Your Wounded Child | Ep #141

As children raised by imperfect parents, we all have “core wounds” that inform much of our life. We may have had experiences we did not know how to process, and therefore made up stories of what those things meant that we still carry with us today.

As we get older, we adapt and learn to navigate those painful stories through our various adaptations.

Then as adults, we have an opportunity to look at some of our adaptations, and evaluate if they are still serving us, or if we can let them go.

In this episode, I explore 3 roles children are often “cast” in that can create issues later in life if not evaluated and healed.

You will likely see yourself and those you love most in some of these roles, and gain some insight into your own behavior, as well as the behaviors of your partner/loved ones. You will also leave with some tangible ideas of how to navigate next steps in healing those parts that need gentle love and nurturing.

To learn more from me, be sure to join my email list at: https://andreagiles.com/lies-about-infidelity/

To work with me, go to: https://andreagiles.com/get-your-life-back/

Follow me on Instagram at: https://www.instagram.com/theinfidelitycoach/

Episode Transcript

I’m Andrea Giles and you’re listening to the Heal from Infidelity podcast,
episode number 141, Your Wounded Child.

Hello and welcome to the Heal from Infidelity podcast where courageous
women learn not only to heal from their spouse’s betrayal, but to become
the boldest, truest, most decisive and confident versions of themselves
ever. If you know there’s more for you than the life you’re currently
living but don’t quite know how to get there, you are in the right place.
Stick around to learn how to create a life that will knock your own socks
off. Is it possible? It is and I’m here to show you how. I’m your host,
Andrea Giles. Are you ready? Let’s dive in.

Hello everybody. Welcome back to another episode. I hope this finds you
well. I today am going to be talking about the wounds that we experience as
children that show up in adulthood, how they show up. My aim for this
episode is really to help you self-identify some things that you are doing,
behaviors that you’re engaging in that might be keeping you stuck. And I
also want you to see some behaviors that are not keeping you stuck. Some
behaviors that you’re doing well. I want you to be able to identify both and
hopefully by the end of this episode you’ll have a pretty good idea of why
you have done some of the things that you have done. All right.

So let’s go back to your family of origin. All of us have very unique
experiences. No one person, the way they grew up is the same as the next,
even in the same family. Isn’t that interesting? Even in the same family
people can have a very, very different experience of how they grew up. For
example, in mine, I have a huge blended family in my own upbringing. There
are seven of us and the two oldest grew up largely outside of my home, and
so they had a different experience with their mom. And then I have two
younger brothers that are eight and nine years younger than I am. So even
when I was graduating high school, they were still quite a bit younger than
me and were the last two in the home. So they had a very different
experience. They didn’t have some of the same issues with quite as much
poverty and some of the other things that we dealt with. And it’s probably
the same for you that you probably had different experiences than your
siblings had.

So to start us off, I’m going to be talking about three typical family
roles and I want you to listen and see where you land in this. All right.
First is the hero child. This is the one is the pride of the family.
There’s a lot of empowerment given to this kid. Interestingly enough though,
there’s overt empowerment and covert shaming. Okay. Let’s talk about this a
little bit. This hero child is given more power in the family than what is
appropriate and what should be. But this child also is not allowed to have a
lot of needs and their achievements are in the service of the family. It’s
to make the family look good.

A hero child can be placed into roles that are very unhealthy, such as like
a surrogate spouse, the comforter, the peacemaker. This can be the one that
people look to make everything. In dysfunctional marriages this child can
be the one that is the confidant, the one that the parent talks to and
shares their troubles with sometimes venting about the other parent to this
kid. This hero child in adult relationships is often very high functioning,
very responsible, pretty competent, successful. They get the job done. They
know how to get the job done.

The underbelly to this though is that they’re not allowed needs of their
own in the home that they grew up in. It’s always needing to look the part,
make everybody look good. And so if their accomplishments are kind of
propping up the family, what happens when this person is struggling or when
they fail or when they don’t get the grade or don’t get the achievement. If
everybody’s counting on this person to make everything seem like it’s okay
or to look like it’s okay to the outside world, imagine the pressure when
something goes wrong.

