Written by: Charneise Alston, M.Ed
Much of our adulthood is spent on confronting and healing childhood traumas. Yes, we are all adults walking through life with emotional wounds, scabs, and scars from our childhood. Since we are all shaped by our life experiences, untreated emotional pain from averse childhood encounters continue to affect us in adulthood by manifesting itself in various ways. So much so, life presents current circumstances and dilemmas to examine the status of our emotional injuries. When traumas are unaddressed, the damage affects our quality of life and our ability to cope with stress.
If you look at my leg, there is a roadmap of barely visible scars from my childhood. I have a vivid memory of each scar and can tell you the cause of my marks. For the most part, I was a clumsy girl who fell down the steps and even accidentally rode my bike into a parked car. Yes, I know… I was the child who needed an aloe vera plant in the kitchen on standby. From afar, you would not be able to notice the scarring on my leg but if you look closely they are evident.
Here lies the problem, emotional wounds are not obvious but they are observable. Just as any wound, all injuries are sensitive to touch. Our reactions to certain situations reveal the tenderness of our emotional wounds. For example, averse childhood experiences are stressful or traumatic events such as a natural disaster, physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, physical neglect, emotional neglect, domestic abuse, substance abuse, mental illness, parental separation or divorce, death of a parent, abandonment, or an incarcerated household member. From those examples, how many averse childhood experiences did you encounter as a child? If any, is the residue from past experiences stuck on you today? Has the hurt surfaced in your relationships with your spouse, children, friends, colleagues, or neighbors?
It is our responsibility to confront our childhood traumas head-on, forgive ourselves and others, and pay it forward by adding purpose to our pain. When we choose to be vulnerable, remove the facades, and let down our guards, our unpleasant life experiences could be used to help protect and empower others. We are resilient creatures and we all possess the ability to thrive beyond past hurts. Some of us have experienced unfortunate life events that are now weights and heavy to carry. It’s time to drop those weights. Life is hard enough without the baggage of our past. Begin to unpack your load of anger, fear, shame, resentment, unforgiveness, distrust, and unbelief.
The healing process is different for everyone. However, forgiveness is necessary to liberate your soul from the captivity of your childhood. As children, life simply happened to us and many of us were not equipped with the tools necessary to overcome childhood traumas. While some were fortunate enough to receive counseling services as a child, many still navigate adulthood with untreated emotional wounds. We are all affected by our past. Yet it is solely our choice to heal or hurt.
After dealing with deep childhood insecurities, I have a newfound freedom whenever I’m naked. There is an alleviating feeling whenever I unsnap my bra and undress to get into the shower. When I do not have to cover up, I expose and exercise my truth. Let me be explicitly clear, I am always clothed in public. However, when I am safe at home, it is a different story. Don’t judge me. I want to walk through life emotionally naked, without facades and walls which keep me imprisoned to my fears. I am unapologetically living my truth in the buff. Vulnerability is emotional nudity and it is absolutely liberating.
I also want to move beyond the point of my pain. Unknowingly, we often revert back to the age when we first encountered our traumatic experiences. Regardless of your current age, those untreated wounds have kept you stuck in the past at the age of each event. That is why you can hear a hurt little girl in a woman’s voice as she seeks validation from random men after experiencing the abandonment of her father. Likewise, you can hear a scared little boy in a man’s voice as he manipulates and lies to women, after all, Poppa was a “rolling stone.”
Being a parent forces me to confront my childhood issues. Untreated issues manifest in our attitudes, beliefs, personalities, and values. If a person was molested as a child, and did not heal from that childhood trauma, the harbored fear will manifest in his/her child rearing. We are all the sum total of our genes and life experiences. That is why it is important to heal or else the cycle continues and we unfortunately pass our fears and tainted beliefs onto our children. When a middle school student indignantly tells me that all men cheat, I cannot help but to wonder who is responsible for allowing their pain to shape this child’s perception. As a counselor, I have to listen on a different frequency.
Far too often, many people tend to suppress painful experiences as a protective mechanism. By doing so, avoidance is only prolonging the inevitable. Eventually, life will present a circumstance that will trigger those hurts and emotions. Some life events are too burdensome to deal with alone. You may consider seeking professional help by attending therapy, joining a support group, making behavioral changes, or even taking prescribed medication. For me, I am usually in deep-thought about everything and I often examine my childhood memories through journaling.
In closing, adulthood is the time to confront and heal from your childhood traumas to prevent re-encountering those unpleasant experiences. It is time to heal. Life will continue to present the same test until you pass with a lesson learned. Life can be unfair and certain childhood experiences are more devastating than others. However, the emotional weights that we have voluntarily carried thus far are not chained to our destiny. We can begin to set those weights aside, heal, and reclaim our freedom.
“Trauma is personal. It does not disappear if it is not validated. When it is ignored or invalidated, the silent screams continue internally heard only by the one held captive. When someone enters the pain and hears the screams healing can begin.”