Lesson 1 of 7  - free your Self to guide you

Overview of Six Common
Psychological Wounds

Are they stressing
 your family now?

By Peter K. Gerlach, MSW
Member NSRC Experts Council


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

 Updated  12-29-2014

      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 is one of a series of articles in Lesson 1 in this Web site - free your true Self to guide you in calm and conflictual times, and reduce significant psychological wounds. The article summarizes six epidemic wounds that come from early-childhood abandonment, neglect, and abuse.

      This article assumes you're familiar with...  

  • the intro to this Web site, and the premises underlying it.

  • these ideas about normal personalities

  • these Q&A items about personality subselves

  • this comparison of true Self and false self behavioral traits, and...

  • the lethal [wounds + unawareness] cycle that is spreading in our society,

      This brief YouTube clip introduces what you'll find in this article:

      Premise - young children who experience significant caregiver abandonment, neglect, and/or abuse ("trauma") survive by developing a fragmented personality. This causes a protective "false self" which shapes their perceptions, emotions, and behavior. Depending on many factors, false selves cause up to five psychological injuries. This article summarizes these six epidemic inner wounds.

      This summary comes from 29 years' effort to heal my own wounds and to empower many troubled therapy clients to do the same. The premise above is based on the teachings of several dozen veteran mental-health professionals whose works I've studied, and who's knowledge, heart, and clear vision I’ve come to respect and trust. 

      Each wound has unmistakable behavioral symptoms. Since I learned to look for them, I've seen significant wound-symptoms in over 80% of the many hundreds of average students and therapy clients I've worked with since 1981. I've also seen symptoms in many of my professional human-service colleagues. Not one person could name these six wounds or describe what they mean. This demonstrates the second component of an epidemic toxic parental bequest in typical cultures - unawareness..

      These wounds amplify each other. Without informed intervention, they and unawareness pass on to the next generation.

      Here's an overview of the...

Six Inherited Psychological Wounds

      Other Lesson-1 articles give much more detail on these wounds, what they mean, and how to reduce them.

  • a fragmented personality and a disabled true Self. This promotes...

  • excessive shame and guilts;

  • excessive fears;

  • major trust disorders;

  • excessive reality distortions; and...

  • difficulty feeling, empathizing, bonding, and loving.

      Here's a little detail on each wound:

1)  Personality fragmenting and living from a false self. This wound causes all five other injuries. Positron Emission Tomography (PET) brain-scans suggest that normal personalities are composed of a group of semi-independent subselves or parts (brain regions). Each subself has unique talents, limitations, and goals. When upset personality parts don't know or trust the resident true Self (capital "S"), they take control like disgruntled rookies overpowering the coach and trying to lead a professional sports team.

      This results in the loss of the Self's leadership, vision, talents, and wisdom, and causes impulsive, unwise short-term decisions. People ruled by a false self most of their lives aren't aware of it, and accept false-self behavioral symptoms as normal.

      When your true Self is free to lead, you'll typically feel a mix of calm, centered, grounded, "light," alive, alert, aware, "up," focused, purposeful, compassionate, strong, resilient, confident, and realistically optimistic - even in conflict or uproar. When your Self is disabled, you feel some mix of the opposite emotions.

      False-self dominance causes up to five other psychological wounds:

2Excessive shame ("low self esteem") and guilt. A clear symptom of this excessive shame is the unshakable belief that "I'm totally worthless and unlovable, no matter what anyone says!" Other common symptoms include "negative self talk," routine self-abuse and self-neglect, rigid denials, harsh self-criticism, compulsive apologizing, inability to accept merited praise and love, and many others.

      Normal guilts are healthy regulators of our behaviors. Excessive guilts cause relentless self-criticism for breaking important rules [should (not)s, ought (not)s, have-to's, musts, and cant's]. Excessive guilts breed excessive shame. Guilt and shame feel the same, but are caused and managed  differently.

      Another common psychological wound is...

3) Excessive ("irrational") anxiety, fears, and terrors of criticism, rejections, abandonment, the unknown, failure (in someone's view), success, and/or intense emotions (e.g. confusion, overwhelm, intimacy, and interpersonal conflict. Typical symptoms: compulsive worrying, chronic hesitance, doubt, and timidity, excessive caution, difficulty making decisions, relationship addiction, (codependence) or excessive independence and social isolation ("distancing"). See this brief research summary of common  health risks of excessive anxiety.

