What are wounds/trauma?
Trauma is not what happens to us, but what we hold inside in the absence of an empathetic witness.
– Dr. Peter Levine.
Courage is always required to face the truth and move forward in your life. Courage transforms trauma. Encouragement facilitates courage.
– Benjamin Hardy
Wounds or trauma is a topic and area often misunderstood. Most people think of this topic only as PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), which is only a part of it. These wounds are not just caused by major events. It broadly includes any negative experience or incident that shapes who we are and how we operate in the world. No one can live in this world and not experience some wounds. For the rest of this guide, I am going to refer to them as wounds.
Because of this confusion, we are rarely if ever taught how to identify and heal wounds. Sometimes people spontaneously overcome and heal them, but I believe that through first understanding wounds and then identifying them we can give ourselves the best chance to heal and live our best lives.
The majority of our wounds come from our ancestry and childhood. When we are rejected, betrayed, abused, ignored, or even when our needs are not met, when we don’t yet have emotional tools to handle these occurrences in a healthy way, our bodies react. To protect us, our bodies create stories and a toxic defense that prevent us from facing or getting close to the wounds, not because it’s the best, but because we needed that at some point for our sanity to survive.
Wounds are any experiences that have a strong enough impact on you to cause your body to create a protective layer, a “protective self” that integrates with your ego or sense of self and then affects how you view the world. The result is that our wounds ultimately shape who we are and our direction and choices in life.
– Can be inherited
– Can occur during our lifetimes
– Create protections i.e. protective self, masks, etc.
– Cause the body to create protections automatically, subconsciously.
– Are to protect and allow us to survive,
– but the defenses are toxic or at best unhealthy responses.
– Are generally unfelt and cause numbness.
– Hold us back from finding our true selves.
– Once healed, you will never go back to being the same.
In this part of the guide, we are going to look at common wounds to help you start to identify what your wounds are. In the end, the protection of your wounds’ greatest fear is unconditional love, and through this guide, we will help you begin to find it.
Understanding and Categorization of Common Wounds
Our wounds are our own. As we start to dive into wounds, we will look at first attachment wounds, which occur during our first years. And then we will look at some wounds that while sometimes occur during childhood and are part of the attachment wounds, you also happen throughout our life. Regardless, the wounds can run deep no matter when you occurred. Because you are your wounds, only you, and your self-love can face and heal them.
While not often referred to as specific wounds Attachment theory paints a powerful picture of attachment styles we develop from wounds that affect our relationships for the rest of our lives. Keep in mind we are talking about very complex concepts and we are using metaphors, so sometimes it’s good to have a wider view of how we are and keep an open mind. So will briefly look at attachment theory/wounds then dive into five common wounds as mapped out by Lisa Bourbeau *.
Attachment theory can be understood as the idea that during our childhood, as our brains develop along with our sense of self, how our parents interact with and detach from us during these pivotal points shapes how we relate to other people throughout our lifetime. While we will look at other wounds, these attachment wounds can be powerful in the healing process considering a fundamental part of the theory is that our temporal awareness develops in our hippocampus up until the first 2-18 months. So our implicit memories of the time can be blurred and feel like it’s now not then. Both attachment and trauma memories tend to happen in fast circuit learning. Thus we become wired as children to our wounds and protective self.
I think it helps to also remember how we develop as children. For the first 2-18 months, until our hippocampus develops, we don’t even have an awareness of ourselves. We are our parents and our parents are godlike. you have absolute control and influence over our life. We are helpless. If we are left alone as a child, it causes us to fear that we will die. So I think it helps to start off by being mindful of the four attachment wounds and keep them in mind as we work to not only heal but also understand where we want to go. As you will see below, secure attachment is the default and goal of our biological design. And it can be helpful to have this goal in mind on your path to healing.
Diving into attachment styles, there are four main types of attachments, and a person can be these alone or a certain combination of Secure, Avoidant, Anxious/Ambivalent, Disorganized.
I won’t dive into much beyond the wounds, but Mark Manson has a good explanation on his blog here. While these wounds don’t explain everything, you give a good idea of how we behave in relationships. Also, keep in mind these are again metaphors, so some aspects may resonate or be you, but it is not necessary that every point does. All that matters is figuring out where you are, to know the starting point of your journey. To learn more about them and healing them, here is a wonderful resource. Healing Your Attachment Wounds: How to Create Deep and Lasting Intimate Relationships by Diane Poole Heller
There are four attachment styles: secure, anxious, avoidant, and anxious-avoidant.
Secure attachment occurs when a parent sees to the needs of and is sufficiently present for a child to build a sense of safety and trust with the world through their parents. When there is a disruption or variance from this development the body adapts to the other attachment styles. Here are some common aspects of being securely attached.
– Default mode you are naturally wired for and strive to return to.
