How to Overcome Traumatic Experiences From Childhood
How did you find yourself here?
You might be here because you feel ready to heal. Or you may know someone who is still suffering from childhood trauma and you want to help. Or you may not have come to terms with what happened to you, but you are longing for an answer.
Regardless of how you came across this article and whatever journey you may be on, I am here to tell you that I see you and I hear you.
Childhood trauma can alter how we experience this journey called life. Like any wound, if left untreated, it will only get worse, causing you to experience more pain and less peace in your life. And eventually, it can even cripple you, preventing you from living the life you want. To heal, “does not mean the damage never existed. It means the damage no longer controls our lives” (unknown). Anyone who has experienced a traumatic experience in their childhood deserves to heal.
Before we dive more into this piece, I want to acknowledge that I am not a registered professional, like a Psychologist or Licensed Therapist. But I am a survivor of child abuse. I’ve been fortunate to access therapists, coaches, and counselors throughout my life and have taken away invaluable knowledge. In this article, I share strategies that are utilized in Cognitive Processing Trauma Therapy (CPT) and coaching. These two treatments allowed me to heal faster, getting me closer to my goals and dreams. Part of my dream is to help other Survivors overcome their trauma, so I hope this nugget of knowledge can help you (or someone you know) too.
What is Childhood Trauma?
Childhood trauma refers to an extremely frightening or harmful event that happens to a child and detrimentally impacts their emotional, physical, or mental health. Trauma can impact their sense of safety and trust and can make them feel helpless. Many people who experience trauma in their childhood can continue experiencing triggering memories, anxiety, and other harmful impacts from their trauma in adulthood. Trauma from childhood can be a result of events like:
- Family members suffering from alcoholism or addiction
- Physical, mental, emotional, or sexual abuse
- Witnessing abuse or domestic violence
- Death or loss
It's important to note that not all of these events may be endured as traumatic for some children. It depends on the child’s interpretations of the events that will determine if it was a traumatic experience. Their reactions and responses to the event can indicate whether or not the event was traumatic.
How Childhood Trauma Can Impact Adult Life
If untended, childhood trauma can surface in adult life. In some cases, traumatic events can develop into Posttraumatic stress disorder. Or, the trauma can remain an open wound that festers, causing one to experience pain and preventing them from moving forward.
Our childhood experiences can significantly impact the internal narrative we develop about ourselves and how we perceive the external world. As children, we collect scripts, or beliefs, about how to navigate this world so we can survive. When we’ve experienced traumatic events, it can cause us to internalize scripts that are detrimental to our health, wellbeing, and goals. For example, some may believe the trauma was their fault, causing them to feel guilt, holding them back from pursuing what they want. Or, they believe that the world is entirely bad and that the trauma will happen again. As a result, they feel sadness, anxiety, and anger, keeping them in the same place as their past and isolating themselves from potentially incredible relationships. Childhood trauma can monumentally impact what we believe, how we feel, and how we behave.
The number one myth about childhood trauma is that one cannot overcome it. No matter what has happened, one can move forward and live the life they want to. Healing and recovery is a process and can even take a lifetime. But by taking one step forward every single day, you can let go of your past, take back control of your present, and achieve the future you want.
How to Overcome Trauma From Childhood
Healing is not a linear process. The scripts you’ve carried with you since childhood are deeply embedded and it will take time to unlearn them and adopt new thinking patterns. But you can and you owe it to yourself to heal and overcome your childhood trauma. So, let’s talk about a few ways you can do just that…
Be Willing to Go On this Journey
The fact that you found yourself here reading this article is an incredible step to get closer to the life you want. Unfortunately, what happened to you will never go away. You cannot change your past, but you can change your present and determine the future you want. Be willing to have good days, hard days, triggering days, and joyful days. By choosing to go on this journey, you will have more good and joyful days than hard and triggering days. Take the first step and you will be that much closer to where you want to be.
Acceptance does not mean you are embracing what happened to you. Rather, you are accepting it for what it is and choosing what you are going to do with it.
Here are some journaling prompts to help you accept your trauma:
- What does it mean to accept your trauma?
- If you could tell your past self anything, what would it be?
- What advice would you give to a friend to help them with acceptance?
Acceptance in of itself is a journey. It takes time and deep self-reflection. Sometimes it requires diving into your past to understand your present. Understanding your present will allow you to make the changes you need to live a life with greater joy and peace.
Dump, Dump, Dump It Out
Expressive writing can immensely help people who have experienced trauma. I’ve already provided some journal prompts above, but I wanted to reiterate that journaling is an essential tool to have in your toolkit to help you overcome your trauma. Personally, journaling has been a key component of my healing journey, and I still journal to cope with those bad and triggering days. Journaling allows you to dump out your thoughts and feelings so that you don’t have to keep them bottled up inside.
Here are some additional prompts to get you started:
- When you experience a trigger, write about it. Explain the story. How did it make you feel? Why does it remind you of your trauma? How might you shift your focus? What are you doing to cope?
- What is your greatest healing accomplishment so far?
- When you feel triggered, write yourself a compassion letter
- Write about what it means to overcome your trauma
- What are your goals and dreams? Why do you want to achieve these things?
Build a support system
Many individuals who experienced trauma as a child tend to isolate themselves from others because of their beliefs (such as, “everyone is bad”). However, to heal, you need to have people you can lean on. I promise you there are good people out there with whom you can trust. I suggest leaning on friends and family, counselors, therapists, and coaches to help you overcome your trauma. Accessing professional help is especially important because they create non-judgmental spaces for you to open up and share. They are also incredible guides to help you get to where you want to be.
Focus on what you want
You are not your past; you are your present. The thoughts and emotions you feel (especially when triggered) are valid, but you can control your response and behave in ways that allow you to cultivate the life you want.
So, what do you want? What are your goals and dreams? Who do you want to be remembered for? Who do you want to be? How might you use your experience to help others?
I recommend grabbing a journal and writing down your answers to these questions as well. You deserve to create the future you want and move forward. Choose to focus on your present and future rather than your past. You deserve it.
You cannot erase your past, but you can decide what to write for the rest of your life’s story. One word, one page, or one chapter does not define you. Your trauma does not define you. You get to choose your story. Choose to go on this journey of healing and you can overcome your childhood trauma and cultivate the life you want.
Written by Guest Author, Hailey Rodgers