Adverse Childhood Experiences (A.C.E.s) are events that occur from birth to Seventeen. When we are children our neuroplasticity is at its highest, we are looking to the people around us to form our sense of identity and the world. Adverse experiences in childhood will have an impact on our entire life. We may develop issues with anxiety, emotional regulation, self esteem, self acceptance, addictions, eating disorders, relationship issues, adverse childhood experiences can affect our earning potential, relationship with money and cause even poor health.
Many People Suffer Adverse Childhood Experiences
Research has shown that 61% of people suffer some form of adverse childhood experience and 1 in 6 people surveyed had suffered from 4 or more adverse childhood experiences. Abuse, neglect, living in a violent home, or parental separation are all classed as adverse childhood experiences.
A Child Internalises Everything
Until the age of seven is known as the imprint period, it is in this age range that we are learning all the most complex and important tasks, we are learning to walk and talk. We see everything as being a part of ourselves so if we have a dysfunctional or abusive parent, if our parents are always fighting or beating each other up we will internalise the dysfunction and think there is something wrong with us. A child growing up in adverse conditions will learn that they are faulty, happiness will no longer reside in such a child and they will develop an external locus of control. A child who suffers adverse experiences will look outside of themselves for happiness and fulfillment, they may turn to drugs, alcohol or sex to feel okay.
In object relations theory parents are known as primary objects because they are the first people we have interaction with, children look to their parents to model what men and women should be and how they should interact with each other. Melanie Klein said the most important relationship was with the mother and the first 4 to 6 months of the child’s life would have the biggest impact on the child’s future, the relationship with the mother would affect how the child forms all future interpersonal relationships. If the mother is anxious and or depressed the child will pick up on that and become anxious and or depressed.
When a parent grows up with such adversity they will themselves be adult children and they may use their own children in a narcissistic manner to fulfil their needs. Sigmund Frued developed the theory of repetition compulsion: what we don’t heal we will either reenact on others or find people reenact on us. Such experiences create unknown knowns and cognitive dissonance. Freud observed that patients did not remember anything that they had repressed, instead they acted it out.
Relationships and Work
In the blog post why I had to heal & reparent my inner child I spoke about how I had issues with school and work, these environments replicated the dysfunctional home environment for me, I reenacted the relationship between myself and my parents by projecting it onto teachers and bosses. I wasn’t looking for a girlfriend, I was looking for a mother and projected the many issues I had with my mother onto the women who were unlucky enough to get involved with me. I thought the world and everyone in it was out to get me and through projecting my dysfunction onto everyone and everything I unconsciously created scenarios which proved my beliefs to be correct.
Steps To Healing The Inner Child & Overcoming An Adverse Childhood
I was deeply unhappy, very angry and lonely. My anxiety had caused me to isolate myself and the isolation had caused me to become depressed so I started to ask myself the question “why me?” I entertained the idea that we all create our own reality and wondered how I had created the position I found myself in, why I kept getting into dysfunctional relationships. I knew my anxiety issues had played a huge part in creating the reality I was living in so I started to look for ways to feel more confident and calm. I started meditating which really helped reduce the negative self talk.
Inner Child Work
Meditating brought back memories and I began to make connections between my issues and my childhood. I realised I had a wounded inner child and I needed to do work to heal and reintegrate that inner child. To be honest I think I had always known that my issues stemmed from my childhood but like most people I didn’t want to face them.
Doing this kind of work is painful and people will try to talk you out of it but as I said above, repetition compulsion means we cannot hide, suppress or run away from inner child issues, if we don’t face them they will continue affecting our lives. For me the pain of staying the same was far greater than the pain of change.
My inner child needed to feel safe, loved and accepted, he needed to be told that there was nothing wrong with him. Inner child work has allowed me to accept myself, feel more confident and increase my self esteem. I have been able to see where family members have projected their own insecurities onto me which at first made me angry but I realise that hurt people hurt people and harbouring resentment is only negatively affecting me. I realise I have probably projected some of my own issues onto my daughter but doing the inner child work has made me more mindful of this. Stopping the generational trauma and not passing it onto my own children is a major concern for me.