5 common phrases that reveal unsettled childhood trauma

5 common phrases that reveal unsettled childhood trauma

Childhood trauma is much more common than people think. A series of studies by psychologists at Duke University Medical School revealed that 78% of children reported having more than one traumatic experience before age 5. By age 6, 20% had experienced traumatic experiences ranging from sexual abuse to emotional neglect, exposure to domestic violence and traumatic loss.

However, those who have experienced childhood trauma may be suffering from complex post-traumatic stress (PTSD-C), a problem characterized by difficulty in emotional regulation, distorted perceptions of abusers, difficulties in interpersonal relationships, somatization and difficulty in giving a meaning to life.

But often these people are unaware that they have a problem that dates back to their childhood. They believe they have left the past behind, but this pursues them from the unconscious.

How does childhood trauma affect identity formation?

Identity formation is a complex, lifelong process. The construction of identity, including the feeling of being good enough, the ability to harmoniously integrate emotions and reason, basic awareness of the emotional state, feeling safe and knowing who we really are, is influenced by childhood trauma. What happens is that basic survival takes precedence over balanced ego development.

Trauma at an early age can change brain development. Indeed, it is well known that an environment in which fear and abandonment prevail generates different adaptations of the brain circuits, compared to an environment in which the child feels safe, protected and loved. And the worst part is that the sooner that anguish is experienced, the more usually the effect is profound and lasting.

Therefore, often the identity of an adult who has suffered childhood trauma is organized around the need to survive and achieve a basic level of security in relationships with others. This leads him to a vicious circle in which, on the one hand, he relives discouraging and traumatic experiences, and on the other he tends to avoid growth-oriented experiences.

People in this situation identify a lot with a "traumatic self", at the expense of a more inclusive and flexible sense of self. They dissociate from their environment and from themselves from the start, as a survival mechanism, and can remain disconnected from themselves during childhood, adolescence or even into early adulthood, when they leave the environment. toxic. In practice, they continue to experience the need to survive.

Phrases that hide a "traumatic identity"

1. The loss of childhood - "I didn't have a childhood"

When people have a particularly distressing childhood, they usually can't remember much of their early years. These people often say: "I didn't have a childhood" or "I don't remember much from when I was a child".
They may remember particularly vivid moments, known as "flash memories," but those moments have no context, so they don't make much sense to the person. It is common for them not to have a very clear history of themselves as children, until they reach adolescence or even early adulthood.

In an autobiographical sense, they lack what is called “coherent narration”, they cannot tell their life following a logical thread. In fact, many people even claim that they feel their childhood has been robbed. And without that foundation, the adult's identity is seriously compromised.

2. Lost parts of yourself - "I feel like I'm missing something"

Due to childhood trauma, children often react by disconnecting important parts of themselves to survive, which is a kind of dissociation mechanism. These people often say, "I've always felt that I'm missing something, but I don't know what it is."

The problem is that they tend to disconnect from sensitive areas, strengthening other spheres, as a compensatory measure to escape emotional suffering. In this way, a child with problems at home can try to become a model student.

Later in life, he may discover that he has great skills in certain fields while others remain completely hidden, usually those related to emotions, self-knowledge and interpersonal relationships.

3. Avoid yourself - "I feel bad thinking about myself"

Many people who have suffered childhood trauma say, "I don't like to think about myself, it just makes me feel bad." This feeling is particularly intense when the trauma is related to important and significant people in their life, such as parents or siblings.

The problem is that the exercise of introspection, the act of deepening, becomes a reminder of those painful experiences, which implies that it is necessary to rebuild one's identity, and it is often much easier to escape from oneself than to face problems that they have their roots in such a distant past.

These people can learn to live disconnected from their "me", but this often leads them to self-destructive behaviors or deep dissatisfaction, because they don't really know what they want and fail to build a solid life plan.

4. Destructive relationships - "I attract people I don't like"

It is not uncommon for people who are traumatized by their parents or carers to end up establishing friendships, romantic relationships, or even working relationships that aren't good for them. They often say phrases like "I attract people I don't like" or "I seem to have a magnet for people who hurt me".

The problem is that these people meet individuals who fit their traumatic identity, even as they struggle to make different decisions or that others warn them that those relationships are not good. This generates a vicious circle of re-traumatization through repetition of the past.

As a result, they may end up surrounded by emotionally unavailable, violent or narcissistic people, or end up trying to save and "fix" the people they are in a relationship with, taking on the role of "savior". It is obvious that these people want to find someone who can provide them with the emotional stability they need, but subconsciously they feel a strong attraction towards the psychological abuser.

The constant traumas and disappointments lead them to think that "it is better to be alone". Their experience of destructive relationships has led them to take a pessimistic image of others, thinking they will always hurt them.

5. Emotional disconnection of identity - "Emotions are an obstacle"

When feelings have no place in the family of origin, perhaps because it was a dysfunctional family, emotions are separated from identity. If a person has grown up with phrases like "crying is weak" or has been punished or reprimanded every time they have expressed their emotions, they cannot develop a healthy bond with this part of their "me".

Emotions will continue to be present, even as many people cling to the belief that they are "not emotional" or that "emotions are just a nuisance". For this reason, the emotions will end up generating confusion and chaos, since that person will not be able to recognize and handle them assertively, because he has only learned to hide and repress them.

The problem is that we also need emotions to make good decisions in life. Emotional deregulation disconnects us from our intuition, can lead us to make impulsive decisions and damage relationships with others.

Others may describe a feeling of emotional anesthesia because they can only experience a limited range of emotions. In fact, they often report only vague emotions, such as frustration and boredom, because they haven't learned to recognize their emotional states. It is also common for them to block out feelings such as dissatisfaction, until it grows enormously, to later explode into contained anger that causes enormous damage.

Turn the page

Undoubtedly, the consequences of childhood trauma into adulthood are daunting. However, the person can rebuild their identity and regenerate that traumatized "me". This involves going back to the past to accept painful experiences, so that they can be integrated into the story of life and thus be able to truly turn the page.

There are two basic keys: 1. Understand that we are safe now and are no longer that frightened child and, 2. Assume that, although adults, we are likely to continue to emotionally process traumatic experiences like children. Recognizing and assuming these realities is often extremely liberating.

Remember that it is always possible to reconnect with yourself, even if you need to remove several layers, to rebuild a much healthier identity. It is undoubtedly a difficult process, and you may need to seek help from a psychologist, but investing in yourself is the best you can do. It is not necessary to carry on carrying the burden of the past, which limits your present and darkens your future.

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