This usually happens at a fairly young age when the child is highly impressionable. I call this the lens of pain. This lens created by the initial wound through which all things are now experienced colors, defines and shapes the way the Wounded Child perceives their life. The initial wound creates an opening in the individual. For the Shadow Wounded Child it becomes an opening for perpetual suffering and further wounding. The pain from this childhood wound will replay itself over and over in the adult life until the trauma or wound is tended to and healed.
Only then can the inner child mature and develop the gifts that are inherent to the Wounded Child archetype. For example, if you were bullied at school or picked on by siblings, cousins or other peers you will continue to feel bullied as an adult by co-workers, friends and other peer groups. If you were abused by a parent or an adult you may feel abused by your boss at work, the IRS, the government or any other perceived authority figure. Your reactions to this perception will match the way you coped with the abuse or bullying as a child.
If you were sexually abused as a child you may perceive your spouse or partner through the highly distorted lens of your own sexual abuse. You will recreate the dynamics experienced in childhood with you as the victim.
The Shadow Demeter Complex: A Deeper Look at Codependency
If you suffered a handicap as a child and needed constant care you will recreate the dynamics of invalid and caretaker in one of your personal relationships. This can be an effective tool for recognizing the Shadow Wounded Child.
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The Shadow Wounded Child will blame the wound or wounding on much of their adult life problems. There are many ways people perceive being wounded. Here are a few from people I have interviewed about the Wounded Child. When asked to envision an image of what the wound of their childhood looks like the descriptions were quite varied and included the following:. The Shadow Wounded Child is always looking backward, remembering both good and bad memories and somehow transforming them all into a painful melancholy. When the Shadow Wounded Child gets caught up in a painful story it is usually connected to some experience of the past that has shaped the quality and density of their thoughts.
Sometimes the Shadow Wounded Child does not associate their painful story with the past but upon examination it will be obvious that their current thoughts are old stories created out of past beliefs and experiences thus making the stories feel irrefutably true.
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Looking backwards creates if only phrases like these:. The Shadow Wounded Child deeply believes that if their initiatory wound had never occurred, their life would be the way it was meant to be, that the wound somehow ruined their chance for a normal life. The Shadow Wounded Child feels that the wound threw their entire life off track. There is a deep fear of change because the Wounded Child knows that if they heal their wounds their life will change. Change equals loss. Loss is unbearable. They already feel like they have lost something deep and intrinsic and therefore they are clinging to everything else.
Feeling misunderstood is a common experience for the Shadow Wounded Child.
The Shadow Wounded Child believes that they feel life more deeply and intensely than others. They tend to take things personally too by internalizing situations and relationships. The intense need for others to understand them while simultaneously believing that others can never understand leaves them feeling emotionally raw or needy.
The Wounded Child is desperately seeking to understand the pain that seems to be lurking in the background or foreground of their life. It may seem to others that the Wounded Child does not want to be healed, but the Wounded Child senses that the wounding of their life has some value, some unnameable worth that causes them to keep the wound open and raw. In the shadow this looks like feeling totally victimized by life, blaming self or others for their suffering or needing others to recognize and acknowledge the pain.
The Shadow Wounded Child feels as though they have to defend their wound from accidental healing. Sometimes this need to be understood is so strong that the Shadow Wounded Child will resort to self-inflicted wounds. Self cutting and other forms of self-injury are examples of ways to release the intense emotions and frustrations as well as providing evidence and tangible proof of their suffering.
This evidence of their suffering is an acceptable way to get validation from others and to evoke sympathy and support. The Shadow Wounded Child has an intense need to have the wound or sufferings validated. While validation from others is a necessary part of healing from any trauma or dealing with any suffering the need for validation quickly turns into a neediness for validation. A constant and even compulsive need to have others recognize their struggle or become aware of the wound they suffer with.
They long to be seen and heard and known for what they have suffered. The Shadow Wounded Child believes that healing and wholeness will come from an outside event, person or experience. Underneath this compulsive need for validation is a craving and hope for healing the brokenness. They feel broken as if they were born broken and lacking wholeness. They spend their lives compensating for this feeling of brokenness by either becoming highly successful and always put together or they create a life story that keeps them victimized to someone else or something else hoping others will see and acknowledge or feel sorry for them.
