The Real Impact of Trauma

It is one thing to process memories of trauma, but it is an entirely different matter to confront the inner void – the holes in the soul that result from not having been wanted, not having been seen, and not having been allowed to speak the truth. If your parents’ faces never lit up when they looked at you, it’s hard to know what it feels like to be loved and cherished. If you come from an incomprehensible world filled with secrecy and fear, its almost impossible to find the words to express what you have endured. If you grew up unwanted and ignored, it is a major challenge to develop a visceral sense of agency and self worth.” ~ Bessel van der Kolk, The Body Keeps The Score

This quote from the book The Body Keeps The Score, by Bessel van der Kolk has always hit home for me.

It is such a powerful summary of the impact of abuse, neglect, lack of attunement, poor attachment, emotionally unavailable parents, narcissistic parents and more that include the range of wounds that comprise childhood trauma.

It is horrible to not be wanted. It is devastating to not be seen. The wounds left by never been greeted by your parents with love and lit up faces are immense.
When all those things happen the child feels like they don’t exist. They feel unsafe. The feel they have to fight for their survival. They learn to people please and fawn to be given the tiny bit of attention needed to survive. They do things that make them feel ashamed and cripple them in adulthood with shame. They learn to feel like a nothing. To have no way to express their fear, sorrow, anger and more.

My Own Experience

I understand this because that was my childhood. I was never wanted and was told that often. I was deliberately ignored. There were never any proud parents watching my achievements as a child. There were never words of congratulation around the dinner table at night.

I never knew what it was like to be greeted by someone whose face lit up when they saw me, that is until I met my husband. The things my parents did to me were never discussed.

In adulthood when I tried to discuss them with my parents and my siblings there was a wall of silence. My mother constructed a narrative to dismiss my recollections as me being neurotic, or over exaggerating, or making a mountain out of a tiny molehill.

I have had to fight very hard to heal from that. To learn that I am worthy, that I do have a sense of agency, that I matter. I have learned to feel safe, to learn to trust others, to fearlessly speak my truth.

Because I have done that, I know you can too. It is scary. It is hard to trust. Progress can seem so agonisingly slow. But you will get there. You can heal.

As well as my own lived experience, I have studied extensively the latest research on trauma and the best practice approaches to heal trauma. I have helped countless people heal from their trauma, and I can help you too.

Can I Help?

If you would like to talk to me about how I can help you with your childhood pain and 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

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

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

The Cry For Help

Have you met someone who is constantly telling you their horror story of a traumatic past?

Maybe you do this yourself?

Many people will tell me they retell the story because they can’t let go of it.

I totally get that. I have told and retold my own trauma stories often.

I thought it was to have someone witness my story.

And to a certain extent that was correct. I did want my story witnessed. Just as many people who come to see me want their story witnessed.

I hear you, I believe you.

You want someone to say I hear you.

You want someone to say what was done to you was horrible. A child shouldn’t have been treated that way.

You want to hear the horrified reaction of your listener as they hear your horrible story.

It is important to be heard, believed, and have the extent of your trauma acknowledged.

But there is something more that prompts you to tell the story over and over.

I need help

It is the wounded child seeking help. When that story happened to you as a child, no one came to your assistance. You needed help. Desperately. And no help came.

The next time you feel the need to tell your story, ask yourself. Am I seeking help?

If the answer is yes, then you are the adult who can help your wounded child.

You may not feel able to help your wounded child, and that is where counselling from a trauma professional can be helpful.

And if it is someone you care about who needs help for their wounded child, don’t dismiss them. Listen, ask if their wounded child needs help, and encourage them to see a counsellor.

Can I help?

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

If you would like to learn more, I write a regular newsletter with interesting 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

Why Children and Adolescents Need Counselling After Divorce: Understanding the Importance of Emotional Support in the Face of Family Breakdown

Recently, an inquest opened into the death of an adolescent girl who had killed herself after a long battle with anxiety and depression. This tragedy plays itself out throughout the world every day. In his opening statement, the father of the girl spoke to the court because he felt it was important the court understood that his daughter’s mental health issues stemmed from the breakup of her parents when she was 6. He identified the split as being severely traumatising. This breakup of the girl’s parents had such far-reaching consequences, that its impact was still experienced by her 9 years later.

In this blog I will be discussing the effect one of the common losses of children, separation of parents, has on children and adolescents. I will be referring to children and adolescents as children.

THE BOY SHOPLIFTER

Years ago I worked in a variety store on the checkout. One day a boy of about 12 walked out past my customers. I stopped him and asked to check his backpack.

