Childhood is an incredibly vulnerable stage of life. Children are entirely dependent on the care of others and are powerless to protect themselves from harm. Unfortunately, childhood pain can take years to heal and often continues to affect people well into adulthood.
Very simply defined, trauma is pain that comes from a negative experience. Often, emotional pain can express itself in physical symptoms and vice versa. Adults can actively work to heal and move past childhood pain. Here are five steps to help you get started.
- Recognize the Signs
Children are affected by a wide range of traumatic experiences. You may have escaped sexual or emotional abuse as a child, but everyone has had negative life experiences. If you’ve been unable to work through the emotional reaction to those challenges, you haven’t yet healed from trauma.
Some of the classic signs of trauma include low self-worth and feeling abnormal levels of fear. Many survivors exhibit hypervigilance, which is when they’re excessively tuned in to potential danger. If your parents didn’t meet your childhood needs, you might find yourself trying to parent your spouse or exhibiting codependency.
- Sit With Your Pain
One of the scariest things you can do is allow yourself to re-experience the pain of childhood trauma. However, listening to your pain can be incredibly healing within a safe environment. Pain is a symptom of a deeper problem and not something to be afraid of for its own sake.
Sitting with your pain can help you understand its cause and find lasting healing. Many people struggle to listen to negative emotions because they were taught to avoid them as children. However, these feelings can protect you and are a natural part of the healing process.
- Soothe Your Body
There is no way to separate your physical experience from your mental experience — the human mind and body are too intricately connected. It can be helpful to comfort yourself physically when you’re trying to address emotional pain. Give yourself a hug and take a deep breath. This helps to reassure your mind that you’re safe.
The mind-body connection is one reason that music therapy has become so popular. The information you take in through your senses informs your mental processes and response to life. You won’t have room for the emotions of wonder, peace and joy if you’re constantly in fight-or-flight mode. Soothing your body will help your mind relax into the present moment.
- Get Professional Help
If you’ve realized you’re suffering from unresolved trauma, the next step is to connect with professional help. Past trauma is like a lens you use to see life. You may never realize certain ideas and thought patterns aren’t healthy without outside help. For example, you may not realize that you have trust issues in your relationships until you speak with a therapist.
Although it may sound terrifying, working with a professional can lead to mental and emotional freedom. A certified therapist or counselor can help you identify the effects of trauma in your life and regain joy, freedom and hope for the future. Studies show that healing trauma can also positively impact your physical health, increasing the length and quality of your life.
- Pinpoint Shame
Human feelings are complicated, and it’s normal to experience varied emotions. For example, you may feel guilty that you feel angry at your spouse. You may even be mad that you feel guilty because you’re angry! In general, guilt, fear and shame make it hard to think clearly.
It’s essential to pinpoint and release these feelings when working through childhood pain. Shame and guilt are a trail that can lead right to the moment that defines your trauma. These emotions are useful, but they’re not usually truthful. For example, many children of divorced parents feel guilty, like the breakup was their fault — even though that’s not true.
You Can Heal
Many people describe their moment of trauma as “feeling lost.” It does impact you, but it doesn’t irreparably break you. With enough compassion for yourself and support from others, you can find healing from childhood pain and live a happy, fulfilled life. What’s your first step going to be?
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