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How To Release Childhood Wounds

Lissa Rankin's picture

Lissa Rankin

I grew up believing that love is conditional. I don’t blame my parents for this - and it turns out it wasn’t true - but I genuinely thought my parents would only love me if:

  • I made straight A’s
  • I saved my virginity until marriage
  • I attended church twice a week
  • I didn’t cuss 
  • I respected my elders
  • I came home by curfew
  • I didn’t smoke, drink, or get stoned
  • I didn’t get knocked up
  • I ate my vegetables
And so on… rule after rule after rule.

Afraid they might withdraw their love if I ever broke a rule, I followed every single one of them religiously, to the exclusion of my own individuality and authenticity. I was the straight A, overachieving virgin who didn’t drink until she turned 21 and only broke curfew once in 18 years (by escaping via my bedroom window while wearing my nightgown and hopping in my friend’s car to go joyriding. Can you say “grounded?”)

My sister proved to me that the love of my parents wasn’t conditional the way I believed. She broke all the rules and they loved her anyway. But somehow, that belief that love is conditional became ingrained in my impressionable consciousness.  I think it’s still there sometimes.

When I’m naughty with my mother (like I was here), am I really asking “Will you still love me if I’m naughty?” When I pick a fight with my husband - as I sometimes do - am I really asking “Will you still love me if I treat you poorly?”  When I break a rule, am I testing the limits of love?

I think so.

In fact, I wonder if that’s the reason I post so many tell-all confessionals on Owning Pink (like this oneor this one.) Maybe I’m still living out my childhood wounds. I’m telling myself I don’t care what you think and I’m just being unapologetically ME. But maybe the truth is that I think there’s some line I might cross that will make the people I care about stop loving me.

As long as we’re unconscious of our childhood wounds, we are doomed to repeat them. But when we shine a bright, pink light on them, we can examine them to see if they are true. And if they aren’t - we can freely let them go.

Once I had the epiphany that part of me still believes this, I recognized that it’s really not true. I know there are at least a dozen people in this world who love me unconditionally - including my mother, my daughter, and my husband. 

So I’ve decided to stop repeating behaviors that are triggered from my childhood wound. 

I've been doing a lot of one-on-one work with Steve Sisgold, author of What's Your Body Telling You. From him, I've learned to address old childhood wounds using a technique that goes something like this:

How To Release Childhood Wounds
  1. Identify the wound/limiting belief.
  2. Ask yourself whether it’s really true. (Hint hint. 99.9% of the time, it’s not.)
  3. Once you’ve recognized that your limiting belief is not true, release the wound/limiting belief. Try writing it on a sheet of paper and burning it. Or write it down, tear it up, and bury it in the earth.
  4. Now affirm that the opposite is true. (In my case, the affirmation is “I am loved unconditionally.”) Post this affirmation around your house. Paint it on your wall. Repeat it to yourself several times per day.
  5. Pay attention to sensations in your body when you affirm that the opposite is true. Is there clenching anywhere? Tightness? A dull ache? What is your body telling you?
  6. Try affirming the new belief again until your body feels nothing but peace.
  7. Notice when you act out from your childhood wound and instantly repeat your affirmation and feel it in your body.
What Works For You?

Do you have techniques for releasing your childhood wounds? Tell us your stories. Share your tips.

Unconditionally yours,


Lissa Rankin, MD: Founder of OwningPink.comPink Medicine Revolutionarymotivational speaker, and author of What’s Up Down There? Questions You’d Only Ask Your Gynecologist If She Was Your Best Friend and Encaustic Art: The Complete Guide To Creating Fine Art With Wax.



roxy's picture

Comments for Healers Wounding Patients Not Enabled

Can't seem to leave a comment for the latest blog post you wrote, so I am hoping you will see what I have to say in this section.

You described a psychiatrist, social worker, and pediatric oncologist working with patients without first examining their early personal wounds.

Your description of early wounds as they undermine healing
of patients was a good start. All that said, I would have liked to have heard more examples of healers who are not
specifically trained in mental health-related programs.
Yes, there are psychiatrists and social workers who take out their unhealed personal issues on patients. Yet,
mental health providers for the most part know about this problem (they may be unwilling to do much about it, but at least, from coursework and clinical rounds, they know that their wounds can hurt patients).

Surgeons and physicians (other than psychiatrists), however, are less likely to receive coursework/clinical supervision on "countertransference" (the technical term that describes blindspots/personal wounds of treatment providers, and the ways these difficulties harm patients).

I would have liked to have learned more about what you have witnessed among your fellow gynecologists and surgeons (personal wounds and their manifestation in patient care), since you have personally worked with these medical professionals for many years.

Yes, an untreated psychiatrist and social worker is a bit scary to contemplate, but I think I find (untreated/unhealed gynecologist, surgeon (and other specialty MD's)), scarier, since they are less likely to seek out personal therapy.

If you are teaching med students and residents, are you spending time addressing early personal wounding (and it's deleterious impact on patients) with them? What sort of surgical errors and patient management errors (that clearly stem from early persoanl wounds)are you
seeing in gynecological and surgical treatment rendered by current and former colleagues of uours?

Good topic to think about....appreciate your taking the initiative to delve into this important theme in health care.

claire's picture

Be Bold - say it

Dear Lissa, thank you for this post.

When I realise that I am acting out my childhood fear of rejection (much the same as yours), I reflect until I am calm then I say it out loud to the person who suffered in the 'acting out'. It takes courage... but that is the very thing that my pilot light is demanding that I develop. Then my body relaxes.


Dr. Rae's picture

Brava Claire

Brava Claire... becoming friends with my fear feelings by leaning into them works for me too!

Carz's picture

Sometimes I think that the

Sometimes I think that the best way to heal childhood wounds is to not put yourself in a place where they are going to be re-opened all the time. I had parents who had extremely high academic expectations of me. At the same time I heard constantly how I would never be as pretty or as graceful as my older sister. On the other hand my sister heard constantly about how smart and how "good" I was. Both of us grew up resenting the other and feeling that we would never be good enough for our parents.

I'm 41 now and still get the same sort of attitude from my Dad (I lost Mum many years ago). So now I limit my contact with him. Don't get me wrong, I love him very much, and while I don't need his approval any more for how I live my life, nor do I need to hear how much better I would be "If only....." I am in a much healthier place knowing I am enough. If he doesn't agree then that is his problem not mine.

Dr. Rae's picture

Brava Carz

Brava Carz for giving your self permission to be!

Dr. Rae's picture

Being present in the moment...

Thank you Dr. Lissa for opening this important topic for discussion!

As a holocaust survivor, being present in the moment -- breathing without thinking -- works for me.

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