His reaction to this was extraordinary and upsetting. He sat down on the floor, against the wall, and put his bag down. The look on his face was one of utter desolation. Here was a small child who was really frightened but also who felt extremely alone.

That was really upsetting for me.

The boy had packed his bag full of stolen items.

The police were called and the boy was taken away.

THE HISTORY BEHIND HIS BEHAVIOUR

I learned that his parents had recently separated and his father had a new girlfriend. Since the breakup of his parent’s marriage, the boy had been involved in many acts of vandalism and angry behaviour.

To the other staff, this boy was just some troublemaker who no one should feel sorry for. He was obviously just bad.

To me this boy was a child whose life had been turned upside down by destruction of his secure world and he was acting out his feelings.

THE DIFFICULTY FOR PARENTS IN RELATIONSHIP BREAKDOWNS

For adults in the middle of a relationship breakdown, it is an incredibly painful time. There is often little enough energy for each individual to attend to his or her own needs in this terrible loss. There is rarely any energy available for the children of this relationship.

This doesn’t mean the parents are horrible people. They love their children and care deeply about them. But they are struggling to cope with what has happened.

THE FEAR OF MUM AND DAD BREAKING UP

Attending to the needs of the children in this is hard. From a child’s perspective things are very frightening. Security is the most important need of a child. A child needs to know its parents are there to ensure its survival. If the parents are not there, who will ensure the child’s survival?

Parental separation takes a child’s entire understanding of safety and destroys it. For the child caught up in the breakdown of his parent’s marriage, there is no safety. It is hard for parents in this situation to reassure the child. Sadly the child can become the pawn in the breakdown, as each parent seeks to punish the other through access to the child.

CHANGED CONTACT, EVEN NO CONTACT

Sometimes, the parent who leaves will, for a variety of reasons, reduce or completely cut off contact with the child. This is a terribly hurtful for the child. The child does not understand the adult world. What the child understands is that Mum and Dad are not together anymore and that one parent does not want to have anything to do with him anymore.

The child sees a future that is very uncertain.

THE MANY LOSSES A CHILD EXPERIENCES

Often children will talk about having to move away from their home and perhaps give away family pets which they cannot take with them to their new rental home.

Children will talk about never hearing from one parent and not always understanding why.

THE CONFUSION OF ONE PARENT BEING NEGATIVE ABOUT THE OTHER PARENT

Parents can be reckless in the words used to the child and tell the child negative things about the other parent. This is not fair to the child. That other parent is their parent too. The child loves them and identifies with them. Sometimes, what is being criticised in the other parent is something the child does. So where does that leave the child? Does that mean the parent rejects him as well?

SPLIT CUSTODY CAN BE CONFUSING

The Family Law Courts, in the desire to ensure both parents have equal access to children, can cause damage to children. For a child, the security of the family home is replaced by the insecurity of two non-homes. The child spends part of the week in one house, but it never has everything the child owns there. The other part of the week is spent in another house which also never has everything the child owns in it.
The child wakes in the night and has to ask “which house am I in?” “I need to pee, where is the bathroom?”.

NOT FITTING IN ANYWHERE

For a number of children, one of the houses they live in contains a new partner and possibly children who may live there full time.

Can you imagine how difficult it is to fit into a house like that?

The child is there part time, the rest of the people in the house are there full time. How does the child fit in to that? All the love and the will in the world is not going to compensate for that lack of belonging and hence safety.

FEELINGS CAN BE ACTED OUT OR INTERNALISED

As was seen in my story of the 12 year old shoplifter, many children act out their feelings. But others internalise them.

Adults look at the children and, because they seem to be happy, think they have accepted what has happened. That they have ‘gotten over it’. But this is not true. Children suffer because what has happened to them is too great for a child to process without help.

HOW COUNSELLING CAN HELP

Parents involved in the grief of the end of a relationship are not in a position to help the child. This is where counselling and grief and loss programs are really helpful to assist children in this situation to be able to express feelings in a healthy way before the grief and loss feelings develop into long term problems.
The sad story of the adolescent girl could have been prevented if she had been able to access counselling as a 6 year old.

CAN I HELP?

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

If you would like to learn more, I write a regular newsletter with interesting 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

Alexithymia. What is it and do I have it?

A lot of people who come to see me about difficulties with life have alexithymia.

Alexithymia basically means you have problems feeling, identifying and expressing emotions. The word comes from Ancient Greek and means no words for emotion.

Researchers consider 1 in 10 people have this condition, so it is relatively common.

There are some conditions associated with Alexithymia. Autism is the best known, but people with Childhood PTSD, depression and a trauma history are also noted to have it.

WHAT ARE SOME OF THE SIGNS OF ALEXITHYMIA?

What might you notice if you have alexithymia?

