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Core Wounds and Codependency

What is a Core Wound?

Ekhart Tole speaks about the concept of a pain body in his book A New Earth. Pain body is the physical feeling of discomfort from negative emotions. It can show up as all kinds of symptoms like headache, stomach ache, muscle tightness, joint pain, skill rashes and more. It becomes more perceptive, that is to say, more acutely painful the less you deal with it and them more emotional trauma you encounter.

The type of trauma that has the most impact on activating the pain body is trauma that is in alignment with your core wound. A core wound is related to a message that you received about yourself while you were growing up. This can be a verbal message that you heard or it can be a message you felt based off actions and other non-verbal cues from your upbringing. This message becomes a core belief and that core belief becomes the core source of disregulation across all other experiences of disregulation. We call this source of disregulation your core wound. When something activates that core wound, the result is often surprising and intense; it can feel like a confusing over reaction where you are not clear on why you are feeling things so intensely and you do not feel like you can regain control over your felt experience.

Common Core Wounds:

There are a few common types of messages that become core wounds. Here is a list of them.

  • I don’t matter (Neglect)
  • I am unseen (Misunderstood)
  • I am not worthy (Not valuable)
  • I am not lovable (Rejection)
  • I will always be abandoned (Forgotten)
  • I am not safe (Anxiety)
  • I am not good (Shame)
  • I am not capable (Guilt)

You can experience more than one of these, but it is more common to have one of these be at the core of all other dis-regulated feelings. If you do not resonate with one of these, that is okay, your’s may be different. The important thing is to sit with yourself to see what is underneath your feelings until you uncover the underlying message that leads to this core belief causing this core wound. Only when you have clarity on what that core wound is can you begin to heal it.

A Deeper Dive into Core Wounds

Let’s take the core wound “I Am Not Capable”

Feeling fundamentally incapable often leads to fear of transparency and anxiety of being found out (similar to imposter syndrome). It can also lead to powerlessness and apathy, because “if I am not capable, why try in the first place, better to let someone else do it”. People who are experiencing crippling powerlessness in their core wound may seek partners who can make up for what they believe they lack. This can lead to codependent behaviors and codependent relationship dynamics.

A core wound in not being capable can lead to difficulty receiving feedback; every piece of feedback will fuel the message that I am not capable. The felt sense of being incapable is full of guilt for not measuring up, not doing it better or right in the first place, and not being perfect. This all makes sense. Of course if you believe that it is true, that you are incapable, you will feel intense pain when someone else pints it out and validates it. Now what do we do about it?

Refraiming Core Wounds

Notice that a common theme in the messaging for a core wound is the all or nothing distortion; ideas like, always, never, can’t and won’t. The first step is to loosen this bias by inviting reality. Things are rarely situations that operate in the absolutes of always or never. There are usually exceptions to any rule. Start by recognizing that you will not always be capable, just like you will not always be incapable. There will be things that you are capable of and there will be things that you are not capable, at least not at first or right away.

The next thing is to use reality to define what capable really means. If we are rooted in reality, here are a few truths about what capable is and is not:

  • Being capable does not mean that you do it perfect the first time, or even any time
  • Being capable is not the same as being perfection
  • Capability takes time to develop in every new situation
  • Capability has room for mistakes and errors
  • Being incapable of one thing does not mean translate to being incapable of everything

Now identify your own core wound and do the work of coming up with a few reframes for yourself.

Regulating Core Wounds

When you start to notice that you are feeling a resurgence of “being incapable”, recognize that as a core wound activation, not a truth. Then reframe by reminding yourself of the truths about what it means to be capable (or what it means to be the positive aspects of your specific core wound). You may need to choose to believe this truth even when others do not believe it. That is even more difficult to do and, that makes it even more important to do.

When someone else does not validate your reframe, or activates your core wound, you may feel the physical symptoms of the pain body. Recognize the physical symptoms; heart racing, knot in the stomach, tightness in the chest, shaking or sweaty hands, lightheaded, dizzy. Take time and space to support your nervous system. Slow down your breathing. Sit and breathe slowly in through the nose and out through the mouth. Move in a way that feels good; take a walk, stretch, shake your body. Continue to ground down into your reframed beliefs. Continue to choose the truth for as long as it takes to integrate and return your nervous system to a regulated state.

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