Updated: Mar 2, 2020
If you have an Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE) score of 4 or greater, it's highly likely that you face emotional, mental, physical and quality of life issues every day. Maybe you're not aware of your ACE Score and beat yourself up for feeling, thinking, doing or being as you are. Because it all happened so long ago, you may not connect your troubled childhood with your chronic emotional or physical pain, addiction or other coping mechanisms that may be impairing your quality of life and locking you into a spiral of shame and unworthiness.
The first step in healing is learning how chronic stress impacts developing brains and how that shows up in your life. Then a beautiful journey of self-understanding takes place when you appreciate how your body-mind worked together to help you numb, distract or discharge the psychic and chronic physical pain from a troubled childhood.
Just as cravings often occur when the body is missing a nutrient, the body-mind seeks ways to self-medicate. In fact, many of the drugs people use to self-medicate help to replace inadequate levels of the feel-good hormone, dopamine, that becomes blunted from chronic stress and fear.
As shown in this infographic, the chronic anxiety, memory impairment, chronic pain, insomnia, addictions and low self-esteem that can keep us stuck and rob us of vitality and happiness, all actually arose from our body-mind's brilliance to protect us.
But it goes much deeper. Many with troubled childhoods don't understand why they have memory or relationship issues and or fear rejection and abandonment or become people-pleasers, co-dependent or perfectionists. These are ALL coping mechanisms that served our survival as children but no longer serve us as adults.
...the chronic anxiety, memory impairment, chronic pain, insomnia, addictions and low self-esteem that can keep us stuck and rob us of vitality and happiness, actually arose from our body-mind's brilliance to protect us.
Most people who grew up in dysfunctional homes also never learned how to create and maintain healthy boundaries because at its root...a lack of healthy boundaries is one of the hallmarks of a dysfunctional home. Unfortunately, a lack of healthy boundaries ultimately attracts more abuse which often convinces people that they can't do anything right, including choosing friends and lovers. Others become over-achieving workaholics to medicate low self-esteem and the list goes on. It's simply not your fault.
Regardless of the coping mechanisms - and there are many more, most trauma survivors feel like there is something wrong with them. Many people with difficult childhoods feel broken and unworthy but don’t realize that their patterns and behaviors are the body-mind’s brilliant way of coping with unprocessed trauma. None of this is a cause for shame...it's a call for awareness and a real sense of accomplishment in having survived the war of your childhood!
This quote from Bessel van der Kolk, the world's premier trauma expert says it beautifully! "What appears as stuckness, resistance...or character-disordered behavior is simply how an individual's body-mind adapted to a dangerous world in which the only 'protection' was the very caretaker who endangered him or her. Each symptom is an ingenious solution by the body to create some semblance of safety. The trauma-related issues are the "red badge of courage" that tell the story of what happened even more eloquently than the events the individual consciously remembers." It has nothing to do with a lack of character or a weak character. On the contrary....
In Stephen Crane's "Red Badge of Courage" he speaks of how war changed his soul. What 'feels' soul changing is actually a result of the bio-psycho-social changes that took place while on the battlefield of Adverse Childhood Experiences. It only feels like the soul changes because the chronic chaos and trauma shifts a child's very essence from innocence to fear. When you understand all of the ways in which your body-mind adapted to protect you on the battlefield of your childhood, you can move from shame for being as you are to awe of the body-mind's brilliance in protecting you. You can appreciate and celebrate the miracle of you - it's what got you through! This knowledge empowers you to move from shaming to claiming your red badge of courage!
When you understand all of the ways in which your body-mind adapted to protect you, you can move from shame (for being as you are) to awe at the body-mind's brilliance and claim your red badge of courage.
I'm bowing to you for all of the courage it took to get to today and to get here!
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