Trauma is the most avoided ignored, misunderstood and untreated (or incorrectly treated) cause of human suffering. ~Peter Levine
Many people believe trauma is reserved for military veterans, first responders, survivors of sexual assault, or children who lived in a home with persistent physical abuse. There is a common belief that if someone else had it worse than I did, I don't have the "right" to struggle with my feelings. Another common belief is that if it happened a long time ago, we should be able to get over it. Trauma survivors often are told they are "dramatic," "overly sensitive," or "crazy" and should just get over it. Here's the truth: TRAUMA IS TRAUMA. The brain and body do not differentiate between "little" and "big" trauma. Trauma is LESS about the event or the experience and MORE about the effects of the event. Trauma is people's debilitating symptoms after surviving, witnessing, or learning about a life-threatening or potentially life-threatening event. It can also result from growing up in a home where you were physically hurt, felt unsafe, or were frequently humiliated. It can also result from having a parent who struggled with their mental health or addiction or if your physical or emotional needs were neglected. Whatever happened, trauma leaves survivors feeling out of balance, disconnected, and overwhelmed. Trauma overwhelms our brain and bodies' natural ability to "reset" itself and return to balance. The impact of trauma on our well-being can be hard to realize because it doesn't happen all at once. Much of it is outside our conscious awareness. Many don't realize their anxiety, depression, panic, OCD, ADHD, bipolar, chronic pain, addictions, spiritual struggles, or relationship stress are often the result of unhealed trauma stored in their brain and body.
It is not just an event that happened in the past.
It is the imprint that the event has left on the mind, brain, and body.
It is a fundamental reorganization of the way the mind and brain manage perceptions.
It does not have to be a catastrophic event.
Not everything that is hard is traumatic, but everything that is traumatic is hard. Trauma is different from the normal difficulties or challenges we experience in life. Trauma overwhelms our natural abilities to heal and move past a difficult event. It’s not the objective circumstances that determine whether an event is traumatic, but your subjective emotional experience of the event. The more frightened and helpless you feel, the more likely you are to be traumatized. It is the short or long-term effects of the experience we continue to live with.
A parent with a personality disorder.
A parent with an addiction.
Physical Assault or threat of assault.
Intimate partner violence.
Divorce or Infidelity.
Survivor of someone who dies from suicide.
Loss of home.
Prolonged exposure to violence or death.
Workplace exposure to violence or death.
Death of a loved one.
Life-threatening birthing experience.
common traumatic experiences
adverse childhood experiences
The experiences we have when we are young, vulnerable, and helpless can have life-long implications for our overall well-being. Just because something happened "a long time ago" does not mean it did not affect us. Too often we are unaware of just how it did affect us because it has been our "normal." We just don't know anything different. Adverse Childhood Experiences, or ACEs, are potentially traumatic events that occur in childhood (0-17 years) such as experiencing violence, abuse, or neglect; witnessing violence in the home, and having a family member attempt or die by suicide. Also included are aspects of the child’s environment that can undermine their sense of safety, stability, and bonding such as growing up in a household with substance misuse, mental health problems, or instability due to parental separation or incarceration of a parent, sibling, or another member of the household.
Childhood emotional neglect (CEN) is the result of a caregiver not responding to the emotional needs of a child enough. While abuse is a parent's active mistreatment of a child, emotional neglect is a parent's failure to act. It is a passive form of abuse where caregivers ignore, minimize, and discount the emotional, psychological, or physical needs of a child. Caregivers may fail to adequately provide for basic needs such as food, a safe home, or appropriate clothing. Children in homes where parents fail to respond to emotional needs are often ignored, dismissed, minimized, shamed for having wants, needs, or showing emotion, and are not shown adequate affection. Children are in essence emotionally starved. It can be difficult to recognize emotional neglect because it's invisible. Instead of leaving scars and bruises; it leaves painful feelings of loneliness and emptiness. As children do not understand why they feel the way they do, they will often blame themselves for being "too needy" or "being a bad kid."
When emotionally neglected children grow up, they face certain emotional struggles. They often feel disconnected from themselves and others. They may feel emotionless and find it difficult to sustain long-term relationships with friends and intimate partners. When they do have feelings they have trouble being able to name or understand the feeling and tend to ignore or disconnect from emotions. They may have difficulty trusting or relying upon others. Many describe feeling that they are different from other people; and live with a belief that they are not normal, or something is wrong with them.
Some of the common problems adults with CEN face are: feelings of emptiness, fear of depending on other people, feeling disconnected from self and emotions, lack of self-compassion, feelings of guilt or shame, and feeling different or left out in relationships.