Trauma is such a big and scary word. Many of us recall not experiencing serious physical abuse, sexual abuse or having had any “traumatic” incident. So, you might ask yourself, are you a victim of trauma?
Trauma is one of the biggest equalizers. It doesn’t discriminate. It doesn’t care who you are or how much you make. It can happen to anyone. It happens absolutely EVERYWHERE. Watch the first 20 minutes of Home Alone and you will get the picture of how complex trauma is formed, even in a white affluent home in Chicago.
Any event that has left a mark on you for the worse can be considered trauma. If you remember it and it was a negative experience, chances are you need healing from it. Below are some childhood events or scenarios that are forms of trauma.
Have you ever been bullied by a sibling or classmate? Emotional abuse and emotional neglect are considered by ACE (Adverse Childhood Events) as forms of trauma. When experienced on multiple occasions, something as simple as growing up with an older sibling who did not like us and made sure we knew it on a daily basis can form the grounds for complex trauma.
Baby boomers grew up in an era of war, stress and scarcity. Even now, parenting is a DIY project where it is up to us to find the resources and figure it out. Baby boomers had even fewer resources to educate themselves on effective parenting. As a result, too many of us grew up with parents who were too stressed, too busy, too emotionally detached, too anxious, too unhappy, or too drunk to notice us.
Or, alternatively, we were raised by controlling, over-involved parents with unrealistic expectations who lived vicariously through us, so we didn’t develop our own voice or make our own choices. This leaves us to become adults with no confidence in our own voice and desires. I know countless adults with Ivy League graduate degrees who don’t like their careers and don’t know what they want to do professionally. They chose their careers to fulfill their parents’ dream, not theirs. Overcontrolling parents loved you, but did not “see” you or “heard” you and that is also considered trauma.
Growing up in a “normal” religious, guilt-driven environment can cause trauma too—trauma that is affecting us today and stopping us from living peaceful and fulfilled lives. Deep feelings of shame and worthlessness can result from subconsciously raising children from a foundation of blame and shame. The “guilt” culture that many of us grew up with—especially in Christian or Jewish families—left us children feeling bad, dirty, inadequate, and unworthy, with a deep-rooted feeling that we are not “enough”, or “good enough”, or “worthy” of love and attention.
Like Kevin in Home Alone, perhaps some of us grew up in households of four or more siblings where we were given the scraps and the hand-me-downs. We felt unworthy of receiving better. No wonder so many of us struggle to demand what we deserve―more love, more respect, a raise. Instead, we settle.
Too slow, too lazy, too stupid, ugly, shy, bad, fat, big ears, big nose, big lips, pigheaded—these kinds of wounding words, whether spoken by parents, friends, strangers or enemies, stay with us forever, leaving deep wounds that turn into what we now call “negative self-talk”.
This negative self-talk tells us we are not worthy of love, of that raise, that promotion, of respect, of being seen and heard. As adults, until we heal, we keep choosing situations that are familiar to us, ones where we are not valued or heard, for example. These past wounds can cause triggers that leave us always taking everything personally, being defensive, and causing fights with everyone around us.
Does any of this sound familiar to you? If it does, chances are, you’re a victim of trauma to some degree, and you could benefit from healing so you can live your best life, for yourself and those around you.
Stay tuned for my next blog where we’ll look at how trauma shows up and what our most prevalent coping mechanisms are. I’m sure you’ll find yourself in at least one of the pictures I paint!