12 Steps to Transcending Childhood Trauma
I am a recovering alcoholic, codependent and love addict. The roots of my problems stem from past trauma. In recovery, I have made an effort to heal the wounds of my past. I have accepted that this is a inside job. Nothing outside of myself is going to heal me. Therapy and support groups are supportive environments, but we have to do all the work to promote our own inner healing.
‘All healing is release from the past. It is enough to heal the past and make the future free. It is enough to let the present be accepted as it is.” Course of Miracles
"Through the mist into the sun. Step by step, I cannot run." 1982, Journal
- Accept the fact that you were traumatized. Many people are in denial about this. They don't remember what really happened. They have blocked out the truth because it is too painful, or they see what happened to them as normal because they have nothing to compare it with.
- Identify the nature of that trauma. Was it sustained or intermittent? Was it neglect or abuse? Was it at home or at school? What was going on, and who were the people involved?
- If you do not know the answers to these questions, it might help if you talk to people who were there at the time (friends or family). Sometimes these people will not want to cooperate, but it's worth a try. Also check out family photo albums to trigger memories.
- Therapy can help you identify what happened during your childhood. A therapist can draw out the truth in a safe environment and help interpret the facts. If the truth never gets revealed or validated, just refer to their trauma as "something that happened," even if you don't remember what that "something" was.
- Learn to talk about it to someone you trust. This can be a therapist, a friend, or another recovering person in your support group—anyone who can be trusted to listen without judgement. Talking is part of the healing process because sharing our deepest, darkest secrets brings them out of the unconscious and into the conscious. This is the only way to change.
- Writing can help. Key memories can flow when pen is put to paper, and the documentation of these truths can be useful later on. Writing is also a good way to get in touch with deep-seated feelings about what happened. Writing can mean keeping an ongoing journal about the recovery process, or taking an inventory of what happened with regard to the trauma and how it affected your life.
- Feel the pain of the past. Up to this point, you may self-medicating in some way. These feelings will vary from person to person, but some of the most common emotions felt at this time are anger, shock, anxiety, sadness, and depression. No matter how painful these feelings might be, it is important not to run away from them. These emotions have to be felt in full force, as if one were re-living the trauma once again. When these feelings come up, it is important to remember that they will pass and that this experience is just one stage in the healing process.
- Learn acceptance. Acceptance is the willingness to make peace with the fact that the trauma happened and that nothing you do now will change the past. Acceptance is the willingness to live with the cards one has been dealt. The pain begins to subside with acceptance, so it is an important step. It is a hard step, but this is what it takes to begin feeling better.
- No matter how bad things were in the past, you have to let go of the trauma. This is called forgiveness. You do not have to like the people that hurt you. You do not have to associate with them. Just renounce your resentment.
- Try to see the good events of your past as well as the bad. Usually childhood was a mixture of pain and happiness. As much as your suffered, you may have been blessed in some small way. Maybe you had someone outside the home that loved you. Try, if you can. to see the good that has come out of your pain. For me, it was becoming a “wounded healer.” Good does come out of bad, and from your sruggle with diversity, you have learned wisdom and coping skills—things that can help you for the rest of your life.
- No matter how long the journey takes, or how many obstacles you have to overcome, someday the wounds of the past will lessen. The memories will remain, but the pain will subside a little bit more each time you visit something new or have an old wound triggered..
- Move on with your life. Unfortunately there is no permanent fix. We are always a work in progress. At times the past will come back to haunt you. When this happens do the steps again and reclaim the happiness you deserve. For the most part, you are free from the worst of it. God blesses you during this process. Don't forget that.
I created these steps from my own experience with transcending childhood trauma. They have really helped me reach a place in my life where the past no longer haunts me everyday or affects the choices I make. I am serene and I am happy—one day at a time. Susan Peabody