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What are core wounds and how can you heal them?

Updated: Jul 15, 2022

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As human beings we all have a need to be met; to be recognized, acknowledged and accepted as who we are at our core.

These needs are our psychological and emotional needs that differ from our physical needs of food, water, shelter and protection. In Integrative Psychotherapy we call these needs our primal or being needs. What this means is that these needs attend to our Being nature.

Our Being is different to our Self. The Self is formed over years of development by our experiences and by conditioning. It includes our defense mechanisms and personas or masks that we wear in the world.

The Self is the combination of our personality characteristics and predispositions and habits or tendencies. Being then, is more like our true, core or higher self. It is an innate presence or pristine awareness and is comprised of characteristics such as unconditional love, joy and compassion.

No matter what’s happening on the outside, we all have this place of peace and calm within us that’s known as our Being or in my opinion our Soul.

In infancy - as early as in the Mother’s womb -we need to feel acknowledged and received or accepted. It’s how we successfully develop a strong sense of self worth and a connection to our Being. As it happens our Mother’s and primary caregivers ARE HUMAN. They have their own challenges in parenthood and outside of that and don’t always meet our core needs as perfectly as we need them met at that vulnerable stage.

The tender, sensitive little infant may perceive their Mother’s distraction as rejection, for example. It’s no one’s fault in the end, it’s just the natural experience of being human. So what happens is we develop some core wounds or wounds of being when some of our needs aren't met or are perceived to be unmet.

These wounds develop on a spectrum of severity. The heavier side of the spectrum of wounding arises from severe neglect or abuse in childhood. This type of core wounding can result in adulthood as a variety or mental illnesses including depression, dissociation, split personality disorder or schizoid personality disorder to name a few.

If our core needs aren’t met in totality but in general there is good enough attunement and receptivity, our wounds may develop on the lighter side of the spectrum. The words good enough here come from a psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott who theorized that there can be good enough mothering.

This theory helps parents accept that perfection is unrealistic and that’s okay.

It’s quite a relief to new parents and many find helpful insight from his book; ‘Playing and Reality’. I say these wounds may develop on the lighter end of the spectrum, but this isn’t to diminish their impact. These wounds too are quite difficult to experience in our adult lives.

The ‘lighter’ wounds may manifest in many different ways in adulthood but some common manifestations include; low self worth, people pleasing, low self confidence, a feeling of needing to perform a certain way in order to be loved, anxious or avoidant attachment, a lack of sense of belonging and disconnect from our true self and our soul’s nature. This is what we can work on healing in one to one psychotherapy sessions.

How we heal these core wounds.

  1. Self awareness

The first step I always tell clients is self awareness. You can start healing your core wounds on your own by simply setting the intention to be more aware of how you react to different, difficult situations. Do you take constructive criticism at work personally and feel completely rejected and down about yourself? Does that make you feel incompetent? This reaction might be bigger than necessary for the situation at hand and that’s because it’s touching a core wound. If you notice it, you can start to engage in some introspection.

2. Introspection

Ask yourself questions in the moment; why did I react that way, how was I feeling, when else do I remember feeling this way as a child or teenager? Who does this situation remind me of? Journal about it. Sometimes doing all this introspection in your mind can get overwhelming. Writing things down, even if it’s in a simple format like bullet form, can help you gain more clarity and understanding about the situation and your reactions. You can get my free introspection reflection guide here. It’s not created specifically for core wounds, but it provides a helpful introduction to introspection.

3. Take it to therapy.

In Integrative Psychotherapy sessions with me we do three things that help process the old emotions. Firstly, we need to talk it out. We need to give those old memories and emotions a voice. The emotions may start to come back to the surface within the session so then we move onto somatic practices. Feeling the feelings and allowing them to be acknowledged and move through you rather than remaining stuck in your body helps reduce the weight and impact they have on you. Finally, from here, I draw on a variety of different modalities specific to the individuals needs that can help them change the narrative and the pattern of reaction in their present day, adult life.

In conclusion, we all have these core wounds. We notice them when our reactions to situations seem bigger than necessary. It’s the inner child within us that’s reacting to the situation rather than our adult self. We can work on these wounds individually through self awareness or introspection or find a therapist we resonate with to get support in doing the deeper work.

Please note: these blogs are not meant as a substitute for therapy. If you are having difficulty in life and want some support to move through your challenges please book a low-cost introductory session on my website.

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