Questions frequently asked about early and middle stages of recovering from childhood trauma
Q: I have been told that I need to put the past 'behind me'
A:There is a common belief system around at the moment which says that the past can just be 'let go' of or that a person needs to 'snap out' of the results of what happened to them. What the people who propose these don't realize is that we are shaped by our upbringing at a very deep and biological level and childhood trauma has long term implications for adults. The people who propose this may also have their own unresolved childhood issues which they have not yet been able to actually address and therefore have an defensive emotional investment in not letting you address yours either.
On other pages on this site you will find information about the biological changes to the brain, autonomic nervous system, hormone, cardio-vascular, immune and other systems - as wellastothepsycheandsense of being-all of which can be linked to growing up in a dysfunctional family.
At present our Western family systems are not fully functional so everyone can benefit from some significant and specific work in order to recover from the impact of this.
Q: What are the most useful ways to recover from my past?
A:Each person is an individual and has their own unique needs. Having said that, there are a number of common areas that are likely to require attention.
Firstly you need to begin to understand that something has happened to you, it was not your fault, nevertheless you are left with it's legacy. This is called 'coming out of denial' by many people. It is usually really useful to have resources such as books and people who can help you get clear on this. Unless other members of your family have already undertaken their own significant recovery they will still be in some illusion about your childhood and may even impede your recovery.
You will be undertaking much of your journey to recovery on your own. This does not mean at all that you are without support, and indeed it is important to have contact with at least some people and resources that can support you, but it does mean that the main protagonist in your recovery is you. Support may include a specialist therapist who understands the issues involved and it may also mean attending groups and workshops focused specifically on recovering from your childhood.
These groups are not the same as a 12 Step meetings which by themselves are usually not sufficient for recovery from significant childhood trauma. Where these can be useful is during early recovery to help stabilize symptoms and to help a person stay away from addictions before entering a more extensive and comprehensive recovery program.
Reading books by people experienced in the field is an important resource as you can learn more about the actual issues involved and begin to get some idea and practice in how to recover from them. Simply reading books without doing the experiential exersises they contain is not sufficient as this keeps your recovery at a superficial mental level. There are useful reading and other material on the resources page on this site.
There is now a growing realization of the role of the of non-touch body psychotherapy as a powerful pathway to recovery. This is partly because when you have a feeling, where do you feel it? you feel it in your body, and by using safe body based psychotherapy it is possible to by-pass some of the strategies set up in the past as part of how you survived and go directly to the core of problems. Also when we connect with our body we cannot help but be in the 'now' as our body is always in the present, whereas trauma is based in the past - so gradually learning to connect with the body is a powerful healing process in itself.
There is now also a greater understanding of ways to work with the human energy field to help clear the past and this type of work can be a useful addition.
With any of these it is important that the practitioner/therapist has an understanding of the issues involved in recovery from childhood trauma and has also been through their own experiential recovery process. Many 'highly qualified' people including Psychiatrists, Psychologists and Psychotherapists have not yet done either and are not useful for significant recovery, and conversely a person who seemingly has a basic qualification may actually be a very skilled companion on your journey to recovery.
The bottom line is how much work they have done on themselves and how much of their own recovery this has led to.
Gradually putting together a package that includes some or all of the following: One to one therapy with a specialist therapist, attending a recovery based therapy group, going to relevant workshops and courses, reading books by people really experienced in recovery, together with significant quality time spent working on yourself at home is likely to significantly aid your recovery.
Q: What is the point of going back to my childhood?
A: If you have ever been a car when it has a flat tyre you will know how much more bumpy and unstable the car becomes. At best the car can limp along - that is until there is a good tyre on it again. Well if you have grown up within a dysfunctional family you will have one or more tyres on the vehicle of 'you' that are giving you an unnecessarily bumpy ride in life.
For some people the tyres are simply a little low so their whilst they can get along they are held back from their full potential. If you like you can look at it as though such people are expressing into the world in low definition, like a low definition TV. You can see a film on it but the richness and depth of color is missing and it seems 'flat'. Millions of people carry on their whole lives with reduced capacity, when they could in fact switch up to experiencing the world in High Definition and 3D once they were no longer held back by their past.
