Most people know the story of Alice In Wonderland in which Alice’s curiosity gets the better of her and she ends up falling down the rabbit hole. For Alice, the rabbit hole represents the beginning of a journey that includes danger, intrigue and strange happenings. When I use the term “rabbit hole” in my therapy sessions, I am referring to our habit of spiraling into the depths of despair many of us experience whenever life throws us a curve ball, or when we get “stuck” in the old negative thought-patterns of beating ourselves up.
One of the techniques I teach my clients is to learn to recognize when they are in danger of falling into that rabbit hole, and to learn to stop themselves before it happens. When you can identify that you are in that same negative loop, you can see the rabbit hole and even go near it, but remind yourself, “I know where this leads and how difficult it is to get out once I fall into the dark abyss.”
So what do you do instead? You identify the trigger that started the negative thoughts, and track it back to other times you felt that way. For instance, if someone cuts you off in traffic, you don’t get recognized at work for a job well done, and then your kids don’t listen to you, your trigger may be feeling invisible or not feeling important. Once a person becomes skilled at identifying their triggers, then it will become clearer each time you have an intense emotional reaction to an external circumstance what your childhood wound or wounds are.
Typically a “childhood wound,” is an unmet need from childhood usually related to receiving and/or interpreting negative messages from our primary caretakers and other influential people in our life (i.e. teachers, peers, coaches). Those messages develop into faulty belief systems about ourselves and the world which in the therapy field is often called “stinking thinking” or “distorted thoughts.” Once we have developed these ingrained faulty belief systems, we not only filter information that supports those beliefs but we may also manifest those beliefs, often known as a self-fulfilling prophecy. Therefore, it is important to both identify your core wound(s), as well as gain clarity about how certain beliefs you hold are the basis for your downward spiral.
Ultimately, our core wounds boil down to several possibilities including not feeling good enough or adequate enough, not feeling loveable, not feeling important or feeling invisible, or not feeling deserving or worthy. One of the best ways to figure out what your primary and/or secondary wound is, is to recall painful experiences from your childhood and then decipher which message or messages they translated into as you became an adolescent and adult.