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.
3. Stockholm syndrome
Children who live in an unhealthy environment dissociate and bend reality so that they could survive. “My mother is bad to me. I need my mother to survive. I can’t survive if my mother is bad, and I can’t have another mother. Therefore my mother is good.”
Stockholm syndrome is a psychological phenomenon in which the victim empathizes with their abuser, justifies and defends them, or even feels pleasant feelings towards them (for example, think that there’s love between them). This unhealthy bond is seen between a child and their caregiver, a sexual abuse victim and their molester, in unhealthy romantic relationships or friendships, and in another kind of relationship where power disparity is present.
4. Dysfunctional rules / Imposed guilt, shame, and fear
Love your parents! Respect your elders! Listen to authority! Be nice/good [i.e., obedient]! Don’t trust yourself, you don’t know much! Don’t ask questions! Don’t talk back! Don’t make mistakes! Don‘t feel this way! Get over it! Boys don’t cry! Good girls always do what they are told!
If children are traumatized and not allowed to rationally judge their parents’ and other people’s behavior, they start to idealize them, blame themselves, and justify the abuse they suffer. These are the origins of chronic guilt, shame, self-blame, and self-doubt. Emotionally, this is very painful, therefore children (and later as adults) want to avoid this pain, get rid of it, or alleviate it. It’s easier to just say, “My childhood was normal,” and continue the dissociation process.
5. Inability to think rationally
Because most people have experienced significant trauma that is related to thinking and as adults haven’t learned how to think rationally, they don’t have the skills to do it properly.
A lot of people don’t know how to objectively evaluate themselves (self-esteem issues), others (trust and poor judgment issues), and the world itself (lack of fundamental understanding of how the world works and various reality distortions). Such people not only lack understanding of what is true, but they don’t know HOW to figure out if something’s true or false.
Since such people lack the ability to think, their belief system, worldview, and daily judgments are for the most part based on their emotions they don’t understand, and not so much on a complex rational evaluation. If it feels good, then it’s true/good; if it feels unpleasant, then it’s false/bad. And afterward, a rationalization is made (since we can’t consciously say to ourselves that it’s true just because it feels good or just because I want it to be true).
Our culture is based on denial, insecurity, inconsistent rules, conformity, and appeal to emotion – not on truth, genuine empathy, consistent and universal principles, individuality, and appeal to reason.
6. Social fear
As children, in most cases, people are just not allowed to talk about the abuse they have suffered. As adults, people avoid to acknowledge the trauma they have experienced and its results, because they are still afraid of other peoples’ reactions: of mockery, minimization, condemnation, laughter, incomprehension, justification of their abusers, attack, etc.
If Person A tells Person B that Person A had a painful childhood and that he sees the results of child abuse all around them, Person B willingly or unwillingly has to think about his own childhood at least for a little while. It’s very likely that Person B also had a difficult childhood. Therefore for Person B to accept and validate Person A’s traumatic experience would mean – at least to some extent – to accept the painful truth about his own past, current relationships, and society.
That would be extremely painful. It’s easier for Person B to act in such a way that Person A would stop talking so that Person B could retain the fantasy called “I’m OK; everything’s fine.” He can achieve that by using denial, minimization, mockery, angry attack, distraction, and other tactics mentioned in the previous paragraph.
Even though it’s true that we are adults now, it’s a different situation, we are not helpless children anymore, and we can speak the truth, but such social reactions for many people can still be very painful and re-traumatizing.