When we have a deeply distressing or disturbing experience our lives can change in a very significant way. We might feel sad, angry, scared, ashamed and isolated. Especially when we are children and we don’t have the internal resources or the language to deal with traumatic experiences, process them and overcome them, we end up feeling stuck in a place of overwhelming emotions. This is the reason why experiencing trauma in childhood can have a severe and long-lasting effect in our lives. When childhood trauma is not resolved, a sense of shame, fear and helplessness carries over into adulthood, setting the stage for further trauma, depression, anxiety and even more complex disorders. Some people on their search for relief and pain avoidance fall into the path of addictions, eating disorders and other self-destructive behaviors. Some others try to distract themselves from the suffering by focusing on drama and relationships. However, there is only so much you can eat, use, and avoid.
Hurt doesn’t go away simply because we don’t acknowledge it. In fact, when we ignore it and purposely escape from it, it grows and leads to behaviors that are not aligned with the person we want to be. At the end of the day the emotional pain is there and we’re left with even more layers of trauma. Because trauma literally reshapes the brain and the body, interventions that enable individuals to reclaim their lives should address body/mind/spirit. Overcoming trauma from childhood requires acceptance and a lot of courage. It seems very simple and yet it can be very challenging to be brave and face those feelings we have been avoiding for so long. We need to take a look at what happened and peel the layers of feelings that can result from growing up in an unstable or unsafe environment, being separated from a parent, having a serious illness that put us through intrusive medical procedures, experiencing sexual, physical, emotional or verbal abuse, neglect, bullying or witnessing domestic violence.
Childhood trauma results from anything that disrupts the child’s sense of safety so it’s very important that we peel those layers in an environment that feels safe. We will need to learn healthy coping tools that will help us deal with the emotions that will arise when we uncover the trauma and have supportive people in our lives who can join us in this journey, hold space for us and help us transform our pain. Many professionals in the mental health field believe that it’s not really the objective facts that determine whether an event is traumatic, but our subjective emotional experience and how we encode it in our brain and remember it. Resilience from childhood trauma is possible and often brings a sense of empowerment and freedom. We are not the victim of that story anymore but a survivor and a thriving being!