Overcoming childhood trauma and child abuse
The Center for Disease Control concludes that over 60% of adults suffer from adverse childhood experiences. My guest is James P. Krehbiel, psychotherapist and author of Troubled Childhood, Triumphant Life. Show Date: March 3, 2011.
“I define courage as moving forward in spite of utter terror; to overcome the burden of another person’s feelings; and to make a connection between activating triggers and our own behavior.” ~ James Krehbiel, Overcoming Childhood Trauma
Questions raised during the interview (listen to hear his answers):
- What prompted you to write Troubled Childhood, Triumphant Life?
- What is the “magical illusion” of childhood that many people carry into adulthood?
- What are some negative interpretations that adults internalize during childhood?
- Why do some adults from troubled childhoods live productive lives, whereas others replicate the past?
- What are some examples of ineffective parenting? Positive parenting?
- What are some of the characteristics that adults demonstrate that show the long-term effect from inadequate parenting? What does a triumphant life look like?
- How would you describe cognitive therapy?
- How does one process the pain of their past?
- What coping strategies do people use to avoid their pain?
More from James Krehbiel:
Overcoming childhood trauma is possible. Most people are able to forgive themselves for having lost significant aspects of quality life due to abuse. Forgiveness comes when they are able to understand that the trauma was not their fault – in other words, they coped with things the best they could. Then they can accept it, grieve it, and release the pain of the past and learn to live joyously in the present.
One afternoon I received a telephone call from an anxious young man in his mid-20s. He wanted to see me for counseling regarding a relationship problem. I asked him the typical scheduling question: “Tell me what might work for you in terms of availability?”
His response was “How about in an hour?” Fortunately, his urgent request worked for me. Alex was a massive-sized former Big- 10 football player who came for the first time to therapy to find answers to his problems. After getting comfortable in my office, he said, “I’m so upset because my partner just broke it off with me; “She says I’m too intense – she’s probably right.”
Without taking another breath, he continued – “And my father died suddenly.” – “I’m sorry to hear about your losses – “How long ago was your Dad’s death?” “He died of a heart attack 15 years ago and it was devastating.” The tears started flowing. “Do you think there’s some connection between my two losses?”
According to a recent collaborative health officials report conducted by an Adverse Childhood Experience Team from the Center for Disease Control and Kaiser Permanente, almost 60% of American adults have been affected by troubled childhoods. Problems ranged from various forms of parental abuse and neglect. Troubled Childhood, Triumphant Life: Healing from the Battle Scars of Youth was written to underscore Americas’ problems associated with the impact of adverse childhood experiences on adult functioning.
For a variety of reasons, a sibling may act as an abuser. Often, the victimization constitutes a “trickle-down” effect from parents who are engaged in hostile interpersonal behavior. Both sibling and parental neglect and abuse create significant emotional damage. Both can have long-lasting effects.
I offer solution-focused strategies, based on the principles of cognitive therapy, to assist adults in overcoming the perils of their past. It is interesting to note that most adults affected by troubled childhoods believe that they were responsible for creating their own childhood misery.
When adults feel emotionally frozen due to a history of childhood troubles, I urge them to give up the interpretation that they held any responsibility for what happened to them as children. Kids who endure troubled childhoods tend to perform to please in order to gain the love and validation of their parents.
When emotional affirmation is not forthcoming, children become disappointed and turn their anger inward, holding themselves accountable for the parent’s neglectful behavior. By owning their parents problems, kids can maintain the magical illusion that their parents behavior is adaptive, thus minimizing the pain of their dilemma. As troubled children enter into adulthood, they typically maintain the illusion that someday their parents will morph and become the loving caregivers they’ve always wanted.
When adults finally grasp the concept that a troubled childhood was not their fault, there is usually an emotional reaction. This realization often leads to a flood of feelings about the unfairness of what they experienced. Sadness, hurt, disappointment, loss and anger follow. As adults grieve the loss associated with a troubled childhood, they are forced to “swallow the bitter pill” and begin a process of reframing and rebuilding their life.
Through learning to accept, grieve, process and release a troubled past, adults can move forward and lead a productive life by reframing the past and rationally responding to life in the present. Note: This case is a composite drawn from my practice as a psychotherapist. It has been altered to protect the individual’s right to confidentiality and privacy.
James P. Krehbiel, Ed.S., LPC, CCBT is an educator, writer, licensed professional counselor and nationally certified cognitive-behavioral therapist practicing in Scottsdale, Arizona. He specializes in treating anxiety and depression for adults and children. He served as a teacher and guidance counselor for 30 years and has taught graduate- level counselor education courses for Chapman University. In 2005, he self-published Stepping Out of the Bubble: Reflections on the Pilgrimage of Counseling Therapy (Booklocker.com). His latest book, Troubled Childhood, Triumphant Life: Healing from the Battle Scars of Youth (New Horizon Press) is about the impact of adverse childhood experiences on adult functioning. He can be reached at 602.206.8975