Unpacking Childhood Trauma

It’s a tricky and rather sensitive subject.

There’s so much to unpack.

Unsure where to start or how to bring forth such memories.

“We are living in a time where our peers shout loud and proud from the highest rooftops that “I turned out fine! Everything is fine.”

What exactly is “turning out fine?”

Why are we settling for just “turning out fine?”

Have we sat and reflected on how somethings that happened throughout our childhood actually affected us in major ways?

Is it important? Does it matter? After all, we were kids 20+++ years ago. Who cares, right?

You should care. We should all care. In order to be our best self and truly heal, we must bring forth negative thoughts + emotions that stem from our unhealed inner child.

Childhood trauma looks different for everyone.

We are not our trauma but if it goes unaddressed, it shows up in adulthood and especially parenting. I believe that trauma shows up intensely once you become a parent because your inner child truly awakens.

You don’t have to have been physically assaulted to experience trauma as a child. The National Institute of Mental Health defines childhood trauma as “the experience of an event by a child that is emotionally painful or distressful, which often results in lasting mental and physical effects.”

Childhood trauma could range from:

  • Physical or sexual abuse

  • Witnessing a traumatic event

  • Having a severe illness requiring surgery and hospitalization

  • Witnessing domestic violence

  • Experiencing intense bullying

  • Even extreme situations like experiencing a large-scale natural disaster

[Once a child’s sense of identity is fractured, it takes years of work to rebuild those broken pieces and have them regain trust.] “If a child is abused emotionally, physically or sexually, by someone close to them, often a caregiver, it can condition the way the child forms attachments later in life.”

This is many of us as adults. Our inner child is weeping. When you feel like your voice isn’t heard eventually you find other ways to scream.

How does childhood trauma follow us into adulthood and what does it look like?

  • Dismissive-Avoidant Attachment: This form of attachment results when the caregiver ignores or rejects a child’s need. When that child becomes an adult, they may choose to be ultra-independent in order to protect themselves from being rejected again.

  • Fearful-Avoidant Attachment: When a child experiences and is exposed to abuse and neglect it is natural for some to fear intimacy and close relationships. Now in adulthood, those with fearful avoidant attachment are often distrustful and have a difficult time sharing emotions and may seem disconnected from their partner.

  • Anxious-Preoccupied Attachment: This adult may seem clingy or needy and will often require repeated validation in relationships. They will never entirely feel secure, stemming from a childhood with parents who were not consistent in the emotional security they provide. Loving the child and then rejecting them repeatedly causes the child to continuously question their place and require ongoing validation.”

According to the National Child Traumatic Stress Network,strong connections exist between childhood trauma and high-risk behavior such as smoking, having unprotected sex, and experiencing chronic illness such as heart disease and cancer. Individuals who have experienced abuse are likely to experience stress and anxiety later in life. This long-term stress and anxiety can cause physical symptoms as well as emotional issues throughout life.

How we are raised + the sense of security it creates [or completely shatters] impacts the emotional + physical path we take as adults.

Even if you feel as if you have not been traumatized throughout your childhood, you may still be conditioned to think that childhood trauma isn’t a big deal.

How can I begin to heal from the past + my childhood trauma?

  1. Acknowledge, accept, and recognize your trauma for what it is. Rather than minimizing + pretending as if it didn’t happen or it wasn’t that crucial, succumbing to the guilt of feeling as if it was your fault or you deserved it, acknowledge that it happened and you are not to blame.

  2. Reclaim your time + control. That person, those people, that event had your childhood on a tight rope; don’t give them your adulthood. “Feelings of helplessness can carry well over into adulthood and can make you feel and act like a perpetual victim, causing you to make choices based on your past pain.” When trauma is left to marinate and settle and is not acknowledged, you will remain in survival mode and not even realize it. “When you’re a victim, the past is in control of your present. But when you’ve conquered your pain, the present is controlled by you. There may always be a battle between past and present, but as long as you’re willing to let go of the old defenses and crutches you used as a child to navigate your trauma, you will be able to reclaim control of your life now and heal your pain.”

  3. Accept and let go. When you learn the true meaning of acceptance and letting go, you understand that when you accept the trauma, you have taken control of the situation(s) and will decide what you’re going to do with the the control. It doesn’t mean you agree with what happened or you’re embracing it, you’re simply acknowledging it and making the decision to not let negative thoughts consume you. You’re making the decision to not let these memories steal your joy right now + prevent you from living a good life.

  4. Look out for you. Remove yourself from any negative + toxic situations and people. If you find yourself constantly defending your healing process + things you refuse to settle for + how you refuse to be treated, take a step back and determine if this is helping you on your journey. Take some time to yourself to enjoy the happy present times, do something for you, journal to write your thoughts.

Happy healing,