What are core wounds? A brief guide

Have you ever wondered why the same situation affects different people differently?

For instance, you may be able to handle rejection well, but your friend gets depressed and loses sleep over it.

While humans have many genetically programmed universal behaviors, it’s not just our genes that program us. The environment in which we’re raised also significantly impacts our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.

Core wounds are deep psychological wounds that are inflicted upon our psyche by our past experiences, especially early childhood experiences. By the age of seven, you’ve already developed your primary core wounds.

Later traumatic experiences can also cause psychological injuries, but they tend to be easier to heal than core wounds.

Origin of core wounds

Human infants are helpless and highly dependent on their caregivers when they’re born. Thus, they’ve evolved a psychology that expects unconditional love and care from their primary caregivers.

If there’s a lack or inconsistency in that caregiving, the child gets confused and has to understand what’s happening. Since children tend to be narcissistic, they make these negative experiences about themselves.

So, if a parent doesn’t love you as you expected to be loved, you conclude that there must be something wrong with you. This is an example of a negative core belief arising from a core wound.

Core wounds are negative self-beliefs that shape who we are, how we relate to others, and what we do. They’re lifelong wounds that keep controlling your behaviors on autopilot unless you heal the trauma associated with them.

Effects of core wounds

We tend to confirm our self-beliefs, positive or negative.

So, if you believe you’re defective, your low self-esteem might prevent you from going after the things you want in life. Low self-esteem, a common byproduct of core wounds, can negatively impact all life areas.

In relationships, for instance, it’ll prevent you from revealing your authentic self, which will impede your ability to connect deeply.

Core wounds lead to an insecure attachment style that creates all sorts of problems in relationships.

Core wounds are painful. So, our psyche comes up with pain-management strategies to deny, avoid, or minimize the pain. Unhealthy coping mechanisms (like addiction) are essentially pain-management strategies.

Perfectionism, narcissism, codependency, overachievement, and hyper-independence are also pain-management strategies.

Identifying core wounds

To identify your core wounds, ask yourself:

“In what ways am I unique or different from others?”

If you dig deep into that question, you might realize that your entire personality is a trauma response.

If you hang out with people with the same beliefs, interests, and opinions as you, you might be blind to your own core wounds. When you interact with people different from you, you get a chance to shine some light on your core wounds.

Pay attention to your negative inner monologue. What words do you use when you think negative thoughts about yourself?

Pay attention to your triggers and overreactions. When you’re triggered, look inward.

What are the situations in which you tend to disproportionately react negatively?
What situations cause you tremendous amounts of pain?

It’s important to be as specific as possible here. If the core wound “I am not good enough” shows up repeatedly for you, ask yourself:

“In what ways do I think I’m not good enough?”

What thought and behavioral patterns do you repeat in your romantic relationships?

Romantic relationships are likely to trigger our core wounds because they break down our walls and force us to reveal who we are. We tend to display the same attachment style with our romantic partners that we display with our primary caregivers.

Insecure attachment core wounds

I’d give you a long list of core wounds, but it won’t be helpful before you understand attachment styles.

As I said, core wounds lead to insecure attachment. Insecure attachment is of three types:

  1. Dismissive Avoidant (DA)
  2. Anxious Preoccupied (AP)
  3. Fearful Avoidant (FA)

DAs have high independence and space needs. They’re self-reliant and place a low value on relationships. They prefer to be alone.

APs have high love and connection needs. They tend to be codependent and derive their identity from their relationships. They have low or non-existent space needs. They can’t be alone.

FAs have both avoidant and anxious traits. They’re a mix of the DA and AP styles.

Core wounds list

1. Core wounds of DA

“I am defective.”
“I am unsafe.”
“I am invaded.”
“I will be abandoned.”

2. Core wounds of AP:

“I am alone.”
“I will be abandoned.”
“I will be rejected.”
“I am not enough.”
“I am unloved.”
“I am unseen/unheard.”
“I will be excluded.”
“I am disconnected.”

3. Core wounds of FA:

“I will be betrayed.”
“I am unsafe.”
“I am unworthy.”
“I am bad.”
“I am trapped.”
“I will be abandoned.”
“I am helpless/powerless.”
“I am disrespected.”
“I am unloved.”
“I am weak.”

How core wounds get triggered

Core wounds get triggered when you’re in a situation that reminds you of a prior, emotionally painful experience. As a result, the emotional pain that you experience is not only because of what’s happening now but also because of the similar things that have happened.

This overflow of negative emotions causes disproportionate reactions.

Core wounds are suppressed pain. Most of the time, you might not even know that you have certain core wounds because they’re buried in your subconscious.

As soon as you come across a situation that reminds you of your past trauma, the core wound associated with it unleashes itself like a beast.

It can be a very painful experience.

You feel the pain in your body and mind. The core wound overtakes your psyche like a big, black shadow. The masks and false persona you had created to become acceptable to others crumble.

So far, you’ve been avoiding or hiding this part of yourself. Now, you’re forced to accept and heal them.

You can see how your wound has shaped who you are. You see how it was a defense mechanism, an adaptation that helped you survive in a difficult time. You see both the negative and positive effects it has had on your life.

The triggering of core wounds can result in an identity crisis or even a complete mental breakdown.

When you understand your and others’ core wounds, you can be more patient, compassionate, and understanding in your relationships and with yourself.