Are You a Survivor of Childhood Trauma?  

Did you grow up in a chaotic household?  Maybe your parents were drug or alcohol abusers.  Maybe there was Domestic Violence in the home or maybe you were neglected.  As children we have no agency of our own, no way to self determine how our lives should look.  

Often we grow up not even realizing that the way we are treated is wrong, or if we do we may think it is our fault, and that idea is usually reinforced by our abusers, who may have been abused themselves.  We now know that trauma is often passed down from generation to generation. 

As we grow we might feel like we are bad or that there is something “wrong” with us. We find our selves in bad situations later on in life.  When I was an undergrad student I helped compile data for one of the researchers at Wayne State University School of Social Work.  She was doing research on trauma victims.  The data clearly showed that people who experienced trauma tended to do so repeatedly, almost like they had a beacon on their heads advertising that they were targets.  

In psychotherapy sessions we often hear adult trauma clients ask, “What is wrong with me?” The real question is, “What happened to you?”  We have no power as a child to protect ourselves from bad situations.  Experiencing childhood trauma cripples our ability to learn healthy boundaries, to learn what is appropriate. Experiencing childhood trauma puts us at risk later in life, because we have never learned how to protect ourselves. 

Ursula Benstead, an Australian psychologist, published a journal article in 2011 that explains the use of the metaphor of a “Shark Cage “ as a tool to promote understanding and reduce re-victimization in abused women within the counseling context. This “Shark Cage” metaphor is in alignment with theoretical feminist and human rights frameworks, and it plainly illustrates strategies to understand the boundary violations of early trauma and to reduce the likelihood of future harm, by realizing the need for and building a better shark cage.  While Benstead addresses only women’s trauma in her article, I feel that this metaphor is useful for anyone regardless of gender, and I use it in my work with clients.  

Finally, we also know that if there is one positive relationship in our childhood, that relationship can offset some of the harm done by the abuser.  Likewise, the goal of psychotherapy  is to create a positive therapeutic relationship that can allow for healing and for creating a better “Shark Cage” to protect us going forward. 

Check out the resources I have linked for more information on early trauma.   Here is a link to an NPR article on the ACE (Adverse Childhood Experiences ) study and the 10 question quiz.   The higher your score the more likely your early experiences in life affect your quality of life now.   

It is never to late to  start healing childhood trauma! Suffering from trauma is not your fault! If you are reading this and you know you’ve experienced trauma, I want you to know you are a survivor, not a victim!  

Contact me to schedule an appointment if you would like to start healing and  building a better “Shark Cage” of your own.

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