What is developmental trauma?
If you’re wondering if developmental trauma or Adverse Childhood Experiences may be negatively affecting your adulthood, you probably already know the answer.
As children we have two developmental needs. Attachment (relationships – especially with our primary caregivers) and authenticity (the need for us to be, and develop, as Us).
In healthy childhood situations, these two needs are met. They support us through life’s progression from dependence (as children), independence (as adolescents / young adults) and inter-dependence (as mature, high functioning adults.)
Where there is neglect, abuse, poor environment (or a combination of these), this can break down. We can experience conflict between attachment and authenticity. In turn, this conflict creates trauma. This is what happens inside of us in response to those circumstances, rather than those circumstances themselves. This gives rise to one or both of two effects. We may close down – or not fully develop – aspects of the developing Us to maintain the relationship with our primary caregivers. As children we are dependent upon them – even if they are causing us harm. Secondly we may shut down aspects of the attachment relationship with our primary caregivers to allow us to be the Us we really are.
At the time, these survival mechanisms may very well prove effective – we survive our childhoods. However, they shape our development – neurologically, socially, behaviourally – which, in turn can have a great bearing on our adult personalities.
Developmental Trauma Adaptive Survival Styles
There are five recognised adaptive survival styles – connection, attunement, trust, autonomy and love / sexuality. Most who have experienced adverse childhoods can relate to these – typically to some more than others. Since the late 1990’s, a huge amount of research has been carried out on what has become known as developmental trauma. In particular, the original study (The Adverse Childhood Experience study, Vince Felliti, 1998.) Subsequent researchers / writers such as Gabor Mate, Bessel van der Kolk and Laurence Heller offer a treasure trove of understanding.
This work has shown that adverse childhood experiences often underpin adulthood anger, Anxiety, and Depression – and a wide range of medical conditions rooted in inflammation and immune system deficiencies.
The majority of my clients are adults experiencing anger, anxiety, depression issues rooted in Adverse Childhood Experiences.
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