In her book, Hurt People Hurt People, Dr. Sandra Wilson presents a self-help model for dealing with residual childhood hurts and breaking generational patterns of hurting others. She provides a real-world approach to correcting maladjusted behavioral patterns from both a theoretical and theological viewpoint. Her work takes into consideration Dr. Hawkins’ concentric circle theory of personality.
Dr. Wilson (2001) asserts that no person is exempt from the reality of being deeply wounded, and consequently wounding others. From her perspective, wounded souls are at the root of most maladjusted adult behaviors (Wilson, 2001, p. 85). She suggests that people wounds are the result of early childhood solutions to a real, or at the very least, perceived threats to an innate survival instinct.
Thus, defensive inappropriate behavioral patterns and personality developed over time in a person, because of repeatedly answering questions regarding a need for “trust, identity, and attachment” (Wilson, 2001, pp. 73-83). Additionally, she suggests that a deep sense of binding shame developed during childhood. In response to demands for perfection, a misguided understanding of the word of God exacerbates adult life problems. Binding shame is a term Dr. Wilson uses to describe a deep-seated belief in one’s lack of value. She asserts that a person who is bound by shame is fettered by a debilitating sense of being “worth less” (Wilson, 2001, p. 17) than others. Many of life’s problems start when the lies associated with binding shame begin to take root. These are lies that stand in direct opposition to the word of God and contaminate “perceptions, choices and relationships” (Wilson, 2001, p. 18). The person does not realize that the foundation of shame is based on a lie that developed in childhood and hurts them in adulthood.
Dr. Wilson stresses that child-like solutions to issues of trust, identity, and attachment rooted in a subconscious sense of binding shame are foundational to many adult life problems. In other words, children develop dysfunctional behaviors designed for survival in reaction to emotional wounds. That occurred because of interactions with family members and others who are themselves wounded and hurting individuals.
These survival techniques developed during childhood serves the purpose of survival. But these solutions only create pain and hurt when employed as real-life solutions during adulthood (Wilson, 2001, p. 86). Those solutions can be summarized as a “drive for perfection, denial of authentic needs, and denial of emotions” (Wilson, 2001, pp. 108, 109, 111). Dr. Wilson’s model for change is incredibly simple… people must make and consistently practice new choices that produce a positive change in behavior.
Our “change efforts have eternal significance only when they are empowered by the Holy Spirit of God” (Wilson, 2001, p. 88). A person’s choice and responsibility are key elements in the formula for change. Theologically, supporting the position of “making new choices” (Wilson, 2001, p. 87). Words credited to the apostle Paul in a letter that he wrote to the church in Corinth confirms this. Paul told the Corinthian Christians to “put away childish things” (1 Corinthians 13:11).
Dr. Wilson suggests that putting away childish things requires “reviewing and reevaluating childhood perceptions and choices from a more mature and wiser perspective” (Wilson, 2001, p. 88). It is the reviewing process that provides a person the necessary context in which new choices can be made. Through a dedication to “consistently choosing truth” (Wilson, 2001, p. 102), in addition to “God’s Spirit energizing a person’s understanding, commitment, and process” that change is inevitable (Wilson, 2001 p. 103). Of course, part of that process is being able to wisely identify those things over which a person has influence and can change as opposed to those things a person does not have control (Wilson, 2001 pp. 90-94).
The “putting away childish things” (1 Corinthians 13:11) implies evaluating a person’s understanding of God and bringing that understanding into alignment with biblical truth. Dr. Wilson proposes that a person’s understanding of God is skewed since the perception of God forms, in part, during childhood and greatly influenced by the view of parents, family and other adults. Because of a person’s sin as well as adult’s reactions to their own wounded souls, a person’s understanding of God is distorted. As adults, a childish view of God stands as a major barrier impeding a person’s efforts to change for the better. Therefore, “our job as adults is to correct the distortion by learning the truth about God” (Wilson, 2001, p. 179).
Dr. Wilson claims that first, it is important to identify the hurting people who had a significant and influencing role in the life a person hurting. Next, a hurt person must consistently make new choices. Finally, a hurt person must replace a childish distorted view of God with the biblically correct understanding of God.
Although Dr. Wilson (2001) is primarily addressing the need for healing to take place in the circle Dr. Hawkins identifies as the soul. It could be argued that she places almost an equal amount of emphasis on a person’s past, present, and future interactions. A person must address the deep wounds of the soul and progress towards a greater sense of spiritual and psychological health. The foundation is laid for healthier relationships with others and the family when a person overcomes the wounds of childhood and engage in the right relationship with God.