Complex and Developmental Trauma

“You can’t stop the waves but you can learn to surf.”

- Jon Kabat Zinn

The National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN) defines complex developmental trauma as “children’s exposure to multiple traumatic events—often of an invasive, interpersonal nature—and the wide-ranging, long-term effects of this exposure.”[1]

Childhood trauma is a series of experiences that are accumulated over time, and untangling them can feel overwhelming. It doesn’t have to involve physical abuse or be one big recognizable event; repeated instances of emotional neglect can be just as harmful. In fact, complex trauma (C-PTSD) often has emotional neglect at its core.

Neglect is what didn’t happen; what you should have had but didn’t get as a child. Emotional neglect occurs when parents don’t acknowledge, respond to, or validate their child’s feelings often enough. Repeatedly not being listened to by your parents, being told “if you don’t stop crying, I will give you something to cry about” or being teased for expressing your emotions can all take a toll.

A child growing up in this environment, even if their parents provide for their physical needs and mean well, has no room for emotions.  This child might have a hard time identifying, understanding and expressing their feelings.  These difficulties can last into adulthood.

Our childhood traumatic experiences continue to affect how we feel about ourselves when we become adults. Adults who experienced childhood emotional neglect often feel empty, unimportant, different, and unfulfilled in life. This affects how we build relationships with other people, and how we handle conflict and stressful situations.

Together, we will work to understand how your past experiences are impacting your current reality. We will chart a path forward towards something healthier, more balanced and whole, so that you will feel more comfortable setting necessary boundaries with difficult people and living authentically.

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