Often a major sticking point with our thoughts is the belief that they are 'true'. We can look at our thoughts using a different, and more helpful, rubric.
heal the past. build a future.
managing the impacts of childhood psychological maltreatment
Psychological violence is sneaky. It isn't as easy to spot as physical or sexual violence. There is no external evidence to point to- no single moment in time that we can mark as ‘the problem’. Nevertheless, growing up with constant ridicule, or being controlled, or observing an substance using loved one, are all experiences that can cause trauma.
Yet, I’m willing to bet many of you are still on the fence that what occurred to you is trauma. So, let me ask you a few questions to help you decide.
Give yourself a check mark for each of the following you’ve said to yourself in the past:
"What happened to me isn't that bad..."
"If I were stronger, I'd be over this by now...."
"Lots of people have experienced worse...."
"Maybe I really am just lazy/bad/worthless...."
"It happened so long ago, it can't really matter anymore..."
"What happened to me isn’t that bad…"
I know, I know. It really wasn't that serious. I mean- its just words right? You’ve probably dedicated a fair bit of time convincing yourself that you’re just overly sensitive and really could use some toughening up.
We discount our experiences of trauma because they don’t fit in the box of ‘bad enough’ (whatever that means). Society tells us we should just ‘get over it’, or ‘choose happiness’ or something else completely unhelpful.
The reality is, psychological maltreatment has negative mental and physical health outcomes comparable or worse than those of sexual and physical violence. Yet, it has been long overlooked as a problem.
The impact of psychological violence is only exacerbated by it occurring during childhood development. Maltreatment has been shown to alter the development of brain structures, gene expression and hormone release.
Those 'words' have the ability to alter your brain and how your body functions. Yet, we convince ourselves it ‘isn’t that bad’.
"If I were stronger, I’d be over this by now…."
‘Make me stronger’ is the mantra of the psychologically maltreated.
You are strong. You are a titan asking to be stronger. I have seen survivors who causally write off taking care of a substance user since they were 12 years old, or being called worthless a thousand times.
The problem isn’t your strength.
"Lots of people have had the same or worse experiences…"
We have this idea that if other people have the same or a worse experience, it somehow negates our own. ‘Lots of people have alcoholic parents. I have no right to be upset about it.’
Millions of people experience war, famine, disease, does that make it less horrific? This is the exact same logic. Just because lots of people have experienced the same thing doesn’t mean it isn’t trauma.
"Maybe I really am just weak/bad/lazy…"
Many survivors believe they are somehow responsible for their pain. They are ‘bad’ or ‘cursed’ or ‘evil’. When the world gives us awful experiences, we want to make sense of it. We decide it must be because we are somehow deserving.
Further, in crazy situations, we do what is necessary to survive. Often these skills and tools are ultimately destructive if left unchecked. It is common for those effected by trauma to struggle with eating disorders, alcoholism and self-harm. We think these actions are reflections of who we are, when in reality they were simply ways to cope.
"It happened so long ago, it can't matter anymore..."
Trauma doesn't magically go away. It doesn't matter if it happened yesterday or 40 years ago.
If we consider trauma like a wound, if it is never healed it will continue to impact our health and well-being.
Research shows the mental health struggles for those who experience psychological maltreatment during development are experienced over a lifetime. In other words, the impacts of violence linger.
Denying your story doesn't change it.
I know these lines because they are universal. We have all repeated them to ourselves a million times. It is time to stop. That is the moment everything will change. There is a way to a better life. But you have to start by believing yourself about what happened and confronting it.
That is the work I do. That is the work we can do together.
Our enviornment can change our genetics. Both for the good and for the bad.
One reason survivors are more susceptible to disease and pain is high risk behaviors. In this post, we learn about why we engage in these behaviors and how to choose differently.
The podcast is a safe place to explore and discuss ideas around tools and living well.
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