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Understanding the Wounded Child Archetype



Understanding the Wounded Child Archetype

The Wounded Child archetype is only one aspect of the Child archetype. There are
many variations of the Child archetype including, the Invisible Child, the Eternal Child,
the Nature Child, the Magical Child, the Divine Child and others. We all have an inner
child that lives in us and shapes our decisions and behaviors for many, if not all of our
adult years. We all share EVERY one of the variations. For example, we have all been
hurt as a child in one way or another but we also felt invisible at times, had a fear of
growing up, loved the outdoors, believed in fantasy and felt the innocence connected to
the purity of youth but we seem to have one or two of these variations that are magnified
or one that stands out as predominate. Working with the Child archetype will
facilitate a maturity that time and age alone cannot provide. Some people never do
grow up all the way because the inner child is still reactive and unconscious. You dont
have to delve into archetypes to transform the child and mature emotionally. We are all
in the process of growing, overcoming, learning and transforming our lives and there are
many, many paths to this end. Understanding archetypes offers a language of

symbols from which to gain a deeper understanding of the process. Here are a few
patterns to look for to help determine if the Wounded Child is the archetype you most
relate to of all the Child variations.
Deep fear of change
Feeling misunderstood
Cant let go of hurt feelings
Identification with wound or illness
Feeling Broken or worthless
Sensitive to others emotions
Depression or prone to depression
Drawn to pain, tragedy or suffering
The Shadow Wounded Child
The Wounded Child is easily caught up with the victim, getting stuck in the story of
suffering, feeling hopeless, worthlessness and heaviness. Themes of rejection, failure,
unworthiness and longing are all prevalent in this archetypal pattern. The
wounded child can feel abandoned, misunderstood, unloved, uncared for, even by
themselves. They are sensitive to the pain and emotions of others often to the
point of confusing others emotions with their own.
The Wounded Child archetype has experienced some kind of initiatory wound in
their early life. This experience creates a lens through which the Wounded Child views
their circumstances and the motives or actions of others. This usually happens at a fairly
young age when the child is highly impressionable. his experience or string of
experiences acts as an initiation inextricably linking the Wounded Child to the path they
were meant to live. I call this the lens of pain. This lens (created by the initial wound)
through which all things are now experienced colors, defines and shapes the way
the Wounded Child perceives their life. The initial wound creates an opening in the
individual. For the Shadow Wounded Child it becomes an opening for perpetual suffering
and further wounding.
The Wounded Child may have been:

Bullied by siblings or schoolmates

Lost a parent or an important adult to death or some other separation
Severely injured or handicapped
Illness or other medical issues


Sexual abuse or rape (particularly at a young age)

Physical, emotional, verbal or other forms of abuse
Witness to a traumatic event
Neglect or abandonment

The pain from this childhood wound will replay itself over and over in the adult
life until the trauma or wound is tended to and healed. Only then can the inner child
mature and develop the gifts that are inherent to the Wounded Child archetype. For
example, if you were bullied at school or picked on by siblings, cousins or other peers you
will continue to feel bullied as an adult by co-workers, friends and other peer groups. If
you were abused by a parent or an adult you may feel abused by your boss at work, the
IRS, the government or any other perceived authority figure. Your reactions to this
perception will match the way you coped with the abuse or bullying as a child. If you
were sexually abused as a child you may perceive your spouse or partner through the
highly distorted lens of your own sexual abuse. You will recreate the dynamics
experienced in childhood with you as the victim. If you suffered a handicap as a child
and needed constant care you will recreate the dynamics of invalid and caretaker in one
of your personal relationships. Pay attention to the this always happens to me type
of experiences. This can be an effective tool for recognizing the Shadow Wounded Child.
The Shadow Wounded Child will blame the wound or wounding on much of their adult
life problems.
There are many ways people perceive being wounded. Here are a few from people I have
interviewed about the Wounded Child. When asked to envision an image of what the
wound of their childhood looks like the descriptions were quite varied and included the
A knife in the heart or back
A black gaping hole in the abdomen
A heart that has been charred and burnt
Broken body parts such as arms and legs in casts
Deformities especially facial deformities
Being surrounded by a black mist
A cut that never stops bleeding
Being stuck at the bottom of deep well or pit
Covered in terrible (and visible) scars
Confined to a bed or wheelchair
Dirty, tattered and lost child who has been uncared for
Discarded like a broken doll

