When discussing about trauma, it has been found that people are automatically thinking to a unique, destructive event with visible effects for anyone and that happens because of a terrible misfortune somebody may have in a context. The truth is that things are not at all like this and the specialists have shown that the trauma does not refer to an event, but refers to the inner wound that a person gets because of some events happenings in his life, most of them not being so “obviously traumatic.” And the biggest problem is not that we are talking about a wound, but the fact that this wound remains active all our life when it is not “treated” appropriately. Wounds from traumatization are not the ones that we recover from ourselves and easily and requires a specific healing path.
For decades, it has been observed that people end up in adulthood suffering from all kinds of causes such as alcoholism, drug abuse, eating disorders, depression, anxiety, and more. Depression and anxiety have been called the diseases of the century. Is this just an unfortunate accident in which some of the people are simply unlucky? Are people “easy”, “poor in quality” and “stubborn to hurt themselves”? Did they prefer to consume drugs, alcohol, eat without stopping at the expense of a healthy life? These questions can easily get the wrong answers or they can remain unanswered, and that is precisely why in this article we will discuss what these things really mean and how we end to such problems in adult life.
In order to fit these things, we need to understand that the past plays an essential role in the formation of these types of psychopathologies. And when speaking about the past we mean childhood. Many people wonder why psychologists need to return to childhood and do not understand their usefulness. The main reason is the functioning of the human psyche. Namely, it is known that the development of the human brain happens gradually, and in the first years of life “the judging” (frontal lobes) is “in progress”, being accessible to children only step by step. That is why the children do not understand so many things, but we can see gradually that as the elderly they become, they get the sense of reason (the judging function).
However, what is already developed in children since birth is the limbic brain, namely the place of emotions and emotional memory. But we do not feel with the same brain structure as we think. They are different and work in different registers. Therefore, children come to the world with only the ability to feel, having many needs and being completely dependent on others to survive. This makes children vulnerable. They do not have the ability to defend themselves, they do not have the ability to question what adults tell about themselves and the world, and they do not have the capacity to make a difference between what is good and what is wrong. These things put them at risk of traumatization, deeply wounded, without having any ability to protect themselves.
Probably you could have guessed so far that the greatest risk comes from significant people (attachment figures) (especially parents and carers such as nannies, grandparents, teachers etc.). Why this? Because they represent the most important people in the child’s life, because they are the ultimate authority for the child and because of the fact that a child is completely emotionally and physically dependent on his parents. If we think for a minute, even in adult life, it hurts us badly when a disturbing thing comes from those, we feel dependent on and whom we love very much (usually couple partners, sometimes parents too, etc.). And we, as adults, are fortunate enough to be autonomous, a privilege brought by the aging. Now you can imagine how it is for a child to be constantly injured by his parents, who are the centre of his universe.
And by wound we refer to: to tell them often offensive things, to physically abuse them, neglect them, sexual abuse them, force them to do things they do not like or are not proper to them, blame them all day, find them only defects and never qualities, the experience of a violent divorce, lack of explanations, the death of a parent, the mourning of a parent, the lack of proofs of affection (hugs, kind words, comforts, affections) and many others. Being exposed to any of these things and being unable to protect yourself, to help yourself, to escape, to make you feel better, to be dependent of those who abuse you, to have no other choice, to be simply exposed to pain and fear and to feel completely helpless and alone in this situation means for anyone traumatization. It is beyond the capacity of the human psyche to be able to bear and stay healthy without “disruptions”.
What is very clear here is that during childhood we have no “shields” against injuries and abuses, so the deepest traces are always coming from the period of extreme vulnerability and dependence. The truth is that even in adult life, if someone were to be without any defence capacity, becoming completely dependent on others, they would become as vulnerable as a child, and the wounds would be as profound.
Now that is clarified what trauma is, why the past is important and how the deepest wounds could happen during childhood, and especially in relation to our parents, we will discuss about emotional disorders. Specialists studying trauma and treatment of trauma have always shown that childhood traumas remain traumas throughout life or until the time of healing with the help of a specialist, the time doesn’t heal the wounds, as we often hear. On the contrary, wounds from traumas deepen with the passage of time and degenerate into the disorders mentioned at the beginning of the article and not only.
Many scientific researches made in all corners of the world have shown that there is a clear correlation between sexual abuse, physical violence, neglect and obesity, depression, anxiety, substance abuse and alcoholism. And it should be mentioned, however, that in some types of events, such as a slap, a raised tone once, a bad word will not cause trauma. But if these things happen with regularity, they will definitely cause trauma. And it may seem exaggerated and you might ask yourself how it could have some words, some slaps to traumatize somebody. But you can answer yourself by imagining the following: if the person you love most in this world would always address you bad words, slapping you all day long, screaming at you for 10-15 years and on top of this you could not change this and get rid of this situation, how do you think you might feel in this situation?
Let us not exclude “socially accepted” abuses and even encouraged when children become exhausted by unrealistic and inappropriate performance and schooling requirements in which children are valued and loved only if they achieve big grades and take prizes at competitions and Olympics. What in the adult life is the equivalent of: I’m good only if I earn a lot of money, I’m good only if I’m a manager, I’m good only if I’m the best of all and besides these things I have no value, I can’t live with me. To come to this world and to feel with your whole living being that you are loved and valued only under these strict conditions is totally depressing and shocking and, surprisingly, research has shown that the level of perfectionism is directly proportional to the level of depression and anxiety. Therefore, the more perfectionist, the more depressed and anxious.
However, leaving open the subject for further debate, we can conclude this article, by recalling and highlighting once again the importance of childhood which is characterized by the greatest vulnerability to trauma, the incredibly important role of parents in this period of life and the fact that parental abuses are certainly correlated with adolescent and adults psychopathology.