childhood trauma

Adults who have unhealed childhood trauma who enter relationships bring that pain along with them.  The normal desire for intimacy, dependency, and needs end up triggering past pain and wounds. When conflict arises, the past and present become mixed, full of emotions. This is why a seemingly minor conflict can erupt into a huge battlefield. That pain from old wounds gets stirred up and you act it out in the present.

Children are indeed resilient, but what they go through during childhood certainly affects them later in life. If trauma is involved, it is likely to show up right smack in the middle of an intimate relationship.

What is childhood trauma?

Childhood trauma is something that occurs in a child’s life that is horrific. Traumatic.  There are plenty of things that happen to children, but not all of it will come back to haunt them later in life. It’s worth noting that trauma is not defined the same for every child, as one child may experience something and find it traumatizing, while another child will not. It’s a subjective experience.

There are intentional traumas that occur, like physical or sexual abuse, and unintentional traumas like the death of a loved one, an accident, or a natural disaster. [1] The first six years of life are very important to children, as it is during those years a child forms his or her identity. If they are experiencing traumatic events, they are not emotionally equipped to know how to cope with that trauma, so it goes unresolved. Unprocessed. Unhealed. Their cognitive abilities and central nervous systems just aren’t fully developed at this time.

So on down the road, Jimmy, who was neglected as a child cannot communicate or connect well as an adult and Janet, who was sexually abused as a child fears commitment in relationships.  When either of them get into a relationship and those old wounds get triggered, they freeze like a deer in headlights, oftentimes reverting back to the same defense mechanisms they used in childhood.

Let’s take a brief look at the various types of trauma children can experience:

  • Loss of a loved one
  • Sexual abuse
  • Emotional abuse
  • Physical abuse
  • Lack of attention
  • Neglect
  • Illness or surgery
  • Bullying
  • An accident
  • Natural disasters
  • Family members substance abuse
  • Family member having a mental illness[2]

How childhood trauma affects your adult life

If you’re carrying around childhood trauma, you’ve got some deep wounds that you may not consciously feel, but those wounds beg you for healing. They sit underneath the surface, dormant, but the truth is that the built up energy wants to explode so that it can be resolved and integrated into your psyche or energy body.

Let’s take a look at an example of how this can play out in your adult life:

Danny and Susan have been married for several years and have a decent relationship. They have the normal ups and downs, but so far nothing major. That is, until Danny starts experiencing some big stress at work. He’s never dealt with this amount of stress before and he’s not sure how to deal with it. Instead of talking to his wife about it, he stuffs the stress and starts to withdraw from his wife. He figures he might as well just figure it out on his own and doesn’t want to worry his wife.

Susan senses that her husband is hiding something due to him being unavailable emotionally. She wonders what the problem is, but she doesn’t want to bring it up to him for fear that he would get upset. Susan had a pretty rough childhood, growing up with an alcoholic father and a mother who emotionally neglected her. She had to grow up very fast and felt lonely much of the time.

After about a week of Danny withdrawing, Susan began experiencing a lot of anxiety. At times, she felt like she was going to have a panic attack. She had so many thoughts running through her head. Is Danny having an affair? Is he going to leave me? Oh my God, what if he leaves and I’m all alone? I can’t be alone!  Determined to make Danny stay, Susan began doing all sorts of sweet things for Danny so he would know how much she loves him. Danny appreciated the efforts, but the thoughtfulness made him feel even worse about his stress from work. She would pursue him more and he would retreat more. It became a cycle of pursue and retreat.

Susan tried to talk to Danny about it, but he brushed it off saying everything was alright. Finally, she began seeing a therapist, who brought to her attention that her fear of abandonment stemmed all the way back to old childhood wounds. She learned that she needed to go back to childhood and grieve her childhood wounds to begin her journey of inner healing. As she committed to therapy, she began a new journey toward emotional freedom.

Now, scenarios like this happen all the time in relationships. There are inner children and old wounds in most people and unless you take a conscious view of yourself and the relationship, you may have some trouble as adults.

Let’s take a look at some signs that you have some buried childhood trauma:

  • Anxiety
  • Irritability and anger
  • Chronic depression
  • Mood swings
  • Chronic fatigue
  • A sense of fear and/or danger much of the time
  • Experiencing long periods of grief
  • Frightening memories or nightmares
  • Codependency or inability to form healthy relationships
  • Alcohol and/or drug abuse
  • You feel emotionally numb

You may feel the symptoms all the time or periodically, as something might trigger such feelings like an anniversary of the event, a new relationship, or a dream.

What you can do if you feel you have experienced childhood trauma

If you feel as if you’ve experience childhood trauma and it is affecting your life now, there are some things you can do in order to foster healing and growth.  Before we get into that, I want you to know that it is not your fault at all that you’ve experienced trauma, so do not blame yourself.  What happened was out of your control and it is unfortunate, but now that you’re conscious of the effects of the trauma, you can move forward knowing that you can get free from underneath the pain associated with it.

Reach out for help

If you’re dealing with negative emotions due to childhood trauma, the best thing you can do is to reach out for help in processing and getting through those emotions.  Oftentimes children who encounter traumatic situations just don’t know what to do with their emotions, so they stuff them inside and detach from them. They simply don’t have the coping skills at such a young age to process them.  Those emotions don’t just disappear; you carry them throughout your life and at some point they want to be dealt with. They are asking you to cope with them so they can dissipate and you can feel some peace.

This is why a professional counselor, energy therapist, or shaman is key to contending with childhood trauma. A trained professional can help you go back and discover just what occurred, how you contended with the trauma, and how it is affecting you today.  Once you can establish the relationship between the past and the present, there are techniques for processing and letting such emotions go so that you can move on with your life peaceful and happy.

It is important to note that you should be careful in contacting and blaming your family or others that were involved with your childhood trauma.  If you’re angry or sad, process these feelings with a counselor instead of approaching your family.  This will be more effective for your inner healing than lashing out at family members.

Healing begins when you realize the root of your current emotional issues. In order to begin your healing journey, make a commitment to reach out for help today.  You may feel a bit scared to work through the trauma, but rest assured that the end result will help you feel so much lighter and happier. Reach out for help today.

[1] http://www.nctsn.org/trauma-types/early-childhood-trauma

[2] http://www.recognizetrauma.org/causes.php