How do we create a coherent narrative to heal our trauma?
This is a question that I have asked of myself, done extensive research on, dedicated education toward and asked those I have reached out to for healing help through the years.
This last weekend I found myself sitting down and doing a trauma exercise to help me to see my personal childhood trauma through adult eyes so that I could once again consciously create the next step of my healing tale for myself at an even more elevated level than before. You might wonder a few things in my sharing today:
“ If you are a coach then why is your trauma not fully healed?”
“ Why would one consciously want to put themselves through the pain of reliving these events if they don’t have to?”
“Next level? Can’t we just get through it and be done?”
Well, the brutal honest truth here is that childhood trauma, like any significant trauma in our lives, is not so easily “gotten rid of.” The concept that we can just bury it and forget is a nice one I do admit, and I myself have attempted this path a few times over only to be faced with the reality that that what you berry will rise up when you least expect it or want for it too, creating far worse issues then if just dealt with it on the front side. However, to enwrap ourselves in it and to empathize to the point of reliving the pain as though it is, will do no good either. It will only recreate the wound and make it deeper because in this effort of trying to understand the trauma our emotional bodies feel too much and create a physical reaction that relives it as though it is occurring right now in the current moment.
So what is the answer, if we can not hide and ignore nor can we dig our feet in and make it our focus?
At the front side of any trauma we will react with one of the above: a need to understand or a need to hide.
As time moves on, we will come to points where the trauma is triggered by life events and people we care about. Often, we will not recognize the link. We will be blind to the impact that childhood trauma had on us and our personalities, expectations, values, fears, and so much more. Those who find themselves asking “why” to some of life’s experiences and repetitive ones for sure, or why they never can find happiness, security, or love will most likely land in the hands of personal inquiry and looking for answers to healing.
The reality is that we cannot change our past. We cannot fix the evils of our childhood experiences and laying blame on the adults of our youth will never bring back the personal power that we are wanting for, neither is owning the fault for our own. A harsh reality that I have had to come to face is that once you have experienced trauma it’s never leaving you. Your physical body does keep score as does the mind and emotions. You can however release its reigns on how it dictates your life choices and you can become consciously aware of the triggers and shift your reality around them. That’s what this musing is about.
I sat down with a yellow pad in hand and pen.
I wrote ‘10 Trauma’s’ at the top of my page and I filled up the front side and back side with a total of twenty-three significant traumatic things that I could recall that dated back to my earliest memories up to age fifteen. I took this task on with the concept that we often gloss over bad things that happened in our youth because they were too scary for us or we cannot understand them. We may have never told our own stories around these events, making it where we don’t hold them in our conscious minds. The issue is just this, they are not there in the conscious and often even the things that had significant influence on us get forgotten and overlooked, creating a misunderstanding within the self. Without bringing them to light and identifying the things that affected us, we find ourselves being blindsided by the hidden pain and fear that initiated personality traits and reaction patterns in our childhood.
Just yesterday I was speaking with a friend of mine and I told her that I find myself asking myself, “ Is that true? Is that what I really believe for myself or is that belief taught to me, impressed upon me and I just do not question it to not be my truth?”
The majority of people live their lives without question as to what is true or not for themselves.
They “think” they are answering and reacting from a place of knowing themselves however keep looping through the same situations, thoughts and feelings over and over again no matter who they are interacting with or in relationship with. The simplest things as knowing what you need in a relationship, what your expectations are, your boundaries or a vision can drastically be impacted or even lost when we do not know who we are authentically.
CHILDHOOD TRAUMA IMPACTS OUR RELATIONSHIPS
Why are we so drastically impacted by these things of our past? Why can’t we just let them rest and be back there in the past?
Childhood is the prime time for brain development and the time when people typically learn to have healthy attachments and a stable sense of love and security. Traumatic childhood events interrupt our brain development and skew our sense of healthy relationships, security and what love is. Developing healthy relationships is an endeavor in its own right and one that is well worth the time and effort, however people who experienced neglect, trauma, or abuse in childhood struggle all the more with the creating and management of healthy relationships.
I should note here that we tend to think of trauma only in the light of something painful and massive. Such as physical or sexual abuse. Trauma can be a multitude of things. As I wrote my list out I noticed that what I perceived as traumatic ranged from actual violence to something as “small” as my parents snooping through my childhood diary. I have on my list a car accident and almost drowning at a friends birthday party as well as a massive family fight with family from out of town and riding my bike getting chased by multiple dogs. These all impacted my development and created triggers and fears. It is important to recognize that you may not define trauma the same as someone else and that it is not about comparison, but what was/is actually traumatic to you.
