When we talk about a history childhood trauma, we talk a lot about the problems — the damage, the limitation on our lives, the sadness. But in reality, a lot of us are thriving despite abuse and neglect in the past. The word for this is resilient.
Overcoming the effects of Childhood PTSD is not easy, and it’s not a road I’d choose for anyone. But if that’s the hand life dealt you, it is still possible for you to blossom into a life of depth and love and purpose.
Resilience is often mentioned as the thing that explains why some people go through rough childhoods but seem to rise above all the harsh outcomes that are common and normal. It’s tempting for some people to think that resilient people are just extra clever or that they have a special kind of DNA. We’re all different, but resilience is something we can all practice. It’s a frame of mind we can develop. It’s like a muscle that makes us strong enough to face the obstacles that abuse and trauma placed in our lives — and then walk around them,
Some people worry that trying to be strong means denying what happened. But I don’t see strength that way. Developing a strength never requires denial or pretending everything’s fine. In fact, strength just allows us to acknowledge those traumas and keep growing anyway, so that we can honestly be ourselves, with all the wounds and all the brilliance, and become the people we were meant to be.
This is the way — not with fake smiles and platitudes but with honesty — that life starts getting really good.
So this is the first article (with video) in a series I’m making about resilience; it’s an overview of eight strengths that I’ll be covering — strengths anyone can work on to get better at overcoming the obstacles that are so common for people with Childhood trauma.
First I’ll talk about the obstacle fear. All people have fear, and yes, sometimes it’s appropriate, but I’m talking about another kind of fear, the free floating, hamster wheel kind of fear that run through our heads and keep us small and stuck. If you have Childhood PTSD you know exactly what I’m talking about. The word for that is still fear.
Lots of people talk about fear, but I’ll show you what to actually do with fear so you have less of that. I’ll teach you the strength that allows you to get free.
The second obstacle I’ll cover is sickness — the physical depletion, the thousand aches and pains and and the increased incidence serious diseases in aduls who had higher than normal levels of stress in their lives as children. The strength I’ll teach you around this is self-care — not flowers and rainbows and bubble bath but a common sense commitment to get the sleep, food and exercise you need to help keep the symptoms of Childhood PTSD more controlled.
The third obstacle I’ll talk about is paralysis — have you felt this — where you’re just unable sometimes to take the most obvious, common sense action. We can feel paralyzed even when we know something is the right thing to do, like leaving a destructive relationship, or getting to work on time. If you struggle with this, then action is a really important strength for you to develop. They all are. But this one is here to remind you that you don’t have to have massive plans for transformation. You just have to start taking action. Action is a strength, even if it’s just one action to get things a tiny bit moving again. Because remember, all accomplishment in your life started in the same way — with one action.
The fourth obstacle is avoidance. Whereas in paralysis we want to take action but don’t, with avoidance we don’t want to take action… and don’t.
From the outside people think it’s always just laziness. But sometimes, when you have Childhood PTSD, showing up and taking responsibility can be so overwhelming that we risk falling apart in front of everyone. Of course part of us wants to avoid things. So the strength here is showing up. We don’t have to take everything on, we can start by just showing up and staying connected with life, with groups if they’ll have us. Participation is how we grow on every level, and when we’re out there participating, guess what — we’re included.
The fifth obstacle is confusion. Those of us who experienced abuse and neglect often have a terrible time detecting which people are trustworthy and dependable, and which ones are unreliable, unavailable or even abusive. This is the biggest reason that so many of us end up in painful relationships, or making mistakes that are mortifying to us; we inherited confusion from the chaos at home.
It’s totally not our fault — but now we need clarity. And to see clearly, we’ll need to cultivate strength in discernment. If you keep working on discernment it might take a while for the older problems to drift out of your life, but you’ll quickly learn to stop letting new problems into your life.
The sixth obstacle is loneliness. This one is the most pervasive, and the most painful obstacle of them all. It’s true that loneliness is common among all kinds of people, but given the way Complex PTSD and Childhood PTSD can harm our ability to connect with others, we are very much in need of a strength that builds that connection, and that strength is love.
The seventh obstacle is discouragement. A lot of people who experienced early trauma have come to view their symptoms as permanent and their healing as hopeless, but that is never true. Healing is possible, and the strength that helps us stay with every bit of healing that happens is gratitude.
Gratitude helps us to accept and incorporate our progress and to stoke the flame of hope inside. When hope shows up in my heart after a rough period, I want to run to the rooftop and say thank you thank you! Gratitude and hope are like a full tank of gas and your whole life ahead of you.
The eighth obstacle and final article & video in this resilience series is emptiness, which almost always arises when we’re so consumed with our grief and fear that we lose sight of our purpose.
So what do I mean by that?
Everyone is born with gifts to bring to the world, and we will not be truly happy until we find that purpose, that gift, and use it for the benefit of everyone. Purposefulness is the strength at the top of the mountain. It builds on all the other strengths to bring fulfillment and goodness and usefulness to our lives and THAT is the sweet spot where all this healing leads.
So that’s what you can look forward to in the articles and videos ahead!
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