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Traumatic Effects

A Perspective on Emotional Trauma

By Raven BlackPublished 3 months ago Updated 3 months ago 9 min read

What is Emotional Trauma?

Symptoms of emotional trauma, an emotional outburst, extreme anxiety, and relationship issues, may seem very “crazy,” but these expressions are nothing more than a human reaction to a very abnormal situation. Bluntly, emotional trauma stems from any situation that makes us, and other mammalian species, think that we are in danger.

Long-term emotional abuse or neglect can result in a very rigid way of reacting to novel situations. Survivors of trauma never stop threat assessing. Fair or not, they often react to any new romantic or platonic relationship with anxiety. It’s these rigid and inflexible reactions that cause problems in their current relationships. Instead of reacting to a novel person or situation with excitement and happiness, they project the anger that their earlier aggressor deserved. This leaves the new friend or partner feeling not only mistreated, but also very confused.

People who are severely emotionally traumatized are often stuck in that traumatized state. Adding to this problem is the fact that they can also be mentally frozen at the age at which they were first traumatized, making them act out behaviors of someone much younger than their physical age. Often, severely emotionally traumatized people will express the desire that they wish to be taken care of by an “actual adult.” Unfortunately, this can result in them looking for a parental figure in their spouses.

Adult relationships are typified by symbiosis and a mutual understanding of one another’s needs. People who have been severely emotionally scarred will often present a self-focused and selfish attitude in a relationship. Instead of viewing the relationship as a chance to experience life with another person, they view the relationship from the lens of self-interest. A child is the only one who gets to have a one-sided relationship, but an adult does not. The desire to escape responsibility will cause them to seek a surrogate type of parental figure in their friends or partners. When they realize that this can’t happen as an adult, they will flee the relationship, leaving the other person very hurt and confused.

By running from responsibility, they deny their own self a true chance at happiness and to experience actual love, leaving them feeling alone and isolated. To engage in healthier relationships, they must start with the premise that not every person will repeat their past trauma. This development of trust will enable them to discuss their vulnerabilities with their partner and seek solutions. Developing a sense of self awareness and confidence in their own abilities will enable them to slowly share the responsibilities of an adult relationship.

I don’t mean to suggest that any of this will be an easy task. This kind of self-development and awareness takes an exceedingly long time, but with each step, hurt people take themselves closer to the loving adult relationships that they deserve.

Trauma and the Loss of Self

Who are you? Do you know yourself? But more importantly do you accept yourself?

In the overly crowded halls of most high schools, you will see teenagers gathered in groups often typified by a certain clothing style, music choice, or basic personality traits. Occasionally, there would be a person who would decide that they wanted to be a part of another social group, so they would hastily change their hair, get new clothes, and try to fit in with the other group. This behavior wasn’t seen in a positive light in high school, and there was some wisdom in this, because these people were lagging behind their peers in truly understanding who they were.

Unfortunately, adults who never cultivate a stable sense of self are like the teens that I just described in the earlier paragraph. They will often adopt the preferences and tastes of friends to try to cultivate a false sense of self. Because they don’t actually understand who they are, they find it exceedingly difficult to maintain stable and long-term relationships with others, often rejecting people that they report to value for new social opportunities. The people who they once relied upon are now devalued and discarded as they morph into someone else. Instead of self-evaluation and self-acceptance, they look to find fault in their past relationships to justify their discard of them.

These people often cling to the results of personality tests as a savior from their own lack of self-awareness. If a metric can accurately tell them who they are then they can quit mimicking their friends. It’s consistent actions and long-term patterns of behavior that tell us who we are, and those qualities are very difficult to decipher from a simple test. Self-exploration is the best way to find out who you are.

By finding out your values, a person can cultivate authentic long-term relationships. This is problematic if the goal of human interactions is merely to attract attention from as many people as possible to fill a metaphorical void. Some traumatized people, unfortunately, base their sense of self-worth on how many people like what they project, and thus, they change themselves in as many ways as possible to achieve this goal. Self-acceptance dulls the need to have shallow relationships. Accepting one’s true self allows other people to truly know and love who you are. I leave you with this thought: Authentic relationships are few, but they are the most fulfilling.

Trauma and Self-Hatred

Trauma, especially childhood trauma, can lead to a deep sense of internal shame. Unfortunately, it can instill a sense of “I’m not good enough,” or “I’m unlovable, damaged, unfixable,” which sadly can affect every aspect of a traumatized person’s life, from relationships to careers.

