Blog & Articles

 

Trauma and Safety, by Kim Champion, Ph.D.

April 25, 2017

Having survived trauma means that you have experienced profound lack of safety – maybe pervasively throughout childhood, maybe once or twice in extreme circumstances. Safety can be violated many ways. In childhood, it may be because of an unpredictable parent who sometimes reacted violently, an unresponsive parent who did not provide nurturing or help, or another family member who was abusive. When children cannot depend on a parent to help them or they are hurt by significant adults in their life, the world feels very insecure. They may feel out of control and alone.

Children, by definition, have very little power and control over their lives. They are at the mercy of the decisions their parents make, the atmosphere in their home, and the situations in which they are put. When things go poorly, they often blame themselves even though they did not choose the situation. So in order to heal, they need to have a safe, predictable environment and feel control in their lives. As an adult, you will need to have a safe environment in therapy and make decisions to help your living situation/environment feel safe, also.

To feel safe, you may need to set more limits than typical with friends and family. For example, you may need to set limits with your family to reduce interactions with people who are emotionally destructive, set limits with your spouse to feel control over your decisions, set limits with friends to have time to recover, and set limits with yourself to not take on responsibility that belongs to others. Creating a safe environment sets the foundation for healing.

 

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