Over the years I have heard many appalling stories of childhood trauma; for example, children witnessing a parent killing the other parent, relentless alcohol-fuelled beatings and abuse, children locked in dark cupboards and horrendous neglect.
These events are truly horrific and as a result I have found myself asking “ So why am I in therapy? Nothing so shocking or horrific happened to me”.
I now believe this to be an effective defense, this little voice in my head that says “my stories are not important compared to……” Little did I know.
After all, my early childhood appeared idyllic, middle class, ‘privileged’, set in a beautiful, tranquil, unspoiled part of England, I had enough to eat and beloved pets.
My behaviour consisted of being shy, the proverbial good girl, with the occasional act of willfulness (my father’s word) bursting through. As a teenager this all translated into a mix of behaviors. At once silent, sullen and rebellious coupled with neediness and people-pleasing. It wasn’t too long before a new phase of my life began. It consisted of young married life and raising my children . This for some time became my main focus.
Eventually however grandiose thoughts and behaviors began to surface. Looking back I see clearly my impulsiveness and depression. It was all punctuated with a wild phase of drugs, alcohol and nymphomania not to mention an inability to be employed for any length of time and a lack of trust within my relationships. It may be difficult to understand but at the time I was unaware that any of the above might be act outs. From my late teens onward I was ( and still am) a mixture of outgoing and introspective. As a result I did have reflective moments, moments when I realised I was suffering, hurting or fearful as these act outs wove in and out of my everyday life.
These were the clues (ha! ) that lead me to think that all was not so idyllic. Eventually these revelations led to my decision to begin Primal therapy. I grabbed that opportunity about 15 years after reading ”The Feeling Child”.
What began to unfold over time was the true impact of specific events in my life. A very early hospitalisation that I was told about, two subsequent hospitalizations that I vaguely remembered, and being sent to boarding school at seven years old just to name a few. I began to feel and remember that I had experienced terrifying trauma after all…
(Note the various definitions of trauma in a thesaurus…agony; anguish; blow; confusion; damage; injury; ordeal; shock; strain; stress; suffering; torture; upheaval; wound; collapse; derangement; disturbance; hurt; jolt; outburst; upset)
I found that I could name at least 12 of the above definitions that were relevant to me.
…I thought mine was (merely!) the normal middle class somewhat ’subtle’ trauma that results from communication by a myriad of facial expressions, disapproval, some direct anger, sadism, and being sent away to school stood out. This was all true and clearly painful but still I had no real sense as to how deeply damaging it really was.
What has, at times, felt like snail-paced progress created an awareness that “I’m not important” is actually a feeling , a memory and that to eventually feel “not important” in my case means “I am someone who my mummy and daddy did not want”.
Now in my 70’s, I feel I’m a work in progress, still some of the layers have peeled away. Thanks to persistence with Primal, I am more able to realistically look back at my life. I find I have far more access to my memories and the feelings attached to them.
The experiences I have of suffering emerges frequently in the present. They remain profoundly hurtful as I feel pieces of my trauma and with that I gradually become more in touch with the terrifying reality of feeling unwanted and alone.
I’m not diminishing the feelings from my past so readily any more, especially now that with the pain, I can also and often experience moments of real joy, contentment, hilarity, creativity, and receptivity to love.