Stop the cycle of cruelty and contempt

Every child deserves to grow up in a safe environment that encourages connection. That’s part of our human birthright, what we’re designed for, what we need in order to reach our potential.

Too many children experience lack of safety and connection. That puts them on a nearly unavoidable trajectory of additional trauma, dysfunctional relationships, mental health problems, social issues, school and employment problems, substance abuse, and the onset of chronic disease at midlife, followed by early death. Early death is the silver lining, the relief. Without necessary aid to resolve the trauma, abused children grow into greatly disadvantaged and vulnerable adults.

Traumatized people are easily retraumatized. The most traumatized often are the most despised by society; they end up on the streets, in rehab, in prison, or dead. Their relationships are troubled because they learned poor attachment from their parents and can’t change the pattern without help. They have more health problems than unabused people, may have seemingly bizarre symptoms, and are easily misunderstood by medical personnel, most of whom have no training in trauma-informed care.

When an adult child of developmental trauma walks into a doctor’s office they are often already on Red Alert because of the power differential. They are hypervigilant about being abused again by someone in power. This can disrupt the doctor-patient relationship, particularly if the doctor holds the common medical system view, “I am the healthy doctor who can heal you and you are the sick patient who needs to be fixed.” That’s bad medicine, and especially bad for people whose neurophysiological processes are beyond the uninformed practitioner’s comprehension.

A trauma expert quipped that if Complex PTSD/Developmental Trauma were in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) the volume would be quite thin because almost every mental health problem would fall under it. Trauma experts say most of society’s persistent ills, most of a person’s ills, stem from unresolved developmental trauma. 

The trauma is unresolved because the person lacks the resources to recover. A person can’t recover unless and until they feel safe. People do not feel safe when on the street, addicted, in prison, or enduring abuse by yet another narcissistic partner or boss. They spend their life in a continuing struggle against the cruelty and contempt heaped upon them by caregivers when they were an innocent child. Most often, they unwittingly pass along the trauma to their own children, multiplying and perpetuating the cycle of cruelty and contempt. This is normal in a world that lacks trauma awareness and trauma informed care. We must do better. The wellbeing of our children and grandchildren and the future of humankind depend on it.

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