It's All About Trauma
Many of my clients come to therapy thinking that there is something fundamentally wrong with them. I hear them say things like,
“My brain just doesn’t work right.”
“I struggle with anxiety, so does my mom; mental illness just runs in our family.”
“I have mental illness.”
But usually what we find is that the issue isn’t with their brain at all, but rather the unresolved trauma they’ve been carrying.
But I Don’t Have Any Trauma
Are you sure? Most of my clients come to therapy thinking the same thing--I don’t have any trauma. My childhood was pretty average. But the thing is, most “average” childhoods include a good helping of trauma, both directly experienced and passed down intergenerationally. Much of what we consider “normal,” or even “healthy,” when it comes to raising children in modern society can actually be quite traumatic and harmful from a mental health standpoint.
- Complications and/or unnecessary medical interventions during or after birth
- Being separated from our mother after birth
- Having a mother who struggled with unmanaged postpartum depression
- Having a mother who experienced abuse, stress, trauma during pregnancy
- Being told we were the result of an unwanted pregnancy
- Being left to “cry it out” as an infant
- Being hit or spanked as a form of discipline or punishment
- Regularly experiencing withdrawal of approval and/or affection as a form of discipline or punishment
- Growing up in a family where we were unable to say “no,” or express our own opinions, without negative consequences
- Growing up in a family where difficult emotions were repressed, ignored, or handled inappropriately (i.e. blow up fights, or on the other extreme, no one ever cries or expresses anger)
- Having parents with their own unresolved trauma
- Experiencing role reversal or parentification (where the child has to attend to the adult’s emotions, instead of the other way around)
- Bullying in school or between siblings
- Having to compete with siblings for parental attention
Adults of Emotionally Immature Parents
The most common childhood trauma I see in my practice comes from having grown up with emotionally immature parents. Emotional immaturity is a rampant issue in our society, one that is directly related to unhealed intergenerational trauma. When one generation isn’t willing or able to process their trauma, they inadvertently pass it down to the next generation, and so on.
When there is unhealed trauma in the family system, parents are operating in survival mode—whether they know it or not. When we are in survival mode, we don’t have time, energy, or resources for self-reflection and deepening self-awareness. So, these parents are disconnected from their bodies, their feelings, and often have very little idea of who they are as people. Their parents, and their parents’ parents’ were probably doing the same thing.
Growing up in families with unresolved intergenerational trauma and emotionally immature parenting often contributes to the common symptoms that bring my clients into therapy: low self-worth, anxiety, depression, people-pleasing, and codependency.
Changing the Way We Think About Mental Illness
What we call “mental illness” is often not an illness at all. These symptoms are often a normal response to abnormal circumstances. Anxiety, depression, and other mental health diagnoses are often the result of our brain adapting to difficult experiences. This is an important shift in perspective, and it’s called being trauma-informed.
Being trauma-informed means understanding and taking into account the way that traumatic experiences impact the brain and mental health. Unfortunately, mainstream medicine and much of the mental health world are not trauma-informed. When we don’t understand trauma, and all the ways that it can manifest and impact our sense of self, we start labeling people as “ill.”
Shedding the Shame, Healing Our Trauma
Historically, there has been tremendous shame tied up in having mental health issues. How many lives have been lost to suicide because people were too embarrassed to reach out for help? How many of these people had the impression that there was something “wrong with them,” when what they were experiencing was completely normal when their difficult life experiences were taken into account?
You know what the wonderful thing is about trauma? It can be healed! I see it with my clients everyday. And the cherry on top of the sundae is that through the healing of our trauma we also grow. We grow in our self-understanding, in our self-wisdom, in our self-trust, and as a result, we deepen in our capacity to offer true compassion and empathy to ourselves and to other people. I know it sounds cheesy, but by healing our trauma, we heal the world.
So, the next time you find yourself saying, There is something wrong with my brain... My brain doesn’t work like other people’s, take a moment to pause and ask yourself, Is that actually true? Or have I been through some difficult things that I need to turn toward, get curious about, and take the time to heal?
Meet the Author
Would you like to turn your attention inward and heal your trauma?
Maggie is a therapist based out of Lawrence, Kansas who specializes in therapy for highly sensitive adults, therapy for self-esteem, therapy for anxiety, therapy for childhood trauma, and grief and bereavement counseling.
Maggie is passionate about helping people overcome shame and the fear of being their true selves. Breaking the cycles of people-pleasing and self-abandonment is possible; you don't have to suffer alone. Maggie offers online therapy throughout the state of Kansas.
Reach out today to schedule your free 15 minute phone consultation!
Other Services Offered by Maggie
In addition to providing online therapy anywhere in Kansas, Maggie is also a professional astrologer, and offers Birth Chart Readings anywhere in the United States, as well as abroad.
Astrology is a powerful tool for gaining self-awareness, finding meaning in and understanding of our difficult experiences, and for receiving validation regarding our own unique life path. All of which supports our mental health in a positive way!
Interested in getting a Natal Chart Reading? Book a free phone consultation and let’s get started!