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Childhood Trauma

Kindheitstrauma

Taking a Closer Look at the Consequences of Childhood Wounds

If we deal with the topic of childhood wounds we cannot ignore the ACE study. The ACE study (ACE = Adverse Childhood Experiences) shows clearly and comprehensibly how stressful childhood experiences influence the behavior and health of those affected throughout their adult lives. In this study, more than 17,000 adults in the US population were examined with regard to stressful childhood experiences and their consequences.

Stressful childhood experiences, "adverse childhood experiences" (ACE), or simply called childhood wounds, are all childhood experiences that have lasting, negative effects on the health and well-being of those affected, even in adulthood. The concept of stressful childhood experiences includes both obvious child abuse and less visible problems at home (“household dysfunction”).  

 

The results of the ACE study are more than clear: They show a clear and direct connection between childhood trauma and the later mental and physical health of those affected in adulthood. The study also makes it clear: the stronger and more numerous the ACE's (adverse childhood experiences) were, the greater the negative impact on health, and this in all areas of life, from addictive behavior, increased tendency to violence and crime to autoimmune diseases.

In professional circles, the conversation about Trauma, and in particular about the much more difficult-to-recognize phenomenon of childhood trauma, has become more common. But what exactly does that mean?  

Childhood Trauma (Developmental Trauma)

First of all, I would like to clarify what trauma actually is. Because this is often misunderstood. Dr. Peter Levine, the father and founder of Somatic Experiencing, describes it this way: "Trauma arises as a response of the nervous system and does not originate in an external event. The trauma is in the nervous system, not in the event." read  here  more about shock trauma .  

When we have experiences that exceed our window of tolerance, survival strategies such as flight, fight, or freeze are triggered. If this happens to us as an adult, and if we have a well-developed vagus nerve, the body can return to normal relatively quickly. I'll get to what the vagus nerve is later. However, if we regularly had experiences as babies or toddlers that exceeded our window of tolerance, it is not that easy for us as adults to return to normal. We often get stuck in the biochemical cocktail of fight/flight/freeze, and this is reflected in increased adrenalin and cortisol levels, but also in chronically tense muscles, physical pain, recurring conflicts, or chronic stress.


So how exactly does this dysregulation of the autonomic nervous system arise?

​Every event that overwhelms us contributes to a potential dysregulation. And that can be anything that happens too fast, is too much, or happens too suddenly. It can be anything beyond what we can tolerate at any given time. Anything that's  too much, to say it in plain words. ​

 

So what is too much? What could possibly be too much for us adults? Being threatened by someone pointing a gun at your head? Yes, very likely. Or to live in a war zone? Or to experience a plane crash? Yes, that would be too much for most of us and would most likely cause trauma. 


However, for children, especially babies and toddlers, the scenario is very different. The nervous system of young children is not yet fully developed. In fact, only one part of the vagus nerve is developed when babies are born. Namely the one responsible for the freeze response (immobility response). The other part of the vagus nerve (the Ventral Vagal) has yet to be nutured and developed, and this requires an attuned, present and emotionally available mother who can adequately mirror the emotions of the baby and give him a reliable sense of feeling safe and and secure. Unfortunately, in our day and age it is not neccessarily a given. 

 

Babies are far more susceptible to outside stimuli than we would imagine as adults. So there's a chance that many, if not all of us, may have had one or more experiences that were too much, too quick, or too sudden for us at the time. If so, things may have gone awry as a result. For example, a baby needs his mother to be emotionally present, available and attuned to the baby. This means that the mother is able to sense the baby's mood and can respond accordingly and adequately to satisfy his needs. Secondly, a baby is dependent on all of this being consistent and reliable. And third, the baby needs adequate mirroring of its emotional states. All of this is the prerequisite for the ventral vagus nerve in order to develop fully in healthy way. In contrast to the dorsal vagus nerve, which sends us into a lightning-fast freeze response in order to protect us when threatend, the ventral vagus nerve ensures the heart to heart connection with others and with it the feeling of safety and security within the family, as well as rest and relaxation.  

 

The problem is that we are not aware of what happened to us in the first three years of our lives.

What that means is this:

 

As sad as it is, most of us have no idea that we have a dysregulated nervous system.

 

And most of us have no idea that this can cause huge problems in relationships, jobs, careers, our digestive system, our overall health and many other areas of our lives! ​​

 

What indications are there? There are numerous symptoms such as recurring patterns of dysfunctional relationships, or constant conflicts in your partnership or marriage. Or maybe you have unclear symptoms like pain and other psychosomatic complaints that doctors just shake their heads at. Or do you have persistent digestive issues, autoimmune disorders, depression, chronic tension, trouble sleeping, and other health issues that don't seem to get over no matter what you've tried?

 

The cause of all this could be an undiagnosed dysregulated nervous system, i.e. unconscious trauma.

The ACE study proves that childhood adversity has a tremendous impact on a person's health thoughout life. 

 

What can we do about it?

 

I asked myself the same thing! I was deeply frustrated that I had tried every little thing in the world in order to overcome my relationship issues, digestive problems and other health issues but to no avail. Until I found a method that really helped me bring my autonomic nervous system back into balance and put my Ventral Vagus Nerve on a stronger foundation. Not only did it help me. It completely changed my life!

 

I now understand that working with the nervous system must come first. We must bring the nervous system back into a regulated state. It must be the first step in everyone's healing journey. It has to happen before we can truly and fully heal. ​

 

One of my teachers, Dr. Peter A. Levine, once said, "The world will not be fully enlightened until every human being on the planet has a regulated nervous system."  

I would like to add: "fully enlightened and peaceful".

Do you feel any resonance? Would you like to learn methods that can help you?

 

The first thing you can do, and you can do it from home, is to strengthen your vagus nerve. Because it a strong Ventral Vagal that is the first step to a more regulated nervous system. There are numerous exercises that will help you strengthen the vagus nerve. Seven of these will be in my book about Resilience. A very simple technique is humming. This will stimulate the voice box, which is directly connected to the Ventral Vagal. Singing is another way of doing the same thing. Working with our spine will also stimulate the Ventral Vagal, so many Yoga Asanas that involve bending the spine will make a difference. Another very simple but effective method to stimulate the vagus nerve is the Loving Kindness Meditation. Click here for the instructions for this meditation.  ​

The best method still is to take a series of one-on-one sessions with a therapist that you trust, especially if you are affected by childhood trauma. I use the principles of Somatic Experiencing in my work that involves the felt sense of the body in order to recover safely from trauma. 

 

If this appeals to you, click the button now. I look forward to hearing from you.

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Read more...

Chronic Stress

Chronic stress and related recurring tension, frequent conflicts and latent discord are often a result of an over-regulated nervous system.

Read more >

Trauma

Trauma is on everyone's lips and yet very few have a clear understanding of what trauma actually is. Trauma is not the event, trauma is in the body. It's just a dysregulation of the nervous system.

 

Read more > 

What to do?

There is a remedy. But not everything helps. For any form of trauma, it is important to include the body and the body's sensations. For shock trauma TRE works wonders. For childhood trauma klick below.

Read more >

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