Trauma and The Human Condition
Updated: Nov 8, 2022
We cannot measure the point at which our civilization reaches its peak in social sophistication and technological advancement because we have no other civilization to compare to, although we strive to compete with other nations in terms of military might, technical advancement, and business strength this does not provide us with measure. Even though we are an advanced civilization, humanity still struggles with the same social issues it always has. What may be the catalyst for change?
It is becoming common for some children that exhibit traits of genius to lose these characteristics by the time of adolescence. What can we contribute to this loss of human potential? The Mandt System, a relationship building curriculum suggests there are three types of trauma known to impact children. Mandt terms these as acute, chronic, and complex. Acute results from a single stressful event, chronic results from prolonged exposure to stressful events, and complex trauma results from exposure to multiple traumatic events. Mandt bases it information on studies done with juvenile justice, and individuals in mental health centres.
Author Dr. Jan Philemon, of M1 Psychology educates that trauma impacts all aspects of a person's development, learning, emotions, behavior, body, brain, memory, and relationships. We have to understand brain development to understand how trauma affects children. A child's brain is experience dependent, that means that pathways in the brain are developed based on experience. It is known that new experience supports new neuron development, lack of exposure to new experience could create weakness that impacts learning.
Philemon explains that when children are traumatized frequently, their amygdala is on high alert at all times. Children can then become hypervigilant, which impacts their ability to adjust, for example when a child is continually traumatized by domestic violence this experience sensitizes the amygdala to be on high alert even when no threat exists. Philemon also reports that the amygdala stores implicit memory that shapes our emotional experience, self-image, and relationships. She further informs us that it is our explicit memories of childhood that few people recall that are impactful during emotionally triggering encounters because the feelings we experienced during trauma stay with us forever. This is why suicide and depression is commonly experienced in survivors of childhood violence. Even though memories of events are not always clear, it is the feelings associated with the trauma that leads to depression, suicide, and addictive behaviour.
How children respond to external stimuli, self-regulate, and communicate is dependent on their stored memories, and surrounding environment. The Mandt System, discusses the Adverse Childhood Experiences study results, and how traumatic childhood events are linked to possible lifelong outcomes like smoking, drug and alcohol abuse, obesity, and suicidal ideations. This study set a threshold of four or more adversities in childhood as likely to result in a higher identifiable negative outcomes in adulthood. These adversities include: physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, physical neglect, emotional neglect, substance abuse in the household, witnessing family violence, mental illness within the household, parental separation, and incarceration of someone in the household. Although many people can experience four, or more of these adverse circumstances, and not end up smoking, drug dependent, or suicidal; future relationships contribute to traumatic experience due to unmet social needs of the past. The reason for this is because those relationships act to trigger the emotions of past encounters.
Author Nikki Wince of The Mandt System suggests using seven questions developed by the Southern Kennebec Healthy Start in Augusta, Maine to determine capacity for resilience. Capacity for resilience involves social interaction that includes: asking for help, developing trusting relationships, forming a positive attitude, and listening to one's feelings. The seven questions are as follows:
I believe that my mother loved me when I was little.
I believe that my father loved me when I was little.
When I was little, other people helped my mother and father take care of me and they seemed to love me.
When I was a child, there were relatives in my family who made me feel better if I was sad, or worried.
When I was a child, teachers/coaches/youth leaders/ministers were there to help me.
We had rules in our house and were expected to keep them.
I believe that life is what you make it.
Stress overload puts people in fight, flight, or freeze mode. Cortisol is running high in the body, and an individual is generally elevated in their crisis cycle. It is possible that a person in this state may not be likely to trust others, and less likely to develop healthy relationships, leading them to become loners. To relieve anxiety, depression and guilt, an individual may turn to solutions like nicotine, alcohol, marijuana, methamphetamine, or risky activities that create escapism, like gambling, multiple sexual partners, high adrenaline risky sports, over-eating, and work over-achievement. Each of these negative behaviors developed to self-regulate lead directly to disease, disability, and social problems of alcoholism, drug addiction, bodily injury from high risk sports, physical trauma, obesity, STD's, etc. All these relate to early childhood experience.
Breaking the cycle of abuse involves creating environments geared towards healing that are inclusive for people who are recovering from trauma. The challenge of recovering from trauma is not closed to a single percentage of the population, this is affecting humanity as a whole. Dysfunction in the family impacts our progress at a global level, because intelligence is reduced when people are fragmented by trauma.
Our social systems support religious organizations being the cornerstone of moral and ethical instruction, although this is supported via tax exemptions, this creates a world that supports duality, and social shame that is void of knowledge that raises people up who need instruction and support to heal. Do memberships to institutions that offer relief through belief by donation fix the social problems of society; or does a society that offers an open door to the poorest of souls, and where families with children are not financially oppressed offer a greater resolve. A strong society starts with a leadership that values fairness, provides moral and ethical instruction, and maintains a standard that is just for everyone from the bottom line to the highest tax paying contributor. While the catalyst for change should be the facts, few people take on the challenge to change it. Be the catalyst in your community, as one voice leads to many.
Philemon, Dr. Jan, MI Psychology, Loganholme Psychology and Counselling Centre, Brisbane, 2022 https://m1psychology.com/the-lifetime-impact-of-childhood-trauma/
Wince, Nikki, Trauma Informed Training, The Mandt System 2020