The Great and Powerful Past

The Shadow Wounded Child is always looking backward, remembering both good
and bad memories and somehow transforming them all into a painful melancholy.
The Shadow Wounded Child is running from his or her past and feels haunted by the
heaviness of memory. When the Shadow Wounded Child gets caught up in a painful story
it is usually connected to some experience of the past that has shaped the quality and
density of their thoughts. Sometimes the Shadow Wounded Child does not associate
their painful story with the past but upon examination it will be obvious that their
current thoughts are old stories created out of past beliefs and experiences thus
making the stories feel irrefutably true. Looking backwards creates if only phrases like
If only my parents could have loved me for who I am I could be a better parent
If only I had been born whole and not stuck in a broken body I wouldnt be depressed
If only I wasnt sickly I would be able to do more and contribute
If only I had been loved and cared about I might have turned out better
If only I had never been abused I would be happy
If only I had been treated with respect I wouldnt be so angry all the time
If only my mother/father had not left me I would have a healthy relationship
If only that had never happened to me my life would be better
If only I had not been in that car accident I could pursue the life I have dreamed of
If only my innocence had not been stolen from me I could have a healthy sex life
If only my situation hadnt changed I would be happy
The Shadow Wounded Child deeply believes that if their initiatory wound had
never occurred, their life would be the way it was meant to be, that the wound
somehow ruined their chance for a normal life. The Shadow Wounded Child feels that
the wound threw their entire life off track. There is a deep fear of change because the
Wounded Child knows that if they heal their wounds their life will change. Change equals
loss. Loss is unbearable. They already feel like they have lost something deep and
intrinsic and therefore they are clinging to everything else. Dont dismiss this idea
because you may be of the personality type that can roll with change and adjusts to it
relatively easy. Another of way of looking at this could be fear of letting go. Letting go
of an old identity, letting go of your children or spouse, letting go of your anger and
resentment, letting go of sadness or the victim role and letting go of how others perceive
you are a few examples. Fear of change doesnt always look so obvious but it is one
of the most consistent patterns of the Wounded Child archetype.

The Need to be Understood

Feeling misunderstood is a common experience for the Shadow Wounded Child.
The Shadow Wounded Child believes that they feel life more deeply and intensely than
others. They tend to take things personally too by internalizing situations and
relationships. They are easily offended and hurt and others often feel they have to
walk on egg shells around the Shadow Wounded Child. The intense need for
others to understand them while simultaneously believing that others can never
understand leaves them feeling emotionally raw or needy. This need to be understood/you
will never understand conundrum can be expressed in a variety of behaviors such as: selfpity, self-isolation, anger, stoicism, clingy/neediness, depression, overemotional,
irrational, resentful and vengeful. The Wounded Child is desperately seeking to
understand the pain that seems to be lurking in the background or foreground of
their life. This search can cause the Shadow Wounded Child to be drawn to other
peoples suffering and tragedies. A fascination or over-investment in someone else pain
or heartache is an attempt to understand their own pain and heartache which is usually
too overwhelming to confront. It may seem to others that the Wounded Child does
not want to be healed, but the Wounded Child senses that the wounding of their
life has some value, some unnameable worth that causes them to keep the wound
open and raw. In the shadow this looks like feeling totally victimized by life, blaming
self or others for their suffering or needing others to recognize and acknowledge the
pain. The Shadow Wounded Child feels as though they have to defend their wound from
accidental healing. Sometimes this need to be understood is so strong that the
Shadow Wounded Child will resort to self-inflicted wounds. Self cutting and other
forms of self-injury are examples of ways to release the intense emotions and
frustrations as well as providing evidence and tangible proof of their suffering. This
evidence of their suffering is an acceptable way to get validation from others and to
evoke sympathy and support.
The Need (neediness) for Validation
The Shadow Wounded Child has an intense need to have the wound or sufferings
validated. While validation from others is a necessary part of healing from any trauma or
dealing with any suffering the need for validation quickly turns into a neediness for
validation. A constant and even compulsive need to have others recognize their
struggle or become aware of the wound they suffer with. They long to be seen and
heard and known for what they have suffered. The Shadow Wounded Child believes that
healing and wholeness will come from an outside event, person or experience.