If you have the Wounded Child archetype you may relate to one of the following as a way to feel validated. One of the most common experiences for the Shadow Wounded Child is depression.
Understanding the Wounded Child Archetype – Thresholds
The depression acts as a buffer for the intensity of pain, dulling it and making it more bearable. But eventually, the depression itself becomes woven into the fabric of the wound until it becomes a reinforcement of unworthiness and hopelessness. The depression will usually begin around the time of the original wounding when the hurt and rejection become trapped in the identity of the person.
Depression says, something is wrong with me, with others, with my life or the world that cannot be fixed or corrected. This sets up the hopelessness that reinforces and strengthens the story of the wound keeping the individual entrapped. This shame, unworthiness or hopelessness traps the Shadow Wounded Child. Note: This article in no way refutes the physical causes of depression and that it can be treated using medications but for the purpose of this article the focus is on the emotional component of depression.
I want to be loved. I want to be valued and important. I want to matter to someone and be seen by others as worthy. All of these are shadow aspects of the Wounded Child because the Wounded Child cannot make others love them or see their true worth. This leaves them feeling continuously needy of others love and acceptance and they seem to never get enough of it. Forgiveness is one of those words that is routinely misused and misunderstood. Letting go is not forgiveness although forgiveness cannot happen until you let go first.
Forgiveness is what happens when you stop rejecting what you believe to be the cause of your suffering.
Cast Off Your Father's Shadow
My own definition: Forgiveness means making room for more. What I mean by that, is this: When I am unforgiving I am rejecting the bad thing that happened and not allowing it to be a part of me. Forgiveness is opening up to the bad thing and allowing it in. You may be surprised to find relief in this and that it in no way diminishes the pain but actually validates it in a way that nothing else does. The Enlightened Wounded Child has a tender and open heart. This makes them open to wounding but it also makes them open to forgiveness.
Forgiveness or the need to forgive is a theme for the Wounded Child. For the Enlightened Wounded Child forgiveness is a way of life. This is the daily spiritual practice of the Enlightened Wounded Child. The Enlightened Wounded Child discovers that by entering the darkness of their pain and working through it, that they can stand in the fire of pain and not be burned. They are like mountain men who know a particular terrain and can be a guide for others who are passing through. But this mountain is where the Wounded Child lives and has made their peace.
They have mastered the art of letting go, embracing intense emotions and being a channel for others to release their pain.
Suffering, pain, sorrow, and depression are all places the Enlightened Wounded Child has been and is not afraid to revisit. The darkness becomes depth and the pain is only a sharpener to maintain keenness and sensitivity. Compassion can then be developed and the Enlightened Wounded Child is deeply compassionate and caring.
The Wounded Child is often drawn to animals. They may belong to an animal rescue organization, start their own, or work at a shelter. This love of animals could also be expressed as an interest in birdwatching or other wildlife or involvement in programs to protect endangered wildlife. Horses are well known for their therapeutic uses in treating anything from depression to restoring a sense of purpose for wounded military veterans.
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A love of horses is often connected to the Wounded Child. Service dogs are another form of healing for those who have physical handicaps but what is often discovered is that the handicapped person is healed emotionally by the relationship with the service animal. Who are little grown-ups picking up the balls that their parents are dropping. They are those hurting young people, the well-behaved students who hide their pain under accommodating smiles. The good students, the cheerleaders and the athletes who are running at the double to keep the family self esteem alive.
They are trying to look good enough to convince the world and themselves that what is going on in their homes is not going on.
But this is only half the story. And they carry these unresolved emotional burdens with them into their adult lives and relationships. Their disowned pain emerges, months, years or most commonly decades later in a post traumatic stress reaction as the COA, now the ACoA stands stupefied in front of an inner world that feels confusing and unknowable. It's scary to look inside when what's inside has been so long in the making.