The reason behind this is because a child that goes through trauma doesn’t blame the event or abusive person, they blame themselves. I have often wondered why this is, my theory is that a child gets a sense of self from their parents. Because incredibly young children are completely dependent on a parent for their sense of survival, they presume that everything the parent says is truth. This presumption helps them feel safe in unfamiliar situations. Therefore, when a parent verbally insults their child, the child also perceives this as truth, and they begin internalizing these insults.

To make this more complex, the human brain does not fully develop until age twenty-five, making children, teens, and young adults ego driven. This mentality often causes them to think that they are the reason for their parents’ vitriol when it is often an external factor, such as a stressful job, mental illness, or a host of other life events that causes a parent’s anger. This inability to understand that the parent is angry towards something else causes the child to develop an extremely low sense of self-worth.

This low sense of self-worth can affect their adult relationships. There is a pervasive thought in most adults who are traumatized as children by a parental figure: I am unlovable. Once again, the traumatized adult begins to react to their adult relationships in a way that they reacted to their abusive parents, often resulting in extreme anxiety of abandonment or abuse when non-exists.

Trauma and Childhood Abandonment

Babies and young children are dependent on their parents for survival. A baby needs to receive food and emotional nurturing from his or her parents to survive. This complete dependency creates a sense of vulnerability. Bluntly, if the adults leave then the baby dies. To a child, abandonment is a threat to his or her basic survival. Thus, separation can create severe anxiety within the child.

Beyond the necessities, such as nutrition and shelter, a parent supplies emotional comfort when the child is upset. Whan a baby’s cries are met with a consistent and loving response from their parental figures, the child learns that the world is safe, dependable, and loving. If a parent’s responses to a child’s needs are inconsistent, or the parent is neglectful, the child feels unsafe in a chaotic and unfamiliar world.

Abandonment by a biological mother shortly after birth is one of the most hurtful types of neglect. The newborn, who is often not in prime health, is left feeling frightened and alone. Because a parent is not there to tend to the child’s emotional needs, the child never learns to self-regulate. Self-regulation is a vital skill that must be taught if the child is to develop a sense of safety and confidence.

Adults who cannot self-regulate their own emotions often turn to harmful substances to help them calm down, such as alcohol, narcotics, or process addictions. Even more alarming is that adults who don’t have the ability to self-regulate often lash out at others physically or verbally, engage in self-harm, or may suffer from suicidal ideation and depression. This is why the concept of co-regulation, where one person helps another calm down, is an important act of love that can be done for children and adults who were traumatized.

Children who were abandoned often have a delayed grasp of object permanence, which is the trust that a parent exists and still loves the child even if the child can no longer see them. The abandonment fear becomes entrenched in the child’s psyche, and unfortunately, can last into adulthood. A related concept called object constancy is the inability to hold consistent feelings for people who are no longer in view. For example, a woman may act extremely loving with her husband while he is home, but once he leaves the house and she can no longer see him, her past abandonment trauma makes her fear that he will never return. She begins to react as if he abandoned her even though there are no signs that abandonment is imminent. Thoughts that were once filled with adoration now turn to vitriol, which she may send through text messages, a frantic array of calls, and delusions that her husband is cheating on her.

We write this entry in hopes that it inspires growth in those who have experienced childhood neglect or abandonment by their biological parents, the very people who should have supported them. As two fellow adoptees, one of which was a mental health professional, who have both struggled with much of what was written in this article, we won’t hide the fact that this level of growth is often a life-long journey, but it is possible.

For more information, please read our book: If You Love Them, Let Them Develop eBook : Rose, Isabella, Black, Raven, Black, Raven: Kindle Store

With Hope, Love, and Faith

Raven and Isabella (“Little One”)

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About the Creator

Raven Black

He stepped out into the street, cloaked in his midnight-smoked suit and twisted-brown leather boots, shouting to the world, "Writing is my religion, and this is my church."

Hi, I'm Raven Black, and writing is my passion.

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Comments (3)

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  • Jack Everly3 months ago

    Wonderful, insightful piece Raven. It's time we all delved more into the quagmires we all hide inside us; they're dragging us down and holding us back and, worse, they open the door for us to allow truly evil humans to rule over us. Great work.

  • Reading this made me feel as if this was written specifically for me. I don't wanna go into too much details but I too have childhood trauma (sexual, verbal, psychological), I'm mentally stuck at the age of 8, have attempted and failed suicide, have abandonment issues and attachment issues, etc. You get the gist. Thank you so much for sharing this!

  • Isabella Rose3 months ago

    I'm so proud of you, My Pretty Raven. I love you. xxxx

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