5 Tips for Healing after Childhood Adversity

1. Reframe Vulnerabilities

Those of us who experienced abuse, grief, or neglect during childhood feel different from those who didn’t. We are more easily hurt, which leads to withdrawal or rage. We feel less confident in ourselves, which leads to under- or over-achievement. We have problems with attention, suffering either hyper-vigilance or dreaminess.

But what looks like a vulnerability from one perspective can be a strength from another. To be easily hurt is to be sensitive. To lack confidence is to possess humility. The hyper-vigilant are detail-oriented, whereas dreamers are imaginative. The italicized words are all positive human qualities–claim them!

2. Credit the Past

Do you believe you failed to reach your potential? Do you blame yourself?

Imagine your childhood happened to someone else. Would a person who endured your upbringing be highly likely to succeed across the board? Or would such a history be expected to cause problems in later life?

We are products of our conditioning. If we were raised to believe that we don’t count, that those we trust will hurt us, or that we will never measure up, we shouldn’t blame ourselves for struggling in adulthood. Codependence, mistrust, and insecurity make careers and relationships difficult.

3. Feel Special

Rather than feeling like an oddball, celebrate your uniqueness. Throughout history the most interesting figures have been those who deviated from the mainstream. They were not conformists. Consider yourself different in a good way.

4. Reject Societal Standards

This one’s a corollary to Number 3. In order to feel unique rather than defective, we must reject much of what our culture tells us. Is it really true that status, wealth, and popularity are what make a person valuable? Are outward signs of success more impressive than wisdom, compassion, and perseverance? I personally doubt it. So should all of us who grew up in difficult circumstances.

5. Lower Expectations

Life is under no obligation to satisfy our desires. Every wisdom tradition attempts, in one way or another, to help us reign in our demands. These days, I find satisfaction in appreciating natural beauty, feeling warmed by human kindness, and breathing deeply. It doesn’t take much to feel contented in life, and the sooner we realize this, the sooner we heal.

     

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