Underneath this compulsive need for validation is a craving and hope for healing
the brokenness. They feel broken as if they were born broken and lacking wholeness.
They spend their lives compensating for this feeling of brokenness by either becoming
highly successful and always put together or they create a life story that keeps them
victimized to someone else or something else hoping others will see and acknowledge or
feel sorry for them. The Shadow Wounded Child hopes that someone or something
OUT THERE will be the answer to their pain. If you have the Wounded Child
archetype you may relate to one of the following as a way to feel validated.
An interest in or connection to emergency personnel such as doctors, paramedics or
rescue workers
Wanting to be hospitalized or to be rescued from danger
Desire to have something terrible happen to you (but not too terrible)
Having physical scars or creating your own scarring
Being ill or having health concerns
Feeling sorry for others sufferings
Turning away from relationships and investing in animals instead
Depression and the Shadow Wounded Child
One of the most common experiences for the Shadow Wounded Child is depression. The
depression acts as a buffer for the intensity of pain, dulling it and making it more
bearable. But eventually, the depression itself becomes woven into the fabric of the
wound until it becomes a reinforcement of unworthiness and hopelessness. The
depression will usually begin around the time of the original wounding when the
hurt and rejection become trapped in the identity of the person. Depression says,
something is wrong with me, with others, with my life or the world that cannot be fixed
or corrected. This sets up the hopelessness that reinforces and strengthens the story of
the wound keeping the individual entrapped. Depression is proof of the Shadow
Wounded Childs brokenness. This feeling of brokenness sets up a pattern of
shame;hame for being depressed, shame for being not good enough, weird, angry,
resentful etc. This shame, unworthiness or hopelessness traps the Shadow Wounded
Child. (Note: This article in no way refutes the physical causes of depression and that it can
be treated using medications but for the purpose of this article the focus is on the emotional
component of depression.)
I want to be loved. . .
I want to be loved. . . is the story of the wounded child. I want to be valued and important. I

want to matter to someone and be seen by others as worthy. All of these are shadow
aspects of the Wounded Child because the Wounded Child cannot make others
love them or see their true worth. This leaves them feeling continuously needy of
others love and acceptance and they seem to never get enough of it. They want to give to
others but feel that the wound prevents them from being able to give so they get stuck in
a cycle of want and emotional impoverishment.
The Enlightened Wounded Child
Forgiveness is one of those words that is routinely misused and misunderstood.Letting
go is not forgiveness although forgiveness cannot happen until you let go first.
Forgiveness is what happens when you stop rejecting what you believe to be the
cause of your suffering. My own definition: Forgiveness means making room for more.
What I mean by that, is this: When I am unforgiving I am rejecting the bad thing that
happened and not allowing it to be a part of me. Forgiveness is opening up to the bad
thing and allowing it in. You may be surprised to find relief in this and that it in no way
diminishes the pain but actually validates it in a way that nothing else does. The
Enlightened Wounded Child has a tender and open heart. This makes them open to
wounding but it also makes them open to forgiveness. Forgiveness or the need to
forgive is a theme for the Wounded Child. For the Enlightened Wounded Child
forgiveness is a way of life. Forgiving the past, forgiving the hurt and forgiving the
losses or in other words making room for the past, making room for the hurt and
making room the losses means you dont exactly let it go as much as you widen
your capacity to hold it and end the resistance to it. This is the daily spiritual
practice of the Enlightened Wounded Child.
For example: My own childhood abuse was something that I personally felt had wounded
me and I could not let go of what had happened. I didnt understand then that the wound
or pain, was showing me the way to greater understanding. I rejected the abuse because I
was afraid if I accepted it, it would mean I believed I deserved the abuse. I finally realized
that no amount of validation from others would give me the proof of my suffering better
than me accepting it. I forgave my abuse by opening up my heart to fit it in there with love
and belonging. I could be abused as a child and I could also be loved as a child. I was
trying to make them mutually exclusive because I believed the one canceled out the other.
When I realized I could embrace both a newer truth revealed itself to me: I was wounded
and what happened to me was wrong and that wound was also my gift. I can recognize
that others wronged me and also take responsibility for my pain. The ability to hold the

