Many people don’t like to associate their lives with trauma. In fact, many people may not have experienced what they would call trauma. But the reality of living in a fallen world means that many of us have gone through experiences and relationships that have been traumatic. Most people are not even aware that their experiences qualify as trauma. By looking at the effects that childhood trauma can have later in life, future clients can begin to examine their lives and decide whether it could be helpful for them to work through some of these life-altering events. Often when an individual experiences trauma as a child, they compartmentalize their experiences or “forget” about the trauma. As a result, childhood trauma effects can surface later in life. In this article, I present some examples of the effects of childhood trauma that can surface later in life. Each example provides some relevant questions that you can ask yourself. If you find yourself answering yes to any of the questions below, this could be a good time for you to seek professional help in order to work through trauma’s lasting effects in your life.
Childhood Trauma and Re-Victimization
When we experience a traumatic event, our body begins to dissociate from what is happening. This is an automatic reaction, but it becomes a way of life. Although disengagement with our bodies is what rescues us at the time of a traumatic event, it can also keep us from engaging fully in life after the trauma has passed. Often trauma victims do not experience the typical “alarm systems” that go off when they are building relationships with possible perpetrators of more harm. It is extremely likely that survivors of childhood relational and sexual trauma will experience these types of trauma later in life. Do you have a pattern of relating with individuals in which you are harmed frequently? Do you seem to get into relationships and later find that they are unhealthy for you?
The Body Remembers Trauma
Although memories can be “forgotten” in our minds, the body remembers. Many victims of childhood trauma will experience physical symptoms and health issues that cannot be explained by typical ailments. When we go through trauma, our body kicks into overdrive in order to protect our lives, and when we do not work through the trauma our body can continue to live in a state of preparation for fighting, fleeing, or freezing. Long-term stress can wreak havoc on our health. Do you suffer from unknown ailments and sicknesses? Do you find your body having ongoing pain and health issues that have no clear cause?
Emotional Complications of Trauma
Because the experience of trauma is overwhelming for our systems, it can result in lasting difficulties of emotional regulation. Individuals who have experienced trauma as children may struggle with issues of intense rage, overwhelming sadness, and general emotional disconnection. Have you had loved ones tell you that you are “over-reacting” to a particular situation? Do you often feel that your emotions are controlling your behavior and lifestyle?
Sexual Difficulties Resulting from Childhood Trauma
Trauma is a very physical experience. No matter what the traumatic event, our body goes through experiences in the midst of the event. Memories, emotions, and even physical sensations can be triggered by body movements and experiences. This is particularly true with regards to sexual trauma. Individuals who have survived childhood sexual trauma will often have difficulties with sexual activities and experiences later in life. If you are a woman, do you experience intense pain or discomfort in your pelvic floor when thinking about or having sex? If you are a man, do you struggle with extreme feelings of shame and inadequacy in your sexuality? Do you struggle with a sexual addiction or a revulsion to your own sexuality?
Christian Counseling to Process Childhood Trauma Effects
Have you answered yes to any of the questions above? Have you often wondered where your “weird” emotions or behaviors have come from? It could be important for you to seek counseling with a professional who can help you to walk through the childhood experiences that may be having a lasting effect on your life today. Although trauma often involves a single event, or series of events, the effects of trauma can last a lifetime if they are not confronted and worked through. No matter how long you have been experiencing these effects, there is hope. As a Christian counselor, I am convinced that childhood trauma is something that no one should have to confront alone. I look forward to being with you on your journey as you face events, relationships, and experiences from your childhood and their lasting effect on your life.
“Life and Death,” courtesy of Ben Rea, Flickr CreativeCommons (CC BY-SA 2.0); “Life,” courtesy of Kiran Kumar, Flickr CreativeCommons (CC BY-SA 2.0)
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