We all have a wounded child inside. Sometimes this wounding happened though child abuse, neglect, addiction, or sexual abuse. Sometimes the wound is a lot less obvious. It could come from simply realizing that our parents are not perfect. Maybe our parents used us as their confidante and told us too much. For whatever reason, a part of us became scared, got stuck in that fear, and didn’t grow up into a healthy person. When that part gets triggered, we become that scared little child again.
Lots of us are aware of this and reach towards the wild to feel that childlike freedom that we lost or never had. We may do something outrageous with our looks like get lots of tattoos or wear things that are not mainstream. We engage in activities that are typically done by much younger people. Maybe we’re sexually promiscuous. It could be that we’re really responsible in most of our lives, then go off on periodic hedonistic binges.
If you’re just not a mainstream type of person, how do you know if you’re just being yourself or acting out your wounded child? It’s a very good question.
We all want to be authentic. Sometimes we have to get a little outrageous and do risky things to know who we are. It’s just a part of growing up. It’s what we do when we’re adventurous people who want to grow and experience life. So when does it cross the line into unhealthy territory?
Imagine it this way. Think of the most adorable moments about childhood – the things that captivate you. They are things like:
- the way a child can get absorbed in a story or play
- how kids can be so courageous when trying new things
- how kids can just go up to other kids and start talking to them
- the way kids can get outrageously imaginative
- when kids are hurt one moment and laughing the next
- or the way that kids can believe in the impossible
- showing delight over finding a wildflower in the grass
Now think about the worst moments in childhood. They are things like:
- when baby doesn’t want to eat right now and throws food all over the place
- when baby doesn’t doesn’t want to sleep and cries all night
- that time that Little Boy threw a tantrum in the grocery store because Mama didn’t give him candy
- or that time when Big Sister threw Little Sister’s favorite doll in the garbage because Little Sister laughed at her
Those kinds of things are like the differences between the Divine Child and the Wounded Child. We all want that childhood innocence. It feeds us and keeps us innovating and interested in life. However, sometimes we confuse feral, impulsive behavior for authenticity and freedom. When we’re trampling over other people, social conventions (within reason), and damaging ourselves, that’s not nurturing the Inner Child. That’s acting out the Wounded Child. Acting out our woundedness isn’t healing. It isn’t healthy. It’s perpetuating the wound.
“Just because I want to” is a good enough reason to do anything. It’s a good enough reason to fly off to Mexico, get in a new relationship, or buy a convertible. However, impulse that hurts you or others in the long run ends up costing you more than it’s worth. In fact anything that makes you lose self esteem, compromise your values, or hurt others may be more costly than it’s worth.
So before you go running off into the woods naked, ask yourself, “Am I acting from my Inner Child or my Wounded Child?” Another way to phrase this is, “Is this coming from an authentic, pure (wild) desire or is it reactionary? If it’s your Inner Child who has no agenda and just wants to explore, go for it. If it’s your Wounded Child, get curious. Ask your little self, “What am I trying to get from this?” Then find out if there is another, healthier, more direct way to go about it. Often your Wounded Child just wants love or acknowledgement. It doesn’t need to go crazy. Just remember balance and you’ll probably be just right where you need to be.