Childhood trauma is an issue for adults. What is past is present. Our personalities are largely in place at a very young age. Preferred “programs for happiness” are loaded in.
Basic defenses are also installed. If you grew up in a troubled family – physical or sexual abuse, chaotic environment, alcoholic family, demeaning criticism – then those defenses were mighty and necessary. In adulthood, they are unhelpful.
You grow up into a condition somewhere between co-dependence (low self-esteem; poor boundaries; disowning our body, feelings and behaviors; denying needs and wants; extreme reactions) and PTSD (fear, panic, anxiety, depression, easy irritability, impulsive or explosive behavior). Relationships are much harder.
Who Am I?
Our Original Child is who we really are – innocent, playful, unabashed, safe and free to love (the True Self).
Unfortunately, given the circumstances of a troubled family, the Original Child (a key part of you) soon concludes that the world is not a safe place and that the best thing to do is “hide” or “go to sleep.” It never dies, but it may not be heard from again. Charles Finn’s poem, Please Hear What I’m Not Saying, captures this suppression.
How It Works
Dr. Charles Whitfield, a psychiatrist and author, lays out a plan for healing childhood trauma:¹
- Discover and practice being our True Self
- Identify our needs and practice getting them met
- Identify, re-experience and grieve the pain of our losses and traumas
- Identify and work through our core issues
Whitfield gives the following examples of core issues for survivors of childhood trauma:
- Being real
- Low self-esteem
- Fear of Abandonment
- All-or-none thinking
- High Tolerance for inappropriate behavior
- Over-responsibility for others
- Neglecting my own needs
- Difficulty resolving conflict, giving love and receiving love
Treatment of childhood trauma is long-term therapy. It is especially important to work out a fee and a session frequency that is sustainable.
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- Whitfield, Charles. Healing The Child Within: Discovery and Recovery for Adult Children of Dysfunctional Families. Health Communications, 1987.