June 30, 2021
Unpacking Childhood Trauma
A Jewish Matchmaker discusses childhood trauma and adult relationships
Let me begin this article by stating that I’m not a licensed therapist or psychologist. The information on childhood trauma presented here is my own perspective accumulated over the years from personal experience and my own personal growth. As much as I am able to relate and learn from this perspective, I hope there will be some personal benefit to my readers as well. :-)
I think we’ve all heard it said that if you grew up in an abused household, you are more likely to seek out an abusive spouse. This is a very confusing concept because it seems unlikely that anyone would actively seek out abuse. More likely, someone who was abused by a parent would be on heightened alert to make sure that they are never abused again, right? Personally, I don’t know anyone who will say they want to be in an abusive relationship.
What needs to be clarified is that the person is not seeking an abusive partner, but he/she is attracting one. This attraction is on a subconscious level and directly connected with energy. When you grow up in an emotionally, mentally, and/or physically abusive household, your developing brain and emotions are not able to logically understand that the problem is the abuser. Instead, the child - who intuitively knows that the abuse is unloving behavior - will do mental gymnastics in an effort to justify the behavior. It is much to painful to acknowledge that the parent may simply not love the child (genuine love is NEVER expressed through abuse), so the child takes the blame for the abuse and unconsciously tries to give the parent whatever it is that will pacify, end, or prevent the abuse.
This can look like a child who is overprotective of a parent or overly attentive. A child who makes excuses for the abuse or defends the abusive parent. Childhood trauma can lead to becoming overly needy or overly independent. It’s all about the fight - flight - fawn response that arises when we feel threatened.
Children are completely dependent upon their parents to stay alive. The parent provides food, shelter, and protection. Feeling that a parent or parents might not love them is a direct threat to their survival. We can stay and fight - which is a losing battle for the child. We can run away - which many children do to get away from abusive homes. Or we can ‘fawn’, which is a way of navigating the emotional minefield of the abuser in the hopes that we don’t trigger a negative reaction; this later exhibits as people pleasing behavior in adulthood.
Growing up in such an environment has its own energy frequency as well as an underlying message that the child is not “worthy” of love, “good enough” to be loved, and is lacking in some way. It’s an unspoken message that if your parent or parents don’t love you, who will? There must be something inherently wrong with you. We all learn about love through what we experience of it in childhood. If we learn that we have to jump through hoops or tiptoe on eggshells in order to get the love and affection we need, we repeat that pattern in our adult romantic relationship. If we learn that love is expressed in words without actions to back up those words, then we attract a partner who tells us we are loved, but whose actions don’t look loving. If we learn that love can be violent and painful, we tolerate partners who abuse us. We don’t seek it out - it seeks us.
Have you ever met a wonderful person - a healthy person - but felt absolutely no chemistry with him/her? Maybe you even had the thought that they are “nice but boring”? Perhaps you lamented, “Why am I never attracted to someone like that?” Here is where the energetic connection comes in. If you grew up in an abusive home - a home that had you on a roller coaster ride of emotional ups and downs - a push and pull of “sometimes my parent acts loving and sometimes not”, you internalized conflicting messages. Those conflicting messages come with a specific energy frequency, an energy frequency that you had to tune yourself to in order to emotionally (and sometimes physically) survive. When you meet someone in adulthood who transmits that same energy - created by his/her own emotional scars from childhood - you feel chemistry! You feel “at home”; you feel fated - and you begin a relationship only to discover later that this person is also withholding love, or is in a push/pull cycle with their love, or is abusive in other ways.
It’s not that you want the abuse; it’s that you’ve learned to tolerate it and make excuses for it. It’s often VERY difficult for someone who lived through an abusive childhood to get out of an abusive adult relationship because in its own way, it feels familiar.
A Happy Ending?
That energy familiarity also happens with healthy couples. Someone who grew up in a loving, accepting, and validating home environment will connect in adulthood with a healthy, loving partner whose words match their actions. This person will be unlikely to feel attracted toward an unhealthy partner because they won’t feel that chemistry. They will feel the energy frequency of their childhood - which is a more loving one.
This is why it is crucial that adults who find themselves in unhappy, unhealthy, and/or abusive adult relationships spend the time and energy looking inward for the answers. Sometimes we don’t even realize how emotionally lacking our childhood was because we’ve spent decades subconsciously normalizing it. We adapted in childhood - we believed that was what love looked and felt like - it can be devastating to unpack those beliefs and see the truth of childhood trauma that is below the surface. Doing so, however, is the key to your freedom and the ability to attract and feel attracted to, a healthy partner.