“Abandonment is at the core of addictions. Abandonment causes deep shame. Abandonment by betrayal is worse than mindless neglect. Betrayal is purposeful and self-serving. If severe enough, it is traumatic. What moves betrayal into the realm of trauma is fear and terror. If the wound is deep enough, and the terror big enough, your bodily systems shift to an alarm state. You never feel safe. You’re always on full-alert, just waiting for the hurt to begin again. In that state of readiness, you’re unaware that part of you has died. You are grieving. Like everyone who has loss, you have shock and disbelief, fear, loneliness and sadness. Yet you are unaware of these feelings because your guard is up. In your readiness, you abandon yourself. Yes, another abandonment.” Patrick J. Carnes
From “Comfort in Chaos“:
When a person grows up surrounded by chaos, that person often ends up comfortable with chaos. Knowing nothing else such as peace & calm, those things feel foreign & even scary. There can be comfort in the midst of chaos simply because it is what you know, it is what is familiar.
Some people who have grown up abused even create their own chaos & drama without realizing it simply because they can’t stand peace & quiet. Even if they hate such stressful situations, the familiarity of them provides a degree of comfort.
Most people gravitate to the familiar, even when it is painful or dysfunctional. This is why a woman who grew up beaten by her drunken father later marries a man who gets drunk & beats her. She doesn’t like being beaten- it’s simply familiar to her & she naturally gravitated to it.
Other people grew up being the “fixers” in their family. They were the ones who calmed down their parents when they were fighting or denied the fact their parents were abusive if anyone questioned them. They kept their dysfunctional parents happy at all personal costs. Being the family fixer means these people feel they have no real purpose unless they are able to fix things. They are comfortable with chaos because it means they have a job to do, & it’s a job they know how to do well.
Growing up, I never realized my childhood wasn’t normal. I thought my life was similar to everyone else’s but with a different order of events or situations. I was 30 before everything started coming back. Small pieces at first. I didn’t have an official diagnosis, but I knew I had anxiety and I researched everything. This is when I first started contributing to The Mighty. As I continued researching, more memories returned; repressed memories. Repression of childhood trauma. I lived in the trauma for so long I thought it was normal. I thought domestic violence was normal.
It started when I was four. This was the first incident and I have few memories from anything prior. I’m told its normal for people to not remember much from their early childhood, but I feel the trauma has something to do with my lack of memories. The trauma continued for years. My older sister recalled I would rock back and forth with my arms crossed every time my parents started arguing. I don’t remember this. She said I did it for three or four years. There are so many things I don’t remember and part of me doesn’t want to remember.
After those years, I became emotionally detached. As I aged and went to high school and college, I had trouble relating to my peers. They didn’t understand my perspective and I didn’t see the joy in life they all saw. Few people wanted to spend time with me. When someone did, if they poked fun or ridiculed me, I would leave. They always thought I was bluffing. I grew up being ridiculed and treated like I was nothing. I didn’t want to be around that anymore. I spent nearly 30 years without emotional support from anyone. That’s a long time to feel alone.
There is truth to the old saying that knowledge is power. Once you understand that your body and brain have been harmed by the biological impact of early emotional trauma, you can at last take the necessary, science-based steps to remove the fingerprints that early adversity left on your neurobiology. You can begin a journey to healing, to reduce your proclivity to inflammation, depression, addiction, physical pain, and disease.
Science tells us that biology does not have to be destiny. ACEs can last a lifetime but they don’t have to. We can reboot our brains. Even if we have been set on high reactive mode for decades or a lifetime, we can still dial it down. We can respond to life’s inevitable stressors more appropriately and shift away from an overactive inflammatory response. We can become neurobiologically resilient. We can turn bad epigenetics into good epigenetics and rescue ourselves.
Today, researchers recognize a range of promising approaches to help create new neurons (known as neurogenesis), make new synaptic connections between those neurons (known as synaptogenesis), promote new patterns of thoughts and reactions, bring underconnected areas of the brain back online—and reset our stress response so that we decrease the inflammation that makes us ill.
We have the capacity, within ourselves, to create better health. We might call this brave undertaking “the neurobiology of awakening.”
There can be no better time than now to begin your own awakening, to proactively help yourself and those you love, embrace resilience, and move forward toward growth, even transformation.