In the ordinary events of childhood, our mind protects us when we encounter emotional trauma. That jolt, when looked at through the lens of our adult years, is often dismissed because it feels like it shouldn’t have been such a big deal. But the wound continues to fester in the shadows of our days. It drives our choices. It can bring conflict that feels confusing until we view the experience from the perspective of the child.
When we don’t acknowledge vulnerable parts of our youth, they will leak out. A co-worker will make a comment that others forget in a manner of minutes, but leaves us feeling fragile or attacked. Against all logic, the long line at the post office makes us feel like we’re suffocating. Trauma memories can turn our life upside-down and inside-out.
They can feel like a thief robbing our capacity to take charge of our life. For years, I felt myself withdrawing every time my friends began making enthusiastic plans for a hike. I assumed I wasn’t fun. I believed I was flawed. I didn’t know why I wasn’t drawn to the beauty, joy, and freedom they expected. They made plans, while I conjured a good excuse to stay home.
I didn’t realize that early outdoor adventures with my dad had terrorized me. When he drove off the dirt road and headed up a hill, I was convinced we would flip over. When he left me and my sister at the top of our butte and drove to the bottom of the hill to meet us, I was frantic. His adventure was my childhood terror. Nothing could change until I chose to understand what had happened to me, find words to describe it, and then update the information, so I was no longer a captive in the long-ago event.
In the trauma moments of our childhood, when we felt overwhelmed and powerless, our mind came to our rescue. It numbed some memories. It dissociated others. This natural, primitive response was a savior. It made it possible for us to navigate the growing up years. It brought us to the present when we can acknowledge what happened and find our way back to our authentic Self. That’s when we get to experience life without the ways we learned to manage the emotional traumas of our youth.
Jeanne McElvaney, author and energy healer