Our Spring issue is out now! Our regular contributor Sandy Newbigging shares the observations he has made about childhood trauma and the road to recovery – Dive on in!
Are These Lesser Known Childhood Traumas Limiting Your Life Today?
by Sandy Newbigging
“…the most common childhood traumas are largely unknown,
unrecognised, undiagnosed, and, consequently, untreated.”
Being raised by good parents, and having what we consider to be a normal childhood, doesn’t always mean that we avoided the lesser-known childhood traumas that can be negatively impacting us, from the shadows, for decades. I’ve met thousands of well-intentioned wonderful people, wanting to live positively. However, despite having a library full of self-help books or attending countless courses, their health conditions, emotional issues and persistent life problems continue.
After eighteen years of research and clinical work, I’ve observed that one of the biggest blocks to a better life is childhood trauma. Until recognised and released, change is often limited, healing is hindered, and our problematic patterns tend to remain in place. I am yet to meet anyone who has navigated their life 100% trauma-free; with childhood trauma being far more prevalent than I originally thought.
I used to think trauma was limited to the classical kinds of big traumatic events, like physical attacks or accidents. However, I’ve discovered that the most common childhood traumas are largely unknown, unrecognised, undiagnosed, and, consequently, untreated. Many early-life traumas have been performed without malice. They are just the inevitable consequence of parents unwilfully passing on their own traumatised parts and patterns.
By shining a light on such traumas, we can quickly learn if any of them have happened to us, and use this illuminating knowledge to find our own freedom through forgiveness. Here’s three of the lesser-known childhood traumas. Can you relate to any of them?
1. Proximal Abandonment occurs when the parents are physically present, providing food, shelter etc. but are unable to emotionally connect, support and bond with the child. Most people overlook this very common trauma because their parents didn’t officially ‘abandon’ them. Yet, as far as the child is concerned, it is experienced as abandonment. From birth to around age two, the child’s primary need is bonding. If our parents, for whatever reason, cannot bond with us in the ways that we need, it can impact the rest of our relationships, along with our ongoing sense of self-worth, safety and our ability to trust.
2. Thwarted Autonomy usually occurs when we are learning to crawl, walk and talk, and thus, when we are beginning to establish our boundaries and starting to explore the world. The dictionary definition of thwarted is to “prevent (someone) from accomplishing something”. If a parent is over-protective or overly critical during the development of our autonomy, we can quickly learn that the world is a dangerous place, and develop what’s called ‘toxic shame’. By repeatedly being told that we are doing something ‘wrong or ‘bad’, the child tends to turn it back upon themself by concluding ‘I’m wrong’ or ‘I’m bad.’ The chronic fear and shame that comes from Thwarted Autonomy can cause us to limit our life – due to a heightened need to ‘stay safe’ – and also be a hidden cause of self-sabotage; due to us believing we are unworthy, not good enough and even deserving of punishment.
3. Parentification occurs when the child becomes the parent by taking on their roles and responsibility. There are two main types of parentification. ‘Instrumental’ happens when the child takes on the tasks of the parents – such as taking care of siblings, cooking, cleaning or even looking after the parent. Whereas ‘Emotional’ parentification happen if the child is put in the position of needing to be the counsellor or confidant to the parent. Parentification can be an anxious and overwhelming experience for the child; essentially robbing their childhood and removing their access to any healthy parental role models.
Common signs that this may have happened to you would be struggling to trust people, neglecting your own needs, resisting adulthood, struggling to say no, often feeling guilty, or dysfunctional relationships. Other forms of childhood traumas include being raised by a narcissistic parent or being chronically sick as a child. If you can relate to any of these early-life traumas, you are not alone. With so many people secretly suffering from untold traumas, an added benefit of researching and releasing your own traumas is more compassion for yourself and others.
In the words of Dr Melanie Salmon – ‘There are no bad people, only badly traumatised people.” Knowledge is power and my intention for providing this whistle-stop tour of the lesser-known childhood traumas is to empower real healing and transformation within you. Our goal here isn’t to appoint blame or feel wronged, but rather to embark on what can be an illuminating journey of personal enquiry, discovery, release and ultimate recovery.
Exclusive Offer: Use discount code ‘POSITIVELIFE’ to get 25% off One:One Sessions with Sandy.
For more information on Sandy and his online sessions, club and academy visit: sandynewbigging.com