This is where covert shaming can come in. This is where comments can be
made to this child that cut, that shame, that, “You’re not living up to
what we expect of you.” This is where really, really high expectations can
be put on somebody in the name of, “You’re so amazing, look how amazing you
are” and then that person is expected to be amazing all the time. And when
they’re not, they can be met with quite a bit of backlash.

So what does the hero child often struggle with in adulthood? The hero
child often struggles with vulnerability, openness, and receptivity. So
vulnerability, it makes sense that if the hero child is constantly trying
to put out fires, keep the peace, be responsible, be seen as responsible,
the peacemaker, the comforter, all of those things, it can feel
exceptionally scary to this person to expose vulnerabilities, to expose that
they do in fact have needs that they do, in fact have feelings. Being open
about that can possibly elicit some shame. It can possibly elicit, there’s
something wrong with me that I have needs because growing up, they were not
given a place to have needs.

Receptivity, let’s talk about that. Why would that be a struggle? First of
all, receptivity. The short form of that is receptive. This hero child
might not be able to let other people in at a deep level either. They might
have some guarded walls up of kind of putting on the face of the helper, of
the peacemaker, all of those things without really being open to another
person’s vulnerability because it might feel very scary to them. So for
example, if somebody grew up with that mentality that I need to put on a
show, I can’t show weakness, things like that. As an adult, it could feel
very scary to let their guard down enough to really be receptive and let
somebody else in because it shows vulnerability in them.

Isn’t that interesting that to receive somebody else’s vulnerability, we
often have to let our own guard down? And that can feel very scary. So this
hero child might be very wonderful. These are the people in the community
that are the go-getters, going out there… This is many of you listening
that you get the job done, you know how to get the job done. But, there may
be a part of you that you have been too afraid to let people see because it
means risking the image and therefore, in many ways it means risking
safety. Because that’s what you’re taught to think as a child, and this
creates some wounds. We’re going to get to that.

The second type of child is the scapegoat child. How many of you can raise
your hand and go, “Me, that was me”? The scapegoat is the problematic,
worrisome or bad child. Scapegoat children are overtly shamed and covertly
empowered. So I think this is so fascinating, so overtly shamed. So
outwardly, overtly, outwardly put down, criticized, “Oh my gosh, can you
ever get it right? You’re so embarrassing. What’s wrong with you?” Those
kind of words, but guess what? They’re getting something from it. Covertly
empowered. They know that they’re being paid attention to. There’s
something that they are getting from it. Isn’t that interesting? The parents
may complain about the kid, punish the kid, talk bad about the kid, make fun
of the kid. But the attention and energy that they receive gives them a
pretty disproportionate amount of power, maybe more than the hero child
even. Isn’t that interesting? It might give them more.

I have friends who grew up with really troubled siblings, I have one friend
of mine who in her case it was her brother that just created a lot of
trouble for the family, a lot, a lot, a lot of trouble. And this friend of
mine, one of the struggles of her adult life has been learning how to find
peace with all of that, how neglected many of them felt because so much
attention was given to this kid who was really wreaking havoc for a lot of
people. This kid who was so troublesome was given so much attention and time
and the kids who were living in the way that the parents wanted, were not
getting the attention. And this can be problematic too, and can create
wounds.

Scapegoat children may be sick in the classic sense of the world. They
might have some kind of illness, they might have some disease, things like
that. Or they might have oppositional behaviors like different disorders,
even ADHD. A lot of attention given to the kid that’s bouncing off the
walls at school. And little Johnny, we need to sit with him for two hours
after school and help him with his homework or he won’t do his homework.
While little Susie is over in the corner getting the good grades, but all
by herself. And often it is the caretakers or the whole family that are
investing a lot of energy into managing this one child. Even the siblings,
people that come in and out of the house, even grandparents, it can be
really extended to many people that they’re investing a lot of energy into
this one kid, little Johnny needs so much attention.

One major problem in this scenario with scapegoat children is that this one
child often is getting pinned for problems that actually have nothing to do
with them. There might be major dysfunction in the parents, and it’s so
easy to blame all of it on the kid. You are making our life so hard. When
in reality it’s often that kid that can be the opportunity to really take a
look at how we are parenting, how we are treating each other, things like
that. But for people who developmentally don’t want to do that, aren’t ready
to do that, it’s much easier to find someone to blame it on. Hence the
name, the scapegoat child. We’re going to take all of our family problems
and we’re going to pin it on this kid. And if this kid were better, then we
wouldn’t have these problems and we would have the family that we want.