– It is inherent and waiting to be discovered and returned too.
– Make the best romantic partners, family members, and friends.
– Comfortable displaying interest and affection.
– Comfortable being alone and independent.
– Good at drawing boundaries.
– Good at connecting and disconnecting.
– Can accept rejection and move on.
– Trusting and trustworthy.
– Mode when as a child you received love, but only intermittently. So you run towards love.
– Often nervous and stressed about relationships.
– Need constant reassurance and affection.
– Trouble being single and alone.
– Often fall into unhealthy or abusive relationships.
– “Their behavior can be irrational, sporadic, and overly-emotional and complain that everyone of the opposite sex is cold and heartless.”*
– Sometimes over you will be overly fake, adaptive, or accommodating to others. Anything to stabilize a relationship because the fear of loss is so intent.
– Focus more on there than yourself.
– Bad with boundaries or keeping yourself separate from the other person.
– Often second guess yourself.
– Difficulty sagin “no.”
– Deep longing to be close, but also scared to lose that person.
– Mode when a child does not receive the love you needed.
– Extremely independent, self-directed, and often uncomfortable with intimacy.
– You fear commitment and are experts at rationalizing your way out of any intimate situation.
– Often feel crowded or suffocated.
– Always have an exit strategy.
– Avoid commitment and intimacy as you see vulnerability and love as dangerous.
– Difficulty connecting, reconnecting, etc.
– Minimize the importance of close relationships.
– Find it hard to reach out for help.
– Prefer relationships with animals over people.
– Find eye contact uncomfortable.
– Easier to think of things than express them.
– Often feel relief first when you lose a relationship, maybe even elation, then later become depressed when you realize it might be a permanent loss.
Combines extreme aspects of both avoidant and anxious. Avoidants shutdown because the parent wasn’t present. So the child learns relationships aren’t that nurturing. While for the anxious side, it was inconsistent and unreliable, though could be loving, the child didn’t know when you could rely on the parents. So you grow up to be extremely anxious, as a result of that, their attachment system is hyper-activated and you suffer from emotional dysregulation.
– Mode where you have both anxious and avoidant tendencies.
– Afraid of intimacy, commitment, and are distrustful and lash out emotionally at anyone who tries to get close.
– Spend a lot of their time alone and miserable, or in abusive or dysfunctional relationships.
– Can experience an inexplicable fear with certain levels of intimacy.
– Often feel like a failure, and stumped by problems as you seem unresolvable.
– Can feel exaggeratedly startled when others approach unexpectedly.
– Can become overly controlling.
– Expect the worst to happen in relationships, almost seeing them as dangerous.
– Struggle to feel safe with a partner.
– Can become disconnected, disassociated, and even confused.
– Can feel a deep longing to connect and then inexplicably switch to a feeling of wanting to avoid and wanting to get distance and wanting to run away.
With these in mind, let us move on to the Five Common Wounds.
Five Common Wounds
Lisa Bourbeau brilliantly has mapped out five wounds that encompass a good deal of what people struggle with, and in her book “Heal your wounds & find your true self” she provides the perfect reference points and explanations for them. I strongly suggest you read her book, you can find it here. But I have distilled the key points for you.
Wound – Main Response/Mask/Protective Self
Rejection – Withdrawal
Abandonment – Dependence
Humiliation – Masochism (emotional/mental)
Betrayal – Control
Injustice – Rigidity
Wound of Rejection
– The protective self is withdrawal.
– Belief you are hopeless, worthless
– Chase perfection.
– Need solitude
– Fear attention, so prefer to stay in the background.
– Tend to have few friends and isolate yourself.
– Were likely never accepted or welcomed by their parent of the same sex.
– Always seeking attention and love from those of the same sex.
– Feel you are incomplete until you win the love of your same-sex parent.
– The deeper the wound, the more often you attract circumstances where you are rejected or where you reject someone else.
– Live in ambivalence
– Often sabotage situations
– You reject yourself and often feel rejected by others.
– Greatest fear is panic.
– Fear of panicking leads to losing your memory of certain situations.
– Believe you have a memory problem when it’s actually fear.
– Often feel shame.
Wound of Abandonment
– The protective self is dependence.
– Can happen from having parents being too busy.
– Causes you to not feel sufficiently nourished with affection.
– Prone to the victim mentality
– Often blows things out of proportion
– Will play the role of parent and savior.
– Needs support of others all the time.
– Looks to others for approval before making decisions.
– Ask for but don’t necessarily follow advice.
– Emotional instability.
– Your greatest fear is being alone.
– Often feel sad. And seek others to mitigate this emotion.
– Can cry easily.
– Physically hang onto your loved ones.
– Often have the illusion of being independent when in reality you have constant dependencies.
– Use sex to attract and control others.
– Crave attention.
– Do stuff for others, expecting affection in return.
