Many of us are living with the memory of painful experiences we had during our childhood. These can effect our life in different ways such as difficulty controlling emotions, low self-esteem, fear of being abandoned, impulsive/compulsive behaviour, depression or anxiety. Not surprisingly this can lead to feelings of unhappiness and often difficulties coping with the demands of our careers and personal life.
Childhood is a hugely important part of our life. Our sense of who we are, how to trust and how to relate to others develops during this time. For this reason what happens to us in childhood can have a lasting impact on our adult behaviour and personality. Many emotional difficulties are rooted in childhood events. Aside from the obvious negative impact of abuse and neglect there are many other painful experiences that can effect us and shape who we become as adults. These can include excessive punishment, bullying, lack of affection, loss or constant criticism.
While it is not possible to change the past, there are some steps we can take towards beginning to process and heal the pain we may still be carrying:
1. Reflect on your past
Allow yourself to explore your memories of childhood. If it seems hard to remember try discussing it with friends or family members who may also have memories of the same things. It is important to focus on both negative and positive memories. Often we may have buried things we’d rather forget about. It can be hard sometimes to admit that there were painful times especially if we feel loyalty towards our family. Remember this exercise is not necessarily about portioning blame but is aimed at reviving your memories of what you personally experienced as a child.
2. Slow down
Staying busy and distracted is often a way of blocking unpleasant memories or emotions. Breaking this habit can be helpful in beginning to process painful feelings. Try to find a quiet moment to sit and focus on how you are feeling without judging or trying to work it out. Emotion can often be held in our physical bodies. Notice if a feeling connects to a particular part of our body or if there is a tension or discomfort somewhere. Try to imagine breathing in and sending warm breath to that part of the body.
3. Share your experiences
Finding someone we trust to share our experiences with can be helpful. Talking about what has happened can be empowering and can help us begin to make sense of our past. It may sometimes be hard to face certain memories or feelings without support. Whether you talk to family, friends or a counsellor, the important thing is to be able to speak without fear of judgement or pressure.
4. Introduce self-care into weekly routine
If we’ve experienced neglect or criticism as a child it can often be reflected in how we treat ourselves. Putting our own needs and wishes aside or constantly finding fault with ourselves can become a vicious cycle and often leads to anxiety and depression. Take a step back and honestly assess how you are caring for yourself. Are basic needs such as our eating, sleeping, exercise and general health being taken care of? Do we expect respect and consideration from others? Do we make time for relaxation and fun in our lives? Can we acknowledge our strong points or are we constantly putting ourselves down? Identifying ways we can care for and support ourselves better can be key to healing.
5. Be patient
It’s important to remember that healing takes time. None of us can rush or force this natural process. It took many years to grow into the adults that we are today. Changing our habits and processing difficult memories and emotions can take some time too. We need to respect our own instincts and not force ourselves to move faster than we are able.
If you feel you are struggling with unresolved pain and sadness from childhood you are not alone. Many people carry these feelings into their adult lives. While healing can take time, remember that even small, simple changes can make a big difference when practised consistently.
Have a great week,