Childhood trauma healing | Healing from childhood trauma
When childhood wasn’t safe, or you didn’t feel you had an ally, the sense of being alone in the world is particularly acute, and has lifelong consequences, such as:
- a belief you aren’t safe in the world (or from people);
- lack of self-belief
- shame and/or a loud ‘inner critic’
- feeling that you lack potential
Not to mention, trauma in childhood can create a host of unpleasant symptoms that can be ongoing, from flashbacks and anxiety, to health problems.
Developmental trauma – trauma which happened in your early years – is unique in that it impacts the nervous system whilst it’s still in development, creating a ‘hard drive’ for whatever predominant emotions and reactions you had when you were growing up.
Often, childhood trauma is complex trauma, as in the situation of abuse, when there were repeated traumatic events. I often liken this to a sledgehammer repeatedly pounding away at the nervous system, harming you with every impact.
How in the world can one begin to heal from this?
Here are some tips for healing childhood trauma
1. Avoid the narrative history as a very first step.
What you may not know, because it’s not often spoken about, is that going to a traditional therapist to unravel your childhood trauma can, and some circumstances, does do more harm than good.
At least initially, beware of the narrative history – that is recounting the story of everything that happened to you from the very very beginning, because if you’ve not done any therapeutic work before, bringing this up out loud for the first time can be a little bit like reliving each event.
You may not have the skills to cope with an activated nervous system, i.e., the flood of memories and emotional reactions it provokes.
Some people actually can become retraumatized just in the process of going over their history.
Now, of course, I am a big proponent of therapy, and it’s true that an empathetic practitioner or psychologist can certainly be very supportive. At the same time, it’s also important to be aware that if you are someone who has repressed your memories for a very long time, and you don’t often talk about it, you will need additional emotional support if you’re going to start re-living it.
In actual fact, the most effective way to begin therapy with an aim to recovering from your childhood trauma is to begin with what’s happening right now.
2. Start with right now.
What is your emotional experience right now in your life, and what is not working for you practically speaking in your life?
When you begin to sit with this question, and share your answer with a trauma-informed practitioner, it can open a door to memories, beliefs, and associations, that might have originated with your childhood circumstances, but which for whatever reason are still very active and present in your life today.
3. Consider somatic therapy and/or bodywork.
Somatic therapy works with body awareness, helping you be grounded in your felt experience. This is so vital because trauma does reside in the body.
The body remembers everything, and holds all trauma in its tissues, muscles, and more.
The topic of pre-verbal developmental trauma is relevant here. This is trauma that happens when you are so young that you don’t even remember it, such as infant abandonment, physical and emotional abuse, neglect, and early medical intervention (which the body perceives as traumatic).
I was interviewed about this fascinating topic on a wonderful podcast by fellow therapist Elizabeth Cush. You can listen here: Can Bodywork Help Heal Hidden Trauma?
Bodywork helps release any kind of held trauma, but it’s especially powerful when the trauma is preverbal. In the absence of ‘remembering,’ of course, it is difficult to talk about it.
In the expert hands of a trauma-informed bodyworker, however, much can be let go, even without remembering what it is that is being let go of!
Personally, I have seen this numerous times – how the body shudders, trembles, and the client releases emotion with sounds or tears, and afterwards feels lighter despite not having a specific memory or understanding!
4. Learn how to be present with and extend compassion to your ‘Vulnerable Self.’
Some people call this the ‘inner child’. I wrote an entire blog about how to do this here: Inner Vulnerable Self.
Often, the longest lingering aftereffects of childhood trauma is that there is a part of us that didn’t have its needs met, and so it continues to ‘act up’ – driving our behaviour, reacting to triggers and so on.
One of the most powerful and transformational things you can ever do for yourself is to learn how to extend self-love and self-compassion.
For those of you with less than ideal childhoods (um, that’s most of us), learning this skill is a MUST, because we did not have it role-modelled to us as children!
Learning self-love and self-compassion is the basis of every single healthy, loving relationship.
Healing at last
Many of the members of my online healing program, Feel Better Now, experienced developmental trauma, and then went on to have abusive adult relationships.
One of the reasons I created my program is that there is so much you can do in your own time to begin to release trauma from the body and change long-held patterns and ways of being.
My self-guided online therapy program empowers you to expand your capacity for joy and to know your purpose and live it.