One of the realities of life for many adults is growing up without a happy, stable, loving childhood. Children who do grow up in these environments have a healthy, balanced, and positive inner child full of joy, love, and trust in those around them.
The Emotionally Wounded Inner Child
When children are emotionally and mentally injured, neglected, or even abused in childhood, those inner wounds never heal. The child may act out, including having temper tantrums, facing challenges in making friends, and remaining suspicious of the motives of others.
As these emotionally wounded children get older, they leave some of their childhood behaviors behind, but they still have the wounded inner child deep within their psyche. When these adults are stressed, pressured, or begin to feel overwhelmed, they often drop back to familiar behavior patterns and the behaviors they used as children to get their way.
It is also possible for a wounded inner child to crave attention and a sense of belonging they never experienced. In these situations, individuals with this wounded inner child may tolerate behavior in a relationship that is negative, destructive, and abusive. This is a coping mechanism to attempt to gain a sense of belonging in relationships, which is something they desire at a deep emotional level.
Signs of a Wounded Inner Child
Recognizing the signs of a wounded inner child in a prospective partner is essential in forming a healthy relationship. While it is possible to address the hurt, anger, frustration, and overwhelm that wounded inner child is expressing, it is not something you can do on your own.
He or she has to want to make a change. This starts with seeking a therapist to help to understand the wounded inner child and to make positive changes.
- Abrupt responses to negative comments or events—adults who are not flexible and cannot accept criticism, negative comments, or changes in plans or events are often harboring a wounded inner child. Be aware of extreme drama and responses to anything negative; even small changes in events and critical comments may be a trigger.
- Masking the emotions—sometimes children pretend to be accepting of a situation, but it is evident by their actions they are upset. In some cases, the individual may be able to mask the emotions or responses completely for a while, and then it all breaks down. This is often a response of an inner wounded child looking for attention and approval from someone else.
- Manipulating situations—the manipulation of the thoughts and emotions of others to get what they want is a common behavior for these children. When it is done as an adult, it is devastating to the trust and respect in the relationship. It is better to be honest and speak a truth the other person may not want to hear than try to manipulate the situation or pretend the problem does not exist.
Everyone has times when they behave in less-than-adult ways, particularly when they are disappointed, frustrated, hurt, or angry. However, when these types of behaviors become the default option in a dating relationship, it is time to make changes or leave for a healthier, more positive partner.