Ever wonder why you’re so sensitive to stress? Or why you seem to empathize more than others? Be able to read people’s energies and emotions?
On the same token, are you really sensitive to stress and stimuli? Struggle with chronic gut issues, insomnia, or anxiety? Or even worse, been diagnosed with an autoimmune condition, chronic fatigue syndrome, depression, or dementia?
In this post we are going to uncover HOW our past childhood trauma may be related to WHY we are so dang stressed and fatigued in our lives now and WHAT you can do about it so you can be the person you were meant to be.
You’ve Likely Experienced Childhood Trauma
Everyone knows that stress is bad for us. It’s the antithesis of health.
But did you know the stress we experience in our childhood leaves a lasting impression and shapes the way we handle (or can’t handle) stress in our adulthood?
You might be thinking, “well I had a pretty good childhood, surely this doesn’t affect me.”
THink again – it’s the emotional neglect we ALL experience at one point in our childhoods that create this ‘invisible’ trauma rooted deep in our unconscious mind.
These childhood stressors are called adverse childhood experiences (ACEs).
These are potentially traumatic events in a child’s life before the age of 18 that can have negative and lasting effects on health and well-being.
Such traumatic events may include: psychological, emotional, physical, or sexual abuse; living in a household of violence, substance abuse, mental illness, suicide, criminal or imprisonment.
These traumatic events can also happen outside of the home and include bullying by other children.
Trauma can even include a distant parent who works long hours and travels many days of the week. In fact, only about 50% of children bond with the key caregiver below aged 4.
Can you relate to this?
This kind of trauma can be as simple as being reprimanded by a parent more than your other siblings – we then internalize this by feeling loved LESS than the sibling. This STORY can become our software program thats continues to run our lives well into our adulthood.
Research shows that very few people are getting out of their childhood without being impacted by some level of emotional, psychological, or physical trauma.
And your mind might not remember the trama (because duh, we want to suppress these hurtful emotions), but your body DOES remember (more on this in part 2).
Oftentimes people don’t uncover these past traumas, what I like to call SELF LOVE DEFICIT DISORDER – until they reach a ‘rock-bottom’ or a 2×4 to the head from the universe alarming us that we can’t ignore these suppressed emotions any longer!
Some of you may be jumping up and down resonating with every work – if so, you are not alone! I grew up with an alcoholic mother, codependent dad who was always working, and a brother who I perceived as being ‘the favorite’ who always got special treatment.
A perfect brew of self love deficit disorder that led to overachievement, perfectionism, and people pleasing that continued well into my mid-20s.
Anyone resonate with this? Can anyone else see a connection with their past ‘trauma’ and their personality traits today?
How does the childhood biography create adulthood biology?
The overarching theory is that MIND (represented as conscious & unconscious thoughts) create a cascade reaction of EMOTIONS (chemical neuropeptides that travel in the body) which then create SENSES (what we feel in the physical body).
When we experience emotional/relational trauma as a child, the stress on the young, malleable brain changes the expression of glucocorticoid receptors in the body.
Meaning there is an EPIGENETIC SHIFT in how we respond to stress for the rest of our lives.
What does this mean for our adulthood?
We now have a REDUCED threshold of what can activate our stress response.
In fact, we’ve essentially been SENSITIZED to stress.
So this trauma of not feeling loved, accepted, or welcomed into the world (what I called the self-love deficit disorder) causes the genetic expression of your stress response to change.
Makes sense, doesn’t it?
This hypothesis has been studied on monkeys, where researchers re-created a separation-from-mother type of event, found that the microbiota in the gut, immune system, mitochondria & endocrine system all changed within days the baby was taken from its mom.
What is the mechanism to explain this?
Stress and emotional trauma affects the entire biology of the human.
What is the mechanism to explain this?
Stress at a young age shapes the brain into an oversensitized amygdala.
The neural pathways, then are more apt to initiate the sympathetic nervous system or fight or flight mode.
In response to stress hormones, inflammation, and oxidative stress, the cells of the body activate an ancient metabolic response called cell danger response. The overactivation of this response is thought to lie at the heart of many chronic diseases.
We essentially become wired for stress and then stuck there.
Meaning, less has to happen for us to have a stress response & we stay stuck in that response for longer.
These neural pathways downregulate the vagus nerve (the parasympathetic nervous system / rest and digest / healing state) leading to chronic disease and autoimmunity.
Next, let’s breakdown certain personality traits associated with these overactive stress responses and perhaps you can resonate with one of them – I know I did!
STATES become TRAITS that lead to your biological FATE
Now let’s look at some personality traits resulting from traumatic childhood events. Do you resonate with any of these? I know I have a couple going on!
