Children of trauma can experience it in many ways. Some will face a childhood of neglect and abandonment, while others will regularly witness angry outbursts that almost always end in violence. Whatever the type of trauma a child is witness to; it will have a profound effect on their development as a human being.
Unfortunately, and regardless of the type of trauma you may have experienced as a child, a traumatic childhood is likely to have far-reaching implications for you as an adult. However, you don’t have to let your past control your future.
Children find meaning in everything happening around them, and as they grow, they develop a mental flow chart of how the world works. The internal mind-map gives them a coping mechanism to deal with whatever life throws their way. However, when traumatized children are not able to create a more realistic interpretation of how the world operates, their traumatic history can hamper their ability to function normally when they are adults.
There are many ways trauma can affect a child, but in the rest of this article, we will discuss a few of the fundamental issues traumatized children will face as adults.
1. They Create False Self
Adults who have experienced a traumatic childhood will carry the emotional scars into adult life, and one way these scars will reveal themselves is through the creation of a false self.
Children want and need their parents to love and nurture them. If parents neglect to do this, then the child will attempt to become the type of child they think will get them that love. As adults, this false self is the person they present to the world while burying their true feelings.
Burying feelings puts us out of touch with who we really are because feelings make up a lot of the personality we project to the world. Adults portraying a false self to the world are terrified that their ruse will be discovered and that no one will care for or love them.
The best way to knowing your true self is to discuss the challenges you are facing with a therapist who is a specialist in childhood trauma. During your appointments, you will learn to pull aside the curtain of the fake persona and reconnect with your true feelings. Over time, you will learn to feel safe in expressing your emotions.
2. Victimhood Thinking
The beliefs and ideas we have about ourselves are the driving force behind our self-talk, and how we talk to ourselves can be either uplifting or negative and uninspiring.
Negative self-talk deprives us of our power and instills the idea that we are not able to control our lives. It makes us a victim. As a child, we may have been a victim, but as adults, we are free to shun the shackles and make our own choices.
There is always a choice, even when it appears that there isn’t one, because we still have the power to choose how we think. When we were children, the environments in which we existed afforded us no control. However, as adults, the situation is different, and we can shape our lives and improve our circumstances, more so than we might realize.
If unhealthy expressions of anger are the only way a child gets to experience it in a household, then they will consider all displays of anger unacceptable. For example, if the child witnessed a violent outburst during every angry episode, then they might develop the belief that anger should be suppressed.
At the other end of the scale, if a child is taught that anger is an emotion you are not supposed to feel, then the child will suppress it, and continue to do so even as an adult.
Suppressing anger isn’t healthy. Anger is a natural response that all humans feel from time-to-time. If you always keep your anger hidden away, you don’t get the opportunity to resolve the underlying cause. You stay angry, and even though you may not display any outward signs, you will develop an unhealthy passive-aggressive approach to expressing your feelings. In short, anger will find a way out one way or another.
If you were a child of neglect or abandonment, then you may have buried your anger, so you never have to go through that again. Unfortunately, when children take this approach, they only end up abandoning themselves. Not allowing ourselves to feel can only hold us back, and we end up as passive adults with unrealized potential. A passive person will tell themselves they know what they need to do, but they never follow through.
A great deal of who we are is tied up in our emotions, and if we bury our emotions, we are burying our true selves. Childhood trauma is a powerful influence that causes many children to hide their feelings. As children without any power, expressing ourselves would never result in a positive outcome, and we quickly learned to keep our true feelings hidden.
It’s a survival mechanism that doesn’t translate well into adult life. It only ends up hampering our ability to lead happy, productive lives where we are loved and accepted for our true selves. As adults, we rely on our emotions to show us who we are and inspire us to reach our potential and be who we are meant to be.
The good news is that there are evidence-based approaches that are available to heal childhood trauma. To learn more about how working with a therapist can help you to recover, click here: Trauma Treatment