I recently watched a video on youtube about Neil Strauss. The perspective on human psychology and trauma was amazing, I just had to share it. So for those of you who would rather read, I have transcribed it below.
In the beginning, you were born and like all infants, you were completely vulnerable and dependent with a new developing brain and no understanding of the world. In a perfect world, your parents would be perfect, they would be dedicated full time to taking care of your physical and psychological needs. Always making the right decisions, setting the healthiest boundaries, and protecting you from all harm, while preparing you to eventually take care of your needs. But in the real world, no one is perfect. Neither your parents nor the other people who play a role in your upbringing. Therefore, along the way, some of your developmental needs don’t get met. The problem is when one of your needs doesn’t get met however big or small, it can leave a wound. These wounds are known as childhood trauma. Each instance or pattern of trauma can create specific core personal issues and relationship challenges. If these are left untreated you are likely to pass your wounds on to the next generation. Since this trauma occurs early in life, it can affect social, emotional, behavioural, cognitive, and moral development. It’s not always overt or intentional. Most commonly, people think of trauma is coming from hateful perpetrators are knowingly and willfully abusive. But even parents who think of themselves as loving or well-meaning, make mistakes, cross boundaries, or simply do their best with the limited internal resources they have. This covert, often unrecognised abuse can, through its constant repetition, leave wounds just as deep as those created by a single malicious episode. They become emotional scars.
In your earliest years, you’re the centre of the universe, everything revolves around you. So wounds can come from caregivers who are either out of control or completely detached from their emotions around you. When mom is always full of anxiety, as she’s breastfeeding, or dad comes home in a rage every time he has a rough day at work. Or stepdad is depressed by his money problems during the rare moments he spends with you. You soak up these emotions like a sponge. Often you will easily take the blame or responsibility for them. Even if a parent falls ill and passes away. It can seem like abandonment or something you made happen if You’re too young to understand death. It can be physical, most people understand that it’s not okay to physically harm or even spank a child. Here’s an example. It’s not as obvious, but any invasive medical procedure. Even something as commonplace as circumcision or getting stitches may register the exact same as physical abuse. If you experience it in your first few years of life. You may even start to distrust your caregivers for bringing you to an unfamiliar place and not keeping you safe.
Often, it’s intellectual. After the first few years of life, you start to separate from your parents. In this period, it’s their job to help you become your own person and confidently stand on your own two feet in the world. Here, a whole new set of problems can arise, especially when parents try to over control you, criticise you or unreasonably expect you to be perfect. All of these can lead to esteem problems later in life or take over your entire identity.
Within a dysfunctional family system, each child tends to play a different role that helps the families survive and detract from the real issues. These can include the revered hero, the troublemaking scapegoat, the neglected lost child, the people-pleasing, play cater, and the mood-lifting mascot later in life. These roles, as well as birth order, can lead to corresponding personality issues, whether it’s the heroes judgemental perfectionism, the scapegoat’s explosive anger, the Lost child’s low self-esteem, the play caters denial of personal needs, or the mascots impulsive irresponsibility. But it’s not easy to see your own core issues. Your oldest beliefs, behaviours, and adaptations have not just been reinforced by decades of habit that are built deep into the architecture of your brain, which is busy building new neural connections at an astounding rate in early life. As the saying goes, cells that fire together, wire together. So trying to see yourself with any objectivity can be like trying to touch your right elbow with your right hand. But if you could detach from yourself a little bit, you’ll notice that the things you do and think, don’t just come out of nowhere.
Here are a few techniques and tools you can use to better understand the way your past can interfere with your happiness, your relationships, and your life today. You can work backwards.
- Are you relentlessly driving yourself to succeed and beating yourself up when you fail? Maybe that’s because when you were a teenager, your parents made you feel as if your worth as a human being was dependent on your grades, touchdowns or accomplishments.
- Are you out of touch with your emotions, has your stepped dad always told you to toughen up when you cried? Do you feel deep down? Like you don’t matter? Because you were often ignored growing up?
