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This is one of a series of articles in Lesson 4 - select and evolve
nourishing relationships. These articles build on Lessons 1 - 3, and prepare
you for Lesson 5 (evolve and enjoy a nourishing family) and Lesson 6 (effective parenting).
Note - this article links to other related articles.
To avoid getting lost in chains of hyperlinks,
read this entire
article before following links in these other articles.
This article assumes you're
the intro to
this nonprofit Website and the premises
This brief YouTube video clip previews key points in this
Premises - typical kids raised in a low-nurturance environment
by evolving a personality composed of manyspecialized subselves or parts.This usually results in up to five more
which hinder healthy development and social functioning. The
of these wounds range from minor to severe.
Divorce is a sign of significant
[wounding + unawareness] - and over 50% (i.e. millions) of typical U.S. couples
divorce legally or psychologically. This implies that a high percentage of
people you encounter are "wounded." Most of them don't (want to) know that
or what it means. Survivors of
early-childhood trauma are called "Grown Wounded Children" (GWCs) in this Web site.
This article offers...
perspective on "wounding"
how to recognize a significantly-wounded
adult or child
options for relating
to a significantly-wounded person; and...
five special relationships.
Relating well-enough with a psychologically-wounded person can
hard - specially if you're wounded too. Typically, such relationships
are frustrating, conflictual, and studded with anxieties, guilts, hurts,
angers, distrust, disappointments, and disrespect.
If the wounded person is someone you live or work with, you can't
avoid stressful interactions with them. Common responses are
denial, minimizing, and
pretending "things are fine" - when they're not. One high cost of that
strategy is loss of self-respect.
Other common responses are arguments, confrontations, insults,
whining, pleading, threats, ultimatums, and attacks, and hoping fruitlessly
the other person will want to change. These lose-lose choices usually
result from ignorance and lack of awareness.
So the payoff for (a) recognizing
GWCs and (b) learning how to react to them is
stress and more satisfaction, serenity, and self-respect.
If the wounded person is a family member,
motivation to learn is protecting your minor kids from inheriting similar
wounds, within local limits.
Significant psychological wounding
causes observable behavioral traits. People with few or minor wounds
(guided by their true Self) display different attitudes and behaviors.
Unless you're chronically self-absorbed (a symptom of wounding), you have
probably developed a semi-conscious way of spotting psychologically-injured
people by their attitudes and behaviors- tho you may not think of them as
Because typical GWCs are experts at camouflaging themselves to appear
"healthy," it's useful to learn telltale behaviors that signify "major
wounding here!" Once you do, you'll probably find many GWCs around
you, ranging from obvious to well-disguised.
this and this to spot GWCs -
starting at home.
If you choose to - or have to - relate to a GWC, what are your options?
You have several powerful choices to support a GWC and protect yourself.
Put your (true) Self in charge of your
Examine your attitudes
Identify your primary relationship needs
Clarify what interpersonal "support" means
Choose your responses
look briefly at each of these options...
(true) Self in Charge
An essential first step is examining honestly whether you may
often be dominated by a false self (wounded). Two common (false-self)
defenses are denial ("I'm not wounded!") and minimizing ("Nah,
my wounds are minor.") A third is "I've already healed my psychological
wounds well enough." A fourth non-strategy is thinking and saying
"Yeah, I'm pretty wounded" but not really meaning it or wanting to do
anything about it.
yourself for wounding, follow these steps honestly
after you finish here.
To free your Self, follow Lesson 1.
Examine Your Attitudes
When your Self is solidly
guiding your life, the next step is to
examine your attitude about irritating, frustrating, and obnoxious adults
and kids. A common reaction to people who irritate, frustrate, or offend us is to label
them bad, wrong, evil, insensitive, stupid, selfish, arrogant,
abusive, dishonest, dumb, childish, immature, pathetic, gross, worthless,
irresponsible, bitchy, idiotic, sleazy, low class, hopeless, retarded,
controlling, crude, manipulative, egotistical, unreliable, bigoted,
criminal, addicted, spacey, weak, a loser, failure, or wimp; etc.
Do you ever use labels like these for people who offend you? If so, (a)
you're probably governed by a critical false self, and (b) the other
person probably senses your attitude
whether you're vocal or silent. That will steadily provoke hurt, resentment,
hostility, defensiveness, distrust, anger, avoidances, and c/overt
counterattacks until you change.
When you're steadily guided by your true Self, an instinctive reaction to
GWCs in denial ("obnoxious people")
is compassion. That does not mean you must tolerate their
stressful behaviors or agree with their values and opinions. It means
you regard their needs, personal
rights, and human dignity (worth) as being as valid
as your own.
