As a survivor of childhood trauma, you may not recognize this longing as “safety and protection,” but you do know that you long for someone to hold you in their arms.
To tell you it will be okay and that you’re okay just as you are.
That there is nothing wrong with you. It’s not your fault. And will promise to protect you from getting hurt again.
As an adult with a history of childhood trauma, whether a survivor of neglect, physical or sexual abuse, feeling safe and protected is difficult and yet, something you long for the most to the point it feels physically painful.
Safety, Security, and Protection is one of our most basic, human needs. But if you had a caregiver who was not able to provide it, perhaps because of their own negative life experiences, you learn to survive in fear and inability to trust anyone, including yourself. Just one of the effects of childhood trauma.
As you get older, you don’t stop longing for this basic need, and it drives behaviors to seek it in others. You find yourself giving so much but receiving little in return. Later finding yourself in similar relationship dynamics that only reinforces beliefs about yourself and lack of trust in others.
You feel hopeless, powerless, as well as guarded and disconnected from others. And underneath are beliefs that you’re the problem and the one to blame.
Let me please gently ask you to stop.
What’s easy to forget as an adult, is that you were a child when this pattern began. Small in size, lacking in physical strength and speed, as well as knowledge, wisdom, and experience. You were supposed to be dependent on others. But,
As an adult, you now have choices.
It may not feel like it because your mind, emotions, and reactions continue to replay the past. You’re on autopilot. And this autopilot kept you safe. It protected you and helped you to survive. But it’s time for the autopilot to rest and allow you, the adult, to begin driving and directing your life.
This will take practice, patience, and the support of a team. Notice the same ingredients that a parent needs to raise a child? The healing journey is going to be about you learning how to be a caregiver to yourself, which is hard when you’re IN IT at the same time. This is where your team is important as part of that journey.
It’s important to seek therapy with a therapist well versed in overcoming childhood trauma:
- Someone who understands obvious and subtle ways we learn to defend and protect ourselves. Healthy or not. But help you accept these behaviors and reactions with compassion. – Acceptance without Judgment
- Someone who understands how our body plays a huge part in survival, not just thoughts and emotions, and can teach you how to begin attuning yourself to your emotions AND physical sensations to learn how to regulate. – Building Safety, Protection, & Trust in Yourself
- Someone who understands you might view the past and emotions as scary, and willing to work with you to take it at your pace so that healing can happen. – Building Safety, Protection & Trust with Another.
- Someone with a few different approaches in their tool belt. Not everyone is the same, has the same needs, or will overcome in the same way. – Building Connection by Working Together
- Someone who knows how to bring safety and protection initially but then provide interventions and skills that help you do that on your own. – Building Independence
- Someone who will stick around a little longer to provide further skills, such as healthy boundaries. Skills that will help you stretch from loving, protecting, and accepting you to receiving it from others too. – Letting you Launch as Your Oldest, Wisest Adult Self