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Childhood Trauma And Arrested Self-Development

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Early life trauma can interfere with, or arrest, the development of the self.

The normal development of self involves the following stages.

  1. Approximately 6 months : the capacity for self-observation develops
  2. Approximately 12 months : the capacity for symbolic thinking becomes well established as does a ‘sense of self’
  3. Approximately 7 to 11 years : the capacity for concrete operational thinking becomes established, as does an intense emotional life. Also, at this stage, the child becomes increasingly concerned about his / her interaction with his / her peers.
  4. Adolescence : the capacity for concrete operational thinking continues to develop as does the ability to negotiate increasingly complex and nuanced social interactions
  5. Early Adulthood : concerns turn to intimacy and family.
  6. Mid-Life : concerns extend to wider society.
  7. Later Life : world view / understanding deepens ; metaphysical concerns may become increasingly profound.

However, those who have experienced significant and protracted childhood trauma FAIL TO DEVELOP A STRONG SENSE OF SELF / SELF-IDENTITY, especially if they developed, because of their upbringing, an ANXIOUS ATTACHMENT STYLE (Main et al., 2002). An anxious attachment style can develop when an emotionally unstable parent (particularly a parent prone to explosive outbursts of rage) causes their child to have to be hyper-alert / hyper-vigilant regarding this parent’s unpredictably changing moods as a form of self-preservation (my own mother’s emotions fluctuated wildly which had an effect on me that made me able to sense how she was feeling from the minutest change in her expression, intonation or body language, and, to this day, I am able instantly to pick up on the most subtle of people’s changes in mood via tacit signs to which others may be oblivious).

Sadly, too, children brought up by such parents are unconsciously indoctrinated into developing the core belief that their own, personal concerns, worries, anxieties and needs are, at best, secondary to those of their emotionally unstable parent. Whilst, on the surface, the child / young person may appear to be ‘coping’ with such impossibly onerous responsibilities, there is often an extremely heavy emotional price to be paid in later life (in relation to this, you may be interested in reading my previously published article entitled :  Why Can The Effects Of Childhood Trauma Be Delayed?

THE THREE MAIN WAYS IN WHICH CHILDHOOD TRAUMA CAN IMPAIR THE DEVELOPMENT OF SELF :

There are three main ways in which childhood trauma can impair the development of self; these are as follows :

  1. No strong sense of self is developed ; instead, a ‘false self’ is created that tends to take its cues about how to behave from the expectations of others, so lacks autonomy, authenticity and consistency.
  2. A less weak sense of self than the above type, but still a very fragile sense of self which is kept hidden due to a sense of shame and of being judged and rejected.
  3. This third type of self develops as a result of an emotionally over-involved parent / primary caretaker. The self is undeveloped as the individual has grown up to ‘learn’ (on an unconscious level) that s/he must be hypervigilant to the parent’s / primary caretaker’s needs (and, by extension, as s/he gets older, to the needs of others – such individuals may become ‘chronic caretakers’ of others whilst remaining neglectful of his / her own needs and lacking in assertiveness and in a sense of personal boundaries.

RESOURCES :

Assertiveness Training | Self Hypnosis Downloads

The Real You | Self Hypnosis Downloads

Setting Boundaries | Self Hypnosis Downloads

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

 

 

 

 

 

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david hosier

About David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE)

Psychologist, researcher and educationalist.

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