If you are someone who is on a path of self-awareness and involved in the personal growth world you will inevitably come across the concept of “wounds”, or in true Friday night horror movie fashion, “The Wounding”.
Generally speaking, this is the moment in our early lives where something happens that creates a significant shift in our ego development. For most people, their earliest memory of the wounding happens around the age of 5 or 6, and it comes in the form of some type of shaming, betrayal or abandonment, usually by a primary care giver.
For some this can be as simple as a message they heard (eg. in many cultures if you are born a girl you are "wrong" and so you start off life with a message of shame). For others it can be a significant trauma, like the death of a loved one, a medical emergency or verbal/physical abuse.
Whatever the event (and there can be multiple), there is a reframing of the way the child sees themselves moving forward. How they operate in the world, how they behave, what they value and what they believe.
Chris and I have been on the path for a while now, and have had lots of fun uncovering our wounds and re-integrating them. At this point I have a jovial, loving relationship with all of mine (“Oh look, there’s my wound coming up again. Heh buddy!”).
Now that our kids are 5 and 6, we’re at the prime age for wounding them. In our less than awesome parenting moments we’ll often look to each other and joke, “Was that it? Was that the wounding?”
Like the time there was a miscommunication and we didn’t get Lily’s field trip money in on time, and she was the only kid who didn’t get to go…….
Or the time that Zosia broke her arm right before a 9-hour flight and we didn’t pack any Tylenol……
Or the time when the girls were in the car playing a game where they were trying to scare each other. At the stop light I turned around and roared really loud to scare them. I thought it would be funny. They cried.
Underneath all of our joking of course is a pretty serious level of concern. How can we help our kids develop a well-functioning ego? One that isn’t riddled with shame, betrayal or abandonment that they have to clean up when they become conscious adults?
Up until recently I just assumed that the wounding was inevitable. And probably (because we are conscious, loving parents) it wouldn’t be huge, but it would happen. Our role as parents would then be to stay connected and conscious, so when our kids came to us as adults and told us about how we had ruined them, we could take responsibility, apologize and help them integrate it.
Thankfully, I recently attended this course with my coach/mentor/friend Ann Betz. We spent a portion of the course talking about core wounds, how they tend to show up in adult life, and the healing fields associated with each (I’m going to write more about this later as it’s such an incredible topic).
So I asked the question, “My husband and I are really nervous about wounding our kids. How can we avoid it from happening? What can we do?”
Ann, in her infinite wisdom, said “It doesn’t tend to become a wound if it’s addressed in the moment; generally it only becomes a wound if it’s done over and over again, and it’s ignored. If you clean it up it’s just a scratch. And kids are incredibly resilient – they can heal from a scratch.”
How to Clean It Up In The Moment
Note – keep in mind I’m writing this post for parents whose level of wounding their children is likely infrequent and along the lines of losing their temper, yelling, saying something unkind, being distant, etc. If you’re reading this and you’re in a situation where you are physically or emotionally abusing your children, or your outbursts are quite regular, please seek professional help.
In the beginning, you’ll be aware that you blew it after the fact. You’ll yell at the kids and immediately after wish you hadn’t. This is wonderful! It means you’re on the path and you’re consciousness is building. As you continue to grow, your awareness will shift and you’ll notice in the moment (even though you might not be able to stop yourself, you’ll see yourself doing it). Eventually, with practice and attention, your awareness will be at a place where you’ll catch yourself before you do any damage. This of course is the ideal, but don’t get ahead of yourself. Any stage of awareness is excellent.
2. Be Kind and Forgive Yourself
Everybody screws up. Everybody makes mistakes. What matters is what you do after to clean it up. Repeating a cycle of shame by being hard on yourself for not being a perfect parent isn’t actually going to help the situation, it’s just going to make it harder for you to come back to your true self. So please be kind to yourself when you blow it.
3. Connect with Your Kids
Ask permission to speak with them, get down to their level, and make eye contact. Make sure you aren’t distracted – give them your undivided attention. What I’ll often say to Zosia and Lily is, “Heh, is this a good time? Can we re-connect?”
4. Take Responsibility and Apologize
Make this clean and to the point. No excuses, no “it’s your fault because you weren’t listening”; you can address any behavior later, after you’ve cleaned up the wound. Just take responsibility for your behavior and apologize.
“I’m so sorry sweetheart. I shouldn’t have yelled at you. I flipped my lid and I apologize.”
Then hug them like crazy, smile and thank whatever power you believe in that you have this incredible being here to help you grow your consciousness. Kids are the best spiritual work-out you will ever have.