What’s a functional wounded child, you say? Well, have you heard of a functional alcoholic? This is a person who is addicted to alcohol but is able to hide it by appearing to be able to do what needs to be done in life. A functional wounded child is much the same. This person may have a job, a relationship, and even be really successful. He just habitually acts from a place of woundedness. This keeps him from being as Effective, connected, or happy as he could be because his lens is clouded by pain. So, you don’t have to be disabled or struggling to be in your Wounded Child energy. You could be a functional Wounded Child.
A Look at the Inner Child
To put this into perspective, let’s take a look at the Inner Child. We all have an Inner Child. It’s an archetype, meaning that it’s energy that belongs to all mankind. All Inner Children experience wounding. It doesn’t matter if you had a great childhood or a challenging one. The wounds can be as minor as not feeling like you got enough attention to full on abuse. It can be intentional or unintentional. Being wounded says nothing about who you are or how you were parented. It just means you are in the flow of life. Life’s not always easy.
This wounding is necessary to grow us to the next phase. When negotiated well, it takes us from weakness to strength, victimhood to empowerment, disconnected to connection, and so on. When we don’t have the knowledge, support, strength, or resources to get through the challenge well, we get stuck there and function from our woundedness.
The Wounded Child cannot be escaped. It is part of the Inner Child. We live in a dualistic universe. All things have two poles: masculine and feminine, positive and negative, yin and yang. This is a way for things to find balance and flexibility. So, the goal is not to escape or annihilate your Wounded Child, but to use the wounding to grow.
Am I Acting from My Wounded Child?
Here are some tell tale signs that you may be acting (or perhaps living) from your Wounded Child energy.
- You feel chronically depressed.
- Trust issues keep you socially isolated.
- You trust everyone then get surprised when someone turns out to be untrustworthy.
- Your best friends are animals.
- People seem to have it in for you. You’re always taken advantage of or have the rug pulled out from under you.
- You like being in Nature better than being with people.
- Additive behaviors are a problem for you.
- You never seem to get ahead.
- Relationships are rocky.
- You’re never satisfied.
- You feel like you have been cursed. Nothing works out for you.
- Your self esteem is in the toilet.
- Holidays bring out the worst in you.
- Your parents treat you like a child.
- People pleasing comes easy to you. You often put others before yourself.
- Your inner critic is never shuts up.
- “What’s wrong with me?” is something you often think.
- Perfectionism and rigidity lead to anxiety and worry.
- Touch is not easy or comfortable.
- Emotions are scary. You don’t like showing them or seeing other people’s.
- Sleep has always been a problem.
- Conflict is really scary. You avoid it at all costs.
- It’s easier to take care of someone else than yourself.
- You’re not sure what you think or what you want.
- You say you are going to do something to avoid saying no, then you don’t do it.
- Most of your time is spent doing things you don’t want to do.
- Going along to get along is a way of life.
- Fear of abandonment keeps you in unhealthy relationships.
- Your “family” are not blood relatives.
- Being alone is worse than being with someone you don’t like or have anything in common with.
It’s a Matter of Degree
It’s normal to have a few of these. Context matters too. If you agree with a lot of these and your whole life is impacted chances are you are acting out of your Wounded Child. This is not great because your Wounded Child is pulling your strings. He doesn’t have the wisdom to choose wisely so you end up feeling hurt over and over again.
If you agree with some of these and your life is relatively under control, you’re probably acting like a Functional Wounded Child. It’s not bad, but it’s not great because you’re not fully aware. This can lead to poor decisions and confusion because you don’t see how you’re creating your own problems.
If your “yeses” are situational, meaning that when X happens, it triggers a wounded response, you’re probably just normal. We all do that! It is still a signal that you have work to do, but the work is around an issue rather than a lifestyle.
So What Do I Do Now?
The bad news is, if you’re acting like a functional Wounded Child, your decisions are not going to be all that Effective because you’re seeing the world through a dirty lens. It’s time to clean the lens.
The good news is, if you are acting like a functional Wounded Child, that means you have some skills and resources and can help yourself. You’ve already come a long way. You just have to keep going. If you’re living in this space, you probably are going to need some help. Knowing the difference is the first step in moving out of this space and into a place of wellness.
So, the next step in dealing with any Shadow is to bring it out of the Shadows! You can’t work with what is hidden. If you’re reading this and saying, “Hey, that’s me!” then we’re already doing that.
And just for some perspective, we all get in this energy sometime. Like I said before, it’s part of being in the Wheel of Life. We get the same lessons over and over again either to have a chance to grow beyond them, or to experience them at a deeper level.
There is nothing shameful about being here. In fact, if you normalize it by laughing and saying to yourself. “Oh, that’s just my Inner Child wanting my attention again” it may help you to put it in its proper perspective.
Next is to move into it. Our natural inclination is to put it back in the shadows or run from it because it’s painful. That keeps it unresolved. Another thing we like to do is try to ignore it. That just strengthens it. Instead you might see it as a little you.
Then ask your little self, “Hey, Mini Me. What is it that you need right now?” Maybe you need validation, safety, to feel special, to receive, to give, or to have some fun. Give yourself that. When your Mini Me is satisfied, turn to the triggering issue and look at it again. Your fresh eyes may help you to see something new.
The Inner Child’s job is to keep us in a place of wonder where life is a beautiful surprise. In this place, you’re curious. You grow and connect. You explore and expand. When you’re in Shadow, all that shuts down.
So give your Mini Me what it needs so that the Inner Child can do all the things it does to make life wonderful. When the Inner Child is scared or not sure what to do, it can’t take you there.
If this is more than you know how to do and you need some skills, hey, that’s what I am here for. You can also check out self help books, programs, or church. This doesn’t have to be a life sentence. We can all grow beyond our present limitations. So, learn how. Life’s messy. It’s hard. And it’s also a lot more fulfilling when you have the ability to navigate through it smoothly.