Wound of Humiliation
– The protective self is masochism
– Focused on the material world, having and doing.
– Often happens when a child feels a parent is ashamed of them.
– Mostly experience with your mother.
– Punish yourself before others can.
– Often ashamed, and prefer to hide.
– You often have self-esteem issues, considering yourself worthless, and develop a fat body you are ashamed of.
– You try to show and appear solid and in control and capable.
– You take on a great deal, and often develop large backs so you can carry more.
– Like to be in control.
– Hard to express real needs or feelings.
– Often overly sensitive, and the slightest things or criticisms hurt them.
– Do everything possible not to hurt others.
– Feels responsible for the happiness of others.
– Usually good at making others laugh.
– Usually very expensive talkers and find a way to make what you say funny.
– You often use yourself as targets to make others laugh.
– I.e. humiliating yourself before someone else can.
– See yourself as smaller and less important than you are.
– Often feel powerless to those you love.
– Freedom is very important to them. Being free to them means answering to no one, being controlled by no one, doing what you want when you want.
– When you are free, you tend to go to extremes, and overindulge. But then you feel guilty and ashamed.
– Ironically their greatest fear is true freedom.
– you punish yourself thinking you are punishing someone else.
– Often mediators and scapegoats.
– Do things for others you would do for yourself.
– You are an extremist with diets and reward yourself with food.
Wound of Betrayal
– The protective self is control.
– Always try to keep their promises, are faithful and responsible.
– Hold people accountable for their promises.
– Radiate strength and power in their bodies to appear trustworthy and responsible.
– Try to plan everything.
– Expect the most out of people.
– Good at guessing others’ needs.
– Often say what others want to hear.
– Strong personality.
– Speak with conviction, and expect others to adhere to their beliefs.
– Quickly form opinions and try to convince people at all costs.
– Will always try to be understood. Believing if others understand them, that you will be in agreement.
– Don’t realize you are trying to control everything.
– you are impatient and act quickly.
– Little patience.
– Easily become aggressive.
– Often future-focused.
– See yourself as hard workers and responsible.
– Like to get involved with other people’s lives.
– By taking care of others, you can control what others will do to them.
– Often feel others are weaker than yourself.
– Tend to have big egos.
– Tend to have trouble with authority as those people will try to control them.
– Generally skeptical of new ideas.
– Don’t like being surprised. It’s a difficult emotion for them to handle. And will react by withdrawing and remaining alert.
– Give yourself the right to change their minds easily and often.
– Quick to point out when others are inconsistent and hate being lied to.
– Reputation and respect are important to them.
– Afraid of commitment.
– Greatest fear is that a commitment will be broken.
– More trusting if there is no sexual involvement.
– Prefer to be friends rather than lovers with the opposite sex.
– Feel more confident with friends.
– You likely developed the wound of abandonment before the would of betrayal.
– Generally born leaders.
– Can feel betrayed when a partner refuses sex.
– Tend to eat fast, or forget to eat. But when you eat, you eat a lot and enjoy it.
Wound of Injustice
– The protective self is rigidity.
– Very sensitive but bury and hide this from others.
– Act untouchable coming across as cold and insensitive.
– Perfectionists, seek justice and fairness above all.
– Tend to envy those who have more and according to them don’t deserve it.
– Rigid body, that is well proportioned.
– Your biggest fear is gaining weight.
– You believe that you are more appreciated for what you do rather than for what you are.
– You avoid problems at all costs.
– Very optimistic.
– Self problem solvers, and only ask for help if it becomes absolutely necessary.
– you say no problem when disappointed or when unexpected things happen.
– Fear of authority.
– When you explain things you give great detail but often exaggerate.
– you hide when you are moved or emotional, often becoming dry and abrupt.
– If asked how you are doing, you will say something like “Very Well,” because you don’t want to feel. Then you will talk about things not going well, followed by saying “they are not real problems.”
– Great fear of mistakes.
– You tend to put yourself in situations where you have to make choices.
– Very demanding of yourself.
– Trouble respecting their limits, and knowing when you have reached them.
– Don’t like gifts because you feel indebted.
– Tend to attract unjust situations more than others.
– Stressed, but rarely ill. Very hard on your body.
– Often feel anger, especially towards yourself. But usually attack others first.
– Have a problem showing and receiving love.
– Trouble expressing their feelings, often cannot express their feelings.
– Deprive yourself of expressing what you really feel.
– Avoid letting yourself be touched psychologically by others.
– Created fear is coldness. you do everything to display warmth.
– Hard to let yourself feel pleasure in their sex lives.
– Find it hard to express emotion and tenderness.
– Tend to be sexy looking.
– Tend to prefer salty over sweet foods. But a balanced diet.
In the next section, we will dive into ways you can begin healing wounds. Click here to read it.
Resources for this article and recommended additional reading: