How Trauma Counselling can Help You Recover from an Emotionally Abusive Childhood
Most people who have experienced childhood trauma don’t actually know it.
They don’t call what they went through “trauma”.
“Yeah, my dad hit me a few times.”
“Mum and dad used to fight a lot, but that’s normal in any family.”
“We never hugged in our family. We just didn’t show affection that way.”
“My mum tried hard but I was just a difficult kid.”
“Yeah, my parents liked a drink. Doesn’t everyone?”
Most people who have been emotionally abused as children struggle to put words to their experiences.
They just know that they feel bad.
Lets talk about Anna.
Anna was a beautiful, talented young woman who had studied art and was pursuing a career as an artist.
Growing up in Canada, she hadn’t noticed anything really wrong.
Although she was bullied in high school, when she left and followed her dreams to art school she thrived. There was always something going on. Ideas and collaborations, conversations and connections that inspired and energised her.
But when Anna left Canada to come to Australia, she found it hard to make friends.
Her relationships always seemed to break down.
Often she would find that her friends relied on her generosity, without reciprocating. She would become confused, hurt and angry, bewildered by the unkind responses of people she thought were on her side.
Highly sensitive and easily hurt, she just didn’t bounce back from these losses. She often felt alone, depleted by her increasing isolation and the demoralising buildup of betrayals.
Traveling in Europe in her early 30s, Anna had met someone.
A young man of the same age who was creative, sensitive, caring and intelligent.
They got on well.
But before they could explore their mutual attraction, Anna disappeared. She was so scared of potential rejection that she left without a word. Devastated, the young man chose not to follow up or seek an explanation, so the nascent romance was over before it really started.
Anna’s eyes would fill with tears whenever she talked about this experience. She felt so alone, but she was never comfortable with risking her heart.
She always felt like her chosen community; a circle of local artists and gallerists, had let her down. A close girlfriend had chosen to prioritise her career over their friendship and that had propelled Anna to the periphery of a circle that had been her home for 5 years. On top of that, she needed to move house.
Anna often seemed extremely tolerant of others and able to put up with things that would have raised red flags for most people with a healthy sense of self.
She had lost touch with her own boundaries.
Unable to distinguish between her own needs and those of her companions, she became swamped in relationships. Anna was very vulnerable to being exploited and was often left wondering how things could have gone so wrong.
For Anna and thousands of others like her, relationships are fraught.
Unable to maintain a steady sense of self within friendships or romantic partnerships, these hidden victims of emotional abuse in childhood often end up hurt and on the outer, unable to understand what is happening or why.
When we scratch the surface of their hazy boundaries and puzzling lack of self-advocacy, we often come up against a wall of pain. Most people who have suffered emotional abuse in childhood live beside distressing and unacknowledged feelings of worthlessness and shame.
These painful feelings kept Anna up at night and haunted her relationships with others and herself.
For Anna and other victims of parental emotional abuse, it can be a hard slog getting to the bottom of these feelings. Often survivors of child abuse don’t even recognise that their issues stem from underlying problems with their sense of self.
Emotional abuse in childhood is far more common than we realise, and it leaves an indelible mark on our self-esteem.
Childhood Emotional Abuse Can Cause:
vulnerability to emotional triggering
lack of self-confidence
poor communication skills
lack of conflict negotiation skills
How Trauma Counselling Can Help You
Growing up in an abusive household makes life more difficult, causing ongoing problems with self-confidence, conflict resolution, being in love, and being successful. If you have grown up in a narcissistic family, the emotional abuse you suffered is a part of who you are, for better or worse.
Because it is tied to our early development, the trauma we experienced in childhood gets imprinted in our brain and changes our ability to respond to stress and to have healthy relationships.
Trauma counselling will help gently unpick the responses and reactions you have that are trauma-based and will allow you to recognise the feelings that are underlying your low self-worth.
People with a history of childhood abuse and trauma often suffer from chronic shame.
Chronic shame is a debilitating condition shared by most people who have been wounded in their early attachment relationships.
Ongoing shame affects our sense of self and our ability to have healthy relationships, including our relationship with ourselves.
Most people with chronic shame also have very low self-esteem.
Trauma counselling can help ameliorate some of the effects of shame and help you gain awareness of your responses so that you can help yourself.
The non-judgemental and empathetic relationship you develop with your therapist is part of what will help heal you. As you develop trust through therapy, you will be able to safely re-experience your most vulnerable parts. Through empathy and understanding, an experienced trauma therapist will help you develop compassion for these unacknowledged and traumatised parts of you.
As you gain more self-compassion and awareness, you will find that your feelings of shame will diminish.
An experienced and empathetic trauma therapist will help you come to terms with your past and discover your best future.