So for these children, they tend to be sensitive, they tend to be more
emotional and this really sad part, they often feel like an imposter. They
often feel like they don’t belong, like they are the outsider and can carry
that with them, they can carry those wounds with them into adulthood.

Last but not least, the lost child. You can probably imagine what this one
is about. The lost child is the one who’s ignored or abandoned. They may be
seen as well-behaved and not in need of much guidance or attention, or they
may just be too much trouble to bother with. So let me back this up a
little bit. Sometimes the lost child is exhibiting hero child qualities or
scapegoat child qualities, and they still carry the wound and then adapt to
the wound of being a lost child. And I’m going to talk a little bit more
about adaptations here in a little bit.

So the lost child is ignored or abandoned, and for the hero type, the
parents might think that that kid just always is so responsible. They’re
just so responsible. Where did this kid come from and not give them a lot
of attention because they feel like this kid doesn’t need much. Or they
might see the scapegoat child and have the scapegoat child turn into a lost
child by kind of dismissing and saying, “You’re just too much trouble to
mess with. You’re just too much trouble.” And unfortunately, both hero and
scapegoat children have boundaries violated. They have their boundaries
violated because in both scenarios, the parents are looking for someone to
blame it on or someone to pin the health of the family on.

So for the hero child, as long as this person is doing well then we’re fine
and everything’s fine. But there’s so much enmeshment happening here that
if this kid falls off, if this kid heaven forbid, gets a B instead of an A,
so we can’t brag about how our kid never has had a B in their life, this
kid is going to feel the weight of the parents’ disappointment. And the
parents would lack the ability to look at it objectively and in a healthy
way because they are really identifying and creating their identity with how
well this kid performs, or doesn’t perform. This is enmeshment.

So because hero and scapegoat, both those versions of children, have had
their boundaries violated through that enmeshment pattern they are more
likely to grow up to be walled off. Just closing it down. Not letting a lot
of people in. It can be very hard for them to trust, very hard to let
people in. Now, a lost child who also has abandonment type wounds of just
kind of feeling neglected. So this is not the lost child where the parents
are giving all the attention to this kid. This is the kid who is ignored
and neglected, like “You’re not worth our trouble.” This kid can very much
grow up to be boundary-less, where they become heavy pursuers of people’s
acceptance or when they allow certain behaviors that others wouldn’t. Others
with better boundaries would not allow because they have been the scapegoat
they might think that they are not worth more and just put up with a bunch
of BS as adults that they should not.

What happens with these wounds? As you well know, wounds continue
throughout our life. It’s part of life that we continue to be wounded at
different times. It just happens. But what happens with these childhood
wounds, the way that we fit into our family of origin is that we do learn to
adapt. We are very adaptable. The problem is that sometimes the adaptations
that we take on are not particularly helpful to the cause, such as the hero
child that grows up to have pretty high walls. Very hard to get to, very
private, very hard to reach. It’s an adaptive pattern that they develop as a
child to kind of self-protect. “If I let my wall down, it’s just going to
hurt more. If I disappoint, it’s going to hurt more, so I got to keep that
wall up.” The problem though is that this adaptation can make a healthy,
intimate relationship really difficult. Really difficult.

So let’s talk about infidelity, that’s why you’re here. How does this
matter and show up around infidelity? For many people, part of why
infidelity occurs is because there’s some kind of thing that is creating
some emotion that feels different than what you’re currently experiencing.
So if you’re in a relationship where it’s pretty walled off, where it’s
pretty private, that there’s not a lot of communication, there’s not a lot
of vulnerability, all of that, it can feel quite intoxicating to meet
somebody where you feel like you can let your wall down. It can feel almost
like this person is saving you from yourself. It can feel very much like a
drug. Again, very, very intoxicating. And I have talked to people who say
things like, “They made me feel something that I haven’t felt in such a
long time.”

