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Parental Wounds, childhood trauma and the signs

Upbringing is a strong component that shapes who we are. We adapt to the environments that we are exposed to when young and carry those habits into adulthood, even when those habits may no longer be conducive to new or healthy spaces. While healthy parenting can condition us to be trusting, take positive risks, be optimistic and have confidence, certain experiences can leave us more prone to being anxious, having dysregulated emotions, being very sensitive to criticism and having reduced boundaries. With the recognition of these patterns and remnants of our childhood, we can learn to break negative cycles and habits that may ultimately sabotage us from living the life we want.

But what are some signs of these parental wounds?

  1. Struggling to ask for help and being hyper-independent. This sign often indicates that it was not always possible to rely on your caregivers, either they needed your support, had sporadic/volatile emotional reactions, were unavailable, or you had a high level of responsibility so had little chance to check in with your own needs. This causes one to not have properly developed the propensity to rely on others and can lead to burnout, poor connection with others and anxiety.

  2. Low trust in yourself. You may feel anxious about your decisions and often need multiple people to validate your life choices before you take a step. You may feel a lot of pressure when presented with decisions and fall into a cycle of self-criticism if things don't go according to plan. You may also think that you are not capable of making reliable judgements due to an excessive amount of pressure, criticism and responsibility given to you when young. The stakes may feel very high. This can result in your decision-making coming from a place of prioritising how you're perceived by others, rather than your own desires.

  3. People-pleasing. The incessant desire to mask, put others first and meet the need of others, even at your own expense. When growing up, this could have been the safest thing to do if you were brought up around people who were easily triggered, heavily critical and/or relied on you to soothe their emotions.

  4. Sensitivity to criticism. Criticism isn't generally a great thing to receive, but some of it can be constructive and necessary. If when growing up you were unduly scrutinised and made to be anxious about making mistakes, criticism may be a danger signal to you that is easily internalised and triggers strong negative reactions. This is your mind's way of protecting itself. However, as you grow and move away from spaces where criticism was detrimental, the protection your mind offers can be ill-fitting to areas of life where criticism is helpful and healthy.

  5. Excessive validation seeking. Always double-checking things; asking for people's opinions multiple times about how you present and your decisions; over-apologising; and over-explaining yourself. These can be signs that you have grown up in environments where other people's opinions were make-or-break and the only way you could get reassurance/celebration/comfort was if you were thorough and gained people's approval. Incidences of being misunderstood may have been common and highly distressing so you value absolute clarity to a meticulous degree.

There are several signs of childhood trauma and parental wounds, but these are some key features. Other signs include things like maladaptive attachment styles, low self-esteem, poor boundaries, being judgemental, fear of abandonment, imposter syndrome, anger management problems and susceptibility to depression.

It's important to be compassionate towards yourself when recognising these traits and acknowledge that at one point, these mechanisms likely kept you safe. Taking steps to change these things once recognising them isn't easy. But support groups, therapy programmes and professional help can be good steps to take.


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