Tag: abuse

Impact Of Early Childhood Stress

Child AFor psychotherapists working with people who struggle with the
legacies of an abusive and/or traumatic childhood, it is no news that people are affected way past their childhood years. It’s good to see that research is coming to the party and provides scientific evidence for the long-term struggles people have.

“The immune system is not present at birth. The cells are there, but how they will develop and how well they’ll be regulated is very much influenced by your early environment and the type of rearing you have.” We know from trauma research the same to be true for people’s self-capacities involved in distress tolerance and emotion regulation.

Indeed, even if the life circumstances improve people show that early childhood stress has a negative impact on their learning capability, on their behaviours, and on their immune system.  Thus they are disadvantages with regard to their future careers, to how they integrate into society, and with regard to their health status.

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How To Get Over Childhood Stress: The Process Of Getting Hurt

broken heart 2This is the first of two articles about how to get over childhood stress or – how does therapy work – in which I will explain how people get hurt by childhood stress (1st article) and how they can recover from it (2nd article “Healing from Childhood Stress and Abuse: How Therapy works”).  I have included the impact of childhood stress seen through neurobiological eyes because it shows clearly the pathways to how the healing can take place.

I have often been asked by colleagues why I use neurobiological concepts instead of psychological concepts to explain what is going on. My answer to that is: often psychological concepts are way out there and hard to follow by people who are not totally into that side of things: take for example Freud’s or Melanie Klein’s work – very exciting … but you have to bend over backwards and jump through a needle’s eye to follow their line of thinking.
Whereas neurobiological concepts can be ‘seen’ on MRI scans and we become more understanding of how our brain works. I find that exciting.

So why is childhood stress (hardship, abuse, neglect) so damaging? Why can people not follow the often given advice and just ‘GET OVER  IT’? She short answer is: Because the stressful experiences become part of who you are! Let me show you how that works: (Disclaimer: I am not a neuroscientist and don’t claim to be an expert. I’ll give you my ‘lay translation’ of hundreds of research articles and books that I have studied).

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Love as Cure

Lewis, Amini, and Lannon (A
general theory of life) describe clearly the adverse impact of lacking love in
early childhood. Many survivors of abuse and neglect can attest to the
difficulties in mood regulation, distress tolerance, negative self-evaluation,
and even physical problems as a legacy of lack of love.

They propose that therapy is the
pathway to heal from such impoverished childhood environments. Although therapy
can be a pathway to heal past deficits of love, therapist and client would have
a deep heart connection for this to work. This highlights the need for finding
a therapist that engages with you in a positively charged ‘limbic dance’.

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How To Get Over Childhood Stress: The Process Of Healing

I have explained in the previous article “How to Get Over Childhood Stress: The Process of Getting Hurt” how childhood experiences became part of the child’s neurological physiology that over time, through re-enforcement and repetition becomes an aspect of its personality structure.

recoveryThe task of recovery is to stop the process of repetition and re-enforcement of the unwanted beliefs, thoughts, and behaviours and to encourage new, positive ways of being in this world. Thus new neuro-pathways need to be created (if you remember that has to happen through experience!!) or if they exist but are just faint connections they have to be strengthened
through more and regular traffic. At the same time, it has to be avoided to go
down the familiar path of neuro-connections that are negative and unhelpful so that they wither away. On paper that sounds very easy, doesn’t it?

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