The traumas of childhood follow us until adulthood. Let’s see some examples of childhood traumas and how to deal with and overcome them.
The emotional wounds we suffer from in childhood can extend throughout life, even into adulthood. That is why we have to learn to detoxify ourselves from all these emotions, to learn to deal with emotions in a healthy and complete way.
What is psychological trauma?
Psychological trauma is defined as an event which causes fragility, helplessness, and pain, and which changes the psychological life of an individual.
Trauma can be generated both in childhood and in adulthood and can be more or less intense and of different types. Let’s see some of them:
- The traumatic event that compromises one’s own safety or endangers one’s survival. This event is related to events in which the person finds himself in a moment that has put his life in danger.
- Physical and psychological abuse, even if it has not turned into real threats to its survival, can seriously damage self-esteem and confidence in the outside world.
- Micro-trauma: there are not only large events that can cause trauma but also a series of small traumas or stressful events that follow one another, which can cause the same symptoms of a catastrophic event.
- Emotional traumas: During our lifetime, we are all subjected to emotional traumas large or small, which most times resolve on their own, while in others leave deep wounds. In all cases, however, it is essential to treat and overcome the trauma, not to suppress it.
Trauma and emotional injuries in childhood are part of the backbone of our emotions in adulthood. To understand how they work, we can compare them to a plant that was abused when it was just germinating: the after-effects of this abuse will remain on the plant, its leaves and roots, for the rest of its life.
Childhood traumas are very common (obviously at real levels), so much so that about 78% of children under 5 years of age have suffered trauma and 20% of children under 6 years of age are in therapy for having been mistreated, abandoned, or lost parents.
More severe trauma can lead to cases of post-traumatic stress disorder in children and adults, with consequences such as loss of consciousness or memory, relationship problems, distorted view of reality, and emotional problems.
Childhood traumas, therefore, have a very strong impact in what is the construction of identity, or in that process which includes the awareness of ourselves and the construction of our self-esteem, behavior, and character, and the ability to live in a healthy way and integrate emotional experiences, feeling a safe and complete individual. If this process is affected, in a more or less serious way, important consequences can be created on different aspects of ourselves.
The consequences of childhood trauma
A recent study conducted by the University of Washington aimed to study the effect that different trauma can cause in children (and future adults).
To do so, they selected 247 children aged eight to sixteen years old by analyzing their past and their growth. The most relevant result is that children exposed to violence, whether physical, mental, emotional, or sexual, developed a more rapid biological aging as children: therefore, not only at the emotional and behavioral level but also at the pubertal level and at the level of cellular metrics (epigenetic age), these children developed a major aging process.
Hence the hypothesis that this sped up biological development may lead to physical and mental problems, and be associated, for example, with symptoms of depression. Children who have been subjected to negative events leading to deprivation, such as abandonment or lack of care, show signs of delayed pubertal development compared to children their age.
The aim of these studies was to analyze how different trauma generates different developmental influences, detailing how each traumatic event should be considered understanding how it will affect the child’s development.
Examples of Childhood Trauma
We have already seen some examples of childhood traumas in the previous paragraphs, but in this part of the article, we will try to analyze some childhood traumas with different nuances, which do not have serious consequences, but which can still leave a negative mark in our lives and which we may want to recognize and overcome!
- Fear of abandonment, a prison in the heart
This childhood trauma occurs when the mother, or the caregiver (the one who takes care of the child), is unable or unwilling to respond as a protective figure to the child’s fears or literally leaves the child’s family or home. These are often children who are left alone for long periods of time or raised by others, or children of parents who, for personal reasons, do not want to adequately meet the demands for companionship and attention required by children. People who experienced abandonment as children are unsafe and develop emotional dependence based on the fear of being abandoned again.
- Domestic violence, an internal chaos
Culturally, we are used to considering certain forms of violence in child-rearing as tolerable: for example, a slap or a spanking. These are minor cases compared to more serious cases of violence. However, many studies have shown that any form of violence against children, even the mildest, is bad. Violence teaches children to resolve their conflicts through violence, to cannot deal adequately with their outbursts of anger, and to resolve their family conflicts according to the law of the strongest. These consequences and the emotional wounds of childhood are carried into adulthood and affect the person and his or her environment, generating male and female perpetrators of violence.
- Rejection, a sorry mirror
Some parents reject their children for a variety of reasons: they were born at the wrong time, they are the product of neglect; they are just like one parent, and so on.
The constant rejection of a child will create a process of self-rejection within him or her. This past emotional pain will spread into adulthood, triggering a feeling of inadequacy and inability to cope with life, work, school, or relationships. These people will prefer to remain alone and isolated.
- Feeling victimized by injustice
From an early age, children can assess whether a situation in which they are involved is fair or unfair or whether they are receiving unequal treatment. And for those who have several children, this is a matter of utmost importance. Living in an environment that has been very unjust, the ego gradually deteriorates, giving children them not deserving the attention of others.