Think of an obnoxious adult or child,
and recall how your subselves usually judge their behaviors, attitudes, or
traits. Now picture this person as being swathed with bloody bandages, hobbling painfully with a heavy leg-cast and crutches.
Try saying "(Name)
is really wounded. S/He didn't cause
the wounds, and doesn't know what to do about them."Do any of
your inner voices (subselves) balk at this compassionate point of view?
("Yes, but...") If
so, try to identify who they are, and interview them one at a time to
find out why they object to compassion. Reassure them it does not mean you
have to endure a wounded person's unpleasant traits or behaviors. Then demonstrate this by identifying and respectfully asserting
your needs with them.
Identify Your Primary Needs
Focus on the GWC and
identify objectively what bothers you about
attitudes and values (e.g. approving of
abortion, same-sex marriage, bigotry, fraud,...), or...
personal traits, and/or
habits and behaviors
like cracking knuckles, smoking, talking loudly, interrupting,
or chewing with an open mouth, belching, swearing, etc.
Use this awareness to define your specific needs. then...
Clarify what interpersonal "support" means to you
Compare this to what you believe: interpersonal "support" is "anything that helps one or more
people reduce some current personal or group stressor." There are many
things that can do that, like...
sincere empathy, affirmation, and
respectful listening, without trying to
"fix" the speaker
cooperatively defining the problem and
relevant new information and ideas (education and consulting)
appropriate physical touching - e.g.
respectful, unbiased mediation between
constructive confrontations (vs. enabling or
recommending relevant resource people, programs, and materials
maintaining clear boundaries - not taking
responsibility for someone else's problems
volunteering time and energy without
focusing on problems vs. blaming or
problems (suggesting a different point of view) - e.g. glass half-full
encouraging win-win problem-solving vs.
fighting, arguing, or avoiding
acknowledging personal and group strengths
being realistic, vs. cynical, pessimistic,
encouraging others to provide these supports
(add your ideas...)
you know you had these many options?
Once you've done the above steps, then...
Choose Your Response
You can't affect any physical factors like an annoying voice
tone, cough, or laugh. Youmay get the wounded
person to change some attitudes or traits by describing personality subselves and wound-recovery, and suggesting s/he'd
be happier if s/he
empowered her/his true Self to take
charge. If you're empowering your Self to lead, you may describe that
process and your results so far.
If a GWC isn't ready to hit bottom and reorganize her/his subselves, use these wise
and settle for "planting the idea" of psychological wounds and recovery. You can also respectfully
inform the per-son how their traits affect you and your relationship,
without asking for change.
You may be able to motivate a wounded person to change some irritating or frustrating behaviors. Your odds are best if
your and the other person's true Selves are steadily guiding you each.
To make these options more real, let's illustrate them...
Here, "planting seeds" means watching for chances to objectively explain
personality subselves, true and false selves, wounds, and wound-recovery.
Then let go of trying to control the wounded person's
reaction to these ideas. Before
"planting," review these ideas about offering
respectful feedback to other people.
Normal first-reactions to these ideas are disbelief, skepticism, suspicion, rejection,
defensiveness (Well, I'm not ruled by a false self!") and sometimes scorn ("That's just New Age psychobabble!"). Another common
(false-self) response is acknowledging the credibility of these ideas
("Yeah, that makes sense, but..."), and vehemently denying that they apply
to the person or their family.
If you choose to plant these
seeds, expect "resistance" - arguments, discounting, indifference,
suspicion, etc... If your Self is in charge, s/he will avoid...
preaching and moralizing,
threatening ["If you
don't reduce your wounds (something awful will happen)]";
explaining and using logic to persuade the GWC to assess for wounds;
labeling the other
person (e.g. "How can you be so irresponsible?"), and...
blaming them for not taking action.
These are all lose-lose choices.
Be specially alert
for feeling you must "save" the wounded person. Assuming responsibility
for an able adult's life and pain is inherently disrespectful, and
may hinder them from needed healing and growth. Obsession with
saving a wounded, unaware person suggests false-self control and
Excessive evangelical (religious) zeal is a common example.
An exception to this is wanting to protect someone's child from serious
psychological wounds. See
Whether you plant seeds or not, another option you have in relating to
"obnoxious" (wounded) adults and some kids is to...
