I didn’t think I had an abusive childhood, but now I realise I did

Do you need other people to validate the things you do?

Do you need the approval of others?

Do you find it hard making decisions for yourself?

Do you find it hard feeling self-reliant?

Do you find it hard to regulate your emotions?

Are you really hard on yourself?

Do you feel you have little or no worth?

Do you do things to numb your emotional pain?

Are you frightened of rejection and abandonment?

Do you feel you are stuck in angry mode?

Do you find it hard to feel joy or peace?

Do you find it hard to get close to other people?

Do you feel lonely and seek out others to compensate for your loneliness?

Do you feel lost, misunderstood or that you don’t fit in and others are judging you for that?

Do you frequently feel anxious or depressed?

Are you frightened of social situations and fear being rejected.

Do you feel others judge you as not being good enough?

Do you feel empowered in your life?

How childhood experiences can impact you as an adult

Did you know that trauma in childhood has a significant impact on your self-worth?

If your sense of safety and belonging in childhood was damaged you are likely to have developed skills to keep you safe in that situation. As you grew up you may never have unlearned those skills, so they trap you in patterns that don’t serve you in adulthood.

Also, poor attachment between your parents and you puts you at risk of suffering from loneliness in adulthood.

Traumatic experiences in your childhood disrupt how you see your self as a person and affect your ability to regulate your emotions. All this impacts on the quality of the interpersonal relationships you have later in life.

My parents didn’t physically or sexually abuse me. I can’t have suffered trauma.

It can be hard to understand you have been traumatised in childhood. The usual picture of trauma is that of being hit or sexually abused. But trauma covers much more than just that. In fact, the worst traumas are emotional and psychological.


Neglect is a trauma that is often overlooked. With neglect the child’s physical and emotional needs are frequently overlooked. It may involve not receiving regular meals, not having clean clothes to wear, not having your emotional needs for comfort and support met. A parent who rarely interacts or shows an interest in you is also neglectful.

Neglectful parents are also unlikely to be there to teach you skills of emotional regulation. They may not teach you how to wash yourself, how often to change your clothes.

It is unlikely a neglectful parent will see you and spend time connecting to you. This is known as attunement. A child who is not seen is a child who is not safe. Not being safe is extremely traumatic.

The clear message in this situation is that you have no worth or value. After all, you are not worth having any time or attention given to you.

Narcissistic Parent

Narcissistic parents are also very destructive of a child’s sense of self-worth.

Such a parent depends on the child to make them feel good. The child gets positive attention when they do things that serve the parent. The trouble is, there are no clear guidelines as to what the child needs to do to serve the parent. Consequently, the child lives life second guessing the parent in order to feel that the parent will care for them and they will be safe.

Narcissistic parents will also often shame their children in front of others. They will expect their child to meet their needs, to do things to make them proud. They will never teach their child any skills that will equip them for adulthood and self-reliance.

Narcissistic parents will often hold the child close to serve their needs. They want the child to stay dependent on them because the child is there to serve their needs and that is why they had them.

One classic example is of a woman who would take her child to school. The child would happily run into the classroom and greet her friends. The mother would call her back and make a fuss of her, stating it was okay for mummy to leave now and she would be okay. The child would go back to her friends and be happily talking with them. Again, the mother would call her back. This would continue until the child’s resolve was broken and she would wail and beg her mother not to leave her.

A narcissistic parent is one of the most destructive types of parent and sentence their children to mental poor health and a dependence on validation from others in adulthood.

Complex PTSD and Borderline personality disorder

These conditions develop because of chronic trauma experienced in childhood. The type of trauma most associated with these conditions is emotional abuse and invalidation. It can happen if you are neglected or have a narcissistic parent. It can also happen from other types of abuse and invalidation.

Sometimes parents are not aware that their behaviour towards their children is invalidating and can be surprised when their child develops this disorder in adulthood.

When a parent is emotionally abusive or invalidating during a child’s early years it impacts on the child’s sense of self and the child can struggle to have a strong sense of self.

You may develop self-defeating attitudes and beliefs around yourself and the trustworthiness of the world.

When raised in such an environment it is also difficult to learn to regulate your emotions. This is often due to your parents being unable to regulate their emotions. How can you teach another person how to regulate their emotions if you can’t do it yourself.

