When we are low in self-esteem, have trouble believing in ourselves; have problems knowing who we are and finding things in life that will bring us gratification; find we have serious problems in relating to others and maybe avoiding connections, or are trying too hard to please and are even putting up with people who cannot see us, or hear us for, or are even finding ourselves putting up with verbal, emotional, or physical abuse; or maybe when we do have emotion it is clearly too intense for the situation, or perhaps we cannot seem to access or share our feelings and emotions; or when we find our thoughts are fearful, negative, or self-attacking — we are probably people who were mistreated as children.

Thus, the way we are treated when young and just developing not only makes us miserable as children but seriously impacts: our self-regard or sense of self; our relationships with others; our ability to succeed in work, and generally in our ability to lead a content and satisfactory life as adults.

It may be easier to push these feelings and experiences to the side, telling ourselves these events are from too long ago or “we should be over it already”, or we make our “to do” lists so long that there is no room for our feelings and experiences to ever truly surface, or to use all kinds of addictive behaviours to soothe our weary souls.

Most people with serious childhood neglect and abuse try to keep these experiences out of awareness, but these strategies will only make them stronger over time.

The truth is that prioritizing our self, the way we are in the world, how we experience ourselves and others — that is, taking ourselves and our mental health seriously, are critical to obtaining awareness, understanding, and relief.

Therapy of this type needs to be done slowly, with care and compassion. We need a therapist who is well trained in working with more serious and deep-rooted problems — who is used to hearing the misery and horror that early trauma can bring, and guide us thoughtfully and empathically into a clear understanding of what went
wrong.

If you are in the Berkeley area, Dr. Lynn Winsten is a great resource for such intense and yet relieving work. She specializes in childhood abuse, trauma, and neglect.

She is someone devoted to helping us access the origins of our grief and facilitate the healing process. Slowly it will become clear why we have the problems we suffer from. There is no quick fix here.

It can feel intimidating to reach out for help when trauma has us in its grip. It’s hard to feel safe and trust. But it is important to recognize that the majority of people seeking counseling or psychotherapy have experienced some type of childhood mistreatment, misattunement, and neglect.

We all need genuine loving attachments. It is important to know we are not alone, we are not being judged for our experiences and who we have become, and that our life is valuable and we are worthy and capable of recovery. This is the work that can truly change our lives.

 

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