Why is this true, and what does it mean?
It means that when we are traumatized particularly as children, the trauma upsets the natural order of growth and maturing, thus stunting our emotional development. It’s true because it is born out in multitudes of scenarios year after year. Developmental trauma has in more recent years been more in the forefront in psychotherapy and counseling models.
The Clinical Advisor frames the reality of DTD, (Developmental Trauma DIsorder) like this:
Developmental trauma disorder, (DTD), in adults.
“Adult victims who were subjected to years of abuse and betrayal as children, and who believed important caretakers, (parents), could not be trusted, often remain guarded as adults. Some of the most significant consequences of DTD in adults are inner conflict regarding emotional self-regulation and an inability to develop and maintain healthy interpersonal relationships. The aftereffects of childhood maltreatment are thought to be the result of an unconscious compulsion to preserve or resolve past trauma. Survival skills are expressed inappropriately as a consequence of imprinted trauma experiences and habitual reactions within the brain, or from vague or repressed memories of trauma. A psychologically ingrained cycle of abuse continues long after a victim is free from his or her original abuser(s). “In behavioral re-enactment of the trauma, the self may play the role of either victim or victimizer.”
Examples of trauma re-enactment include enduring domestic violence or dysfunctional relationships, consistent feelings of helplessness or possessing a dependent personality, drug or alcohol addiction, suicide, chronic pain and fatigue, depression, anxiety and panic or phobic disorders. Among sex offenders, 75% report a history of childhood incest or sexual assault. This particular type of trauma is a major reason why victims engage in prostitution or pornography, both of which serve to perpetuate past abuse. Many believe their value is only to endure such treatment. Unfortunately, many mimic the offender’s destructive conduct, engaging in illegal activity or violent behavior and crimes, encompassing the majority of inmates residing in our prison and juvenile detention systems today. In addition to victims reenacting their abuse, they have an urgent need to avoid it; this coupled with their societal mistrust, causes the emotional and physical isolation that many DTD victims endure.”
In my own case, my mother was an alcoholic, and my father codependent. This was all I knew in my developmental years. I grew up in fear, had attachment disorders, codependencies, guilt, anger and other effects of the traumatic environment I grew up in. Fast forward to the age of 10 I started smoking cigarettes, 15, using alcohol and drugs, 16,17 drinking and using drugs regularly. I had said I would never be like either of my parents and became just like both of them. That’s what judgement will do.
It is common understanding that when one begins to act in response to addictive behaviors in an addictive fashion, they stop growing emotionally. Fast forward to 30 years old… needing to stop drinking I was petrified to live without the anesthesia as I would have to face life as an adult. I was a 15 year old in a 30 year old body. The continued alcoholic behavior had had its destructive run in my life, but now I was emotionally stunted. When I got married the other part manifested. I became like my father, emotionally absent, no leadership in the marriage, anger, fear, codependency.
It took the near destruction of my marriage to expose the rest of my DTD. In my case, God was a present reality in my life so I could engage in emotional and spiritual help to discover healing in these areas. Make no mistake, DTD is real and comes in many packages. You owe it to yourself to seek help if this is your reality. Coping and hoping, covering up, pretending and any number of mechanisms will not eradicate the trauma under the surface. Seek help and healing today, it can take a while and require work, but you can finally be free to be and become your genuine you. If I can do it, so can you, with God’s help.