect - e.g. poor diet, little exercise, and/or ignoring dental, eye, or other medical care and check-ups

  • Hypochondria - obsession with personal health or fitness; terror of "germs"

  • Chronic sleep disorders - e.g. insomnia, nightmares, night sweats, TMJ

  • Chronic digestive or colon disorders - e.g. nausea, ulcers, colitis, "heartburn"

  • Self-mutilation, including body piercing and unusual or excessive tattooing

  • Chronic physical and/or "mental" illnesses and/or "mood disorders"

  • Incurable life-threatening diseases - e.g. AIDS

  • Sex-change fantasies or surgery; Open or private cross-dressing

4) Common Behavioral Symptoms of Psychological Wounds

  • Workaholism (regularly working 55+ hours per week with few or no vacations)

  • Obsession with personal or household cleanliness, neatness, and/or hygiene

  • Inability to focus; excessive "mind- wandering" or "mind-churning"; "Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD)

  • Chronic apathy, "laziness," or depression

  • Multiple Personality Disorder (now Dissociative Identity Disorder);

  • Unusual "mood swings" or chronic bizarre behaviors

  • Major phobias, delusions, and/or reality distortions; Reported "schizophrenia"

  • Chronic anxiety or rage attacks; Teeth-grinding

  • Obsession with the occult, spirits, devil worship;  paranormal phenomenon; witchcraft; and/or voodoo;

  • Excessive emotional numbness ("headiness") or volatility

  • Rabid atheism or excessive spiritual piety, "penances," and/or self-harmful missionary zeal.

  • several to many of these symptoms


5) Social, Financial, or Legal Trauma

  • Failure to graduate from one or more schools or colleges

  • Church excommunication, defrocking, or scandal; Legal disbarment; Loss of professional license or tenure;

  • Personal or business bankruptcy; Excessive gambling and/or debts; or excessive hoarding and/or fear of poverty and debt;

  • Flunking a grade; Being "held back"

  • "Unreasonable" or chronic legal suits

  • Homelessness / Chronic poverty

  • Chronic job losses and/or unemployment

  • Traumatic family or public humiliation

  • Religious, social, or political fanaticism or notable bigotry - e.g. Ku Klux Klan, Skin-heads, anti-government "militia"

  • Committing major crimes; Arrests; Jail terms; Court martial and/or dishonorable discharge; IRS trouble

  • Concentration-camp internment; Religious, ethnic, and/or political persecution; Local warfare, rioting, bombing, or military invasion;

  • Serious cult or gang involvement

  • School, organizational, or military censure, sanctions, disbarment, or expulsion;

  • dwelling complaints or evictions;


6) Other Trauma or Symptoms

  • Human-service occupation/s: e.g. clergy / law / welfare casework / mental health / medicine / education / consulting / etc.

  • Reported or known animal sacrifices, torture, or entrapment;

  • Vehicle, boat, or plane accident or wreck;

  • Serious injuries from animals, fish, reptiles, or insects

  • Major natural disasters - e.g. floods, epidemics, droughts, tornados, fires,  earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, tidal waves, mud slides, hurricanes, plagues,...

  • Mugging, personal robbery, dwelling break-ins, blackmail, extortions;

  • Kidnapping, torture, and/or molesting of a loved one


       Deciding what is an "excessive" trait in an ancestor or relative is a subjective decision. To improve the objectivity of your research here, ask knowledgeable others (e.g. relatives, close family friends, involved health professionals) to reality-check your opinions about the existence of any trait you’re unsure of. The more traumatic the trait, the more intense a reaction you'll probably get.

       Family-tree factors like these suggest psychologically-wounded, unaware ancestors and significant family dysfunction.

     If you are significantly wounded, you're likely to minimize or deny some of these family-tree traits. Also, traumas or traits like these can be (shameful) family secrets, and you may never have been told about them.

      In general, the more of these traits someone's parents and/or other ancestors had, the higher the odds that significant psychological wounds passed on to the next generation. Note that this is not a complete list of traits.

 "Scoring" a Family Tree

       We all have some of these ancestral traits and traumas. The more of the traits or events above that appear in someone’s ancestry, the higher the odds that (a) they and their parents got too little emotional/spiritual nurturance in their early years, and that they (b) inherited significant [psychological wounds and unawareness].

      On a scale from 1 to 5, rate yourself on how many of these family-tree traits you have (1 = few, 5 = many).  ___

 What Now?

  • Continue assessing yourself and/or someone else for psychological wounding and unawareness.

  • If you feel your current mate may be ruled by a false self (wounded), discuss this concept and worksheet with them. Ask your partner to study Lesson 1. If s/he balks, that raises the odds that you are wounded, because typical Grown Wounded Children (GWCs) unconsciously choose each other.

Note: until a GWC hits true (vs. pseudo) bottom, you can't persuade or force them to break their denials or want to start personal healing. Commonly, hitting bottom happens in midlife. Some wounded people never do. ...

  • If you believe an ex mate is significantly wounded and you raised kids together, your children are probably wounded and struggling with special needs. For more perspective, see...

  • Consider discussing your findings here with your parent/s, siblings, and/or older children. The overall goal is to help them understand the [wounds + unawareness] cycle and how it's affecting all of you - specially your living and future kids. 


    • self-improvement Lesson 1 - asess for psychological wounds and reduce any you find. The guidebook for this Lesson is "Who's Really Running Your Life?" (4th ed., Xlibris.com, 2011);

    • Other helpful books:

     Notes / Thoughts


      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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