A Case Study: “ If I have childhood trauma, does that mean my parents were abusive?”
Our entire clinical philosophy at Mangrove Therapy Group centers on the fact that much of our current pain began in early childhood.
Essentially, with every client that comes in, we are exploring the root causes of pain and childhood trauma.
It sounds like a really simple concept, right? Obviously, we all have a background, and we all formed a view of the world somewhere. But sometimes exploring childhood trauma, or even labeling past experiences as childhood trauma is difficult for clients. Especially for those who do not view their childhood as being traumatic and see their parents as good people who did the best they could, this can be an area of resistance. It’s difficult to go back and explore old pain when you see yourself as having a mostly pleasant childhood. But, the truth of the matter is, almost every single one of us has childhood memories that I would label as traumatic as a trauma therapist.
I have a current client who perfectly exemplifies this. And with her permission, I would like to share some of her story.
This woman was referred to me by a friend a couple of years ago. She reported that she was having some feelings of unrest in her relationship with her mother that she would like to work through, and, also, that some of her personality functioning was causing some trouble in friendships, romantic, relationships, and employment. When we began meeting regularly, it became clear to me that she was overcompensating in her relationships in the world as a way to get her needs met. She would often advocate a bit too harshly for herself, or over-explain her feelings in hopes that people would understand her better. There was a clear core wound of not being seen and not feeling important: that she would not get her needs met.
Though she could verbalize some small stressors with her family of origin, there was no big T traumatic event to point to in her life. She had no major sexual trauma, no abuse as a child, and generally came from a loving and caring family. We decided to begin EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) therapy, the gold standard for trauma treatment.
As we began treatment planning and processing, one of the core memories that came up was a time when she was about nine years old, and was playing in the basement with her two brothers. They were being typical kids and roughhousing, and she ended up hitting her head on the floor. She went to her mother, who was in the kitchen making dinner, and told her that her head hurt. Her mother told her to go and lay down for a little bit. A few hours went by and the pain worsened, and she ended up being taken away in an ambulance with a concussion. During the waiting time, she lay there feeling as if she was not being listened to and that her mom didn’t really care about her pain.
Now, we could scold this mother, and label her as abusive or neglectful.
But, if you’re a mom like me, you know that life gets busy and if you have three kids in the house and you’re making dinner, and distracted with a million other things, it could be easy to brush something like this off. Kids come to us all of the time with things that hurt and often it’s no big deal. There is no other evidence to suggest that this mother was not caring and protective of her children. Her mother certainly did not intend to harm her daughter. And yet, the emotional scar remains.
There were several other memories explored, and while none of them look hugely traumatic on the surface, the ideas about herself that this young woman gathered along the way accumulated and she was insecure and desperate to get her needs met when we first met. If we had overlooked these memories, she would have no insight or empathy for herself regarding where these defense mechanisms came from and there would be zero chance of treating them.
I’m happy to report that she has done incredible work and finds her relationships, employment, and, most importantly, her feelings towards herself, in a much better place today. Sometimes it’s as simple as looking under every stone and exploring the things that we tell ourselves can’t be trauma because they aren’t “traumatic enough.”
Begin Trauma Treatment in Palm Beach County, FL
Our team would be happy to offer support as you uncover potentially traumatic memories. Working through these memories can bring up many different emotions that can be addressed from our Delray Beach, FL-based practice. We are happy to offer support across the state as well. You can start your therapy journey by following these simple steps:
- Contact Mangrove Therapy Group
- Meet with a caring therapist
- Start receiving support for yourself and your loved ones
Other Services Offered with Mangrove Therapy
Trauma therapy isn’t the only service offered at Mangrove Therapy. Our therapists are experts in treating PTSD/C-PTSD, substance use disorders, eating disorders, body image issues, anger management, anxiety, low self-esteem, and much more. Please feel free to learn more about how we can support you. We also offer support with addictions such as in-process addictions, grief, and loss, “Failure to Launch” syndrome, CBT, and DBT. Feel free to learn more by visiting our blog or FAQ page to learn more today!