An adult who has suffered this emotional wound can become very insecure with a pessimistic view of life. They will have difficulty trusting others and building relationships, and will unconsciously think that everyone treats them badly. Even a little jealousy between siblings is normal, and sometimes one sibling gets along better with a parent and vice versa, which can leave small emotional wounds that heal with age. It is important for parents to understand what is happening to their children and establish communication that allows children to express their doubts and suffering and make them feel loved.
- Betrayal, broken promises, a terrifying world
Sometimes parents make big promises, which are then not kept voluntarily or not. Breaking promises creates a traumatic, emotional wound in the child that will make him or her believe that the world and the people around him or her are unreliable. He will become an adult with an uncertain, jealous, fearful, and compulsive personality.
- The wound of humiliation
This trauma is more current than ever and can occur both within the walls of the house and outside. Humiliation is a childhood trauma that concerns children who are constantly subjected to humiliating, mocking, and disqualified situations, both at school and at home. Future adults who suffer these humiliations will grow up with a strong tendency to depression and low self-esteem. We all remember humiliating situations from childhood, and it is enough to remember them to understand how serious this emotional trauma of childhood can be and how it can accompany us in adult life.
- Fear of the unknown
Many parents encourage their children to lose their fear of darkness, water, or unfamiliar places or underestimate their fears by telling them not to be afraid. Children need patience, and violent immersion in unfamiliar environments only generates individuals who are unsafe, afraid of change, and resistant to difference.
6 Behaviors indicative of childhood trauma
We have seen that different traumas lead to different consequences in future adults, so it is difficult to predict or identify them. We can try to analyze certain behaviors and phrases that can make us understand the person has passed traumas to overcome :
Missed childhood: this trauma can be enclosed in the sentence “I didn’t have a childhood”. These are people who do not have many memories of the past or only flash memory, and therefore lack a coherent narrative of their past and self-awareness, i.e. they do not have an autobiographical sense and feel that their childhood has been stolen from them. These people have suffered traumas and wounds that they have tried to remove, forgetting everything.
Losing a part of oneself: this consequence can be described by the phrase “I feel like I have lost a part of myself, but I don’t know what”. People who feel this are people who have probably tried to isolate the part of themselves related to the trauma in order to preserve themselves. However, this behavior can lead to a dissociative form of the self.
Always ending up in toxic or destructive relationships. Do you identify with the phrase “I always end up with people who are not for me or who hurt me?” It happens often that those who have experienced trauma and have taken it away without treating it, end up looking for the traumatized part of their ego in others to continue reliving it (this attitude is called the compulsion to repeat), resulting in toxic and dependent relationships.
Avoid relationships: This attitude could be reflected in the phrase “I don’t want ties or I want to be single forever”. Avoiding ties or staying isolated means not getting involved and not facing the fear that something might go wrong. Relationships (of any kind: love, friendship, family, etc.) are essential for personal development and growth.
Avoid being yourself. People who do not accept parts of themselves repeat phrases such as “I don’t like to think about myself”. This dissociation occurs, much like people who feel that they have lost a part of themselves when the trauma the person has experienced is linked to important people in their life, whose memory makes them feel bad. Introspection becomes a painful act to perform, and the person prefers to escape and not deal with the trauma, but this leads to a fracture of identity that can lead to self-destructive or toxic behavior.
Emotional disconnection and inability to experience emotion. These people have experienced trauma in their family of origin, perhaps because they were toxic or dysfunctional, or because they lived in an environment where emotions were repressed. These people will grow up with the idea that emotions should not be experienced and therefore repressed, making them explode impulsively or negatively or in a kind of emotional anesthesia. Obviously, this behavior has important consequences for our psycho-physical well-being.
How to overcome past traumas?
As with all events in our lives, the first step in overcoming past trauma is to recognize that we have a problem and to accept what we feel. In this way, we can deal with what has happened to us to overcome the traumas of the past. Each trauma requires a particular process and elaboration that goes through different phases, some of which are very painful. There are traumas that, often with passaging age, we can treat and overcome on our own, but it is always advisable in case of uneasiness, or if we are victims of toxic attitudes (our own or others), to start a therapy that can help to overcome the traumas and return to healthier behaviors that help you feel good.
Parents and children: learning method and mutual understanding
Parents play a fundamental role in the growth and emotional stability of children. On the one hand, parents need to be aware of this reality in order to constantly monitor and review their actions towards children and family life, and remember that children learn more by watching us do than by hearing what is said.
Children can suffer emotional hurt when they feel misunderstood or unable to understand what is happening, which can affect their self-esteem and confidence. Clearly, children don’t come with a textbook and parents are not perfect, and it is common for them to make mistakes. The important thing is that parents learn to observe the child, trying to understand the child’s needs, and trying to avoid attitudes that can harm the child’s emotional life. As parents, it is essential to pay close attention to children’s behaviors and manifestations, to understand if there is something wrong and to find the best way to communicate with their children and give them a safe base, to give them a childhood full of well-being, trust, and love.
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