Are you Still Hurting from Childhood Trauma ?
By the time we become adults we have given up our past, and we let go of grudges about the mistreatment that affected us as children, so we say. Instead, we become adults bonded to past hurts through dysfunctional love/hate relationships with our parents. We love them because we know we should. We hate them because we feel resentment about past grievances that are still difficult for us to understand. We internalize their mistakes and spend a significant part of our adult lives hurt and broken by their actions, or perhaps, by their inactions.
It doesn’t matter that we’re supposed to be more mature now. Those experiences still hurt us when we think about them. Maybe we witnessed drug addiction, suffered neglect, abandonment, physical and emotional abuse, or watched one parent hurt the other. The feelings are the same: brokenness, fear, distrust, anger, and sorrow that made their way over to play a passive role in our feelings about everything and everyone in our adult lives.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, childhood trauma is defined as; “The experience of an event by a child that is emotionally painful or distressful, which often results in lasting mental and physical effects.”
The experiences in a child’s life from day one to about six years old shapes the character of the adult they will become. We have a high chance of becoming just like our early influencers, unless we work through our past hurts. An innocent boy at three years old will see his father beating his mother and know it is wrong. The child will cry, hide, and even try to stop this from happening in many cases. During this time the confusion and fear will build up for many reasons, but here are four main ones that I can personally attest to:
The child recognizes he is powerless to change the situation. He learns helplessness and his feelings of self-control are diminished.
The people who are supposed to be protecting and nurturing him are failing miserably. He learns to distrust everyone.
The child accepts that his feelings are not valid and buries them within himself. He learns that his feelings don’t matter. This might cause him to adapt irrational behavior as normal; act first, think last.
He buries his emotional pain, and it compounds with each new experience. He takes on the dysfunctional behavioral characteristics of his childhood caretakers.
And a vicious cycle begins.
The affected does not realize the extent of their traumatization until a life-changing experience occurs. Childhood experiences have a huge impact on how you relate as an adult. There are few who can escape childhood trauma without any adverse psychological effects.
A bad childhood experience will come around full circle if you allow it to. A person who abuses his partner in front of their children will teach them that abuse is the way to deal with conflict. Years later a child from a home where abuse was the normal response runs the risk of accepting physical, psychological, and emotional abuse as normal forms for expressing anger and disapproval. They might know deep inside that it is wrong, but earlier examples will cripple their ability to change the situation. As a woman who overcame such trauma I know that the inner spirit will continue to attract unmanageable partners because deep inside, a long time ago, she accepted that she was helpless.
An abusive partner, on the other hand, accepted that self-control and respect for others are not necessary in relationships. Since he was not able to help his mother as a child he will unleash this same energy onto his love partner. Learned behavior can be undone by revisiting the experiences as an adult in order to release the wrongdoing with appropriate positive facts and information. Childhood trauma can be healed, reorganized into valuable lessons, and put away for good. I did it.
We have a huge responsibility to handle the delicate spirits of our young people with care, or else we might set them on a life path of similar errors, destruction, and abuse. It can take a person years to understand why they do the things they do, so it should be our mission to help them realize this a lot sooner. Most of us will have bad experiences in life, but as we become better informed we can respond to them in a different way. When we are in the trenches of emotional darkness we respond based on what we believe to be true, and that truth is mostly tied to our early childhood experiences. It’s important to live aware of the choices we make and ensure ourselves that those choices are based on our own renewed understanding, and not the influences of our past.
You don’t have to be a prisoner of your past upbringing.
You can be the person you wished your caretakers were for you. Be the kind person you needed back then, and openly accept good treatment when it shows up in your life. Bit by bit you can calm your emotional storm by deciding to release all the hurt and disappointment you felt as a child. Today you are responsible for your own feelings and actions, and you have been given authority over your life. There are plenty ways around the inherent curse of family trauma and its tendency to past down into our lives: accept that it happened and at no fault of your own.
Learn to forgive those who robbed you of the pleasant childhood you deserved (it’s likely they learned this behavior from someone else and suffered, too), and set out to create better experiences for yourself and the people in your life. Forgiving them is so important. There is an invisible, yet heavy emotional load that lingers in the heart filled with bitterness and regret. A huge part of your healing and joy will make itself available when your sincere forgiveness is given. The experiences from the past are valuable because they help you understand some of the issues in our world. To add more meaning and value to bad childhood experiences transform your hard-knock lessons into great opportunities to love, honor, and raise the next generation.