There is a phrase ‘your biography becomes your biology’. Science understands clearly now how traumatic events and deficits in our early care shape our brains and leave us to face life and its inevitable adversities without emotional, psychological and physical resilience.
We can experience trauma not just from extreme, life threatening events, like the ones we imagine effect soldiers on the battlefield, but with anything that is overwhelmingly stressful to to us as a unique individual and sends us into the fight, flight or freeze response. For children, threatening behaviour from adults, parents fighting, death in the family, disruption, separation, addictive or depressed parents, divorce, bullying, constant criticism, are all sources of trauma.
Our bodies react to such adversity by sending stress hormones through the body, preparing us for fight or flight or in extreme cases to freeze. But because our brains and immune systems are in a state of development, this constant barrage of stress hormones results in us having a permanently high level response to stress.
So we walk into our lives on high alert, with high reactivity to threats of all kinds, expecting the worse, and thus often finding it. We experience ourselves triggered in relationships, angered by events, constantly fearful, lost, confused and unable to deal with situations in a thoughtful, rational way.
More obviously harmful events such as physical or sexual abuse and neglect may have sent us into the freeze response, where memories of the event are stored unprocessed in the limbic brain areas and can emerge in later life as symptoms of PTSD and dissociative disorders.
Isn't it easy to see from this how we can end up spiralling into life feeling like a failure? We keep getting into the same scrapes again and again, making the same mistakes, doing things we don't want to do, letting ourselves down. The worse part of this is that inevitably we make the assumption, that because we feel so bad and act so badly, that we are bad. Nothing could be further from the truth, and more important to realise.
Self doubt, self hatred, shame are the other side of this double edge sword…..the disappointment in ourselves for not being able to handle our problems.
If you suffer from any of the following, then it is likely that you faced difficult situations in childhood that you were unequipped to deal with, and which left you vulnerable:
Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
Anxiety and depressive disorders
Borderline personality disorder
Dissociative disorders such as DID
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorders
Obsessive compulsive disorder