Childhood trauma is when a child feels insecure and the feelings of safety are absent due to a situation that caused harm to them psychologically or physically. Children who go through harmful events may repress these experiences for a variety of reasons. But life experiences and stressors may cause a child to re-live the trauma again in adulthood.
How does Childhood Trauma in Adulthood Manifest?
Sign 1: Projection of emotional issues (insecurity, anger, anxiety)
Projection is taking your own feelings about yourself and passing it onto someone else. It is like saying, “ hey, here is a plate of my trauma, eat up!”
In parenting, you may see this in your insecurities about being a good mother, so you may tell your child that they are fat or their grades are not good enough. Your words are often cluttered with “ you can do much better than this” or “you can never be pretty enough.” If your child is going to try out for a dance competition, you might mention that they don’t have enough drive to make it as a dancer. You might also mention how her peers are much better dancers.
What is the root issue?
Shame is usually the driving factor in projecting emotional trauma. If you grew up as a child, constantly ridiculed for not being able to be the best daughter or son in your parent’s eyes, this may have caused you to go down a path of always feeling like you can never catch up or meet your parent’s expectations.
This also manifests itself in the “inner critic” that you can have with yourself. The inner critic will tell you all of the things you could never measure up to you in life. It then becomes a familiar voice that dictates how you see yourself and the relationships around you. This familiar voice ( a.k.a. Familiar spirit) knows all about who you are, your history, and your past trauma. The job of a familiar spirit is to make the trauma a defining point in your life and part of your identity.
Sign 2: Childhood Trauma in adulthood- Inability to communicate effectively
If you lived in a home where you were silenced or you were told that your opinion did not matter, then as an adult- parent you may struggle with communicating effectively with your child.
A child’s voice is often connected to their identity. Their thoughts, will, and emotions are shaped by the environment around them. It is important to communicate to your child effectively and frequently so they are able to articulate their emotions without fear of judgement.
I have experienced the dreaded ” silent treatment” from my mother when I did something that she disapproved of or to control my actions to do her will.
The “silent treatment” can cause damaging effects on a child’s emotional and psychological development. It is considered to be a form of emotional trauma because it is withholding communication to punish a person into submission.
The silent treatment is often used as self-defense mechanism ( i.e., self-protection from a threatening event such as a conflict with someone).
Sign 3: Childhood trauma in adulthood-Constantly in fight or flight mode
Long-term trauma can wreak havoc on your ability to deal with stress in life. God has shown me that the fight mode is the opposite of rest. When you have dealt with experiences that left you feeling shame or guilt as a child, your natural defense as an adult is to fight or to suit up ready for battle.
In your mind, there is an enemy that you might feel threatened by. It might be insecurity of not being good enough or perfect. You may also deal with fleeing situations that may seem to be difficult or challenging. Your defense tactic maybe self-sabotage to avoid making a mistake or not meeting the expectation of people such as your children in your life.
Sign 4: Insomnia or nightmares
Childhood trauma in adulthood that is left uncheck can creep into your ability to sleep through the night. You might be fearful of not being able to control the images that flash before your eyes when you sleep. Sleep might seem like a prison that is difficult to escape so you stay awake to avoid the scary thoughts that might manifest in your dreams.
Sign 5: Mental and physical exhaustion
When you are not sleeping and getting enough rest, your body can take a toil. This happens because your body is always in fight or flight mode ( you are always in a hyper aroused state which can be taxing on the body overtime).
Sign 6: Triggers and flashbacks
Some words, smells, and sounds can trigger a moment where you experienced a traumatic event. In my experience, words like “enter” or “open your legs” brought on memories of the time when I was repeatedly molested as a little child.
Sign 7: Intrusive thoughts
Intrusive thoughts are really fears that replay in your mind like a broken record. It took me sometime to realize that the thoughts that were racing through my mind were really not my own. The more I feared them, the more intense I experienced these thoughts. I remember being afraid of death, so I had many thoughts of going to my own wake. The thoughts were accompanied with visions that felt all too real.
Read more on the childhood Trauma series:
Childhood Trauma in Adulthood: How to Heal
Trauma Prayers: Overcome Trauma Now and for the Future