About Childhood Trauma

1–“Many abused children cling to the hope that growing up will bring escape and freedom. But the personality formed in the environment of coercive control is not well adapted to adult life. The survivor is left with fundamental problems in basic trust, autonomy, and initiative. She approaches the task of early adulthood――establishing independence and intimacy――burdened by major impairments in self-care, in cognition and in memory, in identity, and in the capacity to form stable relationships. She is still a prisoner of her childhood; attempting to create a new life, she reencounters the trauma.”          Judith Lewis Herman

2–“Instead of saying, “I’m damaged, I’m broken, I have trust issues” say “I’m healing, I’m rediscovering myself, I’m starting over.”     Horacio Jones

3–“Under those conditions, chronic stress becomes so common that it seems normal. Individuals use denial and repression to protect the ego from disintegration. Living with both the constant unpredictability of the alcoholic parent and the detachment and/or anxiety of the codependent parent is difficult enough for an adult who has a fully developed defense system. For a child, surviving the regular assault of trauma requires massive amounts of energy. This puts the normal developmental process on hold; there is no energy left to invest in development. While other children are learning to play, to trust, to self-soothe, and to make decisions, children in addicted families are learning to survive. The end result is a child who often feels thirty years old at five and five years old at thirty.”   Jane Middelton-Moz

4–Befriending the Body–

Trauma victims cannot recover until they become familiar with and befriend the sensations in their bodies. Being frightened means that you live in a body that is always on guard. Angry people live in angry bodies. The bodies of child-abuse victims are tense and defensive until they find a way to relax and feel safe. In order to change, people need to become aware of their sensations and the way that their bodies interact with the world around them. Physical self-awareness is the first step in releasing the tyranny of the past.

In my practice I begin the process by helping my patients to first notice and then describe the feelings in their bodies—not emotions such as anger or anxiety or fear but the physical sensations beneath the emotions: pressure, heat, muscular tension, tingling, caving in, feeling hollow, and so on. I also work on identifying the sensations associated with relaxation or pleasure. I help them become aware of their breath, their gestures and movements.

All too often, however, drugs such as Abilify, Zyprexa, and Seroquel, are prescribed instead of teaching people the skills to deal with such distressing physical reactions. Of course, medications only blunt sensations and do nothing to resolve them or transform them from toxic agents into allies.

The mind needs to be reeducated to feel physical sensations, and the body needs to be helped to tolerate and enjoy the comforts of touch. Individuals who lack emotional awareness are able, with practice, to connect their physical sensations to psychological events. Then they can slowly reconnect with themselves.”    Bessel A. van der Kolk

5–“Little did anyone know what addictions and sins I was subjected to as a child from a similar ‘fallen angel’. I couldn’t bear sharing what had happened to me at the group AA meetings—too humiliating. I only shared the secret with a select few and requested it be kept confidential. More than the special attention the priest received, I was overwhelmed with the eerie resemblance he had to my abuser. His pale freckled skin and strawberry-blond hair made me uncomfortable in his presence. I could feel my abuser’s satanic touch when in the same room as that man. But I was in a mechanical state, staying the course, hoping something miraculous would pull me out of my miring in the past. This perseverance contributed to being the turning point of my recovery, that being when I told him what had happened. “What’s the name of this priest, Marco?” Father Todd said. I told him. To which he replied, “He was arrested for molesting another boy, and he did some prison time.” “I did hear about that, Father,” I said. “You should go to the diocese. They’ll appoint a therapist to you. I’ll give you the contact names,” he said, pulling out a pad of paper with all the information I’d need.”     Marco L. Bernardino Sr.

6–Our brains and bodies are programmed by our respective early life experiences. A child coming from a calm and well nurtured environment will have a rosy outlook towards the world. It will strive in every condition in life. On the other hand, a child subjected to abuse and exposed to traumatic experiences during early age will grow up predisposed to adverse conditions. It is only likely that such a child would take to substance abuse and get afflicted with other mental conditions.

Any overwhelming stress which is too unpredictable or something over which the person has little or no control becomes a hazard and trauma. Moreover, early neglect or an absence of parenting also tantamount to trauma for a child.

The risk of substance use disorder increases in people with early traumatic experience because of their attempts to self-medicate. They tend to dampen mood symptoms associated with a deregulated biological stress response by using illicit drugs. To make it worse, early adolescent onset of substance use or abuse may further disrupt the biological stress response by increasing plasma cortisol levels. It substantially contributes to the risk for posttraumatic stress disorder or PTSD and co-morbid depressive symptoms.      Sean Weesner

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