Childhood Trauma Leading to Self-Hatred and Intense Self-Criticism

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ORIGINS OF SELF-HATRED:

Following a childhood in which we had the experience of neglect, abuse, abandonment or a combination of these, it very frequently follows that we grow up to become intensely self-critical and even consumed by feelings of self-hatred. Indeed, these are both key symptoms of clinical depression and also of complex post-traumatic stress disorder (CPTSD) – both of these conditions, as I have frequently discussed in other articles, are strongly associated with severe childhood trauma.

When an individual’s childhood is traumatic, there is, for him or her, a constant sense of being in danger; lack of emotional support, encouragement and affection from the parents leaves the child feeling perpetually anxious and fearful.

One psychologically defensive reaction to this can be for the individual to develop what is termed PERFECTIONISM – on an unconscious level this is an attempt to finally gain the parents’ approval.

However, because perfection is generally impossible to achieve, a sense of constant failure develops which can develop into self-hatred. This is because (again, on an unconscious level) the individual believes it is this ‘constant failure’ that is the root cause of the parental rejection (although, of course, this belief is erroneous – the real problem is the inability of the parents to bond in an emotionally healthy way with their son or daughter).

CHILDHOOD ANXIETY AND FEAR LEADING TO HYPERVIGILANCE AND DREAD OF CRITICISM :

As the child growing up in a traumatic environment will perceive that environment (either consciously or unconsciously) to be unsafe -or, to put it more bluntly, dangerous – s/he, as a survival technique, will tend to become HYPERVIGILANT (constantly on the alert for any sense of imminent threat).

This tendency, as the child gets older, will tend to become DEEPLY EMBEDDED INTO THEIR PERSONALITY and they are likely to GENERALIZE THEIR CONSTANT SENSE OF DANGER ONTO THE WORLD IN GENERAL.

In other words, s/he is likely to develop a CORE BELIEF that THE WORLD IS A FUNDAMENTALLY UNSAFE AND THREATENING PLACE. This leads to a psychological process that psychologists have termed ENDANGERMENT (projecting a sense of danger onto situations that are, in reality, essentially safe).

All of this means that the individual will have a marked tendency to constantly attempt to analyze how others are reacting to him/her and to then frequently presume that they are evaluating and judging him/her in negative ways (even if there is, in fact, little or no evidence that this is the case).

Also, it is likely that the individual will develop PERFORMANCE ANXIETY; this entails constant self-criticism and self-castigation for ‘not doing well enough.’ The individual’s perceived parental view of him/her ( ‘you are not good enough’) becomes INTERNALIZED and transformed into the (false) belief: ‘I am not good enough.’

WAYS OF REDUCING SELF-CRITICISM:

COGNITIVE BEHAVIORAL THERAPY (CBT): A study ( Feurer et al.,  2021) that involved 91 adult participants suffering from PTSD, anxiety, or depression found that those who undertook cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) were significantly helped to reduce repetitive, negative thinking patterns and brooding rumination.

THE DEVELOPMENT OF SELf-COMPASSION: For more on this read my article: COMPASSION FOCUSED THERAPY FOR CHILDHOOD TRAUMA

THE DEVELOPMENT OF SELF-ACCEPTANCE: For more on this read my article: SELF ACCEPTANCE MORE HELPFUL TO MENTAL HEALTH THAN SELF-ESTEEM

 

OTHER RESOURCES :

REFERENCES:Feurer, C., Francis, J., Ajilore, O. et al. Emotion Regulation and Repetitive Negative Thinking Before and After CBT and SSRI Treatment of Internalizing Psychopathologies. Cogn Ther Res (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10608-021-10222-8

 

 

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE)

 

 

 

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