Childhood trauma can be an isolated, life-altering event or it can be chronic, consisting of ongoing neglect, abandonment, abuse and denial. It can be physical, emotional, psychological or a combination thereof.
The desire to remain disconnected from our wounds of childhood is what drives us toward a myriad of behaviors done for the sole purpose of suppressing that which seems too overwhelming to face head-on. What the subconscious chooses to suppress eventually becomes an obstacle to clarity, self-understanding and the forming of healthy relationships.
Following are eleven commonalities typical of adults who have experienced childhood trauma. When the following behaviors crop up, you may blame external sources such as your mate, relative, boss, co-worker, your child or circumstances. Or, you may assume they indicate an inherent defect in yourself. They are neither:
- We have a vicious inner-critic. No matter how well we do in any area of our life we continue to berate ourselves in comparison to others. We are never “good enough.” Personal criticism shreds us and often sends us into an emotional tailspin. A criticism is never just another person’s opinion to us, as our triggers lie so near the surface, tightly enmeshed with our core survival instincts which have been finely honed since childhood.
- We are incapable of emotional intimacy. At our very core we have assimilated that to reveal our flaws and weaknesses to another is tantamount to requesting they reject and abandon us. We live with the false belief that if we told people what we really want and need and what we don’t want, they would not remain with us. As children our feelings and needs were rarely, if ever, considered. We learned to disconnect from the hurt and disregard of that fact, by disconnecting from our own emotions. We have no idea how to reconnect. The mere thought of tuning into our feelings seems an Amityville Horror in the making.
- We are incapable of sustaining long-term feelings of self-love and self-acceptance. We seek approval, significance, and signs of self-worth from outside sources. Some ways we choose include: Possessions, degrees, an attractive partner, a prestigious job or career, through our children’s accomplishments, the aesthetics of our body, fame or infamy. Our need for significance is so strong that we are as apt to meet it negatively as we are positively. Some negative ways we employ are: Being unfaithful to our partner, living beyond our means in order to impress others, manipulating people to get them to do our bidding, lying to impress or manipulate others, creating drama, moving more often than is necessary, choosing hurtful or illegal activities that give us a false sense of power.
- We are people pleasers. We fix anything, anyone, anytime. Just ask us for help and we’ll come running. Loan you cash from our rent money? Why of course. Come pick you up from the tavern at 1:45a.m., covered in puke after drinking with some other love interest all night? Be right there. We are givers. We tell ourselves it is because we are such wonderful, loving individuals. We consistently over extend ourselves for others, and then are confused and hurt when they do not reciprocate or appreciate us. This isn’t love we are giving. We are not being wonderful. We are being so desperate for love (which we do not even fully believe we rate) that we are willing to go to any ends to manipulate our object of desire into giving us some semblance of what passes for love. After the experiences of our childhood it doesn’t take much.
- Our disproportionate concern for the welfare of others and our excessive sense of duty keeps us laser focused on their problems, drama, needs and flaws. It serves as the moat that keeps us well separated from the reality of our own trauma-driven misperceptions. Thus we remain mired in confusion. Lacking clarity, we are unable to move forward into self-acceptance and the mysterious realm of healthy relationships.
- In order to survive experiences of chronic childhood trauma we dissociated, to whatever degree necessary, from our bodies. Without the help of emotionally healthy adults we could not discern a way to return fully. To this day we carry that trauma within our bodies and have yet to discharge the energy therein. It is this unresolved energy that shows up as emotional triggers, bursts of anger, bouts of unexplainable depression and the urgent need for excitement. We seek something that feels more intense than the painful energy that runs rampant through our internal landscape. Excitement through excessive adrenaline pumping activities is what works best for us. Nothing moderate will do. So excessive eating, drinking, drugs, sports, working out, sex, gambling, spending money, viewing pornography, cheating, changing jobs often, driving fast, moving often or for no good reason, creating big drama in love or with family or friends are some of the possible avenues of temporary relief we employ to obscure our internal chaos.
Continue reading The eleven commonalities typical of adults who experienced childhood trauma at Eleven Commonalities
You can read excerpts from WORTHY: A Personal Guide For Healing Your Childhood Trauma (to be published summer 2017) on my blog posts. Copyright ©2014 Josephine Faulk, MPH.