And the lie here is that, one, if you were to ditch the spouse and go be
with this person, that that is going to be what this relationship would be
with this person. That is a big fat lie. Big fat lie number two is that you
can’t have that kind of thing in your own marriage. That’s a big fat lie.
Why? Because it’s less about the people involved and more about what the
people are doing, how they’re showing up for each other, how high the walls
are, how low the walls are, are there boundaries, are there no boundaries?
And these are things that can be learned. They can be learned. We can learn
how to develop these things out.

With that first scenario of the lie number one of thinking that if I run
away with this person this is how it’s always going to be, in reality, that
honeymoon period, that it is a dopamine hit, it is a drug hit to our body,
that does taper down. It really truly does. And then in comes normal life
where guess what? We go back to our old patterns. We go back into the same
old coping skills. These are our adaptive skills. We’ve adapted, putting up
a wall, hiding, fighting, being aggressive, all of these things. Those
behaviors are going to come right back. They’re going to come right back if
they are not seen very clearly and dealt with and healed.

So where to go from here? Where to go from here is to understand where
we’re at in our mind when we are feeling certain things. And the beautiful
thing is that we can go from this wounded child into this adaptive child
where we adapt, where we are a little more mature than this wounded child,
where we have taken on some adaptive things. I need to survive in this
world, so this is how I’m going to survive. And then we can move into the
wise adult, where we don’t need to protect ourselves so much, where we don’t
need those adaptive habits that we formed because we can handle the
vulnerability of really addressing our wounded child and looking at what’s
there and trying to heal.

So I want to give you some characteristics of the adaptive child and then I
want to give you some characteristics of the wise adult. And what I’d like
you to do is as I’m reading these, I want you to just kind of check in with
yourself and go, “Okay, where do I hang out most? With the adaptive child
qualities or what the wise adult qualities?” And please no judgment of
yourself when you are hearing these things.

This is from Pia Mellody, these traits, she is the one who coined these.
The adaptive child is black and white, perfectionistic, relentless, rigid,
harsh, hard, certain, tight in body, short term thinker. Even just reading
that out just now, one of the ones that jumped out to me is relentless.
Sometimes I have clients that just cannot let something go. They have to
hound it and hound it and it’ll go on for hours with their partner and
their partners kind of begging for mercy like, “I don’t know what to say to
you that’s going to fix this or that’s going to make it better.” And they
just cannot let it go. It’s like a dog with a bone, they cannot let it go.

When they’re in the space or when you find yourself in the space, you can
kindly and lovingly and gently say, “Oh, I’m in my adaptive child. This is
that child that developed to survive. I’m thinking that I need to survive
right now. And what if I don’t? What if I’m okay? What if I’m safe?” And
you can give yourself time and space to step back into and bring back
online your wise adult.

So what is our wise adult? Our wise adult is the part of us that has the
ability to move out of this protective mode and scan out and see more, see
the big picture, see what other pieces are here, see more objectively. The
wise adult is able to assess the real threat of the perceived wound. We
have perceived wounds, things that we think might hurt us or things that
have hurt us, things that have hurt us. And then in this wise adult space,
we can stand back and go, “Okay, what is the real actual threat here?” And
this is what is called your second consciousness. It’s a higher awareness.
You’re able to see more. You’re able to be more flexible. You can strategize
for long-term outcomes that are beneficial not just to you but to everyone
involved.

Just to be clear, Pia Mellody in her original work with this, she called it
the functional adult. Where I have learned all of this with Terry Real and
his training. They call it the wise adult. But here’s some of the
characteristics of the wise adult. Nuanced, realistic, forgiving, flexible,
warm, yielding, humble, relaxed in body, long-term thinker. How different
would your day be today if you had a little bit more of that online? I want
to read those again. Nuanced, realistic, forgiving, flexible, warm,
yielding, humble, relaxed in body, long-term thinker. What would change for
you? What would be different?

There’s so many things here to look at, so many things to consider and part
of your healing, right away when you first find out about the infidelity,
for most people that adaptive child is loud, so loud. That wound has been
hit on. That wound for so many people, some of those early wounds have been
exposed and they’re raw and bleeding and your adaptive child… And just
for a reference point. When we think about the emotional, approximate
emotional age for the adaptive child, it’s around 12 to 14. 12 to 14 is
what we’re looking at. The adaptive child is trying to survive. They don’t
want to die. They don’t want to go hide away. They want to often fight,
stand up for themselves or duck and cover as a way to self-protect. Like a
child, a baby who has no way of protecting, they’re completely dependent.
The adaptive child’s a little bit older and have taken on these traits to
help protect them.

