Childhood is not only the stage of life characterized by innocence; it is also the one in which we are more delicate, more susceptible to psychological damage . This is not an unimportant detail, taking into account that there are many experiences or living conditions that can be negative for vulnerable people and without the ability to seek help outside the family.
Thus, the marks of a difficult childhood can still be seen when we have grown up and entered adulthood. However, that does not mean that we should resign ourselves to it. As much as the discomfort and distress may be unbearable at times, in most cases it is possible to significantly improve the way we live with that past. In order to contribute to this, below we will see some guidelines for overcoming a difficult childhood, as well as a reflection on how we should face this task.
Emotional pain that comes from the past
Some people talk about this feeling as if it were a kind of emotional hacking: pain comes to us through the vulnerabilities of the past, even though we believe that if we had not gone through all that suffering today we would be people who are totally complete and capable of everything without dedicating much effort to it.
In other words, the traumatic events and anguish experienced during our first years of life not only robbed us of childhood, but also of adulthood . The stain of trauma is constantly spreading as we try to escape into the future.
However, we do not have to be slaves to our past, even if it was during childhood, the time when we became aware of how the world is. There is always a change possible, as we will see.
Overcoming a Difficult Childhood
You must take into account that each case is unique, and therefore, if you really suffer from your past, it is best to seek the personalized treatment that psychologists can give you in their practice. However, in the short term you can use these tools that we offer you below.
1. Learn about the effects of psychological trauma
This is important, since in most cases there is an excessively deterministic conception of trauma and a tendency towards pessimism .
It’s true that trauma can contribute to a number of emotional management and attention regulation problems as adults, but that doesn’t mean that people who have had a difficult childhood systematically develop PTSD, nor does it necessarily mean that these types of experiences leave us scarred.
In fact, even in cases of severe violence and abuse in childhood, there are many people who mature into adulthood without significant mental problems and lower than expected intelligence.
What does this mean? That in many cases, people with a complicated past face states of discomfort generated by pessimistic life expectations and based on a problem that is not there. That is why, when it comes to overcoming a difficult childhood, it is necessary to be clear that all or a good part of that feeling of unease may arise from a fiction.
2. Changing social circles
As far as possible, we should try to get away from people who in the past made us feel bad and who in the present have no intention of helping us . In this way, situations that remind us of traumatic events will appear less often.
3. Leads an active social life
Breaking isolation is a good way to break rumination , that is, the propensity to give in to recurring thoughts that end up becoming obsessions.
The good thing about having an active social life is that it helps you live in the present and get away from those memories that come back again and again. Building life in the here and now is a good solution to prevent the mind from filling that gap with elements from the past.
On the other hand, after spending a season in the company of friends and loved ones, it is not necessary to impose this strategy on yourself. The fact is that memories that generate discomfort, no matter how intense they may be at first, can lose their vigor at great speed if we get used to not invoking them frequently for several months in a row.
4. Take care of yourself
Many times, going through outrageous situations automatically fixes our idea of the “I” to all the discomfort and vulnerability suffered in the past. This can make us act as if we don’t matter at all, that is, we treat ourselves the same way life treated us . If these complicated situations arose during childhood, then there is a chance that we have not known any version of ourselves other than the victim role.
To break this vicious circle we need to force ourselves to take our own well-being seriously. This involves eating right, exercising, taking good personal hygiene and getting a good night’s sleep, among other things. In other words, efforts must be made to demonstrate to ourselves the potential that lies within us, even if we don’t feel like it at first.
In this way, those beliefs linked to our own self-image will change until we achieve a significant improvement in self-esteem and, with it, our expectations as well.
5. Reinterprets the past
There is no single interpretation of our lives: no matter how hard we try, we never reach an objective perception of things . This is especially true when, in addition to considering the facts, we take into account the emotions to which they are associated.
In fact, our memory works in such a way that memories are constantly changing. Simply remembering something when we are in an intense emotional state can make the events we evoke more congruent with those emotions.
Knowing this fact can help us a lot not to blindly believe that we keep those painful childhood memories because this experience was real and made us feel uneasy. Maybe we keep that memory because we have learned to associate it with negative moods, even deforming its content.
So feel free to reinterpret the past without fear of unconsciously modifying it: the latter is inevitable, but we can avoid emotional damage.
6. Seek professional help
There are cases in which, no matter how much effort and commitment is put into it, very little progress is made in overcoming the traumas and problems experienced in childhood.
This is not because of a lack of will power, but because of something much simpler: just as these mental alterations emerge from the influence of our environment, getting out of this kind of emotional quagmire requires someone to help us from outside. And that someone must be a mental health professional .