For this reason, I encourage people who had difficult childhoods to seek counselling from a trauma trained professional before having children. Many parents who were emotionally abused as children are determined their own children will never have to go through that. But sometimes things your children do can trigger reactions in you that you can’t control and don’t like doing. If you find raising your children triggers behaviours you struggle to control then seek counselling. Seeking help makes you a good parent.

Unstable and intense relationships

If you find that any type of relationship you have with others tends to be intense and over time unstable then you may be experiencing the impacts of chronic trauma in childhood. Sometimes these relationships happen because you are uncomfortable being alone and seek out anyone who looks willing to be in a relationship with you. This can result in you unconsciously choosing the wrong type of person to have a relationship with.

Sometimes when you are in a relationship you can sabotage it by clinging to the person and unwittingly pushing them away.

I think you are the best, I hate you patterns

Another impact of childhood trauma can be seen in meeting someone new and idealising them. This continues for some time then you start devaluing them and finding things wrong with them.

You are too hard on yourself

One of the saddest impacts of childhood trauma is the lack of self-worth and lack of self-compassion.

It is not surprising that children develop these beliefs. When a parent is abusive, or expects you to jump over hoops to gain their approval, the natural response is to believe this is because you are a bad person. If your parent constantly tells you that you are bad then this belief is reinforced.

The reality is that a child is just a child learning how to live life. There is no inherent badness in a child. Sadly a child doesn’t know that. Shame becomes a big part of the life of an abused child.

Ways to dull the pain

If you never learned how to regulate your emotions, and you believe you are a bad person, then you feel great pain that you don’t know how to soothe.

Many people turn to behaviours that numb the pain. These behaviours may be dangerous. A good example of this is children who steal cars then drive them dangerously at high speed. The risk and dangers inherent in this activity help to suppress their pain.

Other things people do include addictions such as substance abuse, smoking or vaping, gambling, compulsive shopping, sex addiction, exercise addiction and eating disorders.

I am lonely

If you don’t feel you are worth anything then you may not feel you are likeable. The result is that you may avoid getting close to others so that they can’t reject you.

Getting close to another person means exposing yourself to the rejection of your parents. If they rejected you, then other people will too.

When you do form relationships with others you may be frightened of expressing your needs or asking for help because your parents failed to meet those needs when you were a child. So you may feel even lonelier because you can’t turn to someone for help.

Many people who suffered trauma in childhood report feeling lonely.

Depression and Anxiety

It is very common for someone traumatised as a child to be anxious. Your childhood was an anxious time of never being sure when you would receive support, or whether you may be abused. Abusers are rarely predictable so hypervigilance was an essential part of childhood.

Hypervigilance leads to anxiety. There is the need to be constantly on your guard because you never know what is going to happen in the next minute. You never know when things will suddenly become dangerous and frightening.

When you grow up and things become safer the fear doesn’t go away because your brain has developed neural pathways that constantly scan for danger. This is why anxiety is a constant companion of the traumatised child.

Depression is another consequence of this type of childhood. Many people report feeling depressed from childhood. The sense of not being good enough, the lack of self-worth, being emotionally worn down with anxiety and fear, the rejection and abandonment of parents and the sense of never being safe all contribute to feeling overwhelmed and hopeless and lead into depression.

I constantly feel on edge

The environment of neglect and emotional abuse is a highly stressful environment. Children in this situation are being impacted regularly by the release of stress hormones in the body. This has an impact on the developing brain and will often result in an adult who is highly sensitive to stress hormones.

The result is that your brain is in a constant state of defending yourself. In other words the fight/flight/freeze response.

It is very difficult to cope with life if your brain is constantly seeing danger and you spend a lot of time with your brain taking over your life and deciding whether you are to fight, run away, or freeze.

When this defence mechanism takes over, your thinking brain switches off. You can’t control your reactions. Sadly, very few people understand this and you may find yourself judged when you get stuck in this defence response.

It is for this reason that it is important to seek counselling from a qualified trauma counsellor.

Can I Help?

If you would like to talk to me about how I can help you with your childhood trauma, please contact me on 0409396608 or nan@plentifullifecounselling.com.au

If you would like to learn more, I write a regular newsletter with helpful information, tips, information on courses, and the occasional freebie. At the moment I have a free mindfulness meditation for anyone who signs up to my newsletter. This meditation offers a way to safely explore your feelings and learn to be okay with them. If you would like to subscribe please click on the link here: http://eepurl.com/g8Jpiz

Grieving as a Community

We all remember terrible incidents over our lifetimes when there are deaths of a large number of people. They are shocking. But nothing is as shocking to the world community than the death of a large number of children.

