Unresolved trauma from childhood doesn’t just stay in childhood. If left unaddressed, it can seep into our adult lives. It can do so in both invisible and visible ways, meaning you’ll know with certainty that the trauma is affecting certain areas of your life, while also not understanding why you are feeling, reacting, or experiencing certain things a particular way. For example, you may understand why you struggle with trust in adult relationships, but you might not realize that someone’s body language might be activating your trauma.
Trauma not only impacts a person’s long-term mental health; it also has a direct effect on physical health. In 1998, CDC-Kaiser Permanente published a study that researched the impact of adverse childhood experiences on survivors’ mental and physical health. It showed a direct correlation between ACEs and future symptoms and long-term health complications from repetitive toxic stress. The higher the ACEs score, the greater the risk to develop these issues later in life.
Once you’ve identified your traumatic childhood experiences, it will be important to address two areas associated with this. It is normal for most to believe that trauma work is only about processing the traumatic memories, but that’s not entirely true. A necessary step in trauma work is also learning to navigate the way that trauma affects your life both by learning coping skills, and by understanding how these experiences impact you now. In this stage, you’ll want to answer the following questions:
How do these experiences show up on my day to day?
What kind of explained and unexplained physical symptoms do I have that could be related to these earlier experiences?
How do these experiences impact my personality?
What do you I when they do show up?
How do I make sense of them in my life?
Then, you’ll want to identify the experiences that are the most impactful and that continue to have a significant effect in your sense of self, your relationship to others and the world. These are usually the experiences that will need to be processed thoroughly.
Some of these questions you can begin exploring on your own. It will help you have clarity as to how the past affects you now. However, so much of this work should be done with a therapist. I have also created a workbook that you can find and download for free here. This workbook will support you as you address your unresolved trauma. It is important to remember that this workbook helps jump start this journey for you, but it will not replace therapy. Please make sure you work with a trained mental health professional throughout this process!
To find out your ACEs score, click here. Please note this score does not take into account my of the community experiences (institutional racism, no access to resources, lack of good education, etc) as the research from the study only used the 10 most common experiences shared by participants. When thinking about your unresolved trauma, be sure to include these community experiences. You can find the graphic that illustrates all of these on my Instagram at @theresilientself.
If you are in California and are looking for a therapist, I am currently taking clients. Please click here to schedule a free consultation to see if we are a good fit!