The Path of Overcoming Childhood Trauma In Adulthood
Many of us didn’t make it through childhood unscathed. It’s about time we fessed up and admitted the truth—which is that some parts of our childhood were awfully painful and that overcoming childhood trauma in adulthood is absolutely necessary if we want to live peacefully.
The effects in adulthood are hard to miss:
Anger issues, mood swings, depression for no apparent reason, anxieties about every little thing, having low self-esteem, feeling unsafe, being needy, clingy, finding yourself attracted to unavailable partners, or the complete opposite – avoiding intimacy at all costs.
It’s not that you are a bad person; it’s just that intimacy scares you. If I open up, will this person still love me? Can I be that vulnerable…again?
But as painful as these symptoms can be, a lot of us, including me until a few years ago, don’t want to face the traumatic childhood experiences.
We put our recovery on hold. “I had a wonderful childhood, my family was working very hard to put food on the table. Other people have gone through a lot worse”.
But other’s suffering doesn’t diminish yours.
As you put off dealing with your childhood trauma, you will continue to suffer. And your relationship will suffer as well.
But before we go on, perhaps we would be better served to go back to my childhood, to where the damage was done for me, and maybe for you too.
My Traumatic Childhood
My mom was a single mother raising 2 kids. She didn’t start out that way; the sudden death of my dad left all of us shaken, alone, and terrified.
She had to juggle 3 jobs to make ends meet, and the situation took its toll on our little family.
My mom slowly morphed into this anxious human being whom I could barely recognize sometimes. Life had turned her into an angry, controlling person who would frequently vent out those emotions and impulses where she was definitely not supposed to: on her kids!
The stage was set for childhood trauma.
As a child, I had to deal with my mother’s frequent anger bursts. I didn’t feel safe in my own house. I bottled up A LOT of stuff because I was scared to express myself—I was never sure of what would cause the next outburst at the dinner table.
I couldn’t talk freely about what I wanted or what I needed. I was so scared about how my mom would react!
Plus, she was over-controlling, completely centered on what she thought was best for me based solely on her perspective.
My opinions didn’t count; my needs didn’t count. If they did, then why did the person supposed to be my number one guardian decide to ignore them all those years?
But here’s the thing: my childhood wasn’t all doom and gloom, many times my mom was warm and loving. But when the moods set in and anxiety or anger took hold, she would become a different person.
Sudden switches like these, and the resulting fear they inspired in me, left me unsure of myself and unable to trust people.
You can probably relate to this. Traumatic experiences in childhood don’t have to be physical or sexual to leave their mark.
Deceptively smaller experiences like growing in a home without affection and living in constant fear or ongoing neglect will take more toll on your soul than we realize.
Childhood trauma can leave wounds and scars that make their presence felt in clever little ways, long after we’ve “grown up”.
You grapple with depression, abrupt sadness, and emotional pain, you don’t know where it’s coming from and you sure don’t know how to make it stop.
And as you push others away, you get lonely, yet you just don’t trust anybody enough to open up and let the light in. Because “if my parents treated me this way, it means that the whole world will do the same”.
All these negative feelings stayed with me long after I grew up and moved out of the house. Physically, I could stand on my own two feet; but emotionally, I was a shrub reeling from the stifling effects of a less than stellar upbringing.
It took me years before I was able to face the truth, handle most of my shortcomings, and to overcome trauma from childhood, but when I did, one insight lay at the heart of all my efforts.
The Secret Epiphany that Set Me On The Journey of Healing Childhood Trauma
You might be wondering what helped me heal my psyche? What is the one thing I had to accept and imbibe into my system in order to truly begin to move past the traumatic events in childhood in order to heal the inner child?
It wasn’t my fault.
Well, pff sure, it wasn’t your fault—you were just a kid. You already know that!
But do you believe it?
Your mind knows it, but does your heart feel it? Experience suggests you don’t.
Every time you get depressed not knowing the source of it, every time you lash out or shut down for no good reason, every time you choose to enter another dysfunctional relationship, the answer to that question is a big fat “No!”
The next time you are wallowing in sadness and emotional suffering, wishing it would go away, simply tell yourself with compassion, “It wasn’t my fault!”
You deserve to live in peace, and whatever childhood trauma you went through that is making you feel otherwise simply wasn’t your fault.
Don’t be discouraged if you don’t immediately believe it when you say it. Just keep reminding yourself of this one truth every time that monster shows up telling you otherwise.
Over time, your brain is going to rewire itself to align your actions with this truth it has (finally) come to believe. The more you remind yourself this simple truth, the more you build new neural pathways in your brain.
Or as neuroscientists like to say “neurons that wire together fire together”.
If you want to know how to get rid of sabotaging paradigms and implant healthy patterns in your mind, I wrote about that here.
This exercise is fundamentally tied to the reason why you still haven’t overcome the pain long after the childhood trauma has gone.
The Reason You Still Feel Pain After Your Childhood Experiences Are Over
It’s been years since the traumatic events in childhood occurred, so why do you still grapple with overcoming these long-term outcomes of trauma?
Why don’t you simply “get over it”?
It’s because your erstwhile young brain, in trying to make sense of all the painful trauma in childhood, attached limiting beliefs to them.
This is the subtle way in which childhood trauma works. This is the enemy within!
As kids, we couldn’t understand the complexity of human behavior. So we automatically attached our caregiver’s behaviors to our own self-worth.
“It must’ve been something wrong with me that was causing these turnarounds”.
“If my mom is angry all the time, then I’m not ok. There must be something wrong with me. I’m not good enough. Otherwise, she wouldn’t have acted this way”. That’s how toxic shame is born.
You see, when your childhood trauma was over, the limiting beliefs haven’t disappeared along with it. They’re still stuck in your head.
You still believe, at an unconscious level, that there’s something fundamentally wrong with you. That you’re bad. That you’re not ok, worthy of love, or good enough.
And these sabotaging paradigms are causing you to suffer.
You’ve probably struggled with these same limiting beliefs, but it’s time to shed them and leave them behind.
So remember: it wasn’t your fault!
If your parents, guardians, or whoever was put in charge of you mistreated or abused you (physically, sexually, emotionally), then it was something wrong with them—not you!
It was their insecurities; it was their negative paradigms.
You must understand that your caregivers brought their baggage into your life and now that is stopping you from living the life you deserve.
But we kept carrying on our backs their destructive patterns and still continue to blame ourselves for being mistreated without even realizing it.
It’s time to set free and heal the inner child in you. There’s nothing wrong with you. You’re fine, and you’re good enough. Stop blaming yourself for your caregiver’s mistreatment.
I encourage you to check out this empowering tool I created for adult survivors of childhood trauma.
Stop taking the blame upon yourself in order to make excuses for other people’s dysfunctional behavior. This is the very first step in healing your psyche and overcome the lingering effects of childhood trauma.
But you know what?
It wasn’t your fault. Never was.