Dec 6, 2011

Childhood Isn't Something We Get Over By Loren Buckner, LCSW

Childhood Isn't Something We Get Over

Many adults want to deny the significance of what happened to them when they were young and vulnerable. Others believe that they should "just get over" any problems they had as they were growing up. The truth is childhood is an important part of who we all are.

Our feelings about ourselves and our expectations of family life begin when we are very small. We are dependent on our parents, not only for the necessities of every day life, but psychologically and emotionally. When needs are mostly met development proceeds at a healthy pace. When needs are not met our overall sense of security is affected, which in turn, impacts our developing confidence and self-esteem.

There’s often inconsistency between what people say about their own childhood and how they feel about tending to the needs of their children. We all agree that kids need to feel safe, happy, and loved. We know a nurturing environment helps boys and girls grow into healthy adults. But then as adults, we frequently tell ourselves that feelings from our own upbringing are irrelevant.

If people "just get over it," what difference would the quality of anybody’s childhood really make? Knowing it’s important for our children to grow up in a healthy atmosphere, means that our early years had to have been important too – either the quality of childhood matters or it doesn’t.

Embarrassment that childhood events are still haunting us can make memories difficult to think about. "I should be over this by now." Or, "What difference does it make, it was a long time ago" are common responses to the possibility that childhood continues to matter once we become adults. "I’m not getting into parent blaming" is another way people avoid the implications of their pasts.

The purpose of looking into the past isn’t to figure out whom to blame for current problems. Exploring our childhood feelings gives us the ability to link together what happened with what’s happening. Piecing together the past with the present helps us make sense of how we feel and legitimizes why we feel the way we do.

Denying the significance of childhood doesn’t make it meaningless. In reality, it's the opposite. Refusing to consider the circumstances of our past creates the probability of repeating some aspect of the unhealthy behaviors we grew up with, without ever realizing why.

For example, if our parents disrespected one another or treated us badly, then we might also struggle with similar inclinations. Exploring the experiences of our childhood can help us understand why we sometimes do things that, on the surface, don't make any sense.

Unexplored anger, hurt, and fear from the past can lead to unhealthy behaviors,
unhappy relationships, and unexplained anxiety and depression. Because these problems affect us and our families, it's doubly important to understand the significance of our own childhood pain. In addition, becoming more comfortable with our emotions actually contributes to developing good relationships with our children, and it helps them learn to be comfortable with their own feelings too.

Loren Buckner, LCSW

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sheila said...

I agree with this with the addition of the importance of working on recovering from it, exploring it, and overcoming it. I know far too many adults who wallow in pain, pity and anger rather than fighting for themselves or taking responsibility to recover. I think a lot of people use the line "get over it already" in these cases because they are sick of hearing the woe-is-me story from these people. You can only try and help them so much and offer so much moral support. THe rest is up to the individual.

Loren Buckner said...

I agree with you, Sheila. It is important to work on recovery. Ignoring childhood issues tends to keep people stuck. Dealing with the past, though, helps people move forward and feel more comfortable with themselves.

Michael David Lawrience said...

Hello Loren; For a child to grow up healthy parents need to become aware and choose to heal their own childhood wounds. Our unhealed childhood wounds affect us in adulthood. We react to situations and in relationships to these wounds from the past rather than as adults living in the present. Check out my blog for various articles related to family roles of adults and children in codependent families and their affect on esteem. I will like your facebook page.

Loren Buckner said...

Hi Michael.Yes,I see we have many ideas in common. Your book addresses many of the themes I'm talking about. I'll look for you on my ParentWise page. I post articles there from time to time. Thanks for contacting me.

Carol Lawrence And Stacy Toten said...

I think it's important to deal with our past but not rehash the past. Studies have shown that just by thinking and talking about a past traumatic event your body creates the same chemical effects causing stress on the body. So imagine someone severely abused as a child and then they keep replaying the trauma with their thoughts and memories. Over time there could be a breakdown of the body. So what's the best way to deal with a childhood trauma effectively moving beyond the truama in the mind and body? ~ Carol

Loren Buckner said...

You bring up an important point. There's a distinction to be made between reliving a traumatic event, over and over, and working with it productively. What helps a child, anyone for that matter, cope with trauma is having emotional support after the traumatic event occurs. Putting ones feelings into words, being understood, and listened to helps people cope and heal. People generally end up rehashing because something about the trauma experience has not yet been addressed. In my experience, helping people talk about what has happened to them and deepening their understanding of how it has affected them has actually lessened their distress and improved their over all feelings of well-being.

Carol Lawrence And Stacy Toten said...

Thank you Loren for clarification. Everyone truly does process their pain and trauma in different ways. The important point here, is when you do deal with your trauma you can finely move on and create the life of your dreams.

Loren Buckner said...

Absolutely. Thank you both for the opportunity to discuss these kinds of issues. I look forward to our chat in January.