What is Childhood Trauma
When people think of issues or problems they wish to seek professional help for, they most commonly think in terms of an event/s that, either recently happened or that they are presently experiencing, that is bothering them greatly. Examples of these events could include difficulties dealing with a recent breakup or loss of a loved one, post-traumatic stress from a major accident, or bullying at the workplace. Then there are also ongoing personal problems such as depression, anxiety or anger that significantly interfere with an individual’s ability to function day to day. While these are all very valid reasons for seeking help, there are surprisingly many other instances of problems which most people do not realise are problems and as a result, stay ‘under the radar’ and end up not being addressed and resolved. However, these problems are like computer viruses running in the background, wreaking havoc on people’s lives whilst staying undetected and untraceable.
The examples as I mentioned above involve more recent situations. Of course there are also events that happened much earlier in life when we were still growing up at home which still haunt us and cause a great deal of pain and suffering either consciously or unconsciously. These issues are collectively referred to as Childhood Trauma. The ones that tend to stand out most from our childhoods are memories of abuse (especially of a sexual nature), which as we all know has been receiving quite a fair share of media attention in recent times. Because of our sense of helplessness and inability to change the situation at the time, our response was to 'block out' a great deal of these memories and the pain associated with them. In fact, a lot of us adults still do that today with those same memories, not realising that we are actually prolonging our misery and doing ourselves more harm than good. What if there was a therapy that could rid the pain of childhood for good? This may sound too good to be true at this point but read on...
If you are unsure as to whether you have experienced childhood trauma, I would like you to pause for a moment to ask yourself these questions about your childhood. However, before you begin, I would just like to sound a friendly warning – For some readers, going through the following questions can be a rather emotionally daunting and overwhelming exercise. So if you start to experience strong unpleasant feelings, I strongly suggest you discontinue this exercise immediately and engage in a pleasant activity to relax and focus on the present again. You may then also wish to take the step in seeking professional help to deal with those feelings.
- Did you experience bullying at school or even at home by a sibling or parent/relative?
- Do you recall your parents often getting into loud and aggressive fights?
- Did you ever witness your mother being abused by your father?
- Did you live with a parent or other caregiver who had a mental illness or addiction?
- Did you often get your feelings ignored and/or were often told to just “suck it up”?
- Did you spend large amounts of time alone at home or wishing you could leave the family?
- Were you often blamed, criticised or attacked by a family member when things went wrong?
- Did you lose a close friend or family member at any point of your childhood?
- Did your parents breakup or did one of them have an affair when you were a child?
- Did you suffer from separation anxiety or avoided going to school as a child?
- Have you ever been humiliated in front of peers or in public?
(By the way, if you have very little to no recollection of your childhood, that could be an indication of a great deal of unpleasantness you had been through which you have ‘blocked out’ from your conscious mind. Nevertheless, even if you fall into this category, your issues can still be addressed and there is a good chance those memories will start to piece themselves together as you go through EMDR therapy.)
Now that you have gone through those questions, you may be wondering:
- That happened so long ago…What has that got to do with anything? I’m more concerned about my issues right now!
- I can’t change the past so what’s the point of thinking about it? I can’t change how I feel about it..
- What’s the big deal? Don’t these things happen to most people? That’s just life..
- My childhood wasn’t that bad… I know others who have had it much worse…I can consider myself lucky..
- I dealt with it…I’ve moved on.. I get along with my parents now..
If you thought along those lines, then I would like you to know that these difficult childhood experiences, albeit how long ago they took place and how prevalent they are in many families, tend to be much more influential and damaging to your emotional and psychological wellbeing than the difficulties you are presently focused on. (If we were trees, those traumatic childhood events would be our roots. And we all know a tree cannot properly grow from bad roots!) In fact, studies have shown that these common childhood events have more lasting and debilitating effects than single-episode traumatic events (e.g. a burglary, assault, vehicle accident, trapped in a building, earthquake). It is these childhood experiences that are the metaphorical ‘skeletons in the closet’ which continue to dictate how you think, feel and react to people and situations long after they are over. They result in chronic, longstanding problems in later adolescence and adulthood. In more ways than you know, they are connected with your current problems (particularly how you react/cope with them) and it is only through therapy that you will start to realise and make sense of the connection. And to those who are of the opinion that you can’t change how you feel about the past, well, that’s a thing of the past now (no pun intended) – EMDR, which I use while working with clients, is a transformative therapy that offers a unique and effective way to rid these painful feelings once and for all, ‘rewire’ your thought processes and free you to live the life you always wanted to.
All the best,