What does your childhood remind you of? Is it faded and encapsulated with fond smells, sounds and people? Do those memories make you nostalgic? Do some of the memories consist of defining moments that make you chuckle, or life-changing memories that make you tear up? All these emotions and feelings can coincide at once and it is more likely than one would imagine.
Many times when you use the word ‘childhood trauma’, you imagine catastrophic abuse, physical or emotional, at an instance. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, childhood trauma is defined as: “ The experience of an event by a child that is emotionally painful or distressful which often results in lasting mental and physical effects.” Most caregivers can't digest the reality of their child being traumatized by their childhood as it may suggest the inability of providing a good early life for them. This can be a hard pill to swallow but it doesn't take away from the countless joys that you may have been able to give to them. The trauma in that childhood is not the only definitive memory for your child; they remember all the good, however invalidation of the bad isn't advisable either. What’s important is to remember that before being a parent, you were a human and as humans we all try to do the best we can. And you did. Happy homes can contain childhood trauma and that doesn't make it any less of a happy childhood.
As you grow up, an awareness that seeps through is that we are more alike than different. Even your most admired families and households have cracks and you begin to see that it is part of life. You even begin to compare how you would have ‘adulted’ your childhood and find all the alternative ways you could have raised your child self. Once you identify where your traumas lie, accept them for what they are and realize if they require a more honest love or better boundary setting, you begin to see how much they define your current reality. The thing with trauma is it never really leaves you because you know how much power it has had over you. It holds a form of toxic attachment with you.
It has shaped the bad and the good in you so you don’t resent or love that reality; you find ways to identify it, accept it and let it go. Transitioning your trauma is not learning how to move on from it, it’s simply learning how to make it powerless against the greatness of you.
Do you ever think that your traumas formed your goals? To be rich, to be loved, to be appreciated or maybe even to feel calm. In many ways, your childhood experiences do shape a lot of the paths you choose ahead. And since childhood trauma is a part of it, it certainly has a lot of stake in these decisions. Most people who experience childhood trauma exhibit low self-esteem and experience depression and anxiety and having had to deal with mental health issues earlier in life, build a core resilience and tolerance for difficult life situations. This consequently also makes space for compassion; you learn to become a better human to others to avoid history repeating itself. Your heart expands to let people become heard in a world you know isn't in anybody's control, where hurt is just around the corner and love needs to be discovered every day.
Cheyenne Downeya, *, Aoife Crummyb, The impact of childhood trauma on children’s wellbeing and adult behavior, 2021