I often think that I am learning, truly learning for the first time in my life. Why? Because the trauma of my childhood took up so much of my cognitive processes - in childhood, my twenties and frankly most of my thirties. A stressed brain is not completely available to take in information and focus on the task at hand. A stressed brain is just trying to survive. “What the science tells us about how stressed brains react to change, loss or threat is that children will often violate rules because they feel profoundly out of control. It’s a survival reaction and it may actually be intended to control the situation.” Chris Blodgett, a clinical psychologist who directs the CLEAR Trauma Center at Washington State University, in the NYTimes
Even when I was in the midst of my stressful childhood, I knew it affected my ability to show up but I didn’t know what to do about it nor did my teachers. Today I see so many kids and adults who are still dealing with the trauma in some way, shape or form. Understanding that trauma is not just being in a violent community but a violent home – physical and/or verbal, is a big deal. And it doesn’t even have to be abuse – it can be a chronic chaotic environment or one of neglect.
I’ve talked about ACE here before. Where are you on the list? How is trauma still showing up in your life? What are you doing to overcome it?
I can tell you from my own experience, you can overcome it. But it’s work. And the first step is getting in touch with your emotions. They are okay to have – all of them. The goal is not to suppress them or over-identify with them, but to regulate them. How do you regulate your emotions? You first label them. “Oh, I’m angry” is a good start. Then you let them rise and then go away. You don’t dwell on them. Then you explore the thoughts that gave rise to them. What triggered the emotion?
Then you question/challenge the thought.
Then you choose how you want to be in the moment.
Don’t let these steps fool you – this isn’t easy, but practice makes it easier.
Then you find that you're calmer, your more at peace. Form there the world opens up, and you're ready to learn.