Why do people think they had a good, normal childhood, or deny childhood trauma and its results altogether?
I often hear people say things like:
My childhood was normal.
Yes, there were some good things and some bad things – but that’s life.
My mother got sad, distant, or angry when I didn’t perform well or acted badly, and my father sometimes hit me with a belt – but it was for my own good. All of this helped me to become a better person – and I’m thankful for it.
Yes, sometimes I feel depressed, very lonely, or empty – but we all feel like that.
My parents were strict, but they loved me and I turned out fine.
Yes, some people experienced a lot of abuse growing up, but I was never traumatized, and I don’t have any inner wounds.
I look at people, and I can very easily see the symptoms of childhood trauma. I see children being abused, and I see grownups with numerous inner wounds that resulted from being traumatized. It’s obvious to me. I see childhood trauma and its effects everywhere around me and all around the world. I see it today, and at any time in human history.
To me, people who deny it look like this:
My leg is severely bleeding, and I’m limping – I have a strong, healthy, fully-functioning leg.
Do you see all these bleeding people? They are completely fine.
Yes, I have been stabbed in the leg with a knife – but I deserved it, and it was for my own good.
Sure, if people say that their childhood was normal, i.e., like other peoples’, then they are right. However “normal” doesn’t mean normal, i.e., healthy and happy – it just means normal, i.e., the social norm.
But if objectively childhood trauma and its effects is such a common phenomenon, both today and historically, then why so many people deny it?
The fundamental reasons why people deny childhood trauma and its effects on their adult life are:
1. Dissociative amnesia
Do you know people who don’t remember their childhood, or remember it very vaguely? People who can’t remember years, even decades of their lives?
When children experience severe and prolonged trauma, they often forget it if it feels that retaining this information in your consciousness is too dangerous. When you’re a child it’s often the case. Therefore traumatized children have no other choice but to dissociate. This means pushing your painful experiences into your unconsciousness.
These memories don’t come up consciously if you’re emotionally not ready for it. When people start to heal and grow stronger, they slowly begin to remember and process important – although sometimes very painful – information about their lives.
2. Ignorance and indifference
Children don’t know what is abuse, neglect, abandonment, trauma, post-traumatic stress, mental health, healthy childhood, how a healthy human being looks like, and how a healthy relationship looks like. Children don’t have a point of reference, a comparison; they don’t understand their parents’ psycho-emotional history and the socioeconomic status of their environment. They only know what they have experienced and been taught.
For example, if the mother hits her child, the child doesn’t understand all the complex circumstances that led to it. (Often the mother doesn’t understand that too.) All the child knows is that their mother hit them and it hurts – and that they need their mother to survive. Therefore it’s extremely traumatic, and the circumstances that led to it don’t invalidate the child’s reactions and emotions.
If the traumatized child grows up, and they haven’t explored their history and the topics of trauma and mental health, they will remain ignorant and indifferent. Sadly, the majority of people are ignorant and indifferent about it. A lot of them do EVERYTHING to remain ignorant – and many of them succeed – since exploring your past and people around you is extremely painful for them. More painful than nonliving.
So it’s not surprising that there is so much dysfunction around us, and that the understanding of mental health is so skewed.