How Childhood Trauma Affects Attachment


Could this be affecting you?

We were all traumatized as children in some way. We were hurt, scared, betrayed, humiliated, and/or were lonely. Experiencing trauma is a fundamental and inevitable aspect of being human. It is what we do with this trauma and how we manage it that becomes “the fundamental stuff of our lives” and the lens with which we come to view reality. As individuals, we may have decided to “get over it” and put it out of our mind or dismiss this trauma in other ways. This decision may have worked in some areas of our life, but not in close intimate relationships with self and others. This becomes a major problem as our life progresses.

From this choice to suppress the trauma, we enter into a consciousness where a part of our self is “disenfranchised” from the whole of self, so in essence, we are not bonded to self and thus can not be bonded to others -caregivers, parents, siblings, intimates, and our children. When childhood trauma occurs, we need to make sense of what happened to us, so we make up a story in our mind to explain the horrible experience. We plant often erroneous beliefs about self based on these stories which we have concocted due to the trauma. From this point forward, the things that we pay attention to in life are those that confirm the beliefs that were implanted.

We may have decided that we are worthless, not good enough, stupid, or permanently damaged because someone emotionally and/or physically hurt or abused us. Children are egocentric and believe that everything that happens in a negative way is their fault. The conversation going on in their head is something like this “If I were someone really loved then this person would not have hurt, or physically or emotionally abused me.” It makes no logical sense to believe this about what happened, but trauma is held in the non-thinking part of the brain that is responsible for reactive processes, rather than reasoning processes. It becomes easier and less anxiety producing to believe that you were a bad person and somehow deserved the treatment you received. At lease this makes sense in a distorted way.

From these beliefs of self, based on the trauma, our ability to trust is severely damaged as is our ability to attach and bond in healthy ways to others, since all reciprocity is based on trust. Even as we grow up and become parents, our inability to trust and bond will then spill out to our children. The cycle then repeats itself. Without working on us and resolving these past traumas our ability to bond securely becomes difficult, if not impossible.

It is essential for someone who has been traumatized to resolve the traumas and develop a positive, integrated sense of self. Once these multifaceted, often times primal, issues have been resolved then trust and self integration becomes complete, and the healing process occurs. Thus learning about the early childhood traumas will encompass and foster development of a positive self image which can then be modeled from self to others. Then the reciprocal feelings of safety, love, give and take, start happening and healthy relationships emerge. These healthy relationships will always include firm and loving boundaries.

Trauma can be the culprit. It separates, divides, can take our sense of self and our dignity, and often our hope that things can ever change. The irony becomes that we must go through trauma to experience compassion. The great news is that trauma can be healed with proper therapeutic interventions. Finding a therapist who can assist in this process is critical. There are many therapeutic interventions that are present to deal with early childhood trauma and the devastating results that this trauma produces throughout life. Most interventions are ethical, and knowledgeable, but not all. Healing trauma appropriately can be an amazing hope-filled journey that leads to self-integration, self-regulation, relationship building, dream fulfillment and incorporation of love, fun, and joy in all arenas of our life. Trauma prevents attachment from happening from self-to-self and from self-to-others. Healing these childhood traumas reverses this pattern and is restorative to life’s goodness, hope and grace. Everyone deserves a great life and a life born of intimacy and trust.