When children experience trauma or perceive that they are unloved, the event (or events) that got them there are often the same events that create a lifetime’s worth of wrong mental meaning and lack of self love.
For example, if I have a narcissistic mom who negatively comments on my looks, weight, & ability to make friends, then my brain is going to make meaning that being pretty, skinny, and popular means I get the approval and love of my mother.
So I live my life vying for these external achievements that guarantee I will feel loved.
But we all know that those things don’t actually bring love at all…unfortunately our brain doesn’t know the difference.
Type 1 – perfectionist. “If I just get everything right, then I’ll be loveable and safe.” If this is you, then you may also perceive the world as unsafe. You’ve likely found that if you have total control of the situation (by worrying & planning for the worst), then you will be safe and ok.
Type 2 – People pleaser, caregiver, chronic helper, putting everyone’s needs before their own. If this is you, then you likely didn’t get love unconditionally, so you learned that if you GIVE it, you’ll get it back.
Type 3 – super high-achievers. Lack of self worth unless everyone sees them as successful and then they seem loveable. If this is you, then you have likely got a large list of achievements, degrees, and accomplishments. You’re likely moving on to the next achievement before anyone even knows you finished the last one.
What do all of these personality types have in common? They are busy vying for love in the external world, ignoring feelings, not showing self care to themselves (because they inherently believe they are unworthy of it), and continue to perpetuate this stress response.
So these physical symptoms (depression, exhaustion, fatigue, resentment, emptiness) are a result of lack of self love which is a result of a mismatch of mental meaning during childhood.
So fascinating! Is anyone brave enough to say which personality trait they associate with the most? I’m definitely a high-achiever!
Good news: the impact of trauma can be reversed.
I want to say one more thing about the previous section.
By no means should we blame others or not take responsibility for our personalities. Instead, we want to recognize our pasts, become aware of our triggers, and pay attention to our lifestyle habits so that we can live in TANDEM with our personality traits & not as a slave to them.
Thank you for making me mom & dad!
That being said, let’s dial in on those environmental triggers & how we can create a lifestyle that best suits our health.
During the initial intake with a client, we can often identify stressful triggers that expose any underlying early life’s stress.
What we will see are red flag symptoms that show up as digestion issues, inability to handle stress (sensitized cortisol receptors) or environment toxins (detox pathways slow down), insomnia (circadian rhythm dysfunction), chronic fatigue (mitochondrial dysfunction), or cognitive issues (brain inflammation).
If left unchecked, whole body experiences such as autoimmunity, chronic fatigue syndrome, Alzeimers, Dementia, etc.can result.
May explain why some are highly sensitive to environmental inputs, or rather HSPs (highly sensitive people). Genetic propensity to be highly affected by environmental variables like toxins, psychological, emotional..these people claim that they can read energy in a room, feel other people’s feelings (empath).
We can actually turn these perceived weaknesses into strengths! If we accept & acknowledge our upbringing and genetics, recognize our triggering stressful events in the past, and then care for the mediators of stress while also nurturing self love and spirituality we can THRIVE far more than children without these traumatic experiences.
I saw this in my own experience: The thing that caused the most suffering in my childhood gave me superpowers as an empathetic coach.
Things we can do right now to heal our childhood trauma:
There are 3 Functional Approaches we can take to heal from our trauma, they include biochemsitry, necrology, and psychology.
Biochemistry – the trauma has left a biological stress imprint. Wwe must manage that unique imprint with specific nutrition and lifestyle habits. If we commit to living a healthier lifestyle, we set the stage for the next steps: neurology & psychology.
Neurology – the brain can change and respond to our environment (neuroplasticity), so if we change the thoughts we feed to the brain and change the chemistry from our body that feed back to the brain, we will change our brain at a structural level.
We can also use a bottom-top approach with vagus nerve stimulation – the vagus nerve is what connects the body back to the brain. When you are stressed your stomach acid decreases, digestive enzymes decrease, tight gap junctions open up, peristalsis slows down, inflammation is increased, and liver detox slows. A higher vagal tone – can be measured by heart rate variability – so a high HRV means you have a high vagal tone, increased longevity and ability to recover and rest from stress. In fact, negative emotions lead to lower HRV, lower vagal tone, so chronic anger, resentment, guilt, shame.
Stimulating the vagus nerve is not something you do once, you have to do it daily. These increase: mediation, yoga, tai chi, qigong, fasting, vegetable juicing, positive social relations, laughter, psycho therapies, gargling water, gratitude journaling, essential oils, acupuncture, massage, restorative exercise, switch off video games and social media.
Psychology – here we are recognizing that overwhelm/stress/unworthiness is another pattern that we’re running & can be reset. The goal is to bring the unconscious past to the conscious awareness so we can begin toe change the state of FEELING you are in.
It’s never too late to become the person you were meant to be