The horrifying number of children killed in American schools by mass shooters is distressing. So too are school bus crashes when multiple children are killed.

The Community Horror of Tragedy

A large part of what most people feel in the wake of such incidents is horror at what the parents are going through.

As a community we also feel the horror of those beautiful lives that have ended far too soon.

For the families of these children there is terrible grief, especially when more than one child has died. But
I am not going to talk about that today.

What I am going to talk about is how we as a community grieve the loss of lives, especially those of children.

The Cost of The Loss of an Individual

How do you quantify the loss of a child?

When a child dies their physical body and presence on earth is lost. But there is more than that which is lost.

There is the potential that is lost. Who might that child have become? How will the future be impacted by their absence? What relationships will never form because they are not there? What contribution may they have made to the world? What might the descendants that will now never be born have contributed to the world? How will their death change the course of our lives?

What The Loss Means to Family and Community

How do you quantify what the loss of each child means to their family and friends?

How do you quantify what the loss of each child means to their community?

As each layer of society is affected by the loss of each child, the impacts radiate out into the next layer and the next layer. Very much like ripples in a pond.

How Individuals Are Impacted

As citizens of this earth, we are all impacted by these mass deaths.

We feel deeply for the families. Many of us will imagine how we would feel if it was our own child and we feel such grief for the parents. We feel their pain and it hurts. Many will cry over the pain of the parents.

As an individual in a community you will likely grieve for those lost lives. It may not consume you in the way it would if the child was a family member, but you will still feel the impact of their loss. Your brain will not be as impacted as you had no neural connection to the child, but you will feel the pain of caring for a fellow human who has suffered the unimaginable loss of a child.

As you absorb the horror of these losses, your own grief for those you have lost in the past may surface. And that is something you will need to attend to.

Secondary Trauma

The deaths of so many and the horror you feel is known as secondary trauma. You may not have personally been involved, but you can put yourself in the place of those who have been personally involved. When you do that, you can feel the horror they are feeling.

Don’t fear secondary trauma. It is a beautiful reminder of how interconnected we humans are. We are not isolated communities in separate countries. We are all citizens of the earth. One large interconnected mass of humanity.

We Live In A Connected World

It is hard, in this world of mass communication and heavy news coverage, to avoid being exposed to terrible tragedies. And would you want to live your life unaware of the need to show compassion for others?

From devastating house fires, school shootings, earthquakes, tsunamis, bushfires, floods and more you experience so much of the horror of the world. You may not hear of every tragedy, but the ones you hear about are difficult enough.

What Can I Do?

When something terrible happens on the other side of the world, or the other side of your community, what do you do? What can you do? It is hard to feel anything but helpless in these situations. What can you as an individual do?

When something terrible happens there is such sadness. You may not personally be involved but you still feel sad. Maybe you even feel guilty that you are enjoying life with your family in your home. You may well long to rush out to offer comfort to those who are hurting.

So often after terrible events the community draws together. The number of people who donate money to assist others caught up in disasters is one such instance. After floods, the people who turn up to help with the clean up is another instance. Communities draw together and offer support. In large disasters help comes from all around the world.

Community Healing

This drawing together of people is part of the healing of the community. Honouring the lives that were lost is another way of healing. Ensuring changes are made to reduce the likelihood of the incident happening again is another way of healing. As is setting up disaster protocols and teams to respond more effectively to any future incidents.

The pain of what happened will always remain, but the community will move forward with the sadness of what has happened.

The Power of Compassion

Importantly all will remember that compassion is a powerful tool to give to others. And you will do well to remember that you are a member of a community. It may seem you are alone, but in reality you are not.

If a tragedy leaves you feeling unable to cope. Don’t hesitate to reach out for help. That may involve talking to understanding friends, or seeing a counsellor.

Can I Help?

If you would like to talk to me about how I can help you process these difficult events and your own grief, please contact me on 0409396608 or nan@plentifullifecounselling.com.au

If you would like to learn more, I write a regular newsletter with helpful information, tips, information on courses, and the occasional freebie. At the moment I have a free mindfulness meditation for anyone who signs up to my newsletter. This meditation offers a way to safely explore your feelings and learn to be okay with them. If you would like to subscribe please click on the link here: http://eepurl.com/g8Jpiz