THREE THINGS THAT CHILDHOOD TRAUMA CREATES
DESTRUCTIVE CHAOTIC RELATIONSHIPS
Often we see people attracted to destructive relationships. It is pretty common that people who survived childhood trauma have unhealthy relationships, mainly because they have a need to fix the people they are in an intimate relationship with. Or they feel that they deserve poor treatment and that this is all that they are worth based on what they have been shown and taught from their past. These unhealthy adult relationships end up re-traumatizing the survivor, however often it is not recognized until way later in the relationship.
*My personal tale note here: I married a man when I was 18 years old to escape my mothers control and he ended up being an alcoholic and unable to provide safety and security for our family. Our lives were chaotic from living on shifting sand constantly and it supported my feelings of instability and lack. Believing that I had to pay some price in life to ever have anything good come to me I stayed married for almost two decades only to turn to a relationship with a man who was a narcissist and had a need to control everything or he would stonewall me and retract his love. Here I supported my belief of needing to pay the price and that I was not worthy of genuine love again.
DIFFICULTY REGULATING EMOTIONS
Got childhood trauma?
Been supporting it with life and not being compassionate to your healing?
Then you more than likely have experienced difficulty regulating your emotions. Anxiety and fear can be created in situations that often would not lead to such negative emotions because of what is known as hyperactive amygdala that results from past traumatic experiences. Unresolved trauma can keep a person on high alert and make them more prone to being reactive in anger and rashness as well.
CHILDHOOD TRAUMA AFFECTS YOUR ABILITIES TO EXPERIENCE EMOTIONS AS AN ADULT.
*My personal tale on this topic is that I spent my twenties living in a perpetual state of fear, anxiety and rage. Overreacting about everything and this led to depression. Working my way through this over the last 17+ years I can say that for the most part I have overcome these trauma induced irrational emotions, however with that said life goes on and more trauma and chaos happens for all of us. When I reach a state of feeling overloaded and exhausted, taxed emotionally and have been allowing for my personal boundaries and needs to be ignored I land myself back into a state of emotions that I struggle to regulate.
SELF-ESTEEM AND SELF-WORTH CHALLENGES
Out of everything self-esteem and worth take perhaps the biggest hit when a person suffers from childhood trauma.
People who lived through childhood trauma often see themselves with disgust, shame, and find themselves taking responsibility and blame for everything and everyone in their lives. They feel unlovable and not worthy of asking for their needs, boundaries or wants. It is not uncommon for them to question everything they believe in – including their own self-worth.
Childhood trauma creates some people to become extremely isolated and withdrawn, while others struggle with codependency and addictive patterns. It’s not uncommon for individuals to struggle with trust, to question their judgment or even their very identity and nature. Feelings of unworthiness, invalidation and disconnect from self are all signs that childhood trauma is still cycling through the person’s life and relationships.
*My personal tale to this note here – At one point in my life I could not walk out of my home. I was so fearful of life. I did not leave our property, not even to go to the grocery store. The anxiety was that severe. Quick to cut ties and harden my heart yet always yearning for connection. I have spent my life in pursuit of finding out just who I truly am, a fantastic chameleon. I have prided myself on my ability to be agreeable and make friends easily but struggle with speaking my needs because of a fear that I will be abandoned for asking. This alone has created situations that were harmful to myself and my relationships because I allowed myself to be used in ways that only created more shame. Saying yes to sexual things I was a hard no to just because I believed that it was the only way to be loved.
The pathway to recovery of your authentic self resides in a commitment to shining a light on who you are and telling your own story about your childhood trauma with adult eyes on it. It takes dedication to self and desire to practice forgiveness and self- love. Learning healthy boundaries and communication to help you address these above challenges as well as looking at how to best clear the stored emotional blocks that the body is holding onto as muscle memory that unconsciously gets triggered.
I share this today with you, because so many people believe that they don’t have any trauma to talk about. They believe that their childhood was all groovy and sweet, that there is nothing to see back there, however they question their reality of relationships in the land of today.
Why can’t they find love? Or just a decent person.
Why are they the ones who are always giving and doing?
Why is it such a struggle out there in the relationship world?
And I tell you that the answers are in your childhood.
Do not prance back there thinking you will find someone to blame, becoming a victim will do you no good. Shining a light of clarity with a deep love of self and a desire to understand better will however assist you in your healing of patterns and beliefs that are not you but that you have been living by as though they were.
If you struggle with any of the above issues, know that there are answers and hope.
Your past will not evaporate into nothing, it has many lessons that you need to be successful and know who you are, however it also bears with it an illusion that only you can pull the curtain back on.
If you believe that childhood trauma is adding to unhealthy attachments in relationships, low self- worth, difficulty processing emotions, anxiety, fear, anger or an inability to find satisfaction in love or sex then perhaps it is time for you to reach out for help in walking through the steps to help you process this past pain and gain clarity on how your mind-body-emotion connection really applies to life and relationship fulfillment.