• You find it hard to understand what emotions you are experiencing

• It is hard to communicate your emotions to others

• Difficult to understand you own internal thoughts and feelings

• Difficulty identifying bodily sensations and the emotions they are connected to

• Difficulty identifying the emotions in others and responding to them

• Difficulty understanding the nonverbal communication of others

• You may experience difficulties with imagination

• You may have a thinking style that is logical and rigid and does not factor in emotions

• You may find it hard to cope with stress

• You may be less altruistic than other people

• You may find it hard connecting and relaxing with others and may appear to them to be distant, rigid and humourless.

• You may feel little satisfaction with your life.

WHAT PEOPLE EXPERIENCE

One person I spoke with described alexithymia as feeling an emotion in her body but her brain not being told about it. She experienced a disconnection between the sensations she was feeling in her body and her ability to understand and share with others what emotion was attached to those sensations. In other words, she found it difficult to identify and describe her emotions.

Another person I worked with used to journal what she was feeling in her body and anything happening around her or with her at the same time. Over time she identified sensations she understood to be certain emotions.

For example, she used to feel a pleasant sensation in the centre of her chest and found she experienced it whenever she thought about her children. She realised she was feeling love.

On occasion she would feel a funny bubbly feeling in her stomach that felt like it would explode. She realised this feeling came up when she was anticipating wonderful things about to happen. She realised she was excited.

She learned to attach the feelings to the emotions she had identified. But she is a long way from understanding all her feelings and she is still caught out by body sensations she has not learned to understand.

Not all people with alexithymia are able to learn to identify their emotions. But it can be worth trying. You never know, you may be able to learn to identify them.

WHY DO SOME PEOPLE NOT LEARN TO IDENTIFY THEIR EMOTIONS?

Children learn to identify their emotions from their parents. Parents help children identify what they are feeling by naming the emotions they are feeling. When children feel safe in their environment they are able to learn to identify all the times they feel a certain emotion. As time goes on they can identify new emotions because they have learned that body sensations are linked to emotions and will search to understand new body sensations.

If a child is not interacted with in that way then it is difficult for them to learn this.

Neurodivergent children learn differently and need different approaches to teach them. If a child is identified as being neurodivergent they can be directed to programs to help them learn.

HOW DOES TRAUMA IMPACT LEARNING TO IDENTIFY EMOTIONS?

For children raised in trauma situations there is often no one to help them understand the array of emotions they feel. Also, trauma is terrifying. Fear activates protective responses in the brain that turn off conscious thinking in order to defend from danger. When the conscious brain is turned off then it is not possible to be aware of emotions, let alone understand them.

Additionally, there is frequently no one to help the child later to process the array of emotions they have just experienced. It is quite likely in those situations that the body sensations become linked to the trauma experience and suppressed.

Another way child don’t learn to understand their feelings is when children feel certain emotions and are overridden by adults in their life. An example may be when a child is afraid of something and are told not to be so silly and are forced to do what they are frightened of. Another example is when a child doesn’t want to play with someone because they feel uncomfortable around them and are told they are being ridiculous and forced to go play.

In both the above examples, the child’s feelings are dismissed and overridden. This causes the child to believe their internal feelings are not valid. That leads to them not trusting what they feel in their own bodies. So the child learns to ignore what they are feeling and can no longer identify what emotions they are experiencing.

Adults who have never learned to identify their emotions can become expert at shutting off contact with their bodies. For them, being asked what they are feeling in their bodies becomes impossible and stressful. They don’t know how to feel what is in their bodies. When they try they feel overwhelming fear because opening up their contact with their bodies releases a lifetime of locked away terrifying emotions.

CAN I LEARN TO FEEL MY EMOTIONS?

Yes, you can. It is not easy but you can. How do I know? Because I learned to do it once I became an adult. It took a long time, and a lot of healing, but I did it.

HOW I CAN HELP YOU

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

If you would like to learn more, I write a regular newsletter with interesting 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

How childhood stress affects you in adulthood

Would you be horrified if I told you that some childhood stress will shorten your life expectancy by 10-20 years?

Maybe you would struggle to believe that. For generations adults have told themselves that children are resilient and get over things. But do they?

Extensive research has shown that some types of childhood stress have exactly this impact on life expectancy. This stress is referred to as toxic stress.

These types of childhood stress are called adverse childhood experiences. There is an acronym for that – ACE.

ACEs

High ACE scores have been linked in research to premature death, a large number of health conditions including mental health problems, heart disease, and lung cancer.

The types of stress included in ACEs include physical and emotional abuse, neglect, household dysfunction, parents struggling with substance abuse or mental health issues, sexual abuse just to name a few.

