Growing up and as an adult, it’s not out of the question to be dealing with trauma. When we think of trauma, we often think of truly scarring events such as racial or hateful comments, bullying, abuse, or parents divorcing while you’re at a young age. However, as I can attest to, trauma isn’t always those extreme circumstances. Sometimes it can be subtle or little slip-ups, decisions that we make in our lives as kids that have huge ramifications when we grow up.
Here are just some of the other often overlooked forms of trauma and why they can be just as bad as some of our immediate thoughts of traumatic experiences.
Not Being Seen, Heard, Or Loved
Particularly when growing up, neglecting these three areas is rough and can lead to a lot of trauma once you’re an adult. You don’t need to be around overly abusive people to not experience these kinds of things either. Some good examples can be busy parents working multiple jobs and not having enough time to look after kids, or parents that choose television or technology as a means of educating their kids rather than being personally involved.
These circumstances happen all the time and in a world where technology is so engrained into our lives, it can result in this kind of trauma. In other circumstances, it can be implied as well. Even though my parents care deeply for me and still love me, the fact I spent so much time in my room or on the computer and away from my parents did instill some thoughts that maybe my parents weren’t like that.
I say this because I became invested in my parents and talking with them once I moved out of the house for the first time in 2009.
Trauma From Parents Denying Your Emotions
One parenting tip that has stuck with me is never to deny the emotions of your kids. Telling them “come on, it’s not so bad” or similar is poor parenting. This kind of parenting results in people being unable to process and understand their emotions.
Worse, the self-improvement industry validates that kind of behaviour to some extent as well. Time and time again, we have many self-help books that deny negative emotions. They address that they exist, however many approaches revolving around “killing it with kindness and positivity.” This often results in those negative emotions being worse and causing more trauma.
Events that otherwise are insignificant in our lives turn out to be events that cause major meltdowns for us all because we never dealt with emotions properly – whether it’s from our parent’s teachings or through our refusal to deal with them.
Minimizing Yourself And Your Presence
You can see this in the forms of abuse where kids go out of their way to not be noticed as they learn quickly they won’t be mistreated if they try not to bring any attention to themselves. That said, this can also manifest in other forms as well. One good example is self-deprecating humour.
Minimizing yourself and your presence is adopting the mindset that you are insignificant and that what you have to say is not important. We do experience this from time to time in the form of not asking questions in class and such. However, this traumatic experience runs deeper.
It’s a false image of yourself that you cling to and believe.
I have experience with this as well since I had issues with my weight. This resulted in negative images of myself and that my weight somehow made me unimportant in other regards of my life. Most notably that people didn’t want to be around me.
Trauma With Parents Who Can’t Control Emotions
Stemming from denying emotions as a kid, parenting styles often are adopted by how our own parents raised us. If you were denied feeling certain emotions chances are you’re going to struggle with your own emotions. This behaviour will also affect others around you too.
Denying Needs For Being Strong For Family
Similar to denying emotions, denying trying to be strong for and around family can result in a lot of trauma as well. In a sense, it’s enabling particular behaviours. Maybe not abuse, but it can lead to tolerating other bad behaviour.
Getting Love Only From Good Behaviour Or Success
Millennials feel this one hard as we’re mostly a generation where we grew up with our parents offering everything. We received ribbons and prizes for participating in events even if we didn’t win. If something was wrong, we could tell our parents and they would handle it.
Probably the biggest example that I can think of for this was that I had a classmate who told me just how important it was for him to get straight As in class and even the thought of getting a B+ in one of his classes brought him to tears. The reason at the time was that if he got straight As, he would get the opportunity to spend time with his dad.
At the time, I didn’t understand how significant divorce was – coming from a family that never divorced. At the same time, it was equally traumatic for my classmate’s dad to give this ultimatum essentially, even though he wasn’t really involved in my classmate’s life all that much based on that conversation.
This behaviour is very subtle and often we frame it as a form of motivation. If you want something so badly, you’ll work hard and do your best to get there. But often this backfires. It creates situations like so many people are in now – stuck in jobs or a field they don’t like just because someone else nudged them into it.
You can see how sinister this traumatic experience can be as there is a thin line between what can be motivating and inspiring for someone and when what’s being used is a bribe to exploit the other person.
Trauma From Controlling Or Possessive Attitudes
One of the distinct signs of a narcissist or abuser is this kind of attitude. It starts off subtly and quickly evolves into that predictable behaviour. Many people fall victim to these things and it can result in a lot of traumatic experiences. One clear example is the case of Johnny Depp and Amber Heard.
But even before getting in too deep, this kind of behaviour can be oppressive and traumatic. It can result in a lot of frustration or embarrassment when tolerated.
Trauma Is Everywhere
These are but a handful, but it’s clear that traumatic experiences are everywhere. How we process these events results in a big impact on our lives overall and there’s no one clear and obvious answer to solving trauma. We all cope in different ways and so the best solution is to honestly be adaptable and work through traumatic experiences.
This has been the route I’ve taken as my traumas are minor, but often take shape in the form of regrets or people taking advantage of me when they shouldn’t have to bad decisions that I made. These were all inconsequential to me, but I’ve learned to use them as reminders whenever they flash into my mind. Over time, I’ve learned to accept them and regulate those emotions.
And I believe that everyone else is capable of doing that, though it’ll vary a lot depending on your own traumatic experiences.
To your growth!
Eric S Burdon