4)  Trust disorders: a reflexive reluctance to trust safe people,  or repeatedly overtrusting abusive, self-centered, or hurtful people, despite painful betrayals. Another symptom of this fourth wound is persistent self-distrust: constantly doubting or second-guessing your own feelings, thoughts, perceptions, opinions, and needs. Another sign of this wound is skepticism or rejection of a benign, accessible Higher Power. Starting in infancy, distrusts are learned from adult abandonment, neglect, and abuse.

5)  Reality Distortions. Typical adults and kids ruled by a false self (a) perceive things that don't exist ("I know  you're going to have an affair and leave me!"), and (b) don't admit or perceive things that do exist ("I am not addicted to sugar!") Common language for this psychological injury is assuming, repressing, illusions, delusions, projecting, minimizing, exaggerating, idealizing, paranoia, neuroses, catastrophizing, and denial.

      One of many symptoms of this widespread psychological wound is denial of ...

  • these wounds ("I'm not 'ruled by a false self,' and I sure don't have these so-called wounds!");

  • the effects of these wounds ("I don't have too many of these symptoms"), and ...

  • the wounds' origin ("My childhood nurturance was normal and fine!")

      A disabled true Self and excessive shame + guilts + fears + distortions + distrusts promote...

6) Difficulty feeling normal emotions, empathizing, and bonding with one's self, some or all other people, and/or a benign Higher Power:

Typical symptoms include:

  • relentless senses of alienation, disconnection, emptiness, and aloneness that have been called a "hole in the soul";

  • chronic social isolation or consistently superficial relationships;

  • being judged as cold, intellectual, distant, superficial, phony, unempathic, insensitive, self-centered, and egotistical; 

  • chronic depression or frantic busy-ness ("type-A behavior");

  • one or more of the four types of addiction;

  • a series of approach-avoid relationships and/or divorces, or never committing to a mate;

  • vehement or passive atheism or spiritual indifference; and ...

  • partners and children not feeling loved by the wounded person, despite sincere assurances.

+ + +

      Are you wondering if you or someone you care about could have some of these psychological wounds? See this comparison for an initial idea.

      Premise - most personal, family, and social "problems" exist because of these epidemic psychological wounds and public unawareness of them. Once adults like you are aware of these wounds and their effects, you can avoid passing them on to your descendents. This nonprofit Web site offers a flexible, practical way to do this here.

      This brief YouTube video notes the similarity between the wounds above and common symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD):

      From 36 years' study and personal experience, I propose that significant false-self wounding is one of five reasons that many (most?) primary relationships fail psychologically or legally. self-improvement Lesson 1 in this nonprofit Web site is about assessing for these wounds and reducing them over time by intentionally harmonizing personality subselves. See these questions and answers on personality subselves and psychological wounds for more perspective.

table of contents      The guidebook for Lesson 1 is Who's Really Running Your Life? (Xlibris.com, 2011, 4th ed.) It integrates the key articles and worksheets in this site, and gives more detail on these wounds, their typical effects, how to assess for and greatly reduce them over time, and how to choose higher-nurturance environments and relationships.

      To learn more about these wounds and how to reduce them, start or continue work on self-improvement Lesson 1 here. Note - these research reports indirectly validate what you just read.

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


       Based on my clinical research since 1979, this article summarizes six psychological wounds that can occur to young kids who endure significant adult abandonment, abuse, and neglect. Without informed intervention, these wounds continue or increase in adulthood, and cause many or most "mental health" problems. Coupled with adult and societal unawareness, the wounds promote most interpersonal and social problems.

      Once ''Grown Wounded Children'' (GWCs) are aware of their wounds, they can reduce them over time, live significantly better lives, and guard their kids from inheriting them. Lesson 1 in this Web site proposes an effective way to do this.

      Pause, breathe, and recall why you read this article. Did you get what you needed? If so, what do you need to do now? If not, what do you need? Who's answering these questions - your wise true Self, or ''someone else''?

This article was very helpful  somewhat helpful  not helpful    

Share/Bookmark  prior page  /  Lesson 1


 site intro  /  course outline  /  site search  /  definitions  /  chat contact