How Childhood Traumas Affect Adult Lives: A Conversation with Jeanette Abney, LMFT
by Telishia Berry
Please define childhood trauma.
The word “trauma” is used to describe negative events that are emotionally painful and may become overwhelming, creating a challenge for one to cope with life. Examples of such events include experiencing a natural disasters, industrial or vehicular accidents; physical or sexual assault; and various forms of abuse experienced during childhood. The types of trauma that tend to have the greatest adverse psychological consequences are those related to interpersonal or intentional trauma. These include childhood abuse and neglect.
How do childhood traumas affect adult lives?
Trauma that is experienced during childhood can become one’s blueprint in life. The experience can become their reality, view of the world and view of self. The pain is not always processed appropriately if left untreated. One can feel trapped in their childhood pain. They can also develop unhealthy relationships, fear, and unhealthy habits.
What are some areas that childhood traumas impact the lifestyles of adults?
The impact of experiencing abuse or neglect as a child can be felt across several areas, such as emotional health, physical health, mental health and personal relationships.
Survivors of childhood abuse can often experience feelings of anxiety, worry, shame, guilt, helplessness, hopelessness, grief, sadness and anger.
Surviving abuse or trauma as a child has been linked with higher rates of anxiety, depression, suicide and self-harm, PTSD, drug and alcohol misuse and relationship difficulties.
Children who are exposed to abuse and trauma may develop a heightened stress response. This can impact their ability to regulate their emotions, lead to sleep difficulties, lower immune function, and increase the risk of a number of physical illnesses throughout adulthood.
Childhood trauma can have a negative impact on personal relationships. One may engage in unhealthy relationships. They may have a negative view of self. They may also become abusive or abuse others.
How can a childhood trauma affect a marriage and what are some tips to help?
Childhood trauma can affect how one communicates with their spouse. The lack of maturity and disrespect can grow and become a normal way of interacting. The spouse can suffer for pain that they may not have caused impacting trust, intimacy and one’s personality style and sex life, producing scars that manifest itself in one’s marriage as the victim suffers from depression or anxiety, abuses drugs and alcohol, develops a psychiatric disorder or becomes an abuser themselves.
How can one rise from the emotional trauma of their childhood to have a more positive and productive life?
One can rise from the emotional trauma by getting professional help to assist with becoming emotionally mature and learning how to regulate their emotions. They must learn how to forgive and let go of being a victim and strive to become a survivor by helping others and sharing their story to assist with the healing process.
As a family therapist, what are some of the things you do to help your clients to deal with childhood traumas?
I create a safe environment where patients can tell their story without feeling judged or condemned, giving them a voice to help restore and find their power as I implement effective listening techniques. I use several types of therapy styles to help the client learn the process of forgiveness, learn how to regulate their emotions, form secure attachments and maintain a coherent positive sense of self so that they will possess the ability to develop and maintain healthy relationships. I believe that one must be able to connect before they can correct or redirect any type of maladaptive behavior.
What are some of the key things you should know about your therapist?
The therapist must be able to connect with your pain in a compassionate optimistic manner. They must be honest, able to listen, provide guidance and direction, resources and challenge old habits and negative thought patterns in a positive non-confrontational manner. However. don’t become dependent on your therapist. The therapist is there to help you learn tools and skills to assist with your healing process as you learn to engage in healthy relationships, including the one with yourself.
Jeanette has offices in Fullerton, Garden Grove and Huntington Beach, California. She is also the owner of JA Precious Inc., located in Oceanside, California. She is the mother of two adults and the grandmother of five. Email her at JeanetteAbneyLMFT@gmail.com or Preciouspredicaments@gmail.com. Her Twitter handle is @Japreciousp, and be sure to catch her program on Blogtalkradio.com, called “Precious Predicaments” on the Self-Help Channel.