A difficult childhood. A brutal assault. A car accident occurred. If you or your child have had these in the past, they may be affecting your current health These are all examples of traumatic events, which are incidents that make you believe you are in danger of being seriously injured or losing your life, in psychological terms. That is not to say that if a child goes through a traumatic experience, they will be emotionally scarred for life. However, it is important to recognise when a child may require professional assistance in dealing with trauma. Early intervention may even prevent the child from experiencing the trauma's long-term effects as an adult. In an interview with Dr. Aloke, who has been practising Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for the past 16 years, we attempted to address the stigma associated with childhood trauma.
What is Childhood Trauma?
“Trauma can be physical, social, or psychological, but it primarily affects the emotional component. A child being ridiculed by parents, teachers, or significant others, a child being belittled for not knowing simple things in school, a child being beaten up frequently or witnessing quarrels and beatings at home are all examples of trauma”, comments Dr. Aloke.
Trauma, if left unaddressed, can have long-term consequences for the quality and length of a person's life. Most of the time, such incidents are suppressed by others or repressed by the individual, but they leave long-lasting memories. “When a person is exposed to a trigger, the memory is activated, and the individual begins to feel restless, notices palpitations, shivering, sweating, dryness of mouth, butterflies in the abdomen, unsteadiness, inability to focus, short term memory loss, becoming frozen, feeling as if something is sinking, and so on. Triggers can be obvious, such as seeing the person or group who has troubled you, being in the same place, knowing the person's name etc., or they can be subtle, such as tone of voice, colour, smell, facial expressions, and so on”, he adds.
Signs of Childhood Trauma in Adults
Childhood trauma can have long-term consequences in adulthood. Trauma can have an impact on future relationships and lead to other problems such as depression and low self-esteem. Dr Aloke explains, “I had a client who remembered her father physically abusing her and her sisters, even threatening their mother...she began to despise men and decided to live with a woman to feel safe. Childhood trauma can manifest itself at any time in life, depending on the triggers. Adulthood triggers can include work stress, peer pressure, any embarrassing event, and disappointments.”
People who have repressed childhood trauma are unable to cope with these everyday events and frequently lash out or hide. When things don't go your way, you may find yourself lashing out at others in a childish manner or throwing tantrums. “Repressed feelings can cause psycho-somatic issues such as IBS, fibromyalgia, skin problems, insecurity, fear of the worst-case scenario, aggressive and destructive behaviour, and so on”, he reveals.
What is Generational Trauma?
Generational trauma is exactly what it sounds like trauma that is felt by multiple generations rather than just one. “Despite the fact that epigenetics is a relatively new field, these factors are the primary cause of generational trauma”, says Dr. Aloke. Genocide, Poverty, and Constant Dominance have all been shown to have an impact on a generation's mindset, which is passed down to future generations. “According to some studies, generational trauma can last for up to five generations, resulting in issues such as fear, neurosis, depression, psychotic issues, and so on”, he adds.
Ways to deal with Childhood and Generational Trauma
If you’re living with the emotional and psychological consequences of a traumatic childhood, there is hope. Dr. Aloke suggests a few trauma-focused Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) techniques to help children and people resolve these effects.
1. Psycho-education- It is the process of helping a person understand the logic behind their feelings and symptoms and then attempting to manage them.
2. Neutralizing- Not becoming engrossed in any past event, and assigning a neutral label to the situation and or person.
3. Confidence building: Attempting to identify positive past experiences and the lessons learned from them. Such events are frequently rehearsed in front of oneself.
4. Internal Dialogue:
- Positive affirmations
- Motivational phrases
-Self-talk can begin with negatives but must end in positives.
5. ERP (Exposure with Response Prevention): Gradual exposure to triggers with the goal of developing alternative responses through relaxation exercises.
The process of healing emotional wounds can be uncomfortable at first, but it will be a very rewarding journey in the end. The energy we are currently expending on trauma will be released, and the space within ourselves that trauma has taken up can be filled with new, more positive energy that can help us build a life we will love.