Young and Adult Children With PTSD Need Help Verbalizing Their Feelings

On the whole, it is patience which makes the final difference between those who succeed or fail in all things. All the greatest people have it in an infinite degree, and among the less, the patient weak ones always conquer the impatient strong. -John Ruskin

1.  From Joshua Sparrow: “Four Adopted Siblings, Lots of Stress”:

“The questions children ask — if they dare to — about what they’ve been through can be overwhelming. Some adults believe that young children won’t remember. Yet even in the first year of life, children experience a broad range of emotions, including happiness, joy, surprise, sadness, anger and fear. Their understanding of themselves and others builds on these first experiences. They may not be able to use words to express these feelings, but their facial expressions and body language do. Children who have been traumatized before they could speak may have more trouble putting these experiences into words, and are more likely to feel them in their bodies and express them with their behavior.”

“To get their behavior under control, they will need to find words to organize their feelings. They will learn that they can get some control over the feelings when they can control the words. If an adult brings up the traumatic past out of the blue, children may panic, or shut down. But when a child asks, simple, clear information can help: “Yes, it was the day before Christmas when the police came to take you away from your parents.”

“Their body language will tell you if they can handle any more. If they nod silently and make eye contact, you might continue. If they turn away, whimper or become agitated, that’s all they can take right now. If you respect their pace, they’ll let you know when they’re ready for more. Slowly, patiently putting words to the experience organizes it, and makes it less scary than when it is shrouded in silence, or when there are no words for the feelings. But children need to know they are in control of these conversations.”

“Trauma is an experience of losing control, and a violation of expectations. Children expect that parents will take care of them, not hurt them. Very early on, they learn that crying gives them some control, bringing help. All of this is turned upside down with trauma. To heal, children need experiences of mastery and control that are within their reach, for example, control of when and how their painful pasts are addressed. It helps to let them know, “you don’t have to think about that when you don’t want to. When it makes you too upset, we can focus on something else.”

2. From Margaret Blaustein: “A New Take on Childhood Trauma”:

“Research on outcomes associated with trauma exposure highlights the differences between childhood onset (and particularly interpersonal trauma) experiences and adult-onset events in risk for PTSD vs. a more complex array of outcomes. This isn’t surprising – it’s not difficult to imagine that there are different responses to, for instance, a hurricane, a car accident, childhood abuse, traumatic loss, and war, or that trauma first experienced in adulthood might have a different impact than trauma experienced from the day of birth. This isn’t a matter of weighing which trauma matters more; it’s about qualitative differences in type of exposure, and ways that any salient experience of childhood – particularly those which provide the overarching fabric of a life – will invariably influence the course of development.”

“It is this developmental lens that has led experts to propose a new diagnosis, Developmental Trauma Disorder, for the DSM-V. First described by van der Kolk (2005) (3), a consensus statement released this year by leaders within the National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN) (4) strongly urged the DSM-V committee to consider this diagnosis for inclusion in our next diagnostic manual. Field trials are under way, and research will support – or not – the validity of a more developmental conceptualization. While it will be some time before we have the results, as a clinician who works every day with this population, I have little doubt of the eventual findings.”

“One of the most pernicious qualities of childhood trauma is often its veil of secrecy: the hiding of the known, and the not seeing of what is. So long as we, as a professional system, refuse to see Jeannie and Manuel and the millions like them, we are complicit in their continued experience – whatever we wish to call it. Personally, I don’t much care if we call it trauma or something else; I’m much more interested in how we address it. Here’s hoping our field continues to move forward.”

3. From Amy-Eden in her blog, Guess What Normal Is: “PTSD and the Adult Child: What is Post-Trauma Stress Disorder?”:

“You don’t have to be a soldier of war to experience post-trauma stress disorder.  If you’re reading this, you already suspect that statement to be true.”

“I referenced post-trauma stress disorder in this post about the urge to flee, running (not running scared, but running anxious) away from our relationships, jobs, friends, homes, children, pets, and stuff.  That kind of running instinct is a form of self-sabotage, a subconscious, knee-jerk urge to recreate the chaos of our childhood environment simply because it’s comfortable–it’s not “good” or “bad” in these scenarios, it’s just simply what we know.”

“And running scared has everything to do with post-trauma stress disorder.  (As does sitting still, when it’s an anxiety-induced paralysis.)”

“There are two key ingredients to an environment that is ripe for PTSD:  Unpredictability and Uncontrollability.  Familiar, right?  Those are also key characteristics of the alcoholic household, or any household run by an addict, narcissistic, or otherwise childlike adult.”

“What does “trauma” mean?  Does what happened to you have to have been really, really bad–do you have to have been beaten or sexually abused to qualify as a traumatized child?  No.  No, absolutely not.  There are lots of different types of abuses. Some are subtle, some are not-so-subtle.”

“PHYSICAL ABUSE.  If you were pushed, shoved, hit, or beaten by your parents/caregivers, that kind of physical abuse is obviously traumatic.  There is NO EXCUSE for that kind of treatment.  Sure, there are excuses given and you were probably expected to agree with or accept those, but there is NO EXCUSE for physical abuse.  You did nothing wrong, nothing to deserve physical action–no matter what you did.  NOTHING justifies the physical harm or punishment of a child.  Period.”

“SEXUAL ABUSE.  Sexual abuse counts.  I hope this is as obviously WRONG as the physical violence. This can include a one-time rape, or systematic abuse.  It also includes less direct, less obvious sexual stuff, like seeing a parent fondle themselves or someone else, or a hand that’s been on your knee too long or being given a massage that’s just slightly lower down your back than feels right.”

“EMOTIONAL and VERBAL ABUSE.  Emotional abuse counts, too.  Where there’s physical abuse, there is usually this kind, too.  If you were  teased, manipulated, threatened, ignored, belittled, or were loved conditionally by your parents/caregivers, that kind of emotional abuse is trauma-causing.  It doesn’t just screw with your self-esteem, it is truly traumatic.  For example, if your parents had chaotic lives but never helped you process what was going on by talking about it and reassuring you of their love and listening to you without judgment, the chaos likely traumatized you.”

“THREAT OF VIOLENCE.  In households where a parent has anger issues, there is the constant threat of violence, even if unrealized.  In this kind of household you grow up feeling like you probably will be hit when the chaos starts to whirl, you feel incredibly afraid of your parent (usually the father), even if he never actually strikes.”

“DON’T BELITTLE YOUR PTSD”

“I spent years telling my anxious self that I had no reason to feel so worried, to just “buck up” and get on with things.  But, you know what?  That’s what my father said to me.  That’s what he wanted his little girl to do–buck up, swallow reality and put on a I’m-OK face.  For him.  That’s not my own voice.”

Picture Credit.

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5 thoughts on “Young and Adult Children With PTSD Need Help Verbalizing Their Feelings

  1. Pingback: A-Z Index of the Main Topics on Alcoholism Plus Depression With PTSD « Alcoholism Plus Depression And PTSD

  2. Pingback: A-Z List of My Posts by Topic | Books to Help You Become Stress Free

  3. Pingback: A-Z List of My Posts by Topic « Alcoholism Plus Depression And PTSD

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  5. Reblogged this on theraineyview and commented:
    I was really glad to see this post today and needed to share it. The second item is important in understanding the development of addiction (to drugs, food, gambling and codependent relationships among others). I am going to try hard to find time tonight to write about it, so please stay tuned.

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