Many of you are probably hanging out in the space because you have been
really hurt. That wounded child has been set off, your adaptive child has
kicked in and the wise adult has left the room because of the deep pain of
this, the deep heart of it, the deep meanings that you have associated with
it.

Now, we all do this and we will till the day we die. I recently heard in
one of the trainings I did, for better or for worse, that even the
healthiest people, even the most emotionally healthy people, the goal is to
stay with your wise adult 70% of the time. 70%. That’s with the most wise
people who work this stuff all the time, who work on themselves all the
time. 70%, that means 30% of the time they’re offline, they are in the
adaptive child. Now we can learn ways to work with that adaptive child so
we don’t cause harm to ourselves or others. But I thought that was so
interesting. This is not going to go away, but what we can do is work with,
we can learn skills, we can learn how to keep the wise adult online and how
to work with the adaptive child when that adaptive child is present.

So to wrap this up for today, I mainly wanted you to identify where you
land with those three sets of children, the roles of children, the hero
child, the lost child, or the scapegoat child. Which one do you most fall
into? And what do you think you learned to do to adapt to being seen that
way, viewed that way, treated that way? What do you think you did and how
is that affecting you now? Again, I can almost bet that for most of you
listening, when that adaptive child is present, right now it’s because the
infidelity has hit a nerve, a strong, strong, painful, wounded child nerve,
and that wounded child is activated and those adaptive child behaviors are
loud. They’re loud. This is a part of us that wants to yell and scream or
fight or wallop, go away, get really aggressive or get really quiet.

The goal is to be able to move towards a more calm space where we can be
more objective, where we can see things more clearly. Not in the black and
white, but a little more nuance. Where we can get more information without
falling apart. That’s the goal here. It does come with time, it comes with
practice, it comes with intention. But we can’t do any of it if we can’t
see where we land in the first place. So take a look at that, maybe get an
idea of your spouse or partner and where they land. It’ll give you
information. It’ll teach you maybe why each of you are responding in the way
that you are right now, and hopefully give you a little bit of direction of
where to go next.

All right. That’s what I have for you today. Thank you so much for being
here. If you go into my show notes, be sure to register for upcoming
classes. I also have an Instagram account, I’m The Infidelity Coach. Go
follow me there. I post in there pretty regularly. Also, it would mean the
world if you would be willing to leave a review, if you have not yet
reviewed or left a rating or review or both. I appreciate it so, so much.
And be sure to share this with anyone that you think it would benefit. All
right. Thank you so much and I’ll see you next time. Bye-bye.

hank you for listening to the Heal from Infidelity podcast. If you would
like to be kept in the know about upcoming free classes, new podcast
episodes, and other ways of working with me, go subscribe to my weekly
email. You can subscribe at andreagiles.com/lies-about-infidelity/. Again,
it’s andreagiles.com/lies-about-infidelity/. I will see you next time.

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Hi. I’m Andrea Giles and I am so glad you are here.

Not many years back I found myself in a life I didn’t recognize, feeling confused, sad, and so small. My “forever” marriage was in shambles, and I didn’t know if I could ever trust my own judgment again.  Through my faith and some great tools, I was able to completely change my life and find myself again. Now it is my mission to help others who are right where I was. Click the button below to read more about my story.

Why was I not enough?

Does this question torment you? It did me too until I learned that the actions of my spouse had nothing to do with me, my worth, or my lovability. Click on the link below for a free guide that will teach you the 3 biggest lies about infidelity and why they are keeping you stuck.

Hi. I’m Andrea Giles and I am so glad you are here.

Not many years back I found myself in a life I didn’t recognize, feeling confused, sad, and so small. My “forever” marriage was in shambles, and I didn’t know if I could ever trust my own judgment again.  Through my faith and some great tools, I was able to completely change my life and find myself again. Now it is my mission to help others who are right where I was. Click the button below to read more about my story.