paradox is part of the development that comes from forgiveness. Forgiveness is a paradox
because by letting go you are also embracing.
Standing in the Fire
The Enlightened Wounded Child discovers that by entering the darkness of their
pain and working through it, that they can stand in the fire of pain and not be
burned. Their capacity to get close to others pain without getting caught up in it, makes
them ideal healers, doctors, nurses, therapists and others in the healing arts. They are
like mountain men who know a particular terrain and can be a guide for others who are
passing through. But this mountain is where the Wounded Child lives and has made their
peace. They have mastered the art of letting go, embracing intense emotions and
being a channel for others to release their pain. Suffering, pain, sorrow, and
depression are all places the Enlightened Wounded Child has been and is not afraid to
revisit. Rather than avoiding it, the Enlightened Wounded Child embraces these
negative aspects of the human experience. They learn that some wounds arent
meant to be healed but to be understood. The darkness becomes depth and the pain is
only a sharpener to maintain keenness and sensitivity. Compassion can then be
developed and the Enlightened Wounded Child is deeply compassionate and caring.
Animals and the Wounded Child
The Wounded Child is often drawn to animals. They may belong to an animal rescue
organization, start their own, or work at a shelter. This love of animals could also be
expressed as an interest in birdwatching or other wildlife or involvement in programs to
protect endangered wildlife. Horses are well known for their therapeutic uses in treating
anything from depression to restoring a sense of purpose for wounded military veterans.
A love of horses is often connected to the Wounded Child. Service dogs are
another form of healing for those who have physical handicaps but what is often
discovered is that the handicapped person is healed emotionally by the
relationship with the service animal. One of the reasons animals are healing is
because animals are present. They are not dwelling on the past or hurrying toward the
next activity. This presence has a healing effect on the Wounded Child who is still
learning to be in the moment where the pain dwells. Animals also serve as teachers to
the Wounded Child to help them understand how to be in the present moment,
how to love unconditionally, and how to accept themselves and their
circumstances completely. In many cases, animals can offer validation and comfort
where human beings fail. Horses and dogs are the most common animals loved by the

Wounded Child but dont discount pigs, cats, ferrets and birds either. Animals can be
used in the shadow too as the Wounded Child pulls away from the world of people,
the perceived source of their pain, and take refuge in the animals thereby avoiding
and even refusing to confront their emotional trauma. The animal acts as a shield
from further wounding but it can also prevent the necessary push that drives a suffering
person to heal.
The Gift of the Wound
How can a wound or pain be a gift? Here is an analogy:
Think of yourself as a perfectly decorated room filled with just the sort of furniture
you like and the colors on the ceiling and walls are your favorite colors. Everything
you need is right here in this room. It is who you are. Except . . . right in the middle of
one of the walls is a huge gash. It has torn the expensive wallpaper and the sheet-rock
is hanging out in clumps. It ruins the room and leaves you feeling exposed and afraid.
Its dark on the other side of the hole and you worry about the demons or monsters
that might come through the hole in the wall. You gather all of your things and move
them to a safer corner. You watch the hole constantly. Fear and anxiety become your
constant companions. Then you wonder if anyone else has a hole in their wall and
you decide that you are the only one who is ruined. That this hole cannot be fixed.
You stop caring about yourself and you stop inviting others into your room because
you are ashamed of it. You try to patch it up but the patch is just as ugly as the hole.
You move a big piece of furniture in front of it but that doesnt work either because
YOU know what is behind it. This hiding of the hole makes you feel like a fraud, that
other people think you have a perfectly lovely room when you know that you dont.
This knowledge keeps you isolated and hungry for love. But one day, when the
loneliness and the craving gets to be too much you venture over to the hole and peer
inside. Its cold and forbidding and you can hear frightened voices echoing inside.
You feel afraid but you are also curious. After a while you get the courage to go into
this dark hole to explore. Each time you enter you experience a terrifying sense of
hopelessness and loss so you back out and retreat to your corner. But you cant turn
away from the hole in the wall. So one day, you brave your way all the way through
the darkness and you enter a hallway. Its dark but you feel less afraid for the first
time. All along this hallway are doors. Each door leads to a different room or space.
Each one is uniquely you. As you peek into these rooms you find huge bedrooms with
fireplaces and stained glass windows, or libraries with books from ceiling to floor.
Some rooms are airy arboretums with birds and butterflies, other rooms are places to
eat and invite friends and family. These are all the rooms that are beyond the hole in

the wall. But the only way to reach them is to go through the dark part and face the
cold and the voices. But you did it once and you can do it again. In fact, you decide to
turn your hole into an opening by cleaning up the edges and nailing on some finish
molding around the sides. When you are finished, it no longer appears to be a
mistake, it is no longer a hole that was torn into your wall but a window or a doorway.
While it remains dark you have the knowledge of what lies beyond that darkness.
This is the gift of the wound.
Capacity to Love Others
In its shadow the Wounded Child is looking for others to love them but the Enlightened
Wounded Child knows that what they really long for is giving love to others. I want to love
is truer for the Wounded Child than I want to BE loved. Unconditional love is part of
the Enlightened Wounded Child and therefore they are brimming with affection
and compassion for others. They are usually the friend that others turn to for
understanding and support. They have a strong desire to understand others deeply and
are usually non-judgmental and openhearted. They have overcome their fears of
rejection and know that they can handle whatever comes their way. The Enlightened
Wounded Child has learned that to Give is to Get. Understanding others is the key to
understanding themselves. Giving love allows the Wounded Child to feel and receive
the love of others freely and unconditionally because they have learned to love
who they are enough to share that love with others. The Wounded Child gains the
sense of connection and belonging that they felt was denied them, when they can be who
they truly are and to be authentic and real. Many a Wounded Child has felt ashamed
of their wound, that it makes them less of a person when in reality it makes them
more. They have more to give, more understanding and more tenderness, rather than
less. The wound when properly recognized and confronted becomes a light of hope to
themselves and the rest of the world.
When transformed from the shadow to the light the Wounded Child archetype is a
powerful example of the resiliency of the human spirit. They are open, tender,
vulnerable and wise. Their life experience has taught them that the pain that once
dominated their life is the source of their compassion, their insight, depth and wisdom.
Tags: abuse[3], archetypes[4], depression[5], forgiveness[6], Healing[7], illness[8],

injuries[9], inner child[10], rejection[11], sexual abuse[12], Spirituality[13], suffering[14],

the past[15], tragedy[16], understanding[17], validation[18], worthlessness[19], Wounded
Child[20], wounding[21]

1. http://susannabarlow.com/wpcontent/uploads/2013/05/iStock_000014252431XSmall.jpg
2. http://susannabarlow.com/wpcontent/uploads/2013/05/iStock_000014252431XSmall.jpg
3. http://susannabarlow.com/tag/abuse/
4. http://susannabarlow.com/tag/archetypes/
5. http://susannabarlow.com/tag/depression/
6. http://susannabarlow.com/tag/forgiveness/
7. http://susannabarlow.com/tag/healing-2/
8. http://susannabarlow.com/tag/illness/
9. http://susannabarlow.com/tag/injuries/
10. http://susannabarlow.com/tag/inner-child/
11. http://susannabarlow.com/tag/rejection/
12. http://susannabarlow.com/tag/sexual-abuse/
13. http://susannabarlow.com/tag/spirituality/
14. http://susannabarlow.com/tag/suffering/
15. http://susannabarlow.com/tag/the-past/
16. http://susannabarlow.com/tag/tragedy/
17. http://susannabarlow.com/tag/understanding/
18. http://susannabarlow.com/tag/validation/
19. http://susannabarlow.com/tag/worthlessness/
20. http://susannabarlow.com/tag/wounded-child/
21. http://susannabarlow.com/tag/wounding/

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