- Are You always trying to save or care for others? Because you were never able to save mom from her depression or addiction?
- Are you in complete denial that anything was wrong with your family because dad acted as if he were infallible, and must be unquestioningly obeyed? So criticising him would be like blaspheming God.
You can excuse my language. Some of you have a big bag of s*** you’re carrying around, and every time you encounter a situation in which you can’t possibly get more shit to put in the bag, you grab it and stuff it inside. Believe it ignore all the diamonds glittering nearby because all you can see is the s***. This s*** is known as the storeys you tell yourself. Examples include generalisations like I make bad decisions. If people saw the real me they wouldn’t like me. Or conversely, no one is good enough for me. Each of these beliefs can be formed in childhood, by respectively, fault finding parents abandoning parents and parents who put you on a pedestal. As a result, you can spend much of your life misinterpreting situations and thinking you found more evidence to support these false conclusions formed in childhood.
One way to recognise when you’re stuck in your own storey is whenever you feel less than or better than others. Here’s a tool you can use to assess your own behaviour. There are three developmental states.
- The first is the wounded child, someone who’s emotionally frozen between the ages of zero and five.
- The second, the adapted adolescent was emotionally frozen between the ages of six and 18.
- Finally, there’s a functional adult is emotionally mature.
So where the wounded child feels worthless, and the adapted adolescent may feel arrogant, and functional adults get their esteem from within where the Wounded Child is extremely needy, and the adaptive adolescent is needless, the functional adult communicates his or her needs, where the wounded child acts out of control, and the adapted adolescent is hyper controlling. The functional adult is flexible and moderate, where the wounded child seeks attention, and the adapted adolescent seeks intensity. Often the functional adult lives in integrity and harmony were wounded children idealise their caretakers or partners, and adapted adolescence feel disillusioned by their caretakers or partners. Functional adults are in reality about their caretakers or partners.
So ask yourself in a given week, do you exhibit any of the wounded child or adolescent behaviours here? If So, you may have either gotten stuck somewhere along the way, and your emotional or behavioural development or certain situations are causing you to revert to those ages. Anytime you overreact to something by shutting down, losing your temper, sulking, feeling hopeless, freaking out, disassociating or any of numerous other dysfunctional behaviours. It’s typically because an old wound has been triggered and you’re regressing to the childhood or adolescent state that corresponds to that feeling. Note that the Wounded Child tends to directly internalise the messages that caretakers give while the adapted adolescent tends to react against them.
However, not everyone reacts to the same trauma In the same way. And children are born with different predispositions and resiliency. So if you remain loyal to people who abuse and mistreat you, that’s called trauma bonding. If you only feel normal, if you’re doing something extreme or high risk, that’s trauma arousal. If you’ve developed intense self-loathing, you’ve got trauma shame. If you find chemical, mental or technological ways to numb yourself and your feelings, that’s trauma blocking, and it goes on and on.
One pattern of trauma, many different possible responses to it, we’ve only scratched the surface. But at least you know the model we’re working with here. It’s not about blaming, but understanding.
In summary, we each spend our adult lives running on a unique operating system that took some 18 years to programme, and it’s full of distinct bugs, and viruses. And when we put together all these different theories of attachment, developmental immaturity, post-traumatic stress, and internal family systems, they make up a body of knowledge that allows us to run a virus scan on ourselves and at any point to look at our behaviours, our thoughts and our feelings and figure out where they come from. That’s the easy part. The tough part is to quarantine the virus and to recognise the false self and restore the true self. Because It isn’t until we start developing an honest, compassionate and functional relationship with ourselves that we can begin to experience a healthy loving relationship with others.
I personally really enjoyed this explanation and interpretation of human psychology by Neil Strauss. If you need help to work on your attachment, developmental immaturity, post-traumatic stress, and internal family systems or anything else that came up for you when reading this article. Please book in a Free Assessment and talk to one of our trained counsellors.