What is Childhood Trauma?
When contemplating our past, it’s crucial that we not believe we are alone in our struggle. Studies have found that as many as 78 percent of children experience more than one traumatic event—before the age of five. These may include:
- Domestic violence
- Sexual abuse
- Severe neglect
- Unhealthy control of thoughts and actions
Traumas at such a young age dramatically impact our identity development. But such experiences can also take place throughout childhood into early adulthood. Inevitably, their impact plays out signifcantly in adult relationships.
5 Ways Past Traumas Can Impact Your Adult Relationships
1. A Sense of Something Missing/Loss of Childhood
A healthy childhood involves some very particular markers, milestones, and events. Trauma can short-circuit any or all of them.
2. Avoiding Relationships
If those closest to you cause you pain, it feels wise to avoid getting close to anyone else. We learn to avoid pain but can be traumatized into misinterpreting the underlying sources of pain.
3. Attracting Dysfunctional Relationships/Codependence
As children, we witness relationship dynamics being modeled for us. Abusive family members not only have the power to traumatize. They also set negative but powerful examples of what seems to be the reality of relationships.
4. Dissociation from Self/Others
Reality has caused us non-stop pain. As a result, our brain dissociates from a deep focus on day-to-day events. This gives us am an empty sense of “going through the motions.”
5. Feeling Like a Permanent Victim
When subjected to abuse, we come to expect more abuse. Loss and losing feel normal. Rejection appears to be the norm. Self-blame is our default.
What to Do in the Present to Address Your Past and Improve Your Future
A huge first step is recognizing our individual worth and value. This can begin with a daily self-care regimen, e.g. regular sleep patterns, healthy eating, daily exercise, and stress management.
2. Embrace Acceptance
As mentioned above, the ugly truth is that childhood trauma has become the norm. Remember: We did nothing to deserve it and are not alone in this struggle.
3. Learn to Set and Reach Goals
This process is a universal tool for healing. Lost amidst the pain are our vision and self-esteem. Reclaiming our hopes and ambition is a giant step toward recovery.
4. Identify Your Attachment Style
Incredibly valuable work has been done in the area of attachment styles: secure, anxious preoccupied, dismissive avoidant, and fearful avoidant. Learning more about this work will guide us and inspire us to not settle for self-destructive patterns.
5. Enhance Communication
Your needs and boundaries are important. They matter and you matter. Hence, honing your communication skills will help you be radically honest with the people in your life. This includes, of course, those with whom you may enter into a relationship.
You Deserve Help…
No one asks for or deserves childhood trauma. No one. You are not to blame. You have every reason and right to seek help. Committing to regular therapy is a proven way to resolve and recover. You’ll learn more about your patterns and tendencies. Armed with that awareness, you and a skilled therapist can work on creating new perspectives and behaviors. All of this (and more) can and will put you in a better place to form and maintain healthy adult relationships.