A Dysfunctional Childhood: The Gift That Keeps On Giving

Childhood Trauma: The Hidden Epidemic

The ways in which a messy childhood keep showing up are endless as we move through different chapters of adulthood, aren’t they?  We can work, think, ponder, heal, write, therapy, and self-help our way into deeper understandings and better places mentally, but the sneaky poison bombs still get dropped sometimes.  And so…. the layers continue to peel back as we learn more about how our brain got wired in the early years, why we’re sensitive or “weird” in particular ways, how we get triggered by stuff we thought we understood, or why we’re hit by moments of feeling crazed towards our kids or partner or co-worker…. 

The trajectory that so many of us follow as we move through adulthood often means the stakes get higher as we age.  The coping skills that got us through our 20’s no longer work (hello alcohol), we’re increasingly on the hook for showing up responsibly in our relationships and jobs, and there’s simply not as much room to f&*k things up.  So if the wheels weren’t attached properly from the beginning, the screws start falling out somewhere in our 30’s and 40’s and we’re forced to reconcile what wasn’t properly built.  We’re forced to figure out how to actually create a sustainable foundation, to ‘re-parent’ ourselves, or to confront how we’re hurting or sabotaging our well-being now.  As my younger sis, now sober, jokingly(ish) said a few years ago – “being a drunk in my 40’s is seriously just not a cute look anymore.”  

So what does this mean for you?  How do you know what’s left to discover when it comes to figuring out how your dysfunctional childhood still impacts you now?  It can be obvious – you’re haunted by unresolved experiences, feel conflicted in certain family relationships, you’re clearly reaching for escapism too often, or you recognize when you’re repeating unhealthy patterns learned long ago.  OR it can be insidious and sneaky – you’re sabotaging relationships without realizing it, unknowingly making your kids feel crappy or scared, you’re disappearing into working & hustling like crazy to keep your mind busy, or pushing people away more often than you realize.  The possibilities are endless,

but there’s one thing we know for sure: our childhood experiences wired our brains for better and worse, and the details of this continue to be revealed over time as we age.  

If changing behaviors or mental trappings wasn’t possible, I would have RUN from the field of psychotherapy a long time ago.  Alas, there are ways to untangle the mental spaghetti swamp, but change does not unfold accidentlly or even because we hope dearly for it.  Change occurs by growing self-awareness, getting brutally honest with ourselves, healing the parts that feel broken, and intentionally choosing to do something different - over and over and over again, even when it feels unnatural.  

When it comes to pondering how your dysfunctional childhood may still be impacting you now, I encourage you to think about these two questions:

1)    Is there a shadow that your personal history casts as you wander through your adult life now?  How would you describe that shadow?

2)    If you were to identify 2 things about your parents’ personalities or tendencies that you’re dead-set on not repeating, what are they?  Have any of these slipped between the cracks into your own life?

That’s enough to sink your teeth into as you consider how your earlier life experiences may still sneak up today.  I’m serious when I say – please share your thoughts with me!  Life is crazy and it’s altogether easier when we’re not going it alone.  :)


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