Rainn Wilson says he was an ‘abandoned toddler’ in a ‘loveless home’ as he opens up on childhood ‘trauma’

Rainn Wilson has spoken candidly about his experiences of childhood “trauma” and how it has affected his mental health.

The star of The Office, who played fan-favourite Dwight Schrute in the long-running US sitcom, was born in Seattle, Washington. However, his father, a sci-fi author, and stepmother relocated the family to Nicaragua for two years when Wilson was three.

Appearing on The Diary of a CEO podcast, Wilson – who has spoken about his mental health struggles in the past – opened up about how many of his issues could be pinned to his childhood.

“I experienced a lot of pain in my life, and a lot of suffering with anxiety and depression and addiction,” he told host Steven Bartlett. “As I dove into recovery and the therapeutic process, I can pin that squarely on a lot of gross imbalances and trauma that I suffered as a child.

“We all have that, to some degree. It’s important to excavate and honour the pain we went through, the lies that we were told, the gaslighting that we might have undergone. There’s religious trauma that we undergo as well, all kinds of different traumas that we suffer.”

He continued: “This is the curious thing: I’m grateful for it. because if I had a happy, well-balanced childhood, I don’t know what my career would have been. It certainly wouldn’t have been an actor, it certainly wouldn’t have been a successful actor.”

Wilson explained that his birth mother – an actor – “took off” before he turned two, leaving him to be raised by his father Robert G Wilson, who died in 2020.

After returning from Nicaragua, Wilson and his father lived in Washington. The actor, 57, was raised in the Baha’i faith community, but describes his childhood home as a “loveless shell of a house”.

Wilson opened up about his experiences on Steven Bartlett’s podcast (Getty Images)
Wilson opened up about his experiences on Steven Bartlett’s podcast (Getty Images)

Recalling the “different kinds of abuse”, Wilson said: “Abandoned toddler, that’ll f*** you up… and [there] was this weird gaslighting mind f***.”

Wilson claimed that his father had experienced his own traumatic childhood, and would gaslight him, switching between “rage” and praising him and “doing kumbaya”.

As a result, the actor said that he struggled to navigate his own feelings, having never seen a clear example of how to do so.

“There’s a reason why so many comedians come from painful backgrounds because comedy is what you plug in to shift your perspective away from pain and trauma just like gratitude takes you away from depression,” he told Bartlett.

If you are experiencing feelings of distress, or are struggling to cope, you can speak to the Samaritans, in confidence, on 116 123 (UK and ROI), email jo@samaritans.org, or visit the Samaritans website to find details of your nearest branch.

If you are based in the USA, and you or someone you know needs mental health assistance right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Helpline on 1-800-273-TALK (8255). This is a free, confidential crisis hotline that is available to everyone 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

If you are in another country, you can go to www.befrienders.org to find a helpline near you.