Childhood Trauma Recovery

WHAT IS TRAUMA?

Throughout childhood, humans are subjected to a variety of positive, negative, and traumatic experiences. When individuals reflect on those positive childhood experiences, they describe them with ease. Those descriptions will contain a beginning, middle, and end while also deciphering that they occurred in the past. Negative experiences on the other hand may cause some distress during childhood but the child appears to only be affected by them for a short period of time. The child eventually returns to an optimal level of functioning. As an adult, the individual can recognize that the negative experiences are past events.

All traumatic experiences are negative but not all negative experiences are traumatic. The details and facts of the childhood experience do not automatically dictate whether it was traumatic or not. Instead, the answer lies in how the individual interpreted the experience as a child and how the adult is currently functioning. Trauma can apply to any situation in which we felt unprepared, violated, or out of control.

Traumatic experiences cause significant distress and continue to affect the individual throughout adulthood. Individuals are unable to articulate the traumatic memory in a concise fashion. The memory no longer has a beginning, middle, and end but rather may appear fragmented and come in the form of sounds, figures, or sensations. The individual is often unable to recall all parts of the traumatic experience. When asked to describe those traumatic memories, individuals may feel as if they are having the experience in this very moment. They cannot differentiate that this is something that occurred in the past because certain brain processes are not allowing them to do so.

HOW DOES CHILDHOOD TRAUMA AFFECT ADULTS?

Many people are quick to minimize their childhood experiences. This minimization typically is vocalized as “what I went through wasn’t that bad” or “others had it way worse” or “it wasn’t really abuse so it wasn’t traumatizing”. Children of trauma possess an amazing amount of resilience. The foundation of this resiliency is comprised of coping mechanisms that child utilized to survive those traumatic experiences.  Minimization is often learned at an early age as a means of protection. After all, how painful it must be for a child to recognize that the people and places who are supposed to keep them safe are the ones who are causing them the most pain.

In adulthood, this continues to serve a function. It allows those individuals to keep the peace in their relationships with possible toxic family members, to mask the pain they feel when reflecting on past experiences, and to simply survive. However, the emotional aspects of ourselves which we refuse to acknowledge will attempt to get our attention in a variety of ways. This may present mentally as impulsivity, aggressiveness, drug or alcohol use, fear of abandonment, relationship conflict, anxiety, depression, isolation, or even suicidality. This may present physically as digestive issues, chronic pain, headaches, panic attacks, insomnia, or hypervigilance.  While some of these conditions are often treated with medication, they will continue to persist and worsen if unresolved trauma is at the core of the problematic symptoms.

WHAT OCCURS IN TRAUMA RECOVERY?

The way we relate to others and the world around us is greatly influenced by the relationships and experiences we had as a child. Therefore, if a person’s childhood experiences have taught them that others are dangerous, unsupportive, or untrustworthy, they will continue to believe this until they have a corrective emotional experience. Trauma recovery focuses a great deal on providing the client with this experience. For this to occur, the relationship between the client and the therapist must be one in which the client feels safe, understood, and supported without the fear of punishment or abandonment. This will be cultivated and nourished during the entire therapeutic process.

Additionally, the initial stages of trauma recovery focus on assessment of problematic symptoms, goal setting, and beginning to develop a mindfulness practice.  Once this occurs, the trauma can then be processed and reintegrated through a variety of techniques that we will discuss as therapy progresses.  This results in the client experiencing a wide range of positive outcomes. These include but are not limited to symptom reduction, self-compassion, relationship satisfaction, and overall physical and mental well-being.

 

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4291 Austin Bluffs Pkwy. Suite #202
Colorado Springs, CO 80915

alicia@springspsychotherapy.com
(719) 452-8620

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