It doesn’t matter that we are adults now. We still perceive the world through the lenses that we have developed in our childhood. We behave according to the belief systems that we have formed in our childhood.
Our unprocessed psychological scars from our childhood affect the way we perceive the world and the way we function in the world. When unprocessed, those scars reduce our enjoyment of life, prevent us from giving 100% in our lives and reaching our full potential.
Processing Childhood Hurts
Nathaniel Branden, the author of The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem, has a book called Breaking Free on this topic. The subtitle of the book is How to Cut the Bonds of Childhood that Are Keeping You from Reaching Your Full Adult Potential.
Unfortunately, the book is out of print and isn’t available on Kindle. That’s a pity because it’s a must-read for everybody who is interested in making the most of their lives, but you can borrow it from Open Library or buy a second-hand copy from Amazon.
Discovering Childhood Hurts
Branden was a psychotherapist. In Breaking Free, he shares 22 questions to investigate childhood hurts.
The book is easy to read but hard to process. It’s easy to read because it’s based on the dialogues that the questions incited in Branden’s group therapy sessions. I could easily relate to those dialogues. And that’s what makes the book hard to process.
Some of the questions and dialogues also touched my own childhood hurts. Those are the memories I had suppressed, but I had to live with their consequences, even in my adult life.
If you’re experiencing the same persistent problems over and over, engage in self-sabotaging behavior that you can’t explain, or running in circles, the chances are that you have unprocessed, emotional scars from your childhood.
Being confronted with those hurts stirs up some intense emotions. Feeling the intense emotions, staying with them, and letting them go is a part of the healing process.
Here are three example questions out of the 22 shared and discussed in the book.
- Did your parents encourage in you a fear of the world, a fear of other people? Or were you encouraged to face the world with an attitude of relaxed, confident benevolence? Or neither?
- Were you encouraged to be open in the expression of your emotions and desires? Or were your parents’ behavior and manner of treating you such as to make you fear emotional self-assertiveness and openness, or to regard it as inappropriate?
- Did your parents encourage you in the direction of having a healthy, affirmative attitude toward sex and toward your own body? Or a negative attitude? Or neither?
I suggest that you read each chapter and then reflect on the question and your childhood. You might want to ask for help from a professional if you are overwhelmed by this process.
The book is based on the discussions about the parent-child relationships, but once you’ve processed this book, you can go ahead and ask similar questions about other dominant figures in your childhood. Typical examples are nannies, babysitters, teachers, friends, other relatives, and so on.
Most of us carry psychological scars from our pasts. If unprocessed, those scars obscure our perception of the world, make us behave irrationally, lower our self-esteem, and keep us from reaching our full potential.
The first step to healing our psychological scars is to discover them and feel the pain that they cause. In his book Breaking Free, Nathaniel Branden shares 22 questions to discover our early childhood hurts so that we can heal them.
Breaking Free is a must read for everybody who’s committed to personal development and to realizing their full potential in life.