For others their journey is made so difficult that they have pretty much come to a stop and cannot really avoid addressing the issues from their childhood, and paradoxically such a person can come out the other side of their recovery process able to enjoy and express the richness of themselves and their life in a way that is usually not even dreamed of.
I find it interesting to observe that if you get a flat tyre whilst driving nobody in their right mind says "Well you got that flat back down the road so you mustn't dwell on the past but carry on regardless" !! and yet that's exactly what is often the belief about healing from 'back down the road' in your past.
Albert Einstein said that "The only source of knowledge is experience" and when a person shuts themselves off from the felt experience of their childhood, as they must do in order to survive a dysfunctional family, their access to knowledge in the present is also shut down into dogma.
Recovery opens the door to knowledge, growth, health, creativity, relationships, energy, wisdom, happiness and growth in consciousness.
Q: What areas need to be addressed in recovery?
A: Many areas and topics will be visited as you recover, and you will come to experientially understand the role of co-dependence, boundaries, shame, fear, grief, distorted thinking, flashbacks, unconscious patterns in relationships, addictions, disconnection, trust, safety, body armoring, love........ and much, much more as you recover from your past and grow into an amazing, and soul based, future that you would have been impossible to envision before.
It is not because you are not intelligent that this future cannot be envisioned, it is because you will become a whole new you.
A caterpillar cannot imagine what it is like to become a butterfly with wings and be able to fly.
One of the very most import areas in recovery is learning how to be present to emotions as they naturally arise - not repressing them - and then separating out which of these emotions are responses to the 'here and now' and which are reactions stemming from the 'there and then' and some, still unresolved issues, from your past.
Much of what seems like a response to the present can in fact have some/much/most of it's charge based in the past and in effect each time we are triggered we go into a 'flashback' to the time in our history when we had to block our natural processing of an event so that it froze at that point and since then has remained frozen in time and yet still reverberating in the background of daily life...and recovery addresses these.
Q: I've been told that what happened to me is part of my Spiritual Development or Karma... A:Both of these beliefs are designed to avoid looking at, and then having to address, the large scale dysfunction within society. They are also part of the belief system that makes the 'victim' responsible for what happened to them. Making the victim responsible is in itself a strategy to avoid underlying feelings such as helplessness and impotence about what happened.
Until you fully embrace what happened to you, and feel what it was really like for you then, you cannot fully mourn what took place. Mourning is the 'Healing Feeling' and until you can grieve what took place you will find it it impossible to be finally be free. As we grieve we naturally heal our relationship with ourselves, and that makes all the difference.
If a person is given a healthy enough home, community and societal environment in which to grow up in they will automatically, and organically, go through their natural developmental stages and blossom into their full potential as part of an ongoing journey throughout their whole life. They will not require 'lessons'
Going through a recovery process allows you to pick up the pieces of 'you' that got 'left behind', process these and then integrate them. Then you get a life which can be truly soulful.
Q: What about if I have been diagnosed with a disorder such as Bi-Polar, Depression, Psychosis, Anxiety, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Schizophrenia, Borderline Personality Disorder or similar?
A: What a diagnoses does is ring-fence a variety of symptoms and then give that collection of symptoms a name such as Bi-Polar, Depression, Anxiety or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and the many others.
However when closely examined 99.9% of the symptoms are usually those of unhealed childhood issues, and once these past issues have been appropriately addressed and integrated, the symptoms begin to disappear and often clear up completely.
There is an outdated but still widely held belief that these disorders are simply biological or genetic and caused by a chemical imbalance and so require medication. What people who hold this belief don't realize is that when you address unhealed childhood issues your biology changes automatically anyway since because the mind, emotions and body are constantly involved in a 3 way dialogue, and all parts are severely hampered by unresolved trauma.
Until you have actually, and actively, addressed the past no-one can be in a position to know exactly what medication might, or might not, ever be needed.
The more life destroying the symptoms, in general, the more issues from childhood are likely to be involved and also the more slowly and thoroughly will need to go in your recovery.