The truth is childhood trauma is not something you “get over” or “grow out of”.

CHILDREN’S BRAINS ARE IMPACTED BY ACEs

The repeated stress of ACEs has well observed impacts on the way the brain develops. These impacts are observable across the person’s lifetime.

ACEs were described in the 1990s and have been the subject of much research since then. The original researchers noted that ACEs are very common, in all strata of society. A person from a middle class or high socio-economic level is just as likely to have experienced ACEs as a child from an impoverished background.

IMPACTS OF ACEs

Other findings are that high ACE scores are consistent with poor adult life outcomes including significantly higher risk of heart disease, diabetes, obesity, depression, substance abuse, mental health issues, suicide, smoking, poor academic achievement, homelessness, incarceration, being a victim of domestic violence, unemployment and early death.

That is quite horrifying. But how do stressful things that happen to children impact on adulthood? The answer is toxic stress. Toxic stress in a child is stress that leads to frequent, prolonged and excessive activation of the body’s stress response systems. This has a negative impact on the child’s developing brain, immune system, metabolic regulation and cardiovascular system. It has been described as overrevving the body over a long period of time so that it wears out and problems develop.

WHEN STRESS IS A PROBLEM FOR CHILDREN

Children will experience stress. It is part of life. Where it becomes a problem is where there is no supportive adult or adults present to cushion the impact of the stress. For example, research has shown that during crises in the life of a family, the children of the family will be less impacted by the stress if their parents are able to cope well and support their children.

WHAT ARE ACEs?

Initially ACEs were classified as:

• Neglect

• Physical abuse

• Emotional abuse

• Sexual abuse

• Domestic or family violence

• A parent with mental health issues

• A parent with substance abuse issues

• A parent in prison

• Lack of attunement between parent and child

Over time there has been a broadening of what is considered to be an ACE to include:

• Homelessness

• Natural disasters

• War

• Being a refugee

• Violence in the community

• Racism

• Chronic poverty

• And so on.

TRAUMA, ACEs AND TOXIC STRESS

Trauma is a large part of ACEs and toxic stress. Trauma is generally considered to be any stressful experience where there is great adversity or terror and the emotional responses to those experiences. This involves toxic stress and is a major part of any ACE.

HOW CHILDREN REACT TO TRAUMA

In children, trauma will often play out in behaviours where the child withdraws or acts out. Some children will develop ADHD type behaviours. Others may become aggressive and pick fights with other children. Some may withdraw and even self harm. Bullying behaviours are sometimes the result of trauma.

The child who steals cars, breaks into homes, vandalises things ifs often a child who is suffering from ACEs.

It is important to recognise the acting out behaviour of children as likely due to trauma.

Many years ago I worked in a shop and caught a boy stealing. He was only 12 and had started this destructive behaviour after his father had left his marriage. The boy was so broken and miserable. It broke my heart to see his pain.

WHAT HAPPENS IN ADULTHOOD?

ACE affected children grow into adulthood. It is important to consider that if you are ACE affected you are not irreparably damaged. You can get help.

It is important to see a Trauma trained therapist. Working with trauma is a highly specialised field. It is important to find out what experience a prospective therapist has in the trauma field.

WHAT THERAPY SHOULD I SEEK OUT?

Therapy to heal the impact of ACE is not a 10 session solution. The impacts on your brain have taken a long time to form and they need a long time to change. Brain growth slows over the age of 26 and you need to grow many new neural pathways. So expect these changes to take a long time.

Much of trauma is stored in the areas of the brain and body that cannot be consciously accessed. For this reason, talk only therapies are not very effective in healing trauma.

Finding a therapist who works with different approaches such as, to name a few, somatic approaches, art therapy, expressive therapies, EMDR, EFT as well as some talk therapy is important. In Australia the Blue Knot Foundation and its guidelines are the gold standard for trauma therapists. A good trauma therapist will have completed training with them.

HOW LONG DOES THERAPY TAKE?

Expect to spend a long time working on your trauma. I recommend you come to work on a problem. This may take regular sessions over a number of months. The sessions will be frequent at first and decrease in frequency as time goes on. You work on a particular aspect of your trauma, then allow time for that healing to consolidate.

You may take a break from therapy while that consolidation takes place. At some time in the future you will feel the need to seek therapy for another aspect of your trauma. You may go back to the same therapist or find a new one.

HOW I CAN HELP

I am a trauma trained therapist, have received training through the Blue Knot Foundation and I adhere to their guidelines. I also have extensive experience working with trauma affected individuals. All the therapies listed above are used by me in my work.

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

If you would like to learn more, I write a regular newsletter with interesting 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