How Childhood Trauma Affects Health Across a Lifetime
We are born innocent and vulnerable, trusting and totally dependent on those into whose life we have entered. As infants and toddlers, we enjoy an unshakeable belief that the world revolves around us. The slightest slight, the smallest reprimand, or even a momentary feeling of being abandoned can have a long-term, negative impact. A child might assume that when their beloved parent ignores them it’s because they aren’t worthy of attention; that there must be something wrong with them. If they were different, or somehow better, their caregiver/parent would always be loving and caring, happy and available, 24/7.
There are other experiences, too; life-threatening, violent, or frightening ones; events that happen to us or those we love. Witnessing your father hit your mother or sibling; hearing your parents’ violent arguments; losing your sense of family through divorce. Children often blame themselves — was it something you said or did that caused your parents to fight? If you had behaved better, would your parents have stayed together? Children all too often feel responsible for the pain in their family.
The thoughts and beliefs that we carry can scar us and influence the adults we become. From them we either trust or distrust others; we see the world as a welcoming or dangerous place.
Traumatic experiences and the beliefs that grow from them can affect our physical health, too. Drs. Gabor Mate (physician, speaker and author of When The Body Says No!) and Bruce Lipton (developmental biologist, speaker and author of The Biology of Belief) speak extensively about the impact of traumatic events on the health of our bodies.
And then, there is stress; the kind of everyday stress that unless we have an outlet for its release, can build and build until we find ourselves experiencing serious health issues such as cancer, heart disease, MS, digestive problems and a whole host of other illnesses. See Dr. Nadine Burke Harris’ TED talk about this.