Understanding the traumatised child within


Many of us who have endured childhood trauma, have within us an inner child of any age who exists in a place beneath the surface of our consciousness, centred at a bodily or somatic level (the earlier the trauma the more buried and preverbal), who carries within him or her imprints and recollections of energies and experiences with trying to attach, be attended to, seen, made real, mirrored, affirmed and understood.

Where the attempts at attachment or to be seen and understood have been blocked the inner child’s experience of attaching and relating becomes wounded or damaged on some level.  Defensive strategies are put in place or blockages and dissonances (disconnections between complex internal feelings and outer actions) form which keep us imprisoned on some level within.  The longings and desires that we felt to bond or connect, don’t really go away but we may remove them from our awareness, since we suffered pain in the past when we did in fact try to connect, be mirrored or understood.

Until we realise the legacy of this kind of wounding we are (through the repetition compulsion) doomed to repeat patterns of old seeking patterns in new relationships.  Our aim in doing this is to resolve the earlier issue but this resolution cannot happen until we understand the connection between present pain and past wounds and the part our past history played.  We must also work to understand what we are doing that keeps us re-enacting the compulsion to repeat and the unwilling part we play in keeping these wounds in place.

In her work on Inner Bonding therapist Margaret Paul shows how the child within needs and seeks our own attention but transfers this desire onto others, who in not understanding may tend to abandon us further.  Healing our early wounds and  abandonment trauma is really our responsibility as adults but involves reconnecting with the reality of the traumatised child in order to understand, help, communicate, nurture and bond with him or her.

'Be the person

It is not really any other adult’s job to do this for us.  A good therapist is the exception or another enlightened witness who understand the place of childhood trauma.  They may be able to lead us in the right direction but in the end it ultimately up to us to take responsibility for the traumatised child to heal and help him or her to find safety, nurturing, love and understanding from within.

The depth of abandonment depression that accompanies the abandonment trauma is not really all about what others are doing to us now (although this may trigger old pain), it is about abandoning our own inner child in present time and disconnecting from him or her, not taking care of him or her in present time and not making the connection between present and past.  It lies in our failure to learn how to re-parent this little one and handing over this responsibility to others.

There will indeed be times when we feel weak and may need support, but it will the adult within us who can take responsibility to find someone who is capable of being there for us at times we cannot meet our own needs or may need extra help.

It is our inner adult who will help to protect our traumatised child from any further trauma which comes from not being validated or understood.  This is the part of us which is strong enough to hold and love us through the tough times, who can say “No” or “enough” when things or people damage or hurt us.

This is the part of us that will take responsibility for ourselves now.  This is the part of us that will encourage the terrified child to trust when that is the best option than hiding behind walls of fear and defence which limit us from receiving adequate love and nurture now.

When we reconnect with the traumatised child within, when we learn to speak kindly to him or her, to nurture, soothe his or her distress and challenge the false beliefs and ideas we may have absorbed growning up our abandonment depression heals.  We learn that we do not have to stay forever locked or trapped within a traumatised worldview which blocks us from the gifts of peace, joy and love that a sense of deep inner connection brings when we learn to feel and heal past wounds and set in place new patterns that no longer continue the compulsion to repeat old wounds and trauma.

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