The importance of safe environments

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

Too many kids experience a lack of safety and connection. That puts them on a trajectory of additional trauma, dysfunctional relationships, mental health problems, social issues, school unemployment problems, substance abuse, and the onset of chronic disease followed by early death. That’s the silver lining, the relief.

Without the necessary help 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 a mess because they learned poor attachment from their parents. They have more health problems than the unabused population and 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 with unresolved 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 by someone in power again. This can cause problems in 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, especially for people whose neurophysiological processes are beyond the practitioner’s severely limited comprehension.

A trauma expert once quipped that if Complex PTSD (most often rooted in Developmental Trauma) were in the DSM the volume would be quite thin because almost everything else 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. How does a person feel safe when on the street, addicted, in prison, or enduring abuse by yet another narcissistic boss? They don’t. They spend their life in a continuing struggle against the cruelty and contempt heaped upon them by caregivers when they were innocent children. 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 future of humankind depends on it.

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