What is childhood trauma and how does it impact us?
When working with new clients, I often notice that when I ask them about any trauma they have experienced in their childhood, they are often hesitant or even confused about what that means. So I thought this would be a good topic to discuss. Many people have experienced some type of trauma in their lives and childhoods. Many times the same clients who don’t believe they have experienced any trauma in their lives, go on to then share about their parents having been divorced during their formative years or growing up with an alcoholic or mentally ill parent. Trauma can include any type of adverse experience such as sexual, emotional or physical abuse, divorce, multiple moves, neglect or being bullied by peers at school. Many of my client’s are hesitant to talk about their childhood trauma because they don’t want to blame their parents or they compare or minimize their own experience because “another person” may have “had it much worse”.
The truth is whether we deny our trauma or seek to face and recover from it, it does affect us and our relationships with others. When we experience traumatic events during our childhood whether it be a single event or an unhealthy relationship with a primary caregiver, it impacts our nervous system and neural pathways. Later on this may show up as an emotional trigger when something happens that resonates with the original trauma, in our adult lives. One way to recognize an emotional trigger is to notice when our emotional reaction is much bigger than would be expected for the situation at hand. That is usually a sign that we have been emotionally triggered by past trauma.An example might be, your boss provides you with some feedback about a recent assignment and you feel anxious and shameful for weeks over it, causing you to lose sleep and think about resigning from your job. This would likely be a sign that this feedback is reminding you of a message received from a critical parent while growing up and triggering a negative thought pattern such as “I’m not good enough”. Identifying and healing trauma can be a liberating experience and helps people make sense of their reactions while creating new experiences.
By Sherry Rawiszer, LCSW, Certified Clinical Trauma Professional
Sherry Rawiszer LLC
499 E. Palmetto Park Rd, Suite 206
Boca Raton, FL 33432