It’s hard to believe we don’t acknowledge it more, but so many of us are wandering around having experienced childhood trauma. The big -T word gets thrown around a bit too casually these days (OMG it was SO traumatic when…), but sometimes I wonder if that’s because we’re warming up to using it at all. When used appropriately, trauma is a word that hangs heavy and real. We shy away from using it to describe our own experiences, because to admit we *might* have experienced trauma in childhood is complicated. It suggests we’re somehow broken, or that our parent(s) really messed up, or that we need help, or that the bad thing really did happen. It’s complicated because comparatively, others have it worse and we feel compelled to save the big T word for them. I often remind clients that you can be drowning in 5 feet of water or 50, but that both people are drowning just the same.
Childhood trauma comes in a million shapes and sizes, and something that’s clearly traumatizing to one person or child isn’t necessarily traumatizing to another. A few ways I help clients determine what’s gotten stored as trauma is looking at: 1) what feels yucky or sad about their childhood when they think about it 2) what do they sometimes have flash-backs or sudden memories of that don’t feel good when remembered and 3) we explore whether there are vague, heavy feelings like something bad happened in childhood, even if not clearly remembered.
The reason it’s important to dig into this old painful stuff is that it lives there anyhow - in our guts and bones and brains and hearts - regardless of whether it’s been dealt with or healed from. So why not heal it? Healing it means feeling freer, living without feelings of yuck or shame. It means understanding how and why our emotions get triggered, and allows us to stop passing this sh*! along to the next generation. Healing the trauma means letting go of the secrets and offloading the heavy pain.
As a person who both experienced childhood trauma and a therapist who helps others recover from it, I can say with complete certainty that the pain of digging in and healing childhood pain is worth every bit of the eventual reward. So if you’re one of us – wandering this life with childhood trauma woven into your story – I see you, I feel you.
Take good care of yourself out there.