As children grow, they witness and learn about life around. As they gather information of the world they live in, they develop coping abilities. While this is all based on their direct experience of their environment and those within it, they’re creating an internal map of how the world works. If trauma is thrown into the mix for a child, that’s going to influence that internal map which interprets the bigger picture. This is how childhood trauma can still affect us as adults.
One way we carry childhood trauma with us into adulthood is by living a false self. When we’re young, we want our parents love us and be proud of who we are. Often times, we know what will make them proud, so we create this version of who we are that we present to the world. By doing this, we bury emotions that don’t align with that person we created. This isn’t healthy because we lose touch with who we really are. At some point, we want don’t want to play pretend anymore but we’re terrified to take that mask off because we’ve already been accepted as that false person. Then we experience feels of dissatisfaction and unfulfillment, even disconnect.
When we’re kids, we don’t have much control over our environment, who’s in it, and what happens. When unfortunate things happen, we can feel like victims as young children. Sometimes we carry those victimizing feelings into adulthood. That mentality could stretch into other aspects of our lives as we fall victim to numerous circumstances. However, we should think of ourselves as survivors instead. We survived those situations in our childhood. As adults, we have more control over our lives. We’re not children anymore. We need to remember that we’re capable of making changes to our lives if we’re unhappy. We can continue to survive and overcome, moving through life.
When children grow up in environments with people who project anger with violence, they learn that as an acceptable behavior. Maybe this leads them to be aggressive with their emotions as adults. There’s also children who are raised to think anger is a bad emotion we shouldn’t feel. As adults, maybe they suppress their anger or become passive-aggressive. Instead, we should express our anger in healthy ways. Anger is an important emotion we need to feel, but that doesn’t give us permission to rage or lash out. We need to feel and communicate anger to help others and ourselves make sense of it and understand it.
Some children experience feels of neglect and abandonment. Some grow up feeling like if they don’t care, it won’t hurt when it happens again. Carrying those feelings into adulthood could lead us down a passive disconnected path in life. We could become apathetic, not caring to connect or find meaningfulness in anything. This can hold us back in fear rather than allowing us to flourish and experience relationships and depth.
If you or a loved one struggles with any of these things or other forms of experiencing childhood trauma in adulthood, please contact Crownview Co-Occurring Institute to get in touch with a medical professional. Someone can develop a personalized plan to help you overcome the trauma that holds you back. Especially, if that trauma influences any kind of substance abuse.