By Don St John, Ph.D.

Maybe you didn’t receive unconditional love from both your parents throughout the formative years of your childhood. Or you didn’t grow up in a home where your parents showered each other — or your siblings and you — with affection. Perhaps you didn’t grow up in a home where your parents helped you to understand, clarify and express your feelings in a clear and strong way without aggression. Maybe it wasn’t easy for your parents to be firm, authoritative and loving. Most of us have had our share of challenges and sorrows.  If your childhood was less than perfect, what you may not realize is that having a difficult childhood can have benefits and opportunities.

1. You Become an Adventurer. You may begin walking a path that eventually will bring you experiential riches that you could not have begun to imagine at the outset. At first you may just want to feel better. Then you realize there is so much more than just reducing your anxiety or depression. There is the exciting adventure of becoming who you were truly meant to be. There is no greater adventure than the one of becoming whole, becoming you.

2. You Want More Than What the Culture Offers. You are less likely to be satisfied with what the culture has to offer you. All the important indexes measured by our culture are financial. There’s the gross domestic product, the Dow Jones, employment statistics, but there are no well-being indexes. There are no indexes to measure personal, spiritual development or relationship satisfaction. If all was “just fine” at home, you might never challenge the dominant cultural values as they were passed on to you by your family. But, if your childhood wasn’t all so peachy, it can be easier to find the courage to leave home, begin your own journey and become your own person.

3. Settling for Normal Isn’t an Option. You may be more likely to challenge the concept of what is “normal,” and look for what is possible. In our cultural paradigm, if you don’t have symptoms, you’re “normal.” That assumption is applied both to our physical body and to our emotional well-being. When you begin to question this assumption, you realize that “normal” is the last thing you want to be. What you want is to thrive. You want to remain vital throughout your life span. You want your marriage to stay juicy for decades, not just for the honeymoon. Most “normal” people, for example, believe their erotic potential diminishes with age. In one sense it obviously does; but, in a fuller sense of the word erotic, it doesn’t have to. The information, the resources to do so are available, and those who have begun the journey are much more likely to find and utilize them.

4. Compassion Comes More Easily. Once you begin the process of healing you will have more texture, depth and empathy than those who say they had a good childhood. Wherever you have healed a wound, there will be empathy for others with similar issues. Those who deny their own pain, their own wounds, often have little compassion for others whose suffering is obvious. If they don’t see it in themselves, they can’t bear it in others.  Simply stated, you are a more compassionate person.

5. You Treasure What Is Truly Important. It is the genuine, heart-felt connections to life and to those we love. It is to engage in the world whole-heartedly and to leave the world just a little better than how we found it.  It is to realize that love-connections, those moments when two people truly meet, are precious and nourishing. They are not luxuries, they are essential life nutrients.

Even if you’ve had a difficult childhood that you wouldn’t want to relive, you can become an alchemist. You can turn cheap metal into gold. All the raw materials are there, waiting for you to begin.

Don St John, Ph.D., is the author of “Healing the Wounds of Childhood.” Visit him online at