Give Respectful Feedback
Some wounded adults and most kids aren't aware of, deny, minimize, or
justify - the
impacts of their irritating traits and behaviors. If they're
(which is common), they'll dodge responsibility for these impacts ("That's
not my fault!"). To maintain your self-respect and integrity, you can
offer a factual description of how the person's attitudes, traits, or
behaviors affect you - without expecting them to agree or change.
To raise your odds of being heard clearly,
study this overview of effective
and the powerful tool of assertive
I-messages. Using the latter might sound like...
you open to some feedback from me?" Be prepared for "No." If you
get a nod or "Yes," then say something like...
"(Name), when you interrupt
me so often, I feel disrespected and frustrated, and I lose interest in
talking with you."
"(Name), when you choose to
swear often and talk so loudly, I feel distracted, and have trouble
hearing what you're trying to say."
"(Name), your perfume
is so strong it distracts me from focusing on what we're talking about."
Imagine how you'd react if someone gave you feedback like this, calmly and
respectfully, with steady eye contact. Notice several things about these
two-part "I-message" examples: they...
describe specific GWC behavior and
specifically how it affects you;
are brief, clear, focused, and non-critical;
avoid apologizing, explaining, or
generalizing ("you always / never..."); and they...
The purpose of such factual feedback
is not to cause guilt or change. It is to (a) give the GWC
accurate information they might not get otherwise get, (b) leave them free
to use it as they wish, (c) set the stage for asserting respectful limits,
and (d) earn your own self-respect. It can also promote win-win
if you're both open to that as partners.
For more specific options for
offering feedback to obnoxious behavior or attitudes, see these
Assert Your Needs and Limits
This option extends the prior one by using a respectful
a factual description of the GWC's offensive action/s,
specifically how the actions affect you and your relationship, and...
description of what you need from - or won't tolerate with - the wounded
Use assertion when
(a) your Self is solidly in charge, (b) you feel genuine compassion for the
adult or child, (c) you're clear on your mutual rights, and (d) you've
identified your current primary needs.
If you've described subselves and
psychological wounds to the person, you can refer to that in your assertion
- e.g. ...
"Alex, when you don't let me
know you're going to be late, you're probably controlled by your false
self. I feel irritated and discounted when you ignore my needs, and
need you to want to
put your true Self in charge and to stop wasting my
If you set a specific consequence or limit with the other person, you need
to enforce it consistently, or remain in a victim role in your
How does these response-options compare with how you normally react to
"obnoxious" (wounded) people?
The options above apply to
any significantly-wounded person. Some relationships
merit special awareness and perspective, like relating to a wounded mate, ex
mate, minor child, relative, and co-worker. Let's look at each of these
Relating to a Wounded Mate
This is the most difficult case, because the
stakes are so high. The best
time to assess a partner for significant psychological wounds is during
courtship - specially if prior kids are involved. An inherent block to this
is (a) needy, unaware GWCs often unconsciously choose each other, and (b)
minimize, deny, or ignore any warning signs of false-self dominance.
Prior divorces, affairs, addictions, chronic financial,
legal, and/or occupational problems; and ex-mate hostility, and marital legal
battles, all suggest significant wounds and unawareness.
For more perspective and options, see these courtship
Relating to a Wounded Ex Mate
Typical divorced parents need
to maintain a co-parental relationship for many years for their kids' sakes.
Typical divorces are
usually symptoms that both
are used to being ruled by a false self. Parenting values and responsibilities and the kids' welfare can be ongoing
sources of conflict between wounded ex mates - specially if they don't know
effective communication skills.
Relating to each other with patience and
compassion requires each adult to want to
forgive them-selves and each other for
prior hurts, and to steadily separate their personal relationship stressors
from child-related goals and problems. That requires their true Selves to be
steadily in charge.
When former partners choose a new mate (a stepparent
with or without their own kids), family relationships become extra
complex. This is specially
true if the new partner is an unaware, unrecovering GWC, which
seems to be the current American norm.
Use these articles and Q&A items to help manage these complex
co-parenting roles and relationships well. See this
article for perspective on ex-mate
Relating to a Wounded Child
Our troubled culture is largely unaware of the [wounds + unawareness]
cycle and its many toxic
effects . So significantly-wounded kids are often
labeled problem children, brats, trouble makers, outcasts,
losers, delinquents, misfits, bullies, sissies, wimps, scaredy cats, babies,
stupid, lazy, selfish, "bad seeds," black sheep, and "good-for-nothings."
These shaming labels starkly indicate adult ignorance, and tragically
increase the excessive shame, guilt, anxiety, and hopelessness
that typical minor children of GWCs feel.
The first thing to do in relating well to a wounded minor child is to
objectively assess (a) the nurturance level of their home and family, and
(b) the degree of wounding and unawareness in each of their caregivers. Then re-examine your expectations of the child, for you may
assume s/he "should" be-have like kids from idealized high-nurturance
environments. That's like scorning a poodle for not behaving like a dolphin.
If you acknowledge (a) a child's psychological wounds and
unawareness, and (b) that they didn't choose these, and (c) don't know
what to do about them, you can see "misbehavior" and "bad attitudes" with compassion and empathy, rather than
frustration, criticism, anger, impatience, and ridicule. That does not
mean excusing kids from the consequences of their attitudes and behavior.
For more perspective and options
for relating well to a wounded child, see this
article after you finish this one.
Relating to a Wounded Parent or Relative
A universal challenge for all GWCs is relating well-enough to the wounded,
unaware adults who raised them. "Relating well enough" means consistently
filling your current relationship needs well
enough in various situations.
Once again, the first step is to
put your true Self in charge of your
subselves. Until you do, it's likely that your Scared, Guilty, Lost,
Obedient, and Abandoned
Inner Kids and their
Guardians will dominate you
around your parents and grandparents ("I feel like a kid around
Then validate your rights as a mature
adult, and authorize yourself to hold different values and opinions than
your parents - even if that offends and disappoints them.
Deciding if, when, and how to respectfully confront childhood caregivers
with their wounds and unawareness is hard. Until you do, chances for honest,
satisfying (vs. dutiful or pretended) relationships with them are low.
That's specially frustrating if you want your own kids to benefit from
nourishing grand-parental relations.
To achieve genuine compassion, accept that your wounded parents and
grandparents didn't get their needs met well enough as kids because
their ancestors and society were wounded and ignorant.Part of
effective adult wound-reduction is grieving the loss of a
wholistically-healthy, high-nurturance childhood. That requires
acknowledging what specific developmental needs
didn't get met, why, and what those losses have meant in your life.
False selves often bitterly blame parents for not providing what they
"should have." Real (vs. pseudo) wound-recovery progress shifts
blame and resentment toward
grief, and genuine compassion for their disadvantaged ancestors. Sometimes,
grieving childhood losses requires honest
confrontation with parents ("I
never felt I could trust you to listen to me without correcting me.").
Do this to vent, not to punish, whine, or complain.
A key challenge to overcome in forging honest relationships with wounded
relatives is letting go of the ancient decree "You
must respect your elders," without guilt or shame.
Respect, trust, love, and honor,
must be earned, no matter whose genes and name you carry!
A final special case to consider is...
Relating to a Wounded Co-worker
A universal problem is relating
civilly to obnoxious and/or incompetent co-workers. Usually, you
must maintain a tolerable relationship in order to get your own work done,
while nourishing your self-respect.
This is a special case because the needs you want to fill with a
co-worker are the same and different than those with other people. Your response
options are the same as with other wounded people, but the risks of relating
ineffectively are unique (potential loss of job satisfaction and security).
A special challenge is deciding how to relate to a wounded supervisor,
manager, or team-leader. If their attitudes and behaviors are too obnoxious
too often, and if compassion, planting seeds, and confronting
constructively don't improve this, you may need to find other work. Avoiding
this decision can be self-neglectful.
If you do change workplaces, know that average unaware
GWCs often unconsciously choose
low-nurturance school, social, and work environments
similar to their
dysfunctional childhood families. Each time they (you) do, it's a new chance to hit
bottom and begin true healing.
+ + +
We just hilighted relationship options with special wounded people - mates,
ex mates, minor kids, childhood caregivers, and co-workers. Pause, breathe,
and notice what you're feeling and thinking. If you've learned anything
useful here, what is it?
This article is one of a series on healthy-relationship fundamentals. It
proposes that a normal reaction to growing up with too little
nurturance automatically promotes a
fragmented personality and up to five related psychological
wounds which cause significant personal and social problems. Most average Americans
appear to be
Grown Wounded Children
(GWCs) in denial, which promotes major personal, family, and social stress.
Once aware of these inner wounds and what they
mean, you can...
change your attitude about wounded
people from disdain and pity to respect and compassion; and...
learn to spot wounded adults and kids, and
assert your needs and limits with them respectfully while
enforcing your boundaries and keeping your
This article offers perspective
on and guidelines for these responses, and briefly explores
with wounded mates,
Pause, breathe, and recall why you read this article. Did you get what
you needed? If so, what do you need now? If not - what
do you need? Is there anyone you want to
discuss these ideas with?
Who's answering these
questions - your wise resident
true Self, or