A more subtle traumatic process is far more common than the abusive or shocking processes we think of when the word trauma is mentioned. Yet this more subtle process is just as damaging and often much more difficult to overcome. It is trauma. It is more difficult to overcome because we often deny its existence, or because to recognize it would cause us significant additional emotional distress.
An example of less-obvious trauma is next. A parent who considers anger at the parent to be unacceptable will not permit such anger by the child. The child recognizes this lack of acceptance of anger, usually consciously, but often unconsciously. To avoid the pain of parental disapproval the child will, usually unconsciously, stuff anger at that parent and pretend it doesn't exist. (Those of us who chose 100% opposition have a different set of problems to overcome.) In response to the parental pressure not to express the anger, that child may choose one or more of the following performance strategies: give up all anger at everyone, be critical of others' anger, get angry with a younger sibling, be weepy or depressed, or displace rage on to favorite discrimination targets like classmates who are nerds or who have a different skin color. Later, targets might be politicians, gays or African-Americans. Please note how one simple-to-describe problem, denied anger at a parent, may result in a multiplicity of possible symptoms.
Another subtle traumatic process often occurs when the child decides, consciously or unconsciously, to become just like a parent in one or more ways. Aspects of the child may be completely denied in the copying attempt. If this copying attempt is in any way based upon the hope that parent will give the child more love, acceptance or attention, then the copying behavior will be difficult to undo later.
This section's title, "Your Wish Is My Command," accurately describes the feelings of most small children with respect to their parents. If the parent doesn't like a natural part of human existence (like sex, anger, tears, love or vulnerability), then the child will often attempt to please that parent by squelching those qualities. As a result, the child starts displaying many symptoms. This trauma is not so obvious as the trauma caused by an abusive parent. But it is trauma as defined earlier, "emotional shock producing a lasting effect on a person." The 97% of us growing up in dysfunctional families experienced this type of trauma shock.
© 2008 by Thayer White
Finding Your Soul in the Spirituality Maze
|Excerpt from Be Your Own Therapist: "My judgments as to the possibility or impossibility of a future event can be as tyrannical as my other right/ wrong and good/ bad judgments discussed earlier in this chapter. If I judge that event to be impossible, then it likely will be impossible for me. Yet if I judged it as possible, it might be."|