Scenario 3; A true-life story of learning to live healthy by experiencing childhood emotions.
There have been new studies done and therapists are beginning to agree that when a patient had gone through trauma, instead of medicating them immediately it is better to let them move through the trauma by experiencing the emotions that go along with the event. Sort of like a train going through a dark tunnel before light returns. This also ensures better coping skills for the future. This method is also being used with children. Children rarely can identify emotions that are attached to a traumatic event.
My grandson is a great example of this. For privacy reasons, we will call him Paul.
Paul rides a public-school bus with other children kindergarten through 6th grade. Paul is 5 years old, and a few older kids at the back of the bus got in a disagreement that turned violent. He has never witnessed violence so, Paul had nothing to emotionally compare this within his life experience.
The next morning Paul would not get on the bus and his mother couldn’t understand why. Paul was adamant he would never ride the bus again, but he couldn’t explain why or what had happened. His mom called the school and was informed about the incident.
Now, put yourself in an adult situation from the past that elicited an emotional response. It could possibly be domestic violence, a car accident, a fight you witnessed, divorce or countless other situations. Remember the emotion that is attached to that event, overwhelming for an adult right?
Replace yourself with your child in this event. Now, do you understand why trauma can run so deep within individuals? Even though the child may lose the memory as they get older when reexperiencing a similar event the person can have the same emotional response as if they were experiencing it from a child’s perspective.
Armed with all the information, Paul’s mother was able to talk him through the event. Paul expressed he was fearful, so his mother walked him through the fear of the event which soothed him back into his safety zone. Now Paul has added a new coping mechanism. He has learned if he is fearful, he can go to his mother, talk to her about the incident and gain comfort and understanding until he is able to cope with these things on his own.
What if you didn’t have a mother like Paul does, and you grew up being stonewalled, or your feelings ignored or invalidated? Invalidation of one’s feelings is damaging, yet many of us were taught this as youngsters and carry it with us into adulthood. This is where many problems occur with adult’s that have experienced emotional abuse or neglect as children. We were taught little to no coping skills, so we had to rely on discombobulated information. You must sort through all the information and feelings from a child’s perspective. As children we relied on our caretakers to determine our reality, thus, we grow up and are perfect targets for abusive people because we are always looking to others for validation and their perception of us.
I remember as a 4-year-old, I was enrolled in a dance class. Mother was late and all the children had left except me. I panicked! I was so afraid my mother had left me there and I felt so alone and helpless. When mother did arrive, she came into the dance studio to me sobbing uncontrollably with my dance teacher who was trying to comfort me. Mom apologized for being late, took my hand and told me very abruptly to stop crying, that I was overreacting, and I should know better, she would never leave me. From my small perspective, she did leave me. If she would have walked me through the emotions, I would have felt reassured and back into my safety zone.
My birth mother died three days after I was born. I was in the hospital for a week before a cousin eventually picked me up and took me home. My birth grandfather didn’t know this had happened as the cousin didn’t tell anyone. Grandad figured out the deception, and he called Family Services where I was taken from that home and put into foster care.
I was tiny when I was born, 5lbs 8oz and I had a hernia. I had to be 10 pounds until the surgeon could repair it. My foster mother was told to keep my crying to a minimum until my surgery. She held me most of the time and I was finally able to bond with another human being.
When I reached 10 pounds I was carted off to the hospital while my adopted parents waited for me to come out of recovery and take me home.
Now, do I have any memory of this happening to me, no, but it does give me better insight. Once I was able to put the pieces together, I understood the emotional attachment or lack thereof through my very small self. I was able to validate everything I had been through and had a wonderful aha moment.
Many adults have experienced attachment issues as children that follow them into adulthood. We all experience difficulties but getting a better understanding of the emotional attachment to the event is key.
I was blessed because I did form an attachment to my adopted parents. I just didn’t understand why they treated me the way they did until I looked at their histories of traumatic events. They limped through their lives and didn’t have the opportunities that have been gifted to me. They didn’t know there was an easier better way and I certainly cannot condemn them for their lack of wisdom.
Healing is truly something that you must experience! Finally finding yourself through all the dysfunction and no longer relying on someone else’s narrative to define you is a freedom I have never known. Having insight into who I am is giving me so much hope as to who I will become.