Wounded Inner Child

Why Your Wounded Inner Child Prevents You From Being Yourself If You're a Child Abuse Survivor

It's Halloween. All the kids are dressing up. Some decide to be ghosts with sheets over their heads, others decide to wear the mask of Count Dracula. It's impossible to recognize anyone. Of course, that's the point of Halloween. It's fun to dress up and get candy.

Picture of a jack-o-lantern in the dark, Halloween time

For many of the kids the masks will come off, and they'll go home happy and contented. But some kids will have to go home and they won't be so happy, because they'll be going home to a dysfunctional and abusive family. Their family will pass along messages of shame such as "you're not good enough unless you become...(you fill in the blank)" or "good boys and girls must always be happy." This family may even physically or sexually abuse them, and then compound this abuse by keeping it secret and encouraging the kids not to talk about it.


For these kids, taking off the Halloween mask only reveals another mask.

It's the mask they have to put on to be a part of the dysfunctional family. These masks might include:

  • The Hero: someone whose constantly achieving to make up for the shortcomings in the family. They're the "good son" or "good girl."
  • The Caretaker: the person whose job it is to take care of everyone.
  • The Scapegoat: the person who causes a lot of trouble in a bid for attention


Do any of them sound familiar to you?

If you grew up in a dysfunctional family, the messages of shame passed to you cast you with a certain role to play. You had to play this role in order to make up for the lack of balance in your family. Perhaps you were the caretaker, who always helped your alcoholic father up to bed after he fell down drunk in your driveway. Maybe you were the hero, the one who constantly had to get perfect grades and take first place in all the athletic championships to make your family look good on the outside. Either way, none of these roles let you be yourself and buried the pain your were feeling inside.


But there's a price to doing this.

And the price was a wounded inner child. Having a wounded inner child means the core part of you that forms your identity was hurt by the constant turmoil. Your inner child was not allowed to express itself freely and become a part of a healthy, well-developed personality. Instead, it was forced to wear a mask to cover up the pain and the shame brought on by the abuse.

Picture of haunted ghost-like face, Halloween time

As a result of this mask and the fact you could not deal with your pain in a safe environment, you carried this wounded inner child with you into your adult years. If you haven't yet resolved the issues that caused the wounding, then you probably have noticed you have a hard time being yourself, or even knowing who that is. You may have a hard time saying "no" to others and standing up for yourself.


The pain your inner child feels can cause you trouble in other ways too.

If you've noticed constant turmoil in your relationships or a lack of healthy, intimate relationships in general, a wounded inner child is the likely culprit. It's hard to have good relationships when you don't know how to be yourself. And the reason you don't know how to be yourself is you've never had practice at it.


But it's never to late to begin healing your wounded inner child.

All you have to do is start reconnecting to yourself. You have to grieve and give yourself permission to explore new ideas. You have to start learning to love who you are and become unafraid to be yourself. Set some goals for yourself to learn new skills or get involved in new hobbies. Try reading some self improvement articles (like the ones on this site:) and books to help you stay motivated as you practice being yourself.


Now you might have already tried the above and found it hasn't worked as well as you hoped.

That's why you need to combine the above with therapy. A skilled therapist can help you explore and resolve old issues that keep your inner child bogged down. If you feel doubtful that you can learn to love yourself, a therapist will talk it through with you and then support you as you begin to make positive changes. They can help you give yourself the life tools needed to begin moving towards a healthy new you. This support will really help you out, especially if you feel like you've been so unhappy for so long and don't know where to begin.


Pretty soon, you'll find the mask you were wearing starts coming off.

As you begin healing the inner child, you'll find it easier to be yourself. Your relationships will become easier. Your sense of confidence will increase. You'll stop pretending that things were all right when you were a kid, and you'll learn how to be at peace with that. And most of all, you'll start feeling a